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Isn’t it funny how certain songs can trigger memories that you otherwise would never had remembered ? Back in 1989 I was a 15 year old moody teen, sitting in the living room in a Stockholm suburb ,watching MTV’s ‘ Headbangers Ball’ with Vanessa Warwick. Suddenly this song came on that totally blew my mind, the intro stopping me in my tracks and then came THAT voice that send shivers down my spine and covered my body in goosebumps. That song was ‘ Louder Than Love’ by Soundgarden.

From that moment on I left the love of poodle rock bands like Poison behind, and became a firm grunge convert. Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana became the soundtrack to my teens, but also to my twenties, thirties, and still in my early 40’s, my love for the songs that these bands wrote live on as strong as ever.

I got to see ‘Alice In Chains’ live in 1993 in London, and got to meet Layne Staley courtesy of one of their crew who did the lights or sound on the tour (my memory is failing me in old age)  He wanted to impress me ,I suppose, by introducing me to Layne. I felt very awkward as I didn’t want to be mistaken for a groupie (which I was sure there was plenty of ). I loved the band’s music, but that was as far as it went. And besides, meeting your musical heroes can be a great disappointment. What if they were complete a**holes ? Then your favourite songs would become tainted. But I went along as my Italian friend Marina ,aka the firecracker, was throwing a hissy fit  and said she would never forgive me if she didn’t get to meet Layne, and all because of me !

We went into this room backstage and there were lots of people. I can’t remember who was in there. All I can remember was being introduced to a woman in their entourage, their manager possibly ? And next to her sat Layne. I felt that I had no business being there, not because anyone made me feel that way, but because it was a very surreal situation to me. I knew this band’s songs inside out, they were in my life almost daily, but I didn’t know them. Why should I be here ?

I recall being taken aback at how very fragile Layne looked , he looked cold, he was shivering, think I recall him being wrapped in a blanket. Marina was in her element, but I really couldn’t see the point in being in that room, and I left. I wanted to continue listen to this band’s songs as I always had, I didn’t want to know what they were like as people, their music meant too much to me.

The following year , Kurt Cobain took his own life. Nirvana was no more. In 2002, Layne dried of a drugs overdose. I was devastated. In 2011 Alice In Chains former bass player Mike Starr died, also of a drugs overdose. Then yesterday came the news that completely shook me…

I picked up my phone to check my Facebook notifications when I saw that my sister had posted a Swedish news article ,and I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I had to re-read the headline again and again, before I Googled it, just to see if it was a very sick hoax. Both my partner and I work from home. I walked up the stairs in shock ‘ Nooooo! Nooooo ! Noooooo ! This can’t be right, it just can’t be, this isn’t happening!’. My partner asked what had happened . I replied ‘ Chris, Chris Cornell…he…he is dead !’.

The tears came out of nowhere, I was stunned, I was devastated, heartbroken. I was sad when David Bowie died, I was very sad when Prince passed away. But Chris Cornell ? I was shell shocked ! It felt very strange to be so deeply affected by the passing of someone who I had never met, but he had been in my life for 27 years. All the memories that Soundgarden’s songs trigger in my mind, happy memories, sad memories, memories spanning over 2.5 decades. I remember being that moody teen who wanted to escape my life. Not in a morbid sense, I had a very happy home life, but school was a living hell for a bullied teen, and all I wanted to do was to escape and build a new life somewhere where no one knew me. And when I did just that by moving to London at 19, Soundgarden was still with me, getting me through it all with their songs. In my 20’s I went through some difficult times when I was in a very toxic relationship, Soundgarden was still there in the background . And my love for their music stayed with me throughout my 30’s and into my 40’s, their songs playing in my ears on my Spotify playlist when I go for walks.  If you need to let of stress ? Go on a  very brisk walk with ‘ Jesus Christ Pose’ blasting through your earphones, I guarantee it will help !

So that is why it hits you so hard when one of your favourite artists pass away. You didn’t know them, but their music is part of the soundtrack to your life, creating memories that will forever remain with you.

To find out the cause of Chris Cornell’s death made his passing all the more tragic. To feel so incredibly low that you cannot see a way out is unthinkable to many of us. My heart is breaking for him, and for his family who is left behind .

May you now rest in peace Chris Cornell. Thank you for being a great part of the soundtrack to my life.

FROM TODAY, I’M ONLY PASSING THROUGH

I now live in a country, which officially does not have my interests at heart. The government has decided to use my presence here in the UK as a means to negotiate a better ‘deal’. Let’s get it straight: from today I’m a little chunk of bargaining fodder, not a person made of flesh and bone, not a life entrenched in the tapestry of this country for over thirty-two years.

Yesterday I called this country ‘home’. ‘Home’ is about respect, about belonging, about feeling safe and valued, about being one hundred per cent welcome. But I don’t feel welcome anymore. I’ve been spat in the eye, stabbed in the back, lied to and lied about.

Thanks for asking (no one ever asks), but no, I don’t feel safe or valued anymore. I won’t be able to call this country ‘home’ again. It’s a broken home and it’s breaking my heart. From today, it’s just a place I live in. I’m only passing through.

I’m a foreign tree in the garden of England, my roots uprooted, my branches broken, my leaves dying.

I applied for Permanent Residence on November 4th ,2016 and finally received my Permanent Residence certificate on February 22nd 2017. The months of waiting were some of the most stressful times of my life. I have been through some truly difficult times in the past, but this situation was completely different as I felt that mine and my family’s future in this country was at stake. Don’t believe that nonsense that you automatically qualify for Permanent Residence after 5 years. It really is not that simple. You have to prove that you have exercised your treaty rights, and in my case I had genuine fears that my application would be refused. For all but one of my qualifying years I was a lone parent, and had to receive some public funds although I was running a business. Renting a home in London is expensive at the best of times, but add to that the cost of bringing up a child and being the sole breadwinner. I was convinced that for these reasons, I would not qualify for PR. The amount of documentation that I had to provide as I am self employed was frankly ludicrous. Gathering the actual documentation to send with my application took weeks.

Back to the waiting…the endless waiting. The first few months were fine. I did not expect to hear anything for the first 3 months. Then in January and beyond, post after post popped up in various Facebok groups by fellow EU citizens receiving their PR after having applied only 3-4 weeks earlier . What had happened to my application ? Had it been forgotten about and left at the bottom of the pile ? I received messages from other people in my situation who were frantic with worry, who couldn’t sleep, who couldn’t eat, who were close to tears 24/7 as they kept seeing these same posts and wondered why they were still waiting for theirs when they had applied before me or around the same time as me. You try to put the constant worrying out of your mind, because you know that it’s not healthy. And you think that you are managing relatively fine until you hear a knock on the door and there’s the postman asking you to sign for a parcel…but it’s not That parcel. So your heart sinks again and those damn worries return with full force yet again. Not that they ever went away, you just pretended that they weren’t there.

One night it went so far that I actually dreamt that I received my PR.  I woke up in the morning thinking I had lost the plot ! I told my partner about my dream, and as I did, I saw the Royal Mail van pull up outside our house, and there was a knock on the door, and I was told to sign for the parcel…FINALLY there it was ! But I was frightened to open it in case my application had been refused…what would we do then ? Where would we go if I couldn’t stay here ? Because I for one had absolutely no faith in the government’s guarantees that EU citizens living here for the minimum of 5 years would be able to remain. After all, the referendum win was built on nothing but lies. So with my partner standing next to me, I opened the parcel with hands trembling like leafs. I saw this letter but I didn’t see a certificate. I read the letter, expecting to see those words “Your application’s been refused on the grounds of…”. But it said “You now have a right of permanent residence in the UK”. It didn’t quite sink in . I looked through the documents,and there it was…that blue card that I had waited so long for and never thought that I’d get. Tears of relief came instantly ,the weight of Mount Everest had just came off my shoulders . This is not a dramatic exaggeration as you will know if you are a fellow EU citizen who has been worried sick about whether or not you would qualify for PR. After all we hear almost daily of EU citizens who has had their applications refused for the most ludicrous of reasons, even though they have been settled and working here for decades, in some cases. I finally feel like some kind of normality has been restored into mine and my family’s life. I will still have to go through the process of applying the citizenship process and that entails, but at least I’m a step on the way.

But many of my fellow EU citizens can’t get onto that very important first step of getting PR as they don’t qualify. They may be women who are married to British men, and who are staying at home, raising their children, thus not exercising their treaty rights unless they have CSI. And who actually knew about these requirements until after the referendum ? Who were actually told about them ? And why weren’t they told about them ? Then there are all the EU students who also don’t qualify for PR for the very same reasons. Then we have the case of Bruno Pollet, as told by The Guardian .The Home Office told him its decision to refuse his application was because during his 25 years in the UK he had spent three years in South Africa, as part of his professional development as a scientist. This simply does not make any sense whatsoever ! Now Bruno and his family are relocating to a Scandinavian country where  his specialism in renewable energy can be harnessed. A great loss to this country, but a great gain for the Pollet’s family’s new home country. Britain will continue to lose a huge amount of exceptionally talented and hard working EU citizens who have been contributing to this country in so many ways. This country would not survive without us, and I don’t think this is in anyway a bold claim. How many Brits would do seasonal work ? How many Brits would work in coffee shops ? And where would the NHS  be without all their EU staff ? I could go on and on and on. We contribute to the British society in so many ways ,not just financially. But by treating us like bargaining chips, by treating us like second class citizens who don’t really belong here, this country will cause irreparable damage ,not just to it’s economy, but to it’s global reputation.

I am very worried to what will happen to so many of my fellow EU citizens. Not just those who has been refused PR, also but those who cannot even apply because they haven’t been living here long enough .I know fellow EU citizens who are too afraid to visit their families in case they won’t be let back into the country again upon their return. And it saddens me greatly that there is nothing that I can do to reassure them . But there is one thing that could be done NOW to stop these worries and anxiety that so many EU citizens are experiencing. Something that should have been done as soon the referendum result was announced. The only DECENT thing to do…to unilaterally grant  EU citizens the rights to remain in the UK post Brexit , a move  backed by British expat organisations in the EU. But the chances of this actually happening before the triggering of Article 50 seems very slim indeed, because in the eyes of Theresa May and her government, we are not people, we are simply bargaining chips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope it is appropriate to post this message here, if not do feel free to remove it. This is my answer to Theresa May’s question about her 12 point plan on her FB page (why not leave her yours too?):

“I have no faith at all in your plan, Mrs May. It reads to me like a lot of empty words and promises, and nothing you’ve done or said so far has inspired me with any trust or optimism. Actually, it’s the exact opposite.
Britain, the tolerant and open country I have loved dearly ever since I arrived here in 1984 as one of the very first Erasmus exchange students, has changed beyond recognition within the space of a few months. The deeply divisive and disingenuous Leave campaign led by cynical politicians and right wing newspapers has been followed by your equally divisive and disingenuous government. You have betrayed tolerant Brits and non-Brits alike in embracing the current anti-immigration narrative to cover your party’s lack of care and investment in this country and its people. In doing so, you have served your own and your party’s political interests instead of the country’s interests.

Thirty odd years ago, I was warmly invited to build my life here. I was told it was my home from home. I was told I could settle down, marry a Brit and make my life here. Yet today I am told I’m a bloody foreigner and should go back where I come from. Things have got so bad that many of my fellow EU citizens hardly dare to speak their own language on the streets for fear of being insulted or attacked. Our very own identity is being challenged, our future, our life. And never, not once, have you as the PM stood up against this hatred, although you have been formally warned about it by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. You may believe that dividing is the way to conquer but it is not, Mrs May. You are destroying what has made Britain so special, what has made Britain great: its soft power, a mixture of charm, tolerance, creative spirit and openness. And you have encouraged the massive rift that is now tearing your country apart, destroying friendships, families and even couples.

You call yourself a Christian. I am a Christian too. Never have I read anywhere that Christ encouraged lies, hatred or divisiveness. He opened his arms and heart to all who were in need, and I can’t help feeling that refugees would be his first concern these days, instead of rich people who try to evade taxation. Your decision to leave the single market and your threats to turn Britain into a tax haven betray both the 48% of remainers but also many of the people who voted to leave the EU but not the single market and who didn’t think immigration was bad for the country (which of course, as you well know and have said yourself in the past, is not the case).

I’m sure you will not read my comment but if ever you do, please stop using the term “the will of the people” to support your open hostility or your glib promises to the Brits that voted to remain in the EU (virtually half of the referendum votes) and to the Brits who are married to EU citizens. Stop pretending you care about the fate of EU citizens here or UK citizens in the EU, while you are ready to use human lives as bargaining chips and you approach the EU (you have decided unilaterally to leave) with boasts and threats.

Remember please, Mrs May, that you are not the PM the people have elected. Remember too that the xenophobes you are blindly serving are thankfully not the majority in this country. And, finally, remember that when the people who support your UKIP inspired agenda realise it leads to more hardship and was all a lie, you will be very much in their firing line.”

How do I feel ? Tired, very tired. Tired of  worrying, tired of living in limbo, tired of hearing ,albeit well meaning, Brits telling me ‘ You will be fine. Don’t worry ! Nothing will change for you. You may have to apply for a visa , but that’s it ! And you have a half British daughter and a British partner too..nothing will happen to you !’ . I wish it was that simple ! The future of EU citizens in the UK is still very much uncertain. There are various speculations about what may and may not happen, but let’s be clear about the facts here…there are no facts, there are no reassurances.

Prior to the referendum , we all thought that after 5 years of living in the UK, we’d all be automatically eligible for Permanent Residence, because that is what we were told. Little did we know that when seeking confirmation of our Permanent Residence, that many of us, a whole 30% of us in fact, would be refused Permanent Residence. There was this little know issue of CSI , something that all students and stay-at-home mothers must have in order to be exercising their treaty rights.  I read just today that an 18 year old man born and raised in Britain to Italian parents was refused Permanent Residence as he is a student and does not have CSI ! For crying out loud…No one was informed about this !  Others were turned down for other reasons, reasons that really does not make any sense at all. I contacted the Home Office under the Freedom Of Information act in order to get a breakdown of the reasons of why my native Swedes for example, have the highest refusal rate of all EU applications applying for Permanent Residence. But this information could not be provided.

How do you think it feels to be refused Permanent Residence ?  It is beyond devastating . Many people turned down has lived in the UK for decades , they have British children and British spouses. ‘ But they are safe !’ I hear you say. No, they are not ! Being the parent of a British child, or being married to a Brit makes no difference whatsoever in the eyes of the law. The stress, worry and anxiety that these people are feeling about theirs and their family’s future has such a detrimental effect on their health and their lives, and that of their family’s too. Children are asking their mum or dad if Mummy or Daddy will have to leave the country. Couples are having to re-think their whole lives and their futures, just in case they will be forced to leave. I recollect a German lady visiting Germany with her family, enquiring what help may be available to her and her British husband and children, should they have to re-locate to Germany, and I was so touched by the response they received. They were told that there was a whole support network set up to help Germans returning to Germany, including free Skype German lessons to her British husband as well as any support that they could possibly need, should they decide to make that move. But for those who do not have the option to move for very valid reasons, they have to live with that stress of knowing that they do not have an option. They don’t see why they should have to uproot their family and move to their native country that they left perhaps decades ago ,especially not if their partner and children are British and cannot speak another language. I belong in that latter category myself. I have a half British teen born and raised in the UK who is choosing her GCSE’s, she’s excelling at school, all her friends are here, her father is here, and she can’t speak any Swedish.  My partner is half British/Half Italian, and his business, just as mine, is here in the UK. Our lives are here ! But now the cloud that is hanging over us is ‘ Will my Permanent Residence application be successful ? What will we do if it’s not ?’ . I am trying to put this worry to the back of my mind as the outcome of the application is not something that I can control. But sometimes that is easier said than done. Especially when I hear of people who applied for Permanent Residence after me are getting their applications approved in record time !

Then there is the xenophobia that has become all the more evident since the referendum. The closet racists have all come out of their closets, thinking they are entitled to air their inflammatory views in public  ,as after all, all the headlines in ‘The Daily Mail’, ‘The Sun’ and ‘ The Express’ has made it perfectly acceptable to do so , in their eyes. It’s not just EU citizens being affected, not at all, but immigrants from every corner of the globe. If you are not born and bred British, then you don’t belong here, is the message that is given out. I am well aware that only a small minority share those hateful views, but that minority is loud. A Danish man had the rear windscreen of his car smashed in, he had his garden wall smashed in, litter and dog poo thrown into his garden and rotten cheese on his door handle by a xenophobic neighbour. A Spanish woman suffered a barrage of racial abuse from another customer when popping into the chemist to collect her prescription, being told that she is a burden on the NHS and should go home to her own country. EU workers are being told by their colleagues to ‘ Go home !’.

Then we have  certain employers, landlords, letting agents etc asking for proof of Permanent Residence.  Britain are still in the E.U ,and for the next 2 years at least, everything remains unchanged ! But people act as if though that fact is irrelevant.

This is the life in the UK for EU citizens today. We contribute 2.7 billion annually to the British economy. We are just like you, but we are not treated like you.

 

 

 

 

Please note , the following words are taken from a post by this constituent. I have not included their name in order to protect their anonymity.

 

Right …. Quick summary of my 15 minutes with the PM last Friday. (though long post warning)

First impressions – she’s very cold and for someone who relies on votes to keep her job – could do with going to charm school.

I opened with my concerns of racism at the top of Government – she refuted this robustly – however I made reference to her own “British jobs for British workers” and “British Doctors would be better for the NHS” and of course the Home Secretary’s “foreigner list”. She went on about wanting to make sure UK companies were investing in UK workers etc etc. I did say if I advertised for a “British employee”, I would be very rightly on the sharp end of the Equality Act – she had to agree with that.

I presented her with a copy of the ballot paper and asked where on there did it say that we were voting to reduce the number of EU citizens in the UK? She said “well it doesn’t but the Government has reports that the level of immigration is a concern – I asked for reference which she couldn’t provide.

I then produced an infograph illustrating that EU workers add more to the economy than they cost – she didn’t appear impressed. She then started getting very emphatic that “the British people had voted for Brexit and the Government was committed to making it happen”. At this point she got a bit cross and started pointing in my face – I asked her to please not point in my face as I considered it rude! She replied that “People point at me all the time – “indeed” I said “it’s rude so please refrain!”.

I then presented the “pie chart” showing voting numbers and pointed out that only 37% of the electorate voted for Brexit which was not the “British people” – she didn’t really answer that one. I also said that the “British people” phrase from herself and her colleagues got me shouting at the tele and I would much prefer to hear 37% of the electorate. She asked me if I accepted the result – certainly not!

We then spoke about my own issue – in addition to my day job as an HR Manager with a large social care organisation, my husband and I own a small bistro – with an EU citizen chef. She would not guarantee EU citizens’ right to remain post Brexit. I outlined my wine supplier had increased prices (few British options for wine) food supplies have increased – I buy local where we can but we are always shopping to a price. Fuel costs have also risen due to the plunging pound. She started on about exports to which I replied I was not in a position to export my steak & frites that my diners order! I asked what assurances she could give me – “we will ensure a strong economy” was all she could do.

There was more “we’re going to get the best deal”. I told her that was a “hope not an action”. I gave the analogy that the Brexit “best deal” rhetoric would be like me saying I want the “best holiday” without knowing where I was going, how much it would cost, how I would get there, where I’d stay, what currency do I need, what shots I might need etc etc. All very meaningless without substance. She said the Government would not give details of their negotiation. I said that Donald Tusk had said on Thursday that there is either “Hard Brexit or no Brexit” and I was inclined to agree – she said “I am sure I have more experience in negotiating in Europe than you do!”. I said arrogance was not helpful.

I then showed her a screen shot of Boris Johnson’s speech the day after the 23rd (the part where he says we can still live, work, study etc in the EU) and asked could she clarify her Foreign Secretary’s comments as clearly this was not going to be true. She blustered and said “he wasn’t the Foreign Secretary then” (not sure what difference that makes…..)

By this point I knew we probably would never be friends so I asked her that given Maidenhead had voted overwhelmingly Remain would she vote against Brexit should she lose the Supreme Court case? She then said she was a representative not a “delegate” and was not obliged to be the voice of her constituents…………….. I said I thought the people of Maidenhead may find this interesting in the next election. She said anyone who didn’t understand this, doesn’t understand the role of an MP. I said I thought there would many who didn’t understand this.

Time was up – I finished by telling there was a huge groundswell of opposition to Brexit planning tactical voting and protest.

I don’t think she’s listening – she’s arrogant and extremely defensive. She also looked very very tired. In my years of people watching as an HR Manager – I would say she is very much out of her depth.

I will certainly post the “representative” not a “delegate” comments onto a Maidenhead Facebook page of over 8000 people – they should know their local member feels no obligation to take their views to Parliament. Maidenhead is overwhelmingly Tory but she also stood on an anti Heathrow platform and with Brexit added in – she may be challenged for her seat. (The LibDems do reasonably well on the local Council).

I don’t think I’m on her Christmas card list!

I would recommend that as many of us as possible request an appointment at Constituent Surgeries. The “representative not delegate” could be a good argument to Remain MPs in Leave areas. (obligation to put country first)

Don’t ask me how many weeks that has passed since that fateful morning when I woke up to find that Britain had made the biggest mistake in history, effectively pushing the self destruct button ,stepping into a time machine that doesn’t do fast forward, but rewind only, and at an alarming pace too.

For weeks after the referendum,I was in a mess along with ,dare I say, everyone else, in my position. I started a Facebook group for EU citizens living in the UK and for Brits residing in other EU countries, and we are still growing in numbers by the day. We come from all over Europe, and we have one thing in common, we are worried and incredibly anxious about what will happen to us post- Brexit. The general advice seems to be to apply for Permanent Residence. If you are a Brit living in the UK and you don’t have any plans of leaving this (sinking?) island, but you want to try and understand what us EU citizens in the UK are going through ? Then take a look at the application for Permanent Residence for EEA citizens. If you are a lifelong insomniac, I can guarantee that reading only the first few pages will be enough to put you to sleep. As a self employed EU citizen, the form immediately becomes even more complicated to fill in. The amount of proof that one needs to submit is beyond ludicrous. And if you are a fellow EU citizen about to fill in this tedious form, read the guidelines with a magnifying glass, preferably after you have had a few strong espressos, just in case you miss out on any minor details that will ensure that your application gets declined. I had spent one cartridge printing out bank statements and other various documents before reading the small print…only ORIGINALS and NO print out’s allowed. If you do print out your bank statements, then you must get each paged stamped at your bank. I am not quite sure how that stressed out woman at my local branch will deal with me cheerfully handing her a pile with hundreds of pages first thing on Monday morning ,-  “Would you mind stamping each one ? Just in case you have nothing more important to do “. Then there are the doctor’s letters, the copy of my rental contract, proof of paying my council tax, national insurance, clients references and contracts, a sheet detailing every single date that I have been out of the country, etc etc etc. One member of the group that I run had to send of 3 kilos of documentation with their application…poor sod at the Home Office who will have to read through all that !

Am I angry about the situation that I am in ? I feel resentful, yes. But I no longer let it consume me, I treasure my sanity far too much. Do I let my worries keep me up at night ? No more. I don’t function without my 7 hours a night. All I can do is to apply for Permanent Residence and hope for the best. The rational and sensible voice inside my head tells me that surely they cannot kick out a mother of a child who is half British, who is born and raised here and who cannot speak  word of Swedish. But then again, how rational is this current government ?

At the end of the day, this country is my Home. I have lived here for over half my life, I have paid my taxes here, I have fully  integrated into the British society, and I think that I and my fellow EU citizens who are settled in the UK  have as much right as anyone else to be here. But whether May and her croonies thinks the same, that remains to be seen…