The EU

It’s a long time since I posted on this site, not since September last year. I apologise. Some major health problems have meant that many things had become far behind and catching up on them always took the time available. However, I feel I must write something about tomorrow’s UK referendum to vote to leave the European Union or to remain in it.

When the referendum was first mooted I knew immediately that I would vote to leave and nothing from the campaigns for either side has influenced that decision since – and I have followed the campaigns closely. I am not influenced by how good or bad a presentation is made by this or that campaigner; by far the best presenter of her case on yesterday’s Big Debate on tv, was the Scottish Conservative leader, on the ‘Remain’ side, but her arguments were largely based on falsehoods or presented speculation as fact.


I resent the implication, and often outright accusation, from the ‘Remain’ campaigners that we who believe immigration should be controlled are racist and xenophobic. I have spent a good proportion of my time since a teenager contesting all types of discrimination, as I became aware of them. The first – before I was a teenager – was religious discrimination; the second, when I was 16 years old, was gender discrimination; the third, racial discrimination, shortly after that.  Others followed. I have travelled widely and far from being fearful or feeling hatred to foreigners I have always tried to ‘integrate’ in their culture and have enjoyed it when there. I’m married to an immigrant. One of the primary reasons for Leeds being one of my favourite cities is the large Afro-Caribbean population, immigrants and their descendants.

Controlling immigration is common sense – without control, sensible forward plans for health and social care, education, housing, and other things cannot be made. It should not discriminate between immigrants from the EU and other parts of the world, as it does now. It should take into account Britain’s needs in terms of skills and education. It should of course take into account Britain’s obligation to true refugees. Personally, I also think that some purely economic migrants should be accommodated as a small contribution to correcting the gross imbalance in wealth distribution. So while I think a ‘points system’ is generally the way to go, there should be some kind of bypass system to take account of the last two criteria. If outside of the EU, it is the UK electorate which will be decide what the control system should be.


The UK may have had some influence on EU decisions when the EU was far smaller but it is nonsensical to say that we have much influence now or will have in the future if we stay in it. In recent years almost every UK proposition or objection has been voted down. This will get worse as the EU grows. The Prime Minister got almost nothing from his ‘renegotiations’, and if he could not get substantial reform then there is surely no hope whatsoever of getting any reform in the future if we’ve voted to stay in.


When we had the possibility to join the Euro dire warnings similar to those we are being bombarded with now were given by the ‘experts’, of a crashing economy if we did not. Thank goodness we took no notice of them then. The ‘experts’ did not warn us of the impending bank crisis and the resulting disasters to the world economy. When Norway was deciding whether to join the club the ‘experts’ similarly warned them; it subsequently proved to be nonsense. I can’t avoid noticing that it is the ‘fat cats’ and organisations representing them who issue most of the dire warnings. Or it’s those already on the gravy train or who hope to be: the scientists who live on UK money returned by the EU, not those like Dyson who finance his own research from developing products which sell; the Kinnock family whose joint income from the EU sinecures, or something close to that, beggars belief; organisations representing big business. Finally, personal experience: when I was teaching in Romania (not then a member of the EU) I warned my students that joining would have disastrous consequences for everyday life in the country; within a very short time of the country joining the EU food shopping bills rose sharply and are now generally close to those in Britain. Salaries have remained a small fraction of those in this country.


To me it is ironic that senior members of the present Government, who have argued so strongly for devolution of power from the centre in London (whether we believe they have delivered that is another argument), are now telling us we are best governed from somewhere on the European continent, on the basis that we have one seat among 28 in some decision making body of the EU, and no say at all in other EU unelected decision making bodies.


Lofty, closer to home at the Cow & Calf rocks, Ilkley

Lofty, 10 mins from home at the Cow & Calf rocks, Ilkley

The hoped for trip to Romania gets ever closer; a few health and other hurdles yet to overcome but increasing optimism has prompted me to create a Facebook ‘group’ where I can keep a running diary during the trip. The group is ‘public’ so anyone can see it, but only I can post on it – that makes sense as it is intended to be a diary of the trip. Of course anyone will be able to ‘like’ and ‘comment’ and I hope they will. I’m hoping too that I might be inspired to create a few more haiku too.

The Facebook group is called Lofty2Romania – ‘Lofty’ (1972 VW crossover Bay) is, of course, camper’s name (given by the previous owner due to his high top). He has a standard 1,600cc air-cooled engine but has an LPG conversion, done by Steve Shaw at Gasure, just inside Wales the other side of Chester. Definitely recommended; the only downside is losing the storage under the rock and roll bed, mostly taken up by the LPG tank.

I may do the occasional post on the new Facebook group as things progress towards 26 July. I’m hoping Lofty doesn’t get too excited as although he knows the Yorkshire Dales, N Yorks moors, Yorkshire coast and the Lakes very well and has been as far as Cornwall (with us), he’s probably a bit jealous of his little sister ‘Mini’ (1975 classic mini) who took us to Romania and back, camping, in 2006 without a minute’s trouble, even taking hub-cap deep potholes in the Rodney mountains in her stride (I did this same trans-Romania route on a push-bike in 1994; no chance now!).


Mini - my 1975 classic miniMini will probably have a bit of treatment while we are away; her original suspension cones are rather hard after 40 years and the state of Britain’s roads now, and those ridiculous speed humps, cause her (and me) a lot of agro, especially while recovering from surgery twice this year (I’d probably have been able to drive her much earlier had the suspension been softer). I’ve only been able to drive her for about a week and have yet to drive Lofty since the surgery at the end of May.

picture showing some of the hairpin bends on the trans-fagaras highwayLofty will have to do even better than Mini in some ways though we don’t expect potholes on the trans-fagaras highway, by which we intend to cross the Fagaras mountains, visiting blogger friends we’ve never met in person.

Paint, seat, exhaust, petrol pump and …

At the moment Lofty’s still getting some new clothes (ie coats of paint – rollered). He’ll probably get a few more flowers and butterflies too. The driver’s seat needs new seat pad, back pad and cover; in fact he’s needed them for years now but maybe sitting more or less on the springs is not a good idea for a 4,000+ mile journey. For the past year I’ve not been able to do it because of the health issues.

He’ll be making a trip to Gasure soon to have a new exhaust fitted and while there have a dicky petrol pump replaced. It may not always be possible to find an LPG station on the trip though hopefully most of the time as he’s much more economical on LPG. I reckon I’ll need about 1,000 litres of LPG during the trip; it wouldn’t be much less petrol at almost twice the price!

Harwich to Holland

At the moment the intention is to go via Harwich to the Hook of Holland. Hull would be great, as I’ve done before but not with the camper, but the cost is ridiculous now. A leisurely trip down to Essex then a sleep before taking an early morning ferry, at about 1/3 of the price, makes sense to me. Anyway, I love being on the sea so a daytime sailing is much more attractive.

Back via Weimar?

To Romania we will be taking more or less the same route as with Mini 9 years ago – down the Rhine through Germany then Austria and Hungary. However, I’m hoping to come back via Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic then what was East Germany where I was last some 40 years ago. I really want to visit Weimar though it will not be the same. I vaguely remember playing a piano said to have been played by Liszt and Wagner (was this at the Elephant, now a top luxury hotel, or the Erbprinz – now no more?) and sitting at a table, certainly the Elephant, at which Hitler was said to have held meetings with the Nazi hierarchy. Not in a museum; they were just there.

Wish us luck to be able to make a start on 26 July.


It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Menston Village Wharfedale

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

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I don’t have a lot of time for blogging at the moment – the weather is superb for walking and photography but unfortunately that means it is also ideal for some much needed ‘tender loving care’ for Lofty, our beloved VW camper. However, having just cooked and eaten the obligatory full English breakfast I thought I’d use the 15 min ‘digestion’ pause to get this off.

The Romanians are almost uniquely able to have a joke on themselves and, being far better generally educated than the majority of people coming out of UK schools, are able to do it with a wit and substance sadly lacking in much of what we see from British commentators. I just love the poster campaign launched by the Romanian paper Gandul (‘The Thought?) in response to that from the Guardian. The posters are in English so English speakers can understand them even if the accompanying text is in Romanian.

So here are some of the Romanian poster words, each of which has a postscript “Why don’t you come over. We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”. There are many more gems. (more…)