We’re making the most of our present ability to move freely around Europe in our 8 metre wooden sailing boat, Lady Christina. We are NOT on holiday! Our aim is to get under the skin of this country, be fascinated and maybe bored, exhilarated by sailing and probably terrified sometimes, experience new things and realise what matters and what we miss from the UK.
It doesn’t take long for people here to twig that we’re British. Someone speaks to us in Dutch and we look non-plussed. They talk fast, just like we do when we think we’ll be understood. It’s much easier for us when things are written down and we have time to think about the context and look things up in our ‘Mini-woordeboek’. Anyway, if we had a Euro (almost equivalent to a pound sterling) for every time someone asks us ‘Did you sail the boat over the North Sea yourselves?’ we’d be considerably wealthier if we could say ‘yes’.
Once our lack of courage (or admirable wish not to die a damp and drizzly death on what used to be a land bridge between here and there) has been got out of the way, the conversation usually turns to Brexit. We haven’t met anyone here who thinks the UK is doing a sensible thing. We always explain that we personally voted to Remain, unlike many of our demographic, apparently. The day after the referendum, I seriously considered getting a a badge made which said, ‘Not me!’ We explain the reasons for our stance: we think that the UK benefits enormously from having economic and intellectual co-operation with Europe, we all live in the same world and it’s better if we share rather than compete, Britain isn’t really ‘Great’ any more and we don’t ‘Rule the waves’. We need Europe and they need us. And so on….
A few nights ago, someone gave us an entirely new perspective on Brexit. We were talking to a man who said that his father, who is 83 years old, stated, the morning after the referendum, ‘We have lost an ally.’ The Dutch nation regards the UK as their liberators and they are still very grateful to us. They can’t understand why we seem to be rejecting them and cutting ourselves off from them. It’s easy to think of WW2 as being a British thing. But it was a World War (the clue’s in the name) and we’ve seen memorials to crews of British and Allied planes at the sites where they crashed. Worth thinking about.
The world is a small place when we can travel in planes which break the sound barrier.
We met someone who thought the world was pretty small this week, when he confused the ‘Red Duster’ with the Australian flag and asked, ‘Did you sail her here from Australia?’ We had to confess, we didn’t.