When we returned to the UK to live in 2019, I thought that my tenth book about living and working abroad ‘Letters from the Canary Islands and Spain’ would be the last ‘Letters from the Atlantic’ that I would publish. After all, what would be the point of writing about living on a sunny island in the Atlantic, when we had moved to cloudy, damp Devon? I had another novel to write, which would keep me busy, and I would finally say goodbye to writing about living and working in another country.
It was an email from an editor of one of the magazines that I write for that changed my mind, and is responsible for this book. He asked why I had not recently sent him any submissions for his magazine? When I reminded him that I had moved back to the UK and could see little point in further articles, he responded by saying, “Why not? Many Brits are returning, or attempting to return, to the UK because of Brexit. Share your experiences of the issues that you are facing. I’m convinced that your experiences will be a help to many people, as well as entertaining for the rest of us.”
It is with these words that the idea of ‘Travelling Hopefully’ was born. In many ways, this book is a sequel to my first book ‘Letters from the Atlantic’ which tells of our early life in Spain and the Canary Islands.
This book reflects upon the experiences that David and I encountered on our return to the UK, during a time of Brexit uncertainties, rapidly followed by lengthy Covid lockdowns, amidst a rapidly changing political and social landscape with a potential war in Europe on the horizon.
I compare incidents and our life in the Canary Islands to our new life in Devon, which may be annoying to some, since it is also a commentary on the political and social changes that I see around me; it is a subjective view, of course. Over the sixteen years or so that we have been out of the UK, there have been many changes, with very few for the better, it seems.
Life in Gran Canaria was not as perfect as many may imagine, but looking back, life in the UK now seems more complicated, divided, jingoistic, harsher, and with indifferent concern for other people.
It is also a country in political and social crisis, which those who live here seem unable or unwilling to recognise. There is a paucity of political leadership from any political party, and populism has taken an unhealthy grip on the nation, no doubt following in the steps of the US.
I am shocked at the increase in levels of poverty, the growing number of foodbanks, the rise in racism, knife and gang violence, as well as a growing and deliberately fostered hostility towards Europe, fanned by a powerful group of right-wing politicians and wealthy fanatics, be they known as oligarchs or simply as ‘Tory Grandees’.
I was once asked, “So, why didn’t you stay where you were, if you like Europe so much?” The truth is that often I wish that we had. However, we were already well aware of souring relationships between the EU and the UK, issues with both healthcare and getting older, as well as missing family and friends.
More will be discussed about this later in the book. Has it worked out as well as we had hoped? In some ways, no. Our plans to meet up with family and friends have, so far, been put on hold due to Covid. We miss the island, the healthy climate, the outdoor lifestyle, and the non-judgemental attitudes of those who live and work there.
In many ways, I feel that I have aged twenty years in the short time that we have been back in the UK, and I gather that this is not an unusual comment from those returning from a life in the sun. Above all, we miss our Spanish and European friends. On the plus side, when Covid issues settle, we will once again be able to visit family and friends again.
We will be able to revisit some of our favourite places, and enjoy the beautiful Devon countryside. We will be able to visit garden centres and enjoy cream teas, as well as speaking our native language, which I have missed.
Since I began writing this book, I have been diagnosed with bowel and liver cancer. So far, the diagnosis, tests and surgery have been excellent, and I am grateful to have returned to the UK in time to deal with this life changing chapter of my life.
I know that treatment in Spain would have been at least as good as the care that I am currently receiving, but it is reassuring to have returned to the UK where I can rely upon close family and friends for support, and not have to worry about the language when dealing with complicated medical and treatment issues.
The tragic passing of a dear friend in Gran Canaria has made me realise that I am fortunate to be back in the UK, given my current circumstances, since the lack of end-of-life care and hospice support are sadly lacking in the Canary Islands and much of Spain.
In a tongue in cheek comment, I made the point that this book should not be read by Brexiteers or those who are fans of Boris Johnson, since it is most likely to offend, or at least annoy. I don’t regret this remark, since I believe that both are two of the main factors that are responsible for the current attitudes in the UK. The UK is currently in a state of flux, but the reasons for its malaise stem much deeper than Johnson and Brexit.
Anti-European, and indeed anti-foreigner attitudes, have been developed and cultivated in the UK for the last forty years or so, and have culminated in a whole range of divisive issues that cross over the usual political divides. Brexit, Johnson and Truss, as well as the supporting cabal of Europe haters, are merely the unpleasant discharge from a lingering poisonous boil that will eventually be lanced, treated and forgotten. Maybe, over time, Brexiteers will be proved right, but I doubt it.
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