Friday, 10 March 2017

The kindness - or otherwise - of strangers!

Driving around with my daughter yesterday, at one point our conversation was interrupted by the angry pipping of a horn. We were in a queue of traffic, stopped by a red light. The angry horn pipper wanted to cross our road from a side road and wanted us to move forward a little so he could get across. There was barely room for us to advance without almost touching the car in front or ours but we did so anyway. However, there would have been no need for that if the car behind us had respected the cross hatching on the road, the sort that means "do not enter this bit of road unless you can get out the other side at once". Little bits of discourtesy.

Later, we paused once again in a queue of traffic, this time to let someone come out of a side road and turn right into our lane ahead of us. Knowing how frustrating it is to be stuck at the end of a side road, waiting for the opportunity to move out into the main road, we try to give way when we can. We work on the principle that the good turn you do someone else might persuade them to be similarly kind to others and so the goodwill gets passed along.

In an increasingly grumpy, bad-tempered, selfish and unco-operative world, it is more important than ever to live by principles like that.

The nasty news stories keep popping up from the past. Recently there has been the discovery of an unmarked mass grave, mostly babies and young children, discovered under a playground in Ireland. It is located on what was the site of one of those home for unfortunate girls who found themselves pregnant and had nowhere else to go. The babies and small children had died there and been buried anonymously. This place, like so many others, was run by nuns. As in the Magdalene laundries, the young women who went there for help were punished for having babies out of wedlock. Many of the babies were adopted by families who wanted children. We can only hope they had happier lives but often they were prevented from getting in touch with their birth mothers later in their lives. And often the young mothers were told that their babies had died at birth.

This has parallels with the children of Republic women giving birth in Spanish prisons in Franco's Spain after the Spanish Civil War. Their babies were usually taken from them and given to good Franco-supporting families. While some of those children no doubt had happy childhoods, others are known to have had very unhappy lives, being reminded constantly of their good fortune in having been taken from their wicked Republican mothers. Many of those adoptions were also arranged through the church. Isn't it strange how harsh some Christian institutions can be?

Institutionalised nastiness keeps on happening of course. I follow a group on Facebook that calls itself Forum for EU Citizens. Despite assurances from all sorts of people that EU citizens living and working in the UK will not be thrown out of the country after Brexit, there is a very high level of uncertainty, worry and stress among those people. People simply don't know where they stand. Here are some examples of the kind of queries that pop up:

"Checked for an insurance quote and now have to enter whether you are permanent UK resident or European, formerly UK resident.....?!?!Quote with the latter, of course, considerably more expansive...
Is this even legal?"

And so many of the queries and comments relate to families and children:

"I am polish and have been in UK for last 12 years. I do have permanent residence already but all my 3 children even though born here only have Polish passports. Do they need PR as well to have the same rights as I do? EDIT: has any if you applied for pr for children? Is the process/forms as lenghty as for adults? And can I apply for them as a single parent? I am not interested in British passports at the moment because of personal reasons (father might not agree.. etc) Thanks in advance."

 "While I am adamant I am not going to apply for PR etc, I thought that that was my prerogative and not my childrens'. I have therefore decided to apply for their British passports since they qualify. So last night and again tonight, I am on the site. And guess what, the system is down.
Twice in a row...😮"

"Hi there. I have a question about children. me and my husband are both EU citizens and have lived and worked here continuously for over 30 years now. We never thought we would have needed PR, so we never applied for it. our children were born here, one is 20 the other 13. Are they British citizens? They don't have a brit passport but the eldest voted in the referendum."

 Or the "catch 22" situation that some people find themselves in:

"I just have been refused PR, actually on Sunday at 1pm by a phone call with hidden number. To be fair- I have asked for an email confirmation and I receive it. There are few ways to apply and I chose the way to apply based on my marriage, as I don't have 5 full years of working history.
 I've been rejected because if I stayed home and lived off of benefits then they will recognise my husband as a "sponsor". But because I've been stupid enough to work in the country and pay taxes apparently my husband can't be my sponsor!
So my question is: is that what is required to be recognised in here- to stay home when I'm able to work, to live off of benefits and being punished if I want to work, to pay taxes and help the economy?! Speechless!!!"

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. Some people are reminded of the kindness and acceptance that is still out there:

"Here is what happened to me yesterday. Was with my daughter in a taxi as we were meeting friends for play. And suddenly taxi driver asks if my daughter was born here and where I am from. You can imagine what's going through my head, right? Am I gonna get another lecture on immigrants, EU etc? But I am polite and answer: yes she was and I am from Poland, expecting some silly comment. And he says he loves Poland, has lots of Polish friends and his sister works there so he travelled there few times. And we end up having most nice conversation about the state of the world. So just want to say big thank you again to all British people who support us. 😀😁"

Now, are UK citizens living in the EU going through the same kind of heartache? I really don't know but I wonder what my sister will do if she suddenly finds herself after almost 40 years in Spain, more than 30 of them married to a Spaniard, being told she should return to her country of origin. How do you do that when you have children and grandchildren born in the country that wants you to leave? 

Of course, it may not come to that for any of them but in the meantime nobody knows quite what is going on. What a crazy world!

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