9 May is Europe Day. No one in the UK is really likely to know or care, so (as part of the bloggingportal #myeurope blogging carnival) I want to take a few short minutes to celebrate some of the things that I love in and around Europe…
1) Europe is my continent, the place where no matter what the language spoken in the place I visit, however different it is from home in terms of weather and building style, there a sense of familiarity (working out which bit of Bratislava I’d want to live in, where I’d set up my B&B in France, whether I could take that job in Brussels etc. etc.) and a sense of interconnectedness between my history and those of the people living in the other countries near mine. And yes I am aware that the common history is largely that of fighting each other in different combinations… so my Europe is partly about preventing future conflicts.
2) Oh wow, European food. Yummy things. Including but not exclusively sachertorte, Belgian chocolates, pastichio, bacon, queso de membrillo, French cheese (all of it), feta, beer, goulash, Parma ham, battered courgette flowers, crayfish, clafoutis/financier, asparagus, curries, British Beef with yorkshire pudding… I defy anyone to live in Belgium for 3 years without gaining what British diplomats call “the Brussels stone”.
3) There’s something beautiful about countries choosing to work together for a common future, not something being imposed by an outside force. Forgiving what has happened in the past, but not forgetting, and trying not to allow the memories that need to respected become a quest for future vengence.
For example, Riga has an amazing museum of occupation, heartbreaking when you see the things that you have read about a thousand times that happened all across Europe and witness by those not even two generations before my own.
4) My B&B? It’s a little near-retirement dream. But I love that if I want to set up business anywhere I want to, I can.
5) Such amazing diversity. Not just of peoples, languages, cultural traits, but look at the geography! From tundra and mountains to reclaimed land, lush green fields and pastures, to biblical dusty paths and scratchy bushes, coastlines, rivers and marshes, annual snow and wrong-sort-of-snow… Flora, fauna…
6) I gain a whole extra level of identity. I feel like a kid writing my address on an envelope my house, my road, my town, my county, my country, my continent, my world, my solar system, my universe… Being European doesn’t detract from me being British, or Kentish, or Ashfordian, it adds to it. I’m one of nearly half a billion. And that matters. In a world where climate change deals are struck by the USA, India, China, South Africa and Brazil, being at the table counts, and you don’t get to be there if you’re not big.
7) I hardly dare mention it, but I’m going to. If I want to buy strawberry jam in the shop down the road that was made in Spain, I know that the contents will be as safe for my child as strawberry jam that was made in East Sussex and will be lovely and fruity rather than filled with sawdust or plums-with-strawberry-flavouring. It has to be, or they’re not allowed to sell it here.
8) I love that it’s so easy to travel around Europe, crossing borders without tedious queuing and visas, fulfilling the quote attributed to Ernest Bevin “my policy is to be able to take a ticket at Victoria station and go anywhere I damn well please!”
9) Despite living on an island, I grew up living closer to Calais than to London, and could see France from the beach nearest to my house… and had a friend who lived on the other coast who could see that beach from hers!
10) I have posted 10 random things in a random order, some triggered by the one in front, others completely disjointed. If I was writing this list in French in the 1960s, this would be known as a stream of consciousness list! How fantastic would that be? Tres Marguerite Duras. And that itself brings back the memory of reading L’Amant for A-level French. Not my finest hour!
P.S. Write on My Europe Week, or link a post on your own blog, in the language of your choice. Twitter away under #MyEurope and #EuropeDay. Share your Europe.