Sunday, 20 September 2015

Whacky dreams, migrants and Belvita biscuits at the Tatsfield Churchyard...

When I awoke this morning it was dark outside and the radio's weather forecaster spoke of a chilly start to the day. But when I checked my iphone around 0609hrs, there were no abort texts and it hadn't rained overnight so I was thankful for small mercies. Soon it will be time to put the gloves back on and Phil will hibernate for the winter – the cardboard box and the straw await him. And for those who are wondering what I'm talking about, it's the old Blue Peter tortoise Freda who used to hibernate and was placed in a cardboard box among a load of straw. On the side of the box somebody, probably John Noakes, had scrawled the tortoise's name in black marker pen: Freda.

It was Saturday morning and, as usual, I was sitting in the conservatory with tea and cereal (Weetabix) but this time the light was on and, it seemed, winter was fast approaching.

Class A Cheddar!
Having snorted a couple of lines of Cheddar last night before hitting the sack I had some amazingly strange and vivid dreams, one involving my brother and I riding on some kind of invisible train that I recall took us past a railway station and then sped up to reach a tremendous speed, although how I knew we were on a train I don't know because I was in mid-air, about thirty feet off the ground and charging through some kind of rural valley at breakneck speed, warning my brother to hold on, like I was. Then I found myself alone walking past deserted blocks of luxury apartments and eventually I was in one of them. It was furnished and I was with two very attractive women, but I felt uneasy about being there, it must have been a show flat, I don't know, but I felt as if I was being watched. At that moment I woke up – and found it was 0200hrs – but when I drifted off again I found myself in my mate Alan's garage, sheltering from the rain with my family. We'd rung the bell and soon he answered and invited us in, but on entering the house there were no lights on and again I felt uneasy and unwanted. I awoke to the dulcet tones of Radio Four's six o'clock news and the migrant crisis and now here I am, about to head off on a ride.

The weather was good. Cloudy and grey but it was going to be a good day, the sun would shine and all would be well with the world. I set off alone to Warlingham Green where Andy and I decided to head for the Tatsfield Churchyard, even though we knew it would mean standing up (it's getting to that time of year when the benches are wet either because of overnight rain or a heavy dew). Sadly, wet benches mean more trips to the Tatsfield Bus Stop – where we can sit down on a dry bench.

It was a pleasant ride along the 269 in what I called typical 'NoVisibleLycra' weather – dull, overcast and autumnal – and I noticed that many cars still had their headlights on, a bad, wintry sign if ever there was one. There was little in the way of traffic on the road, just the odd car travelling slowly in either direction.

When we reached the churchyard things brightened up and, as suspected, the bench was damp. Andy sat on the slabs, which were dry but cold, and even if the old wives' tale of cold slabs causing piles was just that (an old wives' tale), I remained standing.

The migrant crisis
We discussed the migrant crisis. Where to begin? Andy and I are both on the same page with this one. We both believe that whoever these migrants are – note that the BBC refers to them as 'migrants', not 'refugees' – if they really are escaping the war in Syria why haven't they stopped in Turkey? The answer, perhaps a little cynically, is that some of them might be 'chancers' – some newspapers report that only one in four are truly fleeing a war zone. Some are Albanians and there's no war in that country, claims my mum's Daily Mail. In other words, a large majority of those on the move are simply looking for a better life. And who can blame them for trying after the rather idiotic Angular Mescal told the world that Germany's doors were open for migrant business, "Come on down!" And now that they're here – the first batch at any rate – the borders are being hastily closed and the 'migrants' or 'refugees' are being told to go hither and thither in order to break through to Europe proper where there are no borders and they can waltz into the Fatherland or Scandinavia OR join the throngs of people trying to jump on to lorries at Calais in an effort to reach the UK. How long, I wonder, before migrants in long boats attempt to cross the English Channel and land on the beaches?

There are, of course, many, many questions. Why aren't the Gulf states accommodating these people? Oooh! We're not allowed to ask pertinent questions! What's Saudi Arabia doing about the situation? What's the United Arab Emirates doing? Qatar? Bahrain? Oman?

Nobody wants to be seen to say the wrong thing – except for the Hungarians – because it's not  politically correct to tell the migrants to sling their hooks. As result everything is at sixes and sevens: one minute we hear that Hungary has closed its borders but Croatia has decided to open its doors – hurrah! Then they're closed again. I could go on, but by now you've probably got the gist of the arguments and the paradoxes – one minute Europe is anti-immigration – certainly in the UK where it was, only recently, a major campaigning issue of the last General Election – and the next there are pictures of Germans clapping the migrants as they arrive in Deutschland.

The problem of immigration
In the UK the problem of immigration has been brought into sharp focus of late and the whole issue is largely split on ideological lines. If you're left wing you're more likely to support more multi-culturalism, more immigration and the diversity it brings. If you're right wing, you're more concerned about reforming the EU to make it more difficult for members of the EU – especially those from poorer countries like Bulgaria and Romania – to just waltz into the country and 'take all our jobs'.

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), was the poster boy for anti-immigration feeling in the UK and he often found himself being accused of racism by the left. While support for Farage seemed strong – and forced Cameron to announce that if he won the General Election there would be a referendum on EU membership in 2017, UKIP didn't shine at the election. However, now that Cameron has a majority in the House of Commons and another five years to run, he certainly has time to attempt reform of the EU's open borders policy.

However, now that the migrant crisis is upon us – cue images of 'Johnny Foreigner' stowing away on lorries entering the UK and storming the barricades at Calais – there is a danger that extreme right wing groups will gain popularity and that they will stoke up anti-EU feeling ahead of the 2017 referendum. Many commentators argue that the current crisis could tip the balance and the UK could easily withdraw from Europe. Others argue that Europe is already 'washed up'.

Sorting out the problem at source
In my opinion, there is only one thing to do: sort out Syria from where the problem originates. But the Russians are supporting Assad, so if the West is entertaining the notion of 'regime change' – surely they've learnt their lesson? – they'd better think again as there's no room to blame 'faulty intelligence'.

My view is that they (the West) should engage with the Russians and the Iranians and work out some kind of plan that's going to keep everybody happy, including the migrants, who can then go back to Syria and get on with their lives. But where is Assad in all of this? He's been barrel-bombing his own people so the migrants won't be too keen to return home if he's still in power.

In short, it's a nightmare – but it's got to be sorted out sooner or later and hopefully it won't be just the Americans and the British carrying the military can.

No comments:

Post a Comment