The UK Turf War


Once again immigration is the topic of conversation for the UK, and as usual it hasn’t taken long for the UK press to revel in the delight of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘scapegoat’ rhetoric.

If the news is to be read literally though, it would be enough to frighten the pants off any level headed individual just going about their business; an influx of foreign workers stealing jobs and benefits, who plan to eventually take over the country for their own ends! Sounds sinister!

All of the talk, press and otherwise, does raise important questions though. Is this truth or merely scare tactics? Also, just how fair, equitable, free and humane does it all sound? It is immigration, but we are talking about people right and not merely cattle?

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but now that the UK has had to lift its restrictions to their job market, fears have escalated, by what seems like over-night, to a boiling point.  Should the UK nation be afraid, is there about to be a turf war?

I was nosing around the net, wondering if all the hullabaloo was in fact worth the media frenzy. What I wanted to know was whether the people of the UK really gave a damn about who from the EU might or might not take up UK residency. It didn’t take too long to stumble upon something curious.

The below text has been copied from an actual on-line petition set out on the HM Government website. Its creator, a member of the UK public, along with 153,811 signatories, seemed to obviously feel that there indeed would be a mass of Romanian, and Bulgarian immigrants desperately making their way to the shores of the UK.

“In 2014 EU restrictions are set be removed, allowing nationals of Bulgaria and Romania ‘free movement’ to the UK. The move is similar to the one that granted access to around 600,000 Polish immigrants to enter Britain over recent years.

Despite Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU in 2005 (Savvy Senorita edit – it was 2007), restrictions were put on the number who could move to Britain. However, those restrictions will be abolished in 2014 (Savvy Senorita edit – I.E now).

Once the restrictions are lifted all new comers will entitled to claim benefits, housing, child, job seekers etc. There is currently an estimated 1.5 million people seeking work within the two countries

The impact will also put pressure on housing, infrastructure, schools, and heath care. All at a time the government are cutting pensions, jobs, public services and the armed forces.

I request the government suspends the easing on these restrictions” 

I then took a look at the newspapers. There were ample comments left upon The Daily Mail and Guardian’s websites; replies to the articles telling the world about how our MPs feel or fear about immigration. In one such article, (posted in the Guardian: link below), it was claimed that David Cameron believes that the immigration levels for Romanians and Bulgarians is now reasonable enough; the responses to this article however provided a somewhat different perspective;

“We need mass immigration as a pro business policy Cameron is completely wrong.

Think about the benefits, house prises rise make home owners wealthier and Britain can remain competitive by getting cheaper labour.

We live in an increasing globalised world and we in the EU have China to compete with. He couldn’t be more wrong.

In addition without immigration we would have to spend an exorbitant amount training our own feckless and work-shy, and the price of house keeping would rocket.

The EU must not allow him or his party to get away with such inflammatory comments”.

These quotes demonstrate two very different ideas about immigration, both of which are actual opinions held by people living in the UK.

OK, so I know there maybe those out there who feel that any level of immigration is too high, and others who think that the doors of a country ought be flung wide open (each to their own); but isn’t there a happy medium?

What I mean is, can’t we talk immigration without becoming so emotive? Can’t we leave all the scapegoating, racism and the overly P.C comments behind, and focus on what could be the real issues of immigration for the UK?

I want to ask the powers that be, and the people;

Can any country allow mass immigration? Does any country have the capacity to offer that? Is it economically viable? Could they offer employment, housing, services and support (et al) to everyone that comes to, and resides in the country?

Is immigration a one way street – the people from the poorest nations moving to the richer ones? Is immigration about making money for a country or spending money? Do we all really have freedom of movement? How many people would up-sticks and re-locate to another country? Is that even possible with the economy and the lack of job opportunities? Also, EU countries differ from the UK; different languages, educational requirements, alien benefit and health care systems which not every resident will have access to.

Why is the UK immigration fears/policies subject to mass interjection from other countries? Why has it become such a contentious subject? Every country has its own ideas regarding immigration, yet, I don’t see every country being asked to explain themselves. Is UK immigration a national or international issue? Whose country is it to govern, and make those decisions about immigration? Have the UK Government merely become some middle man in all of this, without the real power to decide what happens in their own country? More importantly, does anyone care what the public think and want?

Is the UK a ‘soft touch’ for the world? Is the UK being racist in its cautious approach to immigration?

Is the UK Government trying to appease everyone, and pleasing no-one at the same time? Is immigration a way of making amends for a shady past history as ‘colonial conquerors’, do they feel guilty?

Has the UK given up on its people – do they invest enough in what resources and talent they already have? Why would the country require an extra work-force from abroad, when the UK already has those who are in need of training/re-training, educating, employment, self-employment, good wages and steady/secure jobs? In fact, can the UK Government deal with the issues/changes and problems the country already has? Are they actually taking on too much responsibility by accepting more people they won’t be able to ‘do right by’?

Will there be a mass exodus from one country to another? Will the Romanians and Bulgarians swamp the UK, and take over the country? Why do people live in fear of immigrants stripping the country bare? Immigration is nothing new for the UK; it has always been multi-cultural and accepted people from far and wide, why then is the country now so angst ridden?

Is immigration a good business and economic policy? Is it investment and profit? Is it more people claiming benefits and abusing the system, sending money back to their families in Romania or Bulgaria? Is it escalation of crime? Is is merely public cynicism and distrust? Is it greed and shady dealings? Is it appeasement or enlightenment?

I personally feel the UK cannot close the doors to immigration, but there are certain discrepancies with how the UK handles the subject. I don’t doubt that UK immigration and policies per se are being vetoed or strangled by the EU. I question though, who benefits from all the upper echelons (in the UK and EU), wrangling amongst themselves because of their own agendas? Well, it isn’t the people they are supposed to represent and that is for certain.

I believe immigration has become a convenient red herring in many ways, an issue placed before the public to distract from the real issues on the table, the real failure of those in charge.

With or without immigration, the UK still has serious issues; how is the Government going to convince the UK public that they can do what they say they will? When all the scapegoating and smoke screens have gone, what is left? A Government who doesn’t really know what they really stand for, and which way to turn in any crisis without squabbling like children.

I wonder, when there is nothing to fight over, what remains to fight for?

I will leave you with a quote (another reply) to that article in The Guardian (I mentioned earlier in this post: link below);            

“The UK is not concentrating on “job building” it is penny wise and pound foolish, driving wages down to a minimum base and sitting complacently on a million unemployed and millions under-employed. We have so many things that need replacing and repairing, upgrading and restoring here, but the governments we have seem happy to suck up to businesses who cream profits off-shore and let the citizens scrabble around in the mire for part-time low paid work.

We have work that needs doing, but lack the courage to invest in our people to improve the quality of life for everyone”.

Check out the article at: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/27/cameron-romania-bulgaria-immigration-reasonable

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A New Year, A New Rant


How was New Years Eve?? Did you have fun and celebrate in style?? Then, when the clock struck 12:00 you beat yourself up for allowing you, and your life, to be such a failure during the past year?? Did you then vow to stick to your new year resolutions, the resolutions that would ensure that in 2014 you become a better person???

Oh dear.

I know New Years Eve can be a strange time. It can often spark melancholy, regret, reflecting on all kinds of good and bad experiences and emotions. We all reconsider what the past year brought us, and how we lived our lives. Can this reflection help us in the new year to come though??? Can regret ever be healthy?

I am not going to tell you to make resolutions or not make them. I’m not going say that 2014 will be your year, that you have the power to transform and achieve. Personally I don’t get all that. I see all of that as negative life assassination, and unnecessary pressure. It is assuming that with the new year we will suddenly all transform and morph into wonder women or men. In 2014 we will definitely be destined to become another person, a wonderful person, in fact a person you were probably never actually meant to be.

Resolutions are very like false promises.

Why is it we always allow ourselves to perceive that the previous year was a failure, a let down, we didn’t perform and weren’t good enough? Isn’t that really what the notion of resolutions allude to – we are all failures, and therefore are required to modify and rectify that at all cost? Why can’t we just be us, and not need to change a thing?

Isn’t the notion of changing, of morphing, of transforming just a little bit delusional?? Just because it is a new year doesn’t mean anything has fundamentally changed. We are still, by virtue of our genetics, who we were upon birth; we haven’t grown extra limbs or suddenly become impervious to disease. We can’t shrug off the past; we all have our individual life experiences, thoughts, ideas, desires and so on.

Why is it with a new year we then become washed clean??

Or, more importantly, why do we want to be??

Isn’t life, from one year to the next, merely about the experiences we have and share, the learning curve, the path we travel, the thoughts and desires, hopes and dreams we harbour?

Isn’t life about those things??

To say we can be transformed, and washed clean assumes that we can all be famous artists, discover the cure for cancer, travel into space, be elected to Government, be an Olympian or whatever else! We are, most of us, normal folk with normal lives – average wages, children, mortgages and wrinkles. No amount of new years will ever change that either!!! We will never really transform.

So, why torture ourselves with pie in the sky -‘this year will be different’ – NO IT WON’T BE!!!!

Sorry, I get that positive thinking and hope are a great combination to have on your side in life, and I do adopt their principles as much as I can. However, I am also a realist and a little sceptical. I wonder how much we can actually change, transform, morph, and wonder if we really want to? If we don’t achieve, create, progress, succeed, dominate and control (or whatever!!!!) why is it seen so negatively? Why is it we can’t be just satisfied with being us?

This year I’m not going to become a millionaire, a success or even a glamour model who adorns the covers of popular magazines. I know that isn’t going to be what 2014 has in store for me.

I know it’ll be more of the same; living day to day, trying to survive, building relationships, trying to maintain motivation, good health and keeping some faith in me and what I want; basically boring stuff, not very inspiring or exciting!!! So, doesn’t matter how much I wish for miracles, money, fame and whatever else, it doesn’t mean it will come to fruition!!

I can make a million resolutions, but it doesn’t mean I can or will fundamentally change!

I’m just trying to say; be real, be kind to yourself and stop applying the pressure to be what you’re not. ALSO, stop viewing you and your life as a failure thus far, see your life as experience and a journey (which won’t be over, until it is over, and your six foot under). Stop stalling with resolutions and waiting for another new year to come and go; live without military precision, live and have fun amassing experiences to reflect on, not to feel negative and guilty about!

Live your life now, while it is here, and see what it brings you! All the ups and downs are welcome, it is life and you can’t just pick and choose the best bits and edit the rest, it isn’t a script after all!

Let 2014 be what it will be – life as we know it!

A Very Spanish Christmas and New Year


This Christmas, my boyfriend and I chose to remain in Madrid. We had considered returning to the UK but the prospect of confronting; the packing of many suitcases, the crazy airports and masses of people, delayed flights, bad weather, the hustle and bustle of the usual Christmas shopping frenzy (in ALL stores, but especially supermarkets, where food hoarders fight over the last Turkey!), the lack of personal transport and general malaise of UK Christmas cheer – in short, this bedlam really didn’t hold its usual appeal! So, we decided, sensibly, to stay put and experience a Spanish Christmas.

I admit, I was pleased and relieved to be staying in Madrid for Christmas, so too was my boyfriend. It saved us a lot of angst and hassle, plus, it has been great just having time to ourselves. We don’t seem to have enough quality ‘us’ time, and being here meant not having the usual obligations to please anyone, but ourselves!!! Selfish, it might be, but true!

In all, Christmas here hasn’t been such a culture shock. We have managed to buy the food we needed without hassle, without pushing and shoving and fighting in the aisles for the Brussel Sprouts or pigs in blankets! I did feel slightly peeved; I couldn’t buy any Mince Pies, Cranberry Sauce or my beloved Bread Sauce (the Spanish don’t know quite what they are missing out on!), and my home made gravy lacked its usual pizazz due to me forgetting to buy in extra stock cubes. Yet, regardless of this and the fact Spanish Christmas cakes and sweets just aren’t all that, we managed to survive!!!

We listened to Christmas songs and carols from King’s College Cambridge (the best Christmas carol choir service). We opened our presents, even though the Spanish wait until the Three Kings (6th January). We didn’t have a tree or any decorations, but then I knew we wouldn’t be buying those this year. We celebrated Boxing Day (26th December) by going out for a fabulous dinner and indulging in some lovely cocktails, although the Spanish don’t celebrate Boxing Day.

So, we didn’t miss out on anything really. However, I did think that it would be a quiet Christmas, as it was going to be just the two of us, but I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Nearly every night we have been out and about, far more actually than we would have been in the UK. On our doorstep are cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants. It has been easier to have fun and celebrate the holidays just because we are in the heart of the city. We can, on a whim, just go where we want, when we want and don’t need to rely on anyone else or fit into anyone else’s schedule. It has been great!

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends to bits!! I also enjoy spending time with them, and miss them dearly!!! Yet, Christmas in the UK can sometimes become, well, a little bit claustrophobic. Let me explain; I think people get stuck in a Christmas rut, a routine whereby every Christmas ends up becoming the same, without any real changes. Most importantly, the fun factor is often left out of the equation for one reason or another. This Christmas though, hasn’t been in anyway ‘rutified’ (Definition: to be put into the mould of a rut – I know it isn’t a genuine word!).

This Christmas has been a change of scene, it has been something different, we have come and gone as we pleased and we’ve had fun. This is why for me, in many ways, this Christmas has been one of the best. I always wanted to go away for Christmas, but hadn’t felt I could before, because of not wanting to upset my family and make them think I didn’t want to be with them. It is considered to be somewhat selfish, doing your own thing at Christmas; it is after all fundamentally about being with family and friends.

Yet, by living in Madrid we had a legitimate reason for not being there with them at Christmas time, even though for the previous two Christmases we returned to the UK to be with them. This time, we wanted a change though, we wanted to make the most being in Madrid. We haven’t got that long a time remaining here, this time next year we will in fact have already moved back to the UK. So, understandably we wanted to maximise every opportunity that being here affords us, which includes, a Spanish Christmas.

Hopefully then, we haven’t been deemed too selfish, as I do know our family and friends have enjoyed their Christmases too (even without us there with them)!

So, now Christmas time is over (very nearly over), I have, as most people do, been remembering all that has happened in 2013. More specifically, the life I have lived here in Madrid during this time. Although being out here for these few years hasn’t been all plain sailing, I feel that this year has been a year for positive changes. I feel quite good about things. I am also feeling quite saddened by the prospect of not being here in Madrid for next Christmas. It does seem as though this chapter of my life will soon enough come to an abrupt close, and without any fanfare I will be back where I was, as though these few years in Madrid never happened. How weird!

So, for my boyfriend and I it is even more important than ever before to enjoy the time we have left living in Spain!!! This Christmas sort of encapsulates that momentum we feel, the fact that we want to have fun and experience life to the fullest without feeling bad about about doing so!!

Anyway, before I become maudlin, and I don’t even have New Years Eve as an excuse, let me say I have thoroughly enjoyed the ups and downs of my time in Madrid (and hopefully will enjoy the year to come)! When the time comes and we depart for the UK, I can take back with me a whole new perspective and life experiences. As someone, at sometime once said; “nothing good can last forever”; maybe not, but I can of course treasure the memories forever!

So, here’s to a fabulous New Year – for me, you and everyone out there in the world!!!

I shall be celebrating my New Years Eve in Puerta del Sol, drinking some alcohol and some eating grapes (not as strange as it might sound – it is a Spanish tradition to eat grapes as the clock strikes to signal the new year).

Where-ever YOU are and what-ever YOU do, have fun and enjoy every last minute of 2013!!!!!!