Brexit, a different view

One Foreigner’s Point of View on Brexit

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Iceland is as its name implies, very cold. My family were used to it but I never wanted to stay in that climate. The warmth of the sun tempted me away from my country. I left and travelled to Europe in my early 20s. I was unsure as to where I wanted to settle. I decided to try out as many European countries as I could. They all have their attractions and they all have their faults. It was interesting to notice that they are all well aware of their best attributes, but seemed to be unaware of their own problematic behaviours, which were slightly different in each country.

Each had national pride, traditions and values close to the hearts of their citizens, but they were blind to their own difficult issues. They felt that, what ever they were, they were common issues the world over. I was present when the European Union was formed and people’s eyes were opened to their own idiosyncrasies and their foibles and unfairnesses. Many laws were made and much exchange took place. Towns were twinned, people shared their lives, if only for short periods. Countries could no longer turn a blind eye to their problems, and solutions suddenly seemed possible. It was no longer deemed appropriate for workers to be at the mercy of their employers regarding hours worked and pay rates. Equality of opportunity suddenly became a concept that was enshrined in law instead of being jeered at by those who felt they were ‘more equal’ than anyone else. Racism, sexism, ageism became part of the vocabulary. ‘Inclusion’ became a byword.

Of course it was not all entirely without fault or difficulty but the lives of millions were improved beyond imagining. Meanwhile law makers went too far on occasion. The combination of open borders and a reduction in the availability of work for those who were unwilling or unable to perform various tasks both and skilled or skilled, began to led to resentment.

Meanwhile a swirl of humanity has occurred over the past 30 years, as indeed it has on many occasions in our human history, as modern genetic studies have shown us. This mixing cannot be undone. It leads to strength in the gene pool rather than to weakness. It leads to the worst excesses of the different cultures being changed and improved. It leads to compassion and understanding between different cultures and races. We cannot step backwards. We must learn to move forwards together; there is no purification that can take place. We are by nature and ever-changing species growing and improving.

Our strength is unity in our diversity.

If Britain cuts itself off from Europe I am moving back to Iceland, chilly as it is, it won’t feel as cold and isolated as I fear Britain will, alone in the world following a ‘Brexit’.

A lonely road

A lonely road

Should Emma ‘like’ him? A story for girls 11 to teenage about ‘sexting’

Should Emma ‘like’ him? A story for teenage girls about ‘sexting’

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My tummy’s full of butterflies. I feel so excited, but I’m nervous too. There’s a boy who has been looking at me at break time. He’s got shiny black hair which he sweeps back over his head. I got a text on my phone and it’s from him.

‘I love your smile’ it says. He has signed it ML, that’s him, ML.

I text back ‘I love your hair.’

I keep checking my phone all day, nothing happens then just before last lesson it buzzes in my pocket. Mustn’t let the teachers see me looking at it, she will confiscate it. I pretend to look in my bag for a pencil. Yes! the message is from him! I decide to save it for later, on the bus where I can enjoy it in private.

Ellie my best friend has a boyfriend, well she says he’s her boyfriend but they never do anything together, they just sit and tease each other at lunchtimes. I’ve never had a boyfriend. I don’t think boys would fancy me. My brother says I’m ugly and fat. My mum tells him off if he says that, but he’s probably right. I’m what they call a big girl.

Anyway on the bus those butterflies are flapping around my insides again. I plonk down on the seat at the front upstairs. My phone lies in my hand. I look around, no one else is on the front seats. I check the message. It’s a photo of MML’s cheek with his hand touching it in a way that makes me shiver and feel excited. I don’t know how he took that pic. It’s not a selfie.

“Like me?” said the caption.

I don’t know what to say, of course I like him, he looks gorgeous, but why is he sending me this photo?

I text “Yes”, that’s all.

Every day he sends me a photo of himself, usually of his hands, often of his hair, sometimes of parts of his face. One day sends me a picture of his feet. They make me laugh, they are just as perfect as his hands. He doesn’t say anything except ‘Like it?’

Now I’m in my bedroom doing my homework and the phone pings. It’s ML. No photo but: ‘Send me a pic of you’.

I take one of my right foot, my toes have blue nail varnish and I think he might like that.

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He replies “Higher”. My stomach lurches, what does he want? I take a pic of my hand. “ Better”, he says.

He doesn’t stare at me in school any more. In fact he seems to disappear into the distance whenever I catch sight of him. It’s strange.

In my bedroom, ping goes the phone again. It’s a picture of ML’s knees. He is wearing blue jeans.   His hand is draped across his knees as if he is stroking them.

‘Yours?’ is the message.

Butterflies again. Why does he want to see my knees? I take off my black school trousers and put on my tights. My legs look better with tights on. I take a picture on my knees with my hand on one of them just like his hand, sort of stroking my knee. I feel a bit funny doing it, like it was a bit risky, but I do it anyway.

I’m waiting for a reply. Nothing happens. In school the next day, there is ML in a little crowd with my brother, all looking my way, laughing and pointing at me. My brother looks embarrassed and angry.

I feel terrible. I’ve been so stupid to trust that boy with my photos, that boy who never even speaks to me. I have a horrible day.

My brother comes home and flings his rucksack on the floor. He gives me such a filthy look I burst into tears. Mum and dad are at work and I feel so stupid and hurt.

My brother’s face softens he comes over and puts his hand on my arm. He is two years older than me and I care about what he thinks.

‘Is that the worst photo you sent to ML? The one of your knees?’

‘What do you mean the worst? He’s got photos of my hands and my hair.’

‘That’s not so bad then, but don’t send in any more will you Emma? I know he looks like a rock star , but he’s just a filthy toad . He’s been getting girls to send pictures of their breasts, and naked pictures to him, then he is blackmailing them.

I feel the blood drain from my face. I sort of know what he means, but I still need to ask. My bother explains.

‘Well, he says that they have to meet him and do what he says, or he will put their photos on Facebook. Then he brags about what he has done to them to all his mates.’

My mind races ahead. My mum and dad might find out what I’ve been doing, and the teachers at school, and my friends. Oh dear, I’m crying now. How could I have been so trusting… so stupid??

‘ Look Emms, I’m sorry I’ve been rude to you saying you’re fat and ugly, you are not, and a lot of my friends fancy you. But I’m protecting you from them, because some of them just aren’t very nice to girls.’

“Oh, thanks a lot you, try make me feel bad about myself, so that I don’t notice that your so called friends like me! And ML is one of your friends?”

‘No he’s the worst, but some of my friends like him, they say he’s a laugh. Anyway tell me you won’t give embarrassing photos to anyone ever again, and then I won’t have to worry about you, and I’m sorry I was unkind to you, I didn’t think!’

‘And what about my knees?’

‘ Don’t worry, ML will be up in front of the headmaster before you know it. I’m going to report him. What he’s doing is illegal, he’ll get a warning from the law tomorrow, you’ll see.’

 

Questions

Does this remind you of anything in your life? 

Once you give your photo to anyone else, is it private? 

What is the worst thing that could happen?

Have you been tempted to be unwise in this way? Did you make the right decision?

Losing Her Marbles. 11 year old Rosie talks about her Grandma who has just died

Losing Her Marbles

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‘Oh, Granddad, you’re up here too. It’s nice and breezy isn’t it and the sea’s looking all sparkly.’

‘I suppose the parade ground is good for roller-skating. They don’t do much parading round here these days,’ said her Granddad.

Rosie glanced down at her roller blades; she didn’t feel she should correct Granddad. He didn’t notice the difference between blades and skates and she didn’t want to argue with him. She knew he was sad these days. Rosie’s friends were across the other side of the parade ground. This would be their last summer together before secondary school, but she thought she would take this chance to talk to her Granddad.

She looked across to the lighthouse which everyone called Smeaton’s tower, at the far end of the huge parade ground.

‘Did you used to come up here when you were a boy Granddad?’

‘I did, I used to bring my old go-kart up here, we had races, me and my pals. That was before the war of course, before I met your Grandma.’

‘Yes, you met her after the war didn’t you Granddad? I expect you miss her now she’s gone.’

‘I do miss her Rosie, but not Grandma as you knew her. She had already gone before you were born, you know. She got that ‘old timers disease’ before she ever was an old timer. The grandma you knew was just an empty shell really.’

‘Is that why she never knew my name, Granddad? Because she had no brain – she was an empty shell?’

‘Well she didn’t exactly have no brain, but it had stopped working long ago.’

Rosie shuddered. ‘I don’t want to be an empty shell when I’m old, Granddad.’

‘No, nor do I Rosie,’ said the old man, ‘but there’s no point in fretting about it. Most people keep their marbles and I’m certainly intending to keep mine.’

‘Do you want to have a game then, Granddad, I didn’t know you still had marbles.’

‘Oh, I keep mine well hidden, I don’t play with them any more, I just look after them as best I can.’

Rosie looked puzzled. ‘Oh, I keep mine in this little bag here Granddad, see? We can have a game if you like.’

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‘Tell you what, if I lie down like this on my coat and you do all the fetching, I will give you a game.’

A warm glow filled Rosie’s chest. This was the first time her Granddad had ever played marbles or anything else with her. Perhaps there were some good things that can happen along with the sadness when somebody dies.

Questions

What do you think Rosie’s granddad might have been doing when she met him up on the parade ground?

Why was Rosie on the parade ground?

What did Rosie’s Granddad used to do on the parade ground when he was a boy? 

How could Rosie tell that her Grandma wasn’t quite right when she was alive?’

Rosie’s Granddad said Grandma was like an empty shell, and that she had a certain illness that he called ‘Old Timer’s Disease’. What is an old timer? Do you know the right name for that illness?

How long might she have been ill for before she died? 

What did Granddad mean about looking after his marbles?

Why do you think Granddad had never played with Rosie?

How do you think Granddad felt after his wife had died?

What was the good thing that happened for Rosie after her chat with her Granddad?

Does the story remind you of anything in your life?