Nevertheless She Persisted (Interrail trip around Europe)

Here I am at Gatwick Airport; it’s seven in the morning and I’m about to fly out to Malaga in order to escape the insanity that is engulfing my country with only thirty days to go until the UK leaves the European Union. We are currently experiencing some of the hottest February temperatures since records began, the remains of inflatable, refugee boats are being washed up on the Kent coast a few miles from my home and members of my government somehow think that the Chinese technology giant, Huawei, can be trusted to take over our communications networks without being tempted to spy on us.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been very busy driving my grandchildren around the country (with Grahame’s help of course). Kent → North Norfolk → Worcestershire → South Devon and back to Kent. The brood is growing up so fast I can hardly keep track and that’s physically as well as chronologically. Lily is not yet ten but will probably be as tall as me by the time the Hampshire falconry show comes around in September and, since her bird handling is coming along so nicely, I’ll be able to dress her up in one of my Tudor costumes to help out. Lilah has just discovered what her grandmother’s “Superpower” actually is: I can multiply myself by four! She decided that one of my sisters would be able to provide more suitable activities and enlightening conversation for an upcoming young lady and duly invited herself to stay with Miranda for a week while craftily arranging for her younger brother to visit Aunty Terri at the other end of the country in Torquay.

But now they are all back in school and, short of locking the doors and disappearing into a pill-induced haze for the next month, I am reduced to thumping the steering wheel as I shout obscenities at the car radio. How can the politicians lie so blatantly? Why can’t we stop giving them airtime? I stand in the supermarket and just glancing at the headlines on the newspaper rack brings tears of frustration to my eyes. One day this will all be just History but right now I’m beginning to get an inkling of what it must have been like to live during the civil war.

(to be continued – my departure gate has been called) .

Continued: I was talking about the Civil War before the bloodshed, of course, but it’s undeniable that our society, communities and even families have been completely riven by the Brexit debate, One of the most extreme cases occurring in my own extended family: a pair of identical twins has ended up on either side of the divide rendering many subjects off the agenda for two people who have spent a lifetime of completing each other’s sentences in comparatively peaceful accord. Like so many people, I just long to snap my fingers and make it all go away and so, family duty done for a few weeks, I’ve decided to travel some European railway lines and pound some ancient city pavements for what may be the last time.

The caption “Nevertheless She Persisted” is an expression adopted by feminists last year after a bit of argy-bargy in the American Senate during which Elizabeth Warren was denigrated by some elderly opponent attempting to put her in her place. Just why it ended up as a slogan on the t-shirt belonging to my nearly-twelve-year-old granddaughter, I’m not so sure but I’ve packed it in my rucksack anyway. I’ve also got a bright yellow “Bollocks to Brexit” sticker (souvenir of the Carnival of Resistance) in my luggage tag and, should I need some impromptu head covering, a nice green baseball cap emblazoned with the logo: “Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (UK) Love for All, Hatred for None”.

The decision to start in my Odyssey in Southern Spain was sentimental as well as bring practical. For many years it was the home of my beloved grandmother and I travelled all over Andalusia during the course of countless visits but, with the exception of a single cruise-ship stop, I have not been back for more than thirty years. The region holds a special place in my heart and I have always meant to return but it’s also a long way south. And Spain is very big. So why travel all that way down and back again in the limited time available when a cheap flight to the Costa del Sol will set me down at a convenient starting point?

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