This week Terry Jones died. Monty Pythons Flying Circus hit the TV screens of that same generation that voted for the UK to join the European Union in the 1970s and Jones, Cleese, Palin, Chapman, Idle and Gilliam symbolised that world we were leaving. A Britain of uptight, uppercrust, upperclass twits,up with an Empire that had already died and up their own arses. Good riddance to that world. That world of private schools, prefects and fags, women as glamorous scenery (unless they were being played by men, in which case they could be funny), heroic prison escapes, noble twits in uniforms fighting pointless wars to the last working class foot soldier and nudge nudge know what i mean. And we all did. That world had gone. Until this week. When it was back. And there was Nigel ‘F’Tang F’Tang Ole Biscuit Barrel’ Farage and some of the worse people you could ever imagine on show to represent Britain, waving plastic union flags as they took our nation out of the European project. And into the bar next door.
In Bridgwater, we’ve led the rest of the country in European projects. Made friends right across Europe. Taken literally tens of thousands of our people to our twin towns and hosted even more back here. And received 100’s of thousands of Euros , Pounds and Crowns in EU money to make that happen. Yet our town still voted Brexit.
As Europe stands open mouthed at the complete shame that is populist right wing Tory Britain today, we ask our European friends what they think. Because unlike many Brexiteers, apparently they do.
We asked people how they spent ‘Brexit Day’
Myself I went to sleep in Europe and I woke up in Europe. But then, I was in Italy anyway. I spent the evening of January 31st appropriately playing ‘charades’ with College Lecturers as the hour came and went. Not one of them could get ‘Zulu’. I changed my Facebook photo to one surrounded by EU stars- I wasn’t planning to but I noticed my daughter had done it and knowing the whole issue was about the future of our children I came out in solidarity. On February 1st I took the students to Rome and stopped at Monte Cassino to make a poignant speech about the 75 million people who had died in World War 2 and why people across Europe had created a European Union in the first place, which was of course to stop wars like that ever happening again. I got a standing ovation. Well, a seated one actually as they were on a bus.
I Fart in your General Direction
Rob Hackwill is a Somerset journalist who moved to France to work for Euronews in Lyon and has 4 French children. Rob says “It will be a strange feeling waking up on Saturday to realise that, on paper, my life has utterly changed. I’ve lived in France since the Year of Our Orwell 1984, and in that time seen papers and checks become obsolete, large numbers of Brits and other Europeans making tourist visits, and many coming for work. Pubs have proliferated to cater for them, and many French now shun the bar at night and go to a Brit quiz night, for example.Today many French people speak passable English, even in shops where 30 years ago it was mostly younger people who travelled, and there is a broad, if critical, pro-EU consensus. But has my life changed really? We sneer at the monolithic French state but it has clocked every single hour I have ever worked for my pension and I find it hard to believe it will treat me in the petty box-ticking manner the Home Office has taken. I could be wrong and in for a horrible surprise, but for now it is only the behaviour of Britain that makes me sick to my stomach.”
You must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with…a herring!
For many years we took Bridgwater rock groups on annual tours of the Czech Republic where they were welcomed as friends. Jan Jelinek is a rock musician who has visited Bridgwater several times and who also organised return gigs for Bridgwater bands in Prague “I am sad and sorry about Brexit – Me and my wife do love England, and always being happy when coming back…But, in fact, at the moment, I do not know what Brexit will really mean for us, what consequences it brings….I wish to Britons all the best because i love your nation and all the things you gave to the world (except concentration camps, Chamberlain and Boris Johnson). And I do hope the we will meet again in Bridgwater, our most favourite place on the islands….”
Help! Help! I’m being repressed! Now we see the violence inherent in the system
Janez Medja is a Slovenian businessman who has helped Bridgwater tour groups in all the states of the former Yugoslavia, including football teams, choirs and students. Janez wants unity but is also critical of EU bureaucracy “Well, regarding UK leaving EU – there is not much what I can do. I can only observe .There will be certain consequences on business – for me – what I know at the moment – it means: – payments from UK or to UK will be charged more: 0,1 % of the amount, the bank takes it away;- crossing borders might also be different, more scanning and waiting. I do not know if all the benefits and threads about staying or leaving were considered properly in UK? Maybe not. That’s why Brexit happened. It is a shame for being unable to get common interest and to have to split. For sure there is a huge administration in Brussels which is just there and does not do much but collects tax money from states, and then from ordinary people and waste it. Such a shame!!! If anything should get improved, this should be the first thing to do; But there is no interest. Most likely UK would have stayed in EU if that had been different. But it is what it is, we have to face it; EU needs to get onto the right move – the sooner the better – higher level, having much less administration, wise leaders, prosperous green-nature orientated policies, right and determined refugee politics, bringing benefits to every EU citizen not just to few selected ones…”
“One day, lad, all this will be yours.” “What, the curtains?”
Tanweer Ali is a British teacher who has lived in many parts of the world including the USA, Switzerland and Beirut and who has lived in Prague in recent years where he has a young Czech family. Tanweer made links first with Bridgwater councillors organising business contacts and has helped us every since, but he’s not at all happy with Brexit “I certainly won’t be celebrating at midnight on Friday. I was actually planning an early night. This is certainly not the end of the matter, any more than George Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ stunt was the end of America’s problems in Iraq. Brexit is going to run and run and will sooner or later bring down yet another Tory Prime Minister. The whole thing is basically a con against the British people, and we will eventually be back in the EU and future generations will see this as a huge waste. “
Blessed are the cheesemakers’
Kristyna Opletalova came to Bridgwater as a 14 year old student from the Czech Arabska High School-and then returned again and again because she loved the place. Recently she worked in the Czech Embassy in Thailand and is now back in Prague. How will she spend Friday? “I’ll have no time to think about Brexit on that day as I will be very busy working. But probably somewhere deep I’ll have on my mind that my father with his wife will be flying to the UK on that day and they’ll be nervous if everything is ok at the airport etc. And although in reality there’ll be practically no change for us when travelling to the UK, it’ll feel different. My aunt who lives in London with her husband and 2 daughters and my grandma who spends almost the whole year with them will suddenly seem much further. And maybe I’ll remember the time when I was 14 and went to the UK for the first time to visit my aunt and of course I’ll remember trip to Bridgwater with Dr Soucek and Cllr Brian. And most of all, I’ll hope I won’t see you all less in the future because of bloody Brexit. “
“Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?” “F*** off! ‘Judean People’s Front’?. We’re the People’s Front of Judea!'”
Sywia Plucisz is from the Polish city of Krakow and was Bridgwater’s main contact in that town for many years helping organise trips for our visiting football teams, choirs and students. Now she lives in Dublin and has a Polish-Irish son. Sylwia says “I’m not sure I can come up with a coherent paragraph to describe what I think – I’m still confused about how anyone could be so, well, let’s be blunt, stupid to go alone in the face of the overwhelming evidence of all kinds of enormous global challenges facing us, from climate crisis to REAL mass migration of peoples to worldwide political instability and possibly wars over scarce resources. It simply beats me. Instead of standing united, we’re preparing the ground for more divisions. I just don’t get it as it is so much against common sense. Do you know any Brexiteers who have actually come to their senses? Or are they still proudly brandishing their little union jacks?”
“Is it a boy or a girl?””I think it’s a bit early to start imposing roles on it, don’t you?”
Sabina Mevlja is a Slovenian teacher who has brought her students to the UK and helped Somerset students tour her country. She’s not a happy Slovenian bunny. “Brexit? Nobody even cares anymore!Your parting from the EU barely makes the news nowadays. Newsmen have a better topic now to scare the shit out of people – the Corona virus. I feel sorry for the Scots though. The Slovenians tend to root for the underdog as we always were one. First towards Belgrade, now Brussels. Funny thing with Brexit is that with all my interactions with UK citizens, I never met one that actually voted for it. Same as Trump voters in the States. Who are those people? What worries me a bit is, that you’ll become even more dependent on your American cousins. Your PM isn’t the brightest shining star, but compared to the US President, he seems almost normal. I am pretty sure they’ll cooperate something together quite soon. It will come in handy. For the first one to reverse the attention from the impeachment and the letter to unite the nation against the “common” enemy and distract the masses from potential disastrous consequences of Brexit. But as the Zen master said: “We’ll see”. All the best and you know where to find me – same place, just inside EU 🙂 I really wish all of you all the best! But Brexit or not I am really scared where the world leaders are taking us with their politics …”
The mill’s closed. There’s no more work. We’re destitute. I’ve got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments.
Jose Julio is a choir leader from Bridgwater’s latest European twinning on the Portuguese island of Madeira. Portugal is Britains oldest ally and Jose thinks he understands the British character and can explain. So he has a go. “June 23, 2016. The vote was 17.4 million in favor of U.K. leaving the European Union, versus 16.1 million who voted to remain.The chances where: 1- Leave with no deal and without a trade agreement, ports would be blocked and airlines grounded. In no time, imported food and drugs would run short. 2 – Another referendum, assuming that voters did not understand the economic hardships that Brexit would impose. 3 – Approve a negotiated deal because of the nature of the border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and the EU’s Republic of Ireland. Since then, much has been said and discussed. The fact is that U.K. has always had an exceptional situation in Europe. Did not integrate the single currency (euro). It always maintained a difficult budget discussion situation. Was a disagreeing voice for many of the E.U. policies. With Brexit, England will possibly face problems with the UK’s continuity, with the resumption of the economy and with the many foreign communities residing in the U.K. (workforce). On the other hand, for the E.U. also, the departure of a contributing country will cause a shock in economic and cohesion policies”
On Wednesdays I go shopping, and have buttered scones for tea
Gabriela Rejmanova was an au pair in Bridgwater when she got involved in our twinning projects. When she went back to Czech Republic she continued to help our visiting tour groups. And then she met Somerset born Adrian Wilcox and married him. They now live in USA with their young Anglo-Czech son.
Adrian says “I won’t be doing anything special; life goes on after all. However, I’m disappointed, frustrated and somewhat dispirited by a decision that was essentially taken based on fear of the future and nostalgia for a past that never really existed. As a Brit with a Czech wife and son who lived for 15 years in Czech Republic and is now settled in the USA the practical impact to me personally is fairly specific. I don’t know where we will end up living in the future, but Brexit certainly makes it less likely that I’d return to live in the UK.”
And Gabbi adds “I feel like the decision to leave EU made by British people is not fair for future generations. The world is changing so fast and we need to look and see what will be needed in the future and I believe European states need to work together and not spend energy fighting. We should not pretend that we are isolated and cannot be effected by world issues (poverty, viruses and illnesses , fires and most importantly WAR!), we are all there together . Countries should have their own decision making processes and rights to do what they feel is best for their countries but also be part of the world. And it is better to have European countries united in one union to address world issues that separate countries. I think UK should have not given up on EU but try to find a solution, it is sad that they have not. “
Our chief weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear. Fear and surprise. Our two weapons are fear and surprise – and ruthless efficiency! Our three weapons are….
Eva Kordova was one of Bridgwater’s first contacts in the post Velvet Revolution Czechoslovakia and has been to Bridgwater with her student groups more times than we’ve fed her hot dinners. She has worked tirelessly to bring the two countries together for 30 years helping to organise every project between Bridgwater and her hometown of Ceske Budejovice. If anyone feels the pain of Brexit will it be Eva? “Leaving on Friday!? Well, can´t be helped. Watching CNN reporting on the issue, I can see on the screen the Tower of London in the background and the amazing shiny skyline behind. The Tower has been standing there for quite some time but the tall constructions dominated by the Cucumber were growing throughout the thirty years when we could watch their growth on our visits to London. UK was an EU member then, we from the Czech Republic were still dreaming of EU citizenship, having to queue in with Landing cards in hands. The city has changed a great deal and the people? On our first arrivals we looked up to the British standards, to the advanced UK society in every respect. Awsome. Later, when we got to know people personally and could see their daily lives, we saw the intimate face and started to understand their problems and attitudes. I found the British brave and resistant, tough and fair. When foot-and-mouth disease hit the country, they did not complain.They seem give a hand elsewhere. They respect rules. I got to feel at home when visiting a charity event in a village community hall or had fun doing a quiz in a local pub. I believe these folks will not change. The Isles will stay where they are, washed by the same waters. However, some part of its people has started thinking differently when they agreed to separate from the Continent, which their nation had saved 75 years ago. How distant is the country going to be then?We have had years of fun. I personally was kept busy arranging events and visits for English rock bands, football teams, school drama groups coming with performances, clubs of seniors or handicaped, choires or just regular school exchange groups here in Czech Republic, namely South Bohemia. The adults liked local beer, young ones enjoyed being abroad on their own, having friendly home hosting. This country will remain open for the British, I am sure. ….And I believe it will work there in the UK as well. “
Please. This is supposed to be a happy occasion. Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who…
Carla Contini is a teacher from Bridgwater’s Italian twin town in Priverno. The Italian link is one of our newest and yet the most active. But will it survive Brexit? “Even if it has already become a reality, I still feel Brexit as something unreal and far. I can’t imagine Great Britain as an extra european country, where you are welcomed to enter only if you are not European. Or an island linked to the rest of Europe by the euro tunnel and its very fast trains that suddenly decides to spend long time checking at its borders. I really cannot understand why people who have sailed everywhere around the world, met and shared so many people and cultures in their past, now, in the internet age, decide to lock their country and stay locked. “
Strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords, is no basis for a system of government!
Tanja Jamnik runs a choir in Slovenia and has not only brought her choir to sing at the Bridgwater Together event, she’s welcomed Bridgwater’s internationalist ‘Voice of the People’ choir to her own country. She’s seen some changes. “I was born in former Yugoslavia. Maybe we didn’t have as much political independence as we would like to have or our politicians wanted, but in fact inside Yugoslavia we lived without any borders, we had the same currency and five languages within the same country. When our country fell apart we were all very happy and we celebrated our independence. But as our former president Kučan said on the evening when we celebrated our independence: “Today dreams are allowed, tomorrow is another day and nothing will be the same as it was.” And indeed – suddenly we had a border between Slovenia and Croatia, and the lines there were really long, the market for our products suddenly reduced from 22 to 2 million people, which caused a lot of problems in our country. Our friends stayed in other republics and our friendship was also put into question – we needed some time to come together again. Maybe because our separation was not totally innocent – actually we were at war -but anyway – nothing was the same. Then we were accepted to European Union. Most of European Countries were suddenly open for us. No more waiting on the borders, we didn’t have to change money if we travel. Now our homeland expanded. Our friends in Austria, Germany and United Kingdom were easier to reach. And then United Kingdom decided to exit the European Union. At first we didn’t believe it at all. Maybe some political action to distract domestic problems at home and frighten people in the other countries of EU we thought. It was a longer process but when it came true I felt really said. Here it goes all over again. Instead of breaking borders we were building new ones. Instead of making friends we will become foreigners. Why? What is the real purpose? I know that changes turn the World, but only changes for better, I think. So, on 31 st of January I will be thinking on my friends in United Kingdom. Most of them are not happy with the decision of Brexit and I hope that we won’t have much troubles in future to meet wherever – in U.K. or somewhere in EU. At the end we make our own borders in our heads and when our minds are pure and innocent then no one can make us to do what we don’t want to. “
But kids were different in them days. They didn’t have their heads filled with all this Cartesian Dualism.
In Bridgwater’s twin town Uherske Hradiste, Antonin Machala has a stairlift business. He was the first Czech to contact us in Bridgwater. That’s how the link developed. He is now a succesful businessman with contracts all over the world and still finds time to visit us and to help our tour groups. He remains as philosophical and good natured as ever. ” Probably something is somewhere wrong. Only little example can be Czech Republic. On 1.1.1993 former Czechoslovakia was split and 1.5. 2004 Czech Republic joined EU and 21.12.2007 also Schengen. Today I visited Slovakian branch office in Bratislava and really not problems. The time will tell. “You are not alone”.
What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
Meanwhile, in the same town, Natalie Csizmaziova ,who works with children’s centres and on many occasions accessed European Grants to bring Czech Family centre workers to Bridgwater for work experience and hosted our people back in their community centres, is not so happy “I don’t know what to say. It is so sad. I just suggested to my husband, let’s go quickly to London this year! It might be more difficult next year. I don’t have any “deep philosophical opinion” on the situation at the moment. History teaches us that even a thousand years of evolution is not enough for humans to avoid the same mistakes again and again…..Good luck to all of us!”
My Brain hurts!
Dale Bruton left Bridgwater to explore the Wild East back in the early ’90s and never came back. Today he lives in the Slovak capital Bratislava. An actor, a musician, a writer, a poet and non of the above, Dale says “I have arranged to meet another Englishman on Friday evening to pass the final hours of our EU membership with a drink. I believed Brexit to be a disaster from the outset, my friend initially supported it but feels the handling of it almost immediately nosedived into disaster. The importance of the EU is particularly poignant here in Slovakia and Central Europe. 75 years after memorialising the Holocaust, next month’s election has the neo-Nazi party second in the opinion polls. A referendum was organised here in recent years which sought to deny basic rights to the LGBT community. High-profile corruption scandals in politics and business (including murder) are currently undergoing trial and/or investigation and media exposure. The fragility of human rights is clear . The EU is currently an essential protector and watchdog of the rights of all its citizens, from minorities to children to consumers of goods and services, and the weakening of its position and dilution of its membership does little to inspire confidence in the future freedoms and living standards most of us take for granted. From this standpoint alone, I perceive Brexit to be an irresponsible and unproductive move by the British government.”
It’s Just a Flesh Wound
Comedy Genius/ Controversial Comic,Ricky Gervais, recently said ‘Some People in Britain are so stupid that we have to write ‘Do Not Drink’ on a bottle of bleach. We should just cross that off then have a second referendum. Problem solved.’ But of course we can all call people idiots who voted for Brexit. Because they can also call us idiots for voting ‘Remain’. That’s freedom of speech. People don’t need a qualification to vote other than,well, a vote. There isn’t a right or wrong answer , there’s just a result. If a referendum was held on whether 2+2=4 and 52% voted instead that it equaled 5 then that would be what we had to deal with. So we can call all the people who lied to us bastards, we can call all the people who fell for the lies fools and we say that not all the people who voted Brexit were racist (but all the racists for sure will have voted Brexit) but we don’t really know that. And it doesn’t matter, because if we want democracy, that’s what it means. 2+2 now equals 5 and it’s our fault for not winning that argument. Next time we have to try harder. Because next time the question might be the restoration of Capital Punishment …and I can see a few midnight social media warriors fingers already reaching for the keyboard. But, sadly, not the bleach…..