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What Europe means to me
12 May 2021
Thank you for the moving and thought-provoking publications on Europe Day. The article ‘What does Europe mean to you?’ sparked off my own thoughts.
Like Ginny Foster, I fell in love with France as a teenager when I started holiday exchanges with a French penfriend at the age of 13. We spent two weeks every summer at a sailing school in Brittany, where I learnt how to sail and swear in French, smoked Gauloises and fell for handsome French boys. It was only when I spent a year in the USA as a student that I realised how European I felt, in terms of history and culture. I don’t have direct family links to Europe, though I’m very proud that my mother worked for the Republican cause against Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Since retirement, I’ve spent six months living in Berlin and two months in Spain and am devastated that plans for a longer term relocation to France have been dashed by Brexit. But links with my penfriend Marie’s family and friends remain strong to this day and I will always be European.
Viv Griffiths, Brighton
Fascists in Sussex and Devon
21 April 2021
Carol Mills’ ‘Engels in Eastbourne’ is a terrific piece, just where Sussex Bylines can find a niche. I would also be interested in right-wing history. Where did the old-school fascists come from in Sussex and where does the virus lurk in ‘quieter’ times? The families, the villages, the traditions.
See this book for similar kind of enquiry in Devon.
It was the thought of NF people spraying the Engels monument that got me started. What are those head cases doing now?
James Joughin, Brighton
Churchill: democrat or fascist?
17 April 2021
Tom Serpell’s article was very good and a timely warning but claiming that Churchill was against Fascism is a bit of a stretch. He showed many Fascistic characteristics in his beliefs and actions and his real reason for fighting Germany wasn’t against their regime but their worrying progress in rivalling Britain’s imperialism.
Dave Poole, Eastbourne
Tom Serpell responds:
Dear Mr Poole
I am no unqualified fan of Winston Churchill, being all too aware of some of his more egregious behaviour in South Africa and as Home Secretary in particular. I do not think that I would characterise him as fascistic, though, not least because he appears to have been a strong advocate of democracy, unlike our current Prime Minister. My reference to him was solely to contrast his undoubted anti-appeasement, anti-fascism with hero worship by his fascistic groupie, Johnson. What his motives for standing up to Hitler and Mussolini were I am not qualified to say; but I am sure that he did.
Tom Serpell, East Hoathly
Firewall on fire
13 April 2021
The other day I heard the estimable Paul Mason say that traditionally, and for many years, the right of the Tory party had effectively operated as a firewall against fascism but now, look around, the firewall is on fire. Well done Tom Serpell for calling this out. We need to wake up and pay attention.
James Joughin, Brighton
Educational inequalities in Brighton
29 March 2021
Great piece by James Joughin on educational inequalities.
Until we have an Opposition which just tells the truth – on education, health & wealth inequalities – as well as on the two big ones – management of the pandemic & Brexit – we cannot expect people to understand the realities of Britain in 2021.
Opposition ultra-caution & focus-grouping every utterance to within an inch of its life is simply re-cycling Murdoch, the Barclay Brothers and the Mail.
If appealing to the Brexity right was giving the opposition a stable lead, ok. But look at the polls.
In the meantime we have to rely on astute observers like Mr. Joughin to tell us the truth.
Andy Batkin, Brighton
17 March 2021
Marianna Ebel’s article on EU citizens struck a chord with me. I have lived in the UK since 1983. I studied here; got married; have two wonderful daughters; have worked, paid taxes and done a lot of voluntary work over the past 35+ years.
And yet, after the 2016 Brexit referendum, I had to prove that I was permanently resident in the UK (this was before the EU Settled Status scheme was introduced). It took several months, and it was a painful, time-consuming and emotional process. Eventually I was ‘granted’ permanent residency status – was I meant to be grateful?
Then I applied for UK citizenship. Not only did I have to find nearly £1,500; I also had to study for a ‘Life in the UK’ test, which I’m sure most native Brits wouldn’t pass. The next hurdle was applying for a UK passport. I had put this off because I couldn’t face more bureaucracy… Actually, the application process turned out to be quite smooth and well-organised – but I had to have an online ‘identity interview’, and I’m still reeling from the experience.
The interviewer was friendly and chatty, putting me at ease. I answered questions about my name, my place of birth, standard stuff. Then he started asking me about my flat: which floor is it on, how far is it from the sea, can I see the sea from my window? Could I show him the view? This seemed totally out of order, and I suddenly felt that he was trying to ‘catch me out’ in some way. I said no to showing him the view – and then fretted for several hours that my application might be turned down because of it. It wasn’t, and my passport arrived a few days later. But why was I subjected to such intrusive questions? Surely I had already proved my entitlement several times over!
EU citizens like me should not be subjected to this kind of treatment. We have made this country our home, we have contributed, we belong.
Renate Alwart, Bognor Regis
Defenders of democracy
14 March 2021
I am inspired by the feature on Terry Reintke (MEP) to continue, for as long as it takes, the struggle to regain democratic government in the UK. It is not only Terry Reintke and her fellow nationals who must question the actions of parents and grandparents in speaking out to defend the rule of law and threatened minorities. We all now as individuals, parents and grandparents, have a duty to speak up now for democracy, the rule of law and civil liberties in the UK or have our children and grandchildren question our inaction.
Ben Taylor (European Union Citizen in exile)
My remarkable aunts
8 March 2021
Re Viv Griffiths’ article on the two women who have been an inspiration in her life: It has made me reflect on the women in my life who were always “in the background, invisible and given little credit for all they did” – my mother and several teachers come to mind. Sussex Bylines: Great work.
Mary Lewis, Sussex
A journey through time
14 February 2021
I’ve just read your fabulous article about the Newhaven RNLI Lifeboat and can confirm, as a Newhaven resident, that the lifeboat crew are some of our town’s true heroes! And following on from that, I wondered if you may be interested in a couple of items from ‘900 Years – A Journey Through Time’, a project created in conjunction with the 900th anniversary of St Michael’s Church (it is the oldest building in the town).
The project is a collection of new music and song, telling cherry-picked stories from Newhaven’s history. I mention this particularly, because two tracks on the album Brazen Souls and RNLI are about the loss of HMS Brazen and the lifeboat respectively. The first tells the story of the wreck as seen through the eyes of Louisa Hanson, the Captain’s young wife. The second empathises with the loved ones of those in the lifeboat’s crew, and how they feel when a ‘shout’ comes. We do plan on producing a live performance ‘musical’ of the project, initially planned for 2020, the actually 900th anniversary year, but that has been delayed of course, due to the pandemic. However, we did make an extremely well-received short film (funded by the Arts Council) based on Brazen Souls. I’ve set out some links below, in case you’d like to take a look.
Brazen Souls Short Film: https://youtu.be/Cjgq8JFt70o RNLI Lyric Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jv3_7qAoYFA 900 Years – A Journey Through Time Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Newhaven900Years
Mike Flood, Newhaven
24 January 2021
I am not impressed by the government saying there will be a Covid-19 inquiry but now is not the time. They seem to expect praise for saying that but it is crazy to think they ignore the findings of the all-party group that shows what a scandalous mess the government has made.
In my opinion, that’s down to ideology of a decade of defunding the NHS, pushing EU people out, raiding taxes to give contracts to chums and blatant disregard of scientific evidence. And now – yet again – they’re being less than honest about vaccine supply and timing of 2nd jabs.
Daisy Cooke, Chichester
The ‘dead good deal’ that’s killing business
Helen Gibbons’ experience of the effects of Brexit (Selling to Europe from Sussex, 22 January) is a taste of things to ceome.
The Centre for Economic Performance predicts exports to the EU will drop by more than a third over the next decade and total UK trade by 13%. At present, EU countries account for over half of our trade with the world.
Boris Johnson claims his trade deal opens up Britain to more opportunities on the world stage. However, the reality on the ground is lost jobs and lost opportunities that no amount trade deals with distant countries is going to make up for.
Rick Dillon, Hastings
Democracy or populism?
24 January 2021
The constitution and the institutions of American democracy have held in the face of repeated attacks by Trump and his deluded supporters who remain convinced that the election was stolen. All who care for freedom celebrated with Joe Biden on Wednesday as he affirmed that democracy and prevailed in the United States and that if enough of us agree then that would be enough to carry us all forward to combat the rising tide of populism. But these events have shown us that democracy is fragile and in his words ‘the battle to save it is perennial and victory is never assured’.
So I suggest that we take this seriously with regard to the attacks on our own democratic institutions made by our own government. These include the attempt to prorogue parliament, the imposition of Covid restrictions and the postponing of elections without a vote, Ministers and special advisers above the law, PPE contracts given without competitive tender to supporters and cronies, or threatening to break International Law. Add to this the attacks on the BBC, the judiciary and the Civil Service, the pitiful amount of parliamentary time given to scrutinise the Brexit Deal and the proposals to remove power from local councils to decide on planning applications.
I could cite many more examples but urge all who value consensus and parliamentary government to stand up for our institutions and preserve what is left of our democracy.
Sophie Holman, Lewes
The truth about Covid-19?
23 January 2021
I get the feeling we’re not getting the truth on Covid-19. Why is it that the Germans now insist everyone wears FFP2 masks outside and in public spaces to try and combat the infectious spread of the new variants?
The UK government is asleep on the job. German press conferences aren’t government-controlled, and the ministers and virologists get hard questions which they actually answer.
Test–trace–vaccinate and mask up as a public duty seems reasonable.
Matt Bennett, Arundel
Curbing the spread of Covid-19 in Sussex
21 January 2021
Are councillors across Sussex doing anything to try and curb the spread of Covid-19 in public and communal buildings where only limited airflow ventilation can be achieved? Stagnant and unvented conditions are known to allow the virus establish and spread.
At the same time, the promenade in Brighton and Hove is understandably crowded with people wanting to walk or exercise. Shouldn’t runners be required to wear masks? Sage and the Zoe research shows that air is expelled at a rate similar to coughing and sneezing when someone runs. Droplets and aerosols can float onto others a far greater distance than the accepted two metre passive transmission norm, especially wind assisted.
These are two small steps where we should take the lead.
David Holden, Hove
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