Posts Tagged UK

The year of the Water Snake, Romanians and the floods

On the last day of the Chinese year recently ended, I woke up with such a good vibe. I could almost feel it flow in my veins and everything ran smoothly that day. Then, sometimes during the first day of this Chinese year, which was 1st of February, I realised it. Please let me share with you this revelation extracted from the ancient Far East pot of wisdom.
From 10th of February 2013 to the 31st of January the Water Snake dominated the year Chinese astrology. And I don’t know of you realise this, BUT… apparently, according to information from the news (heard it on the radio), it has been the wettest year in records at least for Hampshire and Dorset. Also, don’t you see how popular the word “flood” has become during this year? Mainly associated with Romanians and Bulgarians, but doesn’t this make us think what if astrology actually works? It’s almost as if the crappy side of the British media and politics, as well as many people buying into it, were hypnotised by the power of the snake and their minds have been beamed with a flow of cosmic energy making them obsessed with “floods, floods, floods, floods”.
Sorry, I’m not trying to hypnotise you myself.

Now, ancient cosmic theories aside, should I feel like a drop in an ocean of Romanians flooding Britain to the brim? I highly doubt it. And I find it quite unlikely that many of the people back in my home country would “invade” the shores of the UK from now on, as there is actually not much reason for them to do so.

(Photo: In London for the first time, March 2011)

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  For starters, I would refer to myself and my family. Apart from my two cousins who live in         Germany since 1991, as their mother was a German ethnic and as such granted the   right to        move there even when Romanians still needed a visa to cross the borders into Western Europe, I am the only one who decided to go abroad. As much as I fought the idea of one day settling in another country, it has finally happened. And to think years ago, when I was studying on a scholarship in Denmark (2000) or when an Au Pair in the US (2003-2004), it never even crossed my mind to stay there. On the contrary, I completely rejected the idea.

It’s not that my brother and sister-in-law wouldn’t even consider moving abroad. It’s just that they really have what they need back in Romania. Ok, we’re not talking of a bright financial situation, jobs paid at a Western European rate, or anything like this. But they do have jobs, they have a family, they have friends and maybe even prospects of working on a small private business. They’ve got debts as well, but manageable.
 I can’t see my brother deciding to go and live thousands of kilometres away from our parents, from the place we grew up in. Not to say that he also stays with our grandmother, helping her at the same time (she’s over 80 now), and helping my parents renovate the house for when they’ll move in when my dad becomes a pensioner, in couple of years from now.

That is one particular case, of course, of me and my family back in Romania. But from my own experience I can say that it’s unlikely that much more Romanians would come to work in the UK. The evidence I have about this might be anecdotal, but it makes sense as well, it’s much more logical than the obsessive political speech of UKIP leaders “they will flood, they will scrounge, they will plunder and pillage” (yes, apparently some people’s speeches haven’t evolved much since the Middle Ages).
First, the British public is mostly uninformed. I guess it wasn’t serving the political agenda to give the whole information and not mislead them. On my surfing through comments over articles I have seen numerous time people who had no idea on the reality of Romanians rights to settle and work in the UK since 2007. When saying I myself am a Romanian working and living here, I was asked how do I do this if it was illegal for me until 2014. People clearly didn’t know and some of them still don’t. Only yesterday I’ve read the same commentator on Huffington Post stating twice that Romanians needed visas in the 2007-2014 period of time.

The reality is that Romanians who wanted to come and work in the UK had a lot more opportunities to do so than the public knows. First, they could be self-employed, and this was not so difficult to do in industries like construction. Yes, it was recommended that they came with some money upon them to buy tools and a van, but sometimes all it took was another fellow countryman who would have these available and would offer somebody else the opportunity to come and work with them. When I first came to the UK, I was hosted by some friends of my partner’s, whom he used to work with in construction back in Bucharest for years.
Then people could come here through different job agencies based in Romania. Many of the ones enrolled at the same college as me for a qualification in Health and Social Care did just that. Paying such an agency was a bit of a rip off, and sometimes they wouldn’t really do much for you. This path implied people having money to pay the agency (around £600), pay for an overpriced plane ticket offered by the same agency (around £200 one way at least), pay to enrol college (£500), have between £600-£1000 to deposit in the bank needed in order to apply for a work permit and then have money on them so they could rent a room while studying and waiting to be able to get a job. That’s quite an investment, isn’t it? I just skipped the agency part, fortunately, going straight to college, and being helped by friends to start with.

So there was also the path I took. Get the information, go join college, study every day for a month, then qualify through a work placement. It was quite easy for somebody who had the guts, had some support and was ready to go and work even in other parts of the country, other than London. Work placement was also essential for studying, that is why when joining college all of us applied for a Yellow Card, which was giving us the right to work as students, full time in the industry as an essential part of the vocational training. And in Health and Social Care it is, one needs work related experience to get the qualification.
When I finished the daily training in London, ready for distance studying now, I went to the students’ welfare person at the college and asked him to help me with work placement. My English was really good, I was a driver, I had a good CV, so I got a job in less than a month and moved to the South, where I still live today. After one year of legally working and paying taxes, I could apply for a Blue Card, which was the proof I was by law entitled to work without restrictions in the UK. I am pretty sure most of the British public don’t have a clue about these laws, as most of the employers didn’t either, unless they sometimes worked with such colleges when in desperate need to fill in some job vacancies nobody seemed keen on.

Now when I got my job here and I moved in the area I was greeted by a Romanian co-worker. He came to the UK with his then girlfriend, now wife, the same way as I did. We all support people with learning disabilities either in a residential setting, or supported living, as employees of a big company working nationally, with a few homes locally open in New Forest. The Romanian who has worked for the longest in these homes has been around for about 5 years. Then there came the couple, then another Romanian lady and me. The last of our nationals came here through an agency and only for temporary work, as he needs to save money to buy a family home back in the country.
The people who have been the longest with the company are all British English. This is for me a good barometer for the fact that they don’t prefer foreign workers over local ones. Also, during the three years I’ve been here there have been more than six British locals employed, more than us, the Romanians who came here over a time span of 7 years.

Knowing all these, it’s so difficult for me to buy into the whole “foreigners steal jobs of British people” thing. The same happens with the other arguments given, that we work for illegal low payment and we live in crammed shared houses. The only ones here (out of the mentioned people) who have quite a bunch of house mates of many different nationalities are me and my partner, and we only do this as we’ve saved for studying further and starting a small business and, after all, we don’t have a family yet.
Also, us the Romanians working for the company have the same hourly payment as all the young British people who were recently hired.

I must say that, not even one year in the field, one of my colleagues went on a maternity leave and at that time, February 2012, it was a nightmare getting somebody else for a job. The manager had to struggle to find somebody, a young local, in the end. For couple of months I’ve done loads of overtime to help cover, but the money came handy as well. Ever since, it has been easier to find locals for the jobs. Only at the end of last year there were many applications for another job vacancy recently open.

The information I have from UKBA, where I had to apply for my work permits, which now are no longer required, and my own experience tell me that indeed there must have been some kind of a cosmic snake playing with people’s minds into making them believe they would be drowned in vast numbers of Romanians.
As I said before on other blogs and discussion boards, a very high percentage of people who wanted to find work in another country already did so. Many of them have moved back to Romania now from Spain and Italy, having saved enough money to buy a house, to start a business, or even live off bank interests on their deposits. Even the ones who never really imagined to do this and used to think of themselves changing our home country (like I did) have ended up in the UK and elsewhere. The ones who stayed either have a situation, family, friends that they don’t want to leave, or don’t have means to do the big leap and get better jobs in Western country.
It’s really difficult to imagine Romanians from deprived regions somehow getting the money to buy plane tickets and live in London or another British city/town until they find a job.  The most poverty stricken of them (I came to hate the phrase because of over-usage in political propaganda) live in the countryside. Still, in their humble homes and worn out clothing, they have a vegetable garden which helps feed themselves and their families, chicken in the yard, a cow in a barn. They have neighbours they can always go over for a shot of rachie or tuica, the national plum brandy, to curse the Romanian government and discuss the hottest topics in the news and in low-quality tv shows. Even the safety of your own poverty in the village you grew up in is better than going to another country where you would be seen as a filthy beggar, thief or benefit scrounger. And with no clear prospects to get a job, who’d want to burrow couple of hundred quid just to fly and risk living on the streets of London, such a big city, where nobody could understand them, nobody would give a rotten penny on them and, on the contrary, they might become subjects to crime and violence?

Now let’s hope that the Water Snake gone, so will the floods. Maybe this Chinese year of the Wooden Horse will bring more action, energy and pro-activeness, that if we believe in cosmic forces beamed over our heads. Astrology or no astrology, it all depends on us, in the end. I am this incurable believer in the capacity humanity has to evolve and control its own destiny in the end.
Wait… wooden horse… are those hordes of foreigners now preparing to take over Britain by ancient means of trickery? Might be, as we’re already here. No need for paranoia though, most of us (over 99%, according to figures offered by the Romanian Ambassador, whom I found to be the most reliable source over 2013) work, pay taxes, contribute, are in the prime of our lives, fit and healthy, skilled and ready to work. Everything which was invested in us back home through education and FREE medical care (I was save numerous times by Romanian doctors, no payment involved, from death by asthma attack or pneumonia or complication due to bronchitis, but since here never once had the flu even) now pays off in British taxes. If anybody is ready to take off their dark glasses of fear they might discover some great people to have a pint with at the local pub or to share some baking, travelling or motoring tips with. 

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Lost in London

An old man, Vasile Belea, got lost on London tube while visiting his son. The poor man had been drifting God knows how and where before he had been found and reunited with his family. You can read all about the news here.
This is one of those stories which, when you read them, make you laugh and feel sorry at the same time. Well, if you’re British or any other nationality, the funny detail would most probably escape you. But for Romanians, the poor old man’s name is the reason. In Romanian, if you emphasize on the first syllable of Belea, it’s a family name, well known one. But if you place the accent on the second syllable, it becomes a completely different word, meaning trouble in a somewhat funny way, the kind of innocent trouble people sometimes get into. I can only but imagine people back in this man’s village or small town talking, when he goes back, a celebrity by now: “Old uncle Belea got himself into belea while in London”. And this sounds really funny.

 

On the other hand though I can’t help but think of how terrified he must have been. Apparently people have been nice to him, but still. By looking at him and the way he is dressed I can tell that he seems to be a countryside man, who maybe lived and worked his whole life as a farmer, tending to the vegetable garden, the poultry and probably a pig in his own backyard. He wears a typical lamb fleece hat and a typical vest called cojoc, which you wouldn’t really see elderly in the city to wear, unless they are just retired there with their family, after a lifelong spent in a village.
Then I wonder how he lived for three days while he was lost and completely cut out from his family. Did he sleep in a park? Did anybody feel sorry for him and gave him some food? How did he feel being lost in such a crazy busy city like London?

 

What worries me is that he tried to approach police and that was unsuccessful. Chatting to one of my house mates last night, he said something like “people don’t care” and reminded me of the movie “The Terminal” saying a true story about a man who lived for about 5 years in an airport, they all knew he was there and nobody really cared, until they’ve decided to grant him political asylum. While it can be understandable that people would think a grown man, fit and healthy, could take care of himself one way or another, I find it concerning that police would just ignore an old person trying to approach them.
Of course we can’t tell how it happened. But think about it: in the end, Vasile Belea took a newspaper with his photo in it and went to show it to the police. This underlines couple of things: the old countryside man from Romania found a way to help himself, in a world completely different from the one he’d known so far. And also, he wasn’t afraid of police and he knew that they would be the ones to finally help him. So I doubt it that the first two times he tried to get their attention he’d been too bashful or hesitating.
When police ignore or fail to help an elderly person, who clearly doesn’t look like a London regular, just because he doesn’t speak the language, I find it concerning. This man could’ve been from any country in the world, doesn’t matter. They couldn’t understand him? Keep him around, get somebody to take him to the police station, show him a map of the country, then Europe/the world and he could’ve said or indicated to Romania. Get him to the Embassy and problem solved. No need for the vulnerable elderly to spend three days and nights on the streets of London, all alone and miserable.

 

Compared to the police failure to help him, some people’s comments on the discussion board of Huffington Post seem mere frivolities. But they aren’t. When frustration has grown to such a level to which they mock a vulnerable person’s traumatizing experience just for being Romanian, it means it’s the same old story of a still immature society. Society as a group still functions for some to take advantage and for others to take their frustrations over others.

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Me happy, dad tired, after six hours of strolling through London

This might be quite a strong statement, but it literally made me sick to read comments like “so when is he going back then?”. Yes, I find these comments oozing with racism. I mentioned it, and I got in reply the very intelligent and refined answer “stupid woman”. Right.
My father visited me here in October. It was his first time in the UK, but he had previously travelled to Austria and the neighbouring countries, former Yugoslavia and Hungary. Although he’s been brought up in a countryside household and he keeps a vegetable garden, poultry and all the rest, he is a priest, with four years of University studies. He’s a big fan of British documentaries on history, he watches old movies (without subtiles) on TCM and he’s a person with a certain degree of cultural information. He can speak basic English, although he is quite bashful when it comes to this. But he could manage if he’d get lost.

 

When he was here, for two weeks I took him all around the area. We’ve visited Hurst Castle, which was lots of fun for both of us, of course as a big history lover he thoroughly enjoyed it. We even faced the very strong winds on the spit with smiles on our faces. We went to Southampton and he could admire the old fortifications there. In Bournemouth we took a stroll on the beach, we’ve visited the old priory church in Christchurch. And we went to Beaulieu National Motor Museum for one day. Then, before him flying back home, I dragged him all around Central London, to all the important landmarks.
During those two weeks, none of the people who served us Chinese, Mexican or pub style food (The Harvester), who sold us tickets or were just around us in any of those place asked us “so, when is he going back?”. It would’ve been quite stupid, really. My father was here so I could spend my money showing him around, so why would they?

 

I want to conclude this article by saying the following: people who can make such comments to such a story show not only a big load of frustration, but also being insensitive and lacking in that human trait that makes us more than animals – empathy. They have probably never thought what if it was their father, lost in a city like Bucharest, all foreign and crazy for them. But I realise it would be difficult to find a place which could put their fathers in the same kind of situation. Fortunately, if an English elderly person would get lost in Bucharest, almost everybody could understand them saying that they are lost and need help and could offer them help. Lucky that English is spoken by so many people in today’s world that people from English speaking countries don’t even need to bother learning any other language.
Well, for an old countryside man from Romania being unable to speak English meant three days on the streets. I bet he never imagined he would get in such a situation. Him being safe and back with his family can even make us smile when reading about his story.  

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The Lost Europe

During my last University years, I joined two cultural studies groups, led by members of The Third Europe Foundation in Timisoara. One of them focused on literature studies, while the other carried on social study to achieve an anthropological view on history. With all the debate today in the UK regarding immigration and countries like Romania, my home land, I’m not sure of how The Third Europe sounds, but for me it has a lot of meaning. Let’s see if we can decipher it together.

How many Europes do you know today? Yes, of course, we can think of Europe as being a big book with so many pages of history, culture, social changes, economy, geography and so on. But generally we speak of Western and Eastern Europe. Well, apparently this leaves things out and the people who started the named foundation were aiming at filling the gaps. This “Third Europe” is actually what has been torn apart by the two wars of the XX century, and ever since the whole world seems to have forgotten about it. It is that part of the continent which has been more or less covered by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one which many of the people living in the countries nowadays considered Eastern Europe are still praising in their memories, even if only for the cultural heritage. It’s Central Europe.
While some people might have heard or known of it, most haven’t, not even in the countries politically transferred behind the Iron Wall after WWII. Ask a Romanian which countries are part of Central Europe and the chances are very slim they would pick out their own.

To tell you the truth, I have to admit myself that I had no idea whatsoever before attending these two cultural studies groups. Then I had the chance to learn from people like Mircea Mihaies, Adriana Babeti, Smaranda Vultur, most of them professors I’d known from the University, about the heritage of this lost Europe. It was then when I understood where the high esteem people in Banat (Western part of Romania) had on German ethnics came from. And at the same time I could see that this lost Europe was never, in truth, found, ironic as it may sound. The paradox of Central Europe is that it has always existed, but never fully acknowledged until it came apart, was wrapped and buried. People from the countries which became part of the communist block were indeed looking with high esteem towards Wien and the “Kaiserlich und Koniglich” (Imperial and Royal) power, simply because it brought a lot of good investment in their lands. At the same time, apparently the Austrian Germans and the Hungarians, the two ruling nations, were not so happy anymore, looking further on the map.
The world I’ve studied about more than ten years ago and to which my thoughts go back now was as such the heir of an Imperial and Royal dream, a Utopia in which people worked in a joined effort for the benefit of all nations living and prospering together. Ordinary men and women from Timisoara and Praha and Warsaw, be them locals or German colonists, played their part in this world built on the music of Strauss and the image of a benevolent ruler, emperor Franz Joseph, as Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “ he was to his civil servants an unequaled model of exactitude, devotion to duty, and justice”.

Timisoara Unirii Catalina George

(lamps in Union Square in Timisoara, probably not the first ones in Europe, though they might as well be)

Born and raised in Banat, a region which was highly colonised with Austrian Germans, and with the colonists came investment in the mining industry, as well as agriculture, tourism, education and infrastructure, I grew up praising this heritage. I have as well inherited that sense of pride all people in Banat had, summarized by the saying “Banat is the crown” (“Tot Banatu-i fruncea”). One of the last regions to be incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, taken back from the Ottomans, who have conquered it from the Hungarians (complicated, isn’t it?), Banat saw some of the best projects in Europe of those times. How many people know today that in 1884 my home city, Timisoara, was the first city in Europe, yes, in Europe with electric light on the streets? There were about 731 lamps to start with. And this is not the only premiere in Timisoara that gave local people that sense of pride and of being the chosen ones, as well as the ones capable of bringing the Imperial and Royal dream to life, in peace with all their neighbours, no matter if they were Serbian, Hungarian, Jewish or German.

By joining The Third Europe groups I could now base my pride as a Banat born and raised person on something certain, on historical facts, as well as understand the ups and downs history has brought us to. Funny enough, it wasn’t the literature studies I was most drawn to and most involved in, but the anthropological ones.
The main project going on at the time was based on collecting stories from the elderly locals about how life was and how things happened. We were using the “life story” method, encouraging people to tell us about their lives as they pleased, with little to no intervention from ourselves, not to alter their stream of thoughts and memory. All we did was to politely start a conversation and briefly explain that we’d like to know how life was for them, and then just use our active listening skills, encourage them to keep telling whatever they wanted, and politely support their effort. Of course we would record what they told us, with their permission. In the end books were published about Germans in Banat, or other ethnic communities. The study was based on recurring things in people’s stories. What they thought was important and mattered and was worth sharing in their lives spoke about the thinking of their time, about how people experienced history first hand, what made a great impression on them, what their traumas, dreams and disappointments were. This was history from live memory.

Now I remembered all these because I’m about to write about my life story, in a way that maybe can help other people see more in me and other nationals from the same home country than just a Romanian dreaded as the poorest of Europe, unskilled and ready to do anything to get a piece of the cake, involving mostly crime, milking the British benefits system or stealing a job of a worthy Briton. Maybe my life story can tell more about these Romanian people without a face, “vermin” as some say, coming from a “rat hole” as others claim, maybe it can show that Romanians like me have a lot to offer to whoever wants to learn from other’s experience, history, hopes and dreams and, in the end, their humanity.
Saying stories are like windows to the world is probably a cliché. But maybe when visualising this cliché sometimes we don’t grasp all its meanings: a window is an opening to another world/side/image, but at the same time it’s a mirror. We might not always consciously see our reflection in it, but it’s always there and we do grasp it, even if just with a glimpse we don’t even realize dangling at the corner of our eyes.  

 

 

 

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Anglia. Unde am ajuns

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Am venit în UK de mai bine de doi ani și jumătate. Întâi am fost singură, însă cu sprijin puternic din partea unor apropiați care m-au putut susține (și) financiar. Pe ”economiile” mele inexistente aș fi făcut doar o excursie de câteva zile la Londra, ca să văd cum arată un Babel contemporan. Când a venit și el s-au cam încurcat planurile și scocotelile, așa că ne-am luat o lecție amară ca un medicament care să te motiveze să nu te mai îmbolnăvești niciodată.

 

Să te muți de unul singur într-o țară străină are avantaje și dezavantaje care, puse în balanță, îți pot da un echilibru perfect sau îți pot răsturna castroanele cu susul în jos. În cazul meu avantajele erau evidente: acceptam sprijinul oferit ca o oportunitate de a îmi pune motorașele în mișcare, fără posibilitatea de a trece pe pilot automat.

Dacă vorbim despre dezavantaje, ele pot să nu fie atât de evidente. Normal că-mi lipsea el, normal că m-am concentrat asupra muncii, am făcut overtime cu vârf, mersul la cumpărături mi-a fost paliativ (beția cheltuitului pe țoale și cosmetice, o adevărată binecuvântare în vremuri grele), la fel bântuitul pe interneți (orgasmul murdar al certurilor virtuale, voluptatea perversă a provocărilor fără rost). Aș spune că nimic neprevăzut, nimic surprinzător. Când te extragi dintr-un mediu cunoscut, în care cam știi ce te așteaptă și cum să te miști, accepți ca pe un dat hopurile pe care le ai de trecut, și cel puțin pentru unele dintre ele te pregătești mental. Pui cap la cap piesele unui mecanism de adaptare, combustibilul se presupune că-l ai deja (nu pleci în deșert fără provizii, cu speranța că vei da de o oază care să te salveze), și te miști în direcția dorită.

 

Norocul meu a fost că foștii colegi de apartament din București făcuseră înaintea mea pasul ăsta. De la ea am luat toate detaliile: datele de contact ale colegiului din Londra unde trebuia să mă înscriu ca să obțin dreptul de muncă și o calificare de început. Profesia în sine, a oferi suport persoanelor cu dizabilități (sindrom Down, autism și altele asemănătoare), nu este ușoară, nici foarte bine plătită, nici dinamică într-un mod deosebit. Să lucrez cu oamenii însă m-a motivat întotdeauna, pe de o parte pentru că-mi place să mă simt utilă în mod direct (din păcate, cititorii articolelor mele de la ”Terra Magazin”, unde mi-a făcut mare plăcere să lucrez, nu aveau chip), pe de altă parte pentru că îmi place să-i observ, să le observ comportamentul, declicurile, serpentinele psihice, nevoile și obstacolele de care se împiedică și pe care, poate, le trec cu bine.

 

Apoi când am ales să plec la vreo 120 mile de Londra am făcut iarăși o mișcare bună. Aș putea să zic că e vorba iar de noroc. Nu este cea mai ieftină zonă din UK, dar are alte avantaje. Locuiesc în sud-vestul turistic al Angliei, între două puternice orașe universitare, cu toate avantajele care vin de aici. Cu mașina facem până în Londra cam două ore și jumătate, cu tot cu pauză de cafea și gustare pe drum, și mai puțin de jumătate de rezervor dus-întors. Acolo avem unde sta ca musafiri, cât pentru o sesiune de cumpărături, o ieșire la teatru, o plimbare de două zile de vară, sau în drum spre aeroportul Luton, rampa de lansare către ”home, sweet home”.

Locul de muncă pe care îl am este printre cele mai bune în domeniul acesta, cu un singur dezavantaj evident: plata. Am însă o manageră de treabă, un om care stă și își ascultă angajații, care țin cont și de nevoile lor, și face efortul (uneori imposibil) de a împăca și caprele, și verzele (aici nu știu care suntem care, dar trecem peste). Îmi vine ușor să lucrez cu clienții cazați în casele companiei, majoritatea reacționează foarte bine la modul meu de abordare. Sunt pe cale să obțin următorul nivel de calificare în domeniu. Îmi plac majoritatea colegilor mei.

 

Până aici, nici un gol cu adevărat deranjant, de genul gropilor în carosabil care să-ți întoarcă vehiculul cu roțile în sus. Însă imigrarea te învață și treaba aia cu socoteala din târg care nu se potrivește cu cea de acasă, atunci când nu vii la ceva sigur. Din păcate, asta s-a întâmplat când a venit el. Dacă erau toate bune și frumoase, stropite cu apă de trandafiri și căptușite cu puf roz, ar fi însemnat, mai mult ca sigur, că am fost drogați fără știrea noastră și poate deja noi înșine clienți/pacienți într-o instituție cu specific.

 

Să îți schimbi mediul de viață, profesia, țara, prietenii nu poate fi foarte ușor, poate doar pentru cei care nu au nimic de regretat sau de lăsat în urmă cu adevărat. Voi evita să intru acum în discuția filozofică despre cum toate atașamentele noastre sunt iluzii în care vrem să credem. Însă atunci când faci un asemenea pas, nu poți anticipa cu totul rezultatul decât dacă ești setat pe un anumit scenariu pe care mintea ta să vrea să-l confirme fără abatere. Altfel, vei vedea la fața locului că, o dată urcat în barcă, s-ar putea să ai parte de acalmie sau de o schimbare bruscă a direcției vântului, de o furtună neprognozată, de curenți puternici sau, în cazuri extreme, de un Triunghi al Bermudelor încă nedetectat. Erorile de calcul vor ieși la iveală cam exact când simți că te-ai putea lungi cu burta la soare, convins că scenariul pe care ți l-ai făcut își va urma singur cursul.

 

Scriu despre astea pentru că sunt acum o lecție învățată. Eram de cam zece luni în sud-vestul Angliei când lucrurile au luat-o hotărât la vale, prin hârtoape. Am închiriat un apartament pentru că povestea din capul meu o cerea. El s-a mutat cu mine pentru că ne era dor unul de altul și credeam că toate se vor rezolva. Ei bine, nu, n-a fost așa. Plecasem în următoarea etapă ca bezmeticii, pe mâna mea, cu prea puține provizii și fără o prea bună planificare sau prospectare a contextului. Ar fi trebuit să mă opresc și să reconsider, dar m-am dus cu capul înainte, și m-am trezit că fug picioarele înaintea mea. Și atunci treaba cu apartamentul, cu proiecțiile fără bază s-a desfăcut ca o machetă prost (sau deloc) gândită.

În ianuarie se împlinește un an de când ne-am mutat din nou împreună, de data asta cu un plan aplicabil și precauțiile necesare pentru eventualele erori de calcul. Încetul cu încetul îmi finisez colțurile pe care mi le-am ascuțit pentru viața de una singură într-un mediu străin. Le rotunjesc ca să nu-l mai înțep pe el atunci când trebuie să ajustăm direcția pe care mergem. În sfârșit, adaptarea mea în două etape se apropie de pista de aterizare, verificare, realimentare și pregătire pentru următoarea decolare.

 

Avem o viață frumoasă aici, cu mici neplăceri și cu minusuri pe care lucrăm să le facem din ce în ce mai mici. Ne bucurăm de zona în care locuim, aveți idee cât de bună e o cafea pe malul mării, într-o zi perfect însorită, pe faleză? Ieșim la câte un film (urmează ”Gravity”, pe ”Thor: Dark world” l-am văzut cu doar patru ale persoane în ditamai sala de cinema, miercuri la ora 14:00, înainte să merg la al doilea curs de machiaj pe care îl fac, o seară pe săptămână, câte zece săptămâni). Ieșim la un pahar și bunătăți culinare cu colegii de casă sau cu noua mea prietenă de la curs. În ultimele șase luni s-au mutat în casă o portugheză care este medic rezident în zonă și un tip elvețian care face cursul final de calificare ca pilot comercial, amândoi oameni foarte pe inima noastră, de la modul în care ne tachinăm reciproc, până la cum stăm la povești, așa, pe același feeling, de câte ori ne prindem prin bucătărie și avem timp. Mai nou avem și un coleg englez, proaspăt ieșit din facultate, la primul job, un om care, după felul în care vorbește și zâmbește, pare genul educat, foarte deschis și foarte puțin scorțos.

 

Acum, că am decis unde mă aflu, vreau să pun pe blog și ceea ce mestec în minte de ceva vreme. M-am obișnuit deja și cu spaimele englezilor legate de est europeni și mai ales de români, baubaul preferat al politicienilor și al mass-media. M-am obișnuit și cu senzația de a mă întoarce în țară ca turist, iar intențiile mele de a face ceva pentru situația de acolo chiar și de la distanță nu sunt doar așa, apă de ploaie. Vreau să scriu despre România în engleză și despre Anglia în română, cu postul acesta fiind primul din serie. Se pare că necesitatea de a mă simți utilă intelectual mă împinge de la spate. Cu blogul ca mod hibrid de publicare, chiar și cei care mă citesc pot avea chip (sau ceva de spus).

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The Not Awarded ones

 

One morning recently, heading home from work, I heard Depeche Mode again on the radio after a long time. It was “Everything counts”, on one of our favourite radio stations, Jack FM. On this station I’ve heard the best joke since I came to the UK: “How many bankers does it take to screw a light bulb? None, they’re too busy screwing us all”. But I’m diverting.

Depeche Mode has been the first band I fell in love with. Ok, when I say fell in love I don’t mean like I fancied one of the guys, none of them really ever seemed my type, physically at least, although I liked the rebel look of Dave Gahan when he came to be more of a leather jacket guy. But I fell for their music, it was the most familiar tune to sound in my head all throughout my teenage years. I remember this afternoon when I took a nap in my old bedroom, in my parents’ house, and I played the “World in my eyes” album throughout my sleep, which I didn’t use to do, as I could only fall asleep back then if the surroundings were very quiet.

 

We could say no wonder they stuck to my ears, as there was such a lot of bad music, to put it nicely, in the ‘90s, all that Euro dance, starting with Haddaway and DJ Bobo and carrying on with the bands, Fun Factory, Ace of Bace and 2 Unlimited. I do have something to say in defending it all, it was fun, really unpretentious fun, just for the joy of it and just to keep the rhythm going.  Remember “Rhythm of the Night”?

 

But Depeche Mode was different, and they stayed different. They made “music for the masses”, and they became the biggest electro band ever. I kind of always knew they were, even before checking this on the internet.
According to EMI, the New Wave boys sold over 100 million albums around the world. Also, Q magazine called them “the most popular electronic band the world has ever known”. Despite this, they never got any award for their achievement at this level, until 2013, when they refused to be part of the BRIT Awards. To tell you the truth, I kind of understand them. It’s been more than 20 years since they started having this mad success and became an icon for the electro stage, still it took so long for the people giving out the awards to acknowledge it. On top of that, the award offered to them would have been called something like Most Influential Band In The Last 20 Years. No, not Lifetime Achievement Award, like it wasn’t their lifetime work and success. They refused and Dave was quite pissed off with BRITs, they wouldn’t be featured in the award broadcast when handed out the award. As such, there was no award for lifetime achievement this year. It seems a bit weird, doesn’t it?

 

What’s with “Everything counts” and why did it bring me to writing this post? It’s not the best of their songs, the lyrics are ok-ish, but they don’t strike as their finest, they kind of loose me with being insincere in Korea, poor rhyme.  But “Everything counts” was one of the DM first songs about society, with good criticism towards consumerism.

 I can say without blinking that “People are people” really set the standard for Depeche Mode socially involved lyrics, on a topic still so hot in the UK and just all around the world today. And that’s exactly what I meant to talk about today (or rather tonight, as it seems). What still keeps me love Depeche Mode is the way they packed everything together: electro music for the masses, good dance rhythm, some romantic intensity and some social message. They managed to do this in the 80’s and early 90’s, to criticize racism and ferocious materialism in a decade when the UK has known prosperity and there wasn’t so much to complain of as nowadays, as it seems.

 

 

 

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