Thursday, 29 March 2018

Transport. Talking to people. Citizenship. And documentation.

I set off for Manchester the other day and found myself tied up in another of those public transport nightmares that happen around here. My bus was running about 15 minutes late. A bus going in the other direction was approaching (the same stop serves for two buses which follow the same circular route but going in opposite directions). I had to choose quickly between getting on that bus and connecting to a different bus going towards Manchester or waiting even longer for the bus I originally planned to catch and which might turn out to be cancelled.

I opted to get on the bus which was there.

This was a mistake.

A few minutes down the road we crossed the bus I was originally waiting for. Not only that but not too much later the bus I was now on (driven, by the way, by a very cautious trainee driver who seemed to think that 20 mph was speeding!) we got stuck behind a funeral (which slowed us down even more).

Eventually I reached the stop where I would catch the connecting bus. Here I made another mistake: I asked a chap at the stop if the bus had gone yet. This gave him permission to talk to me at extremely boring length about the failings of the bus companies. And it continued when we got on the bus. He sat behind me and almost rested his large, round moon-like face between the seats. (Truly he could have played the part of Moonface from Enid Blyton’s “The Magic Faraway Tree”.)

His tirade continued but he saw light at the end of the tunnel. Everything will be fine, he assured me, when we leave Europe because then we will be able to renationalise all the public transport systems. Apparently this has not happened sooner because the EU forbids nationalisation of public transport! Quite where that leaves France’s SNCF, Société NATIONALE des Chemins de Fer, and Spain’s RENFE, Red NACIONAL de Ferrocarriles Españoles, I really don’t know! So I told him he was probably mistaken and that besides I didn’t see Theresa May’s government renationalising anything!

I really must stop talking to nutters at bus stops. But he looked fairly harmless and all I wanted to know was whether the bus had left or not. So it goes!

With Brexit in mind, here’s a link to something about another unforeseen consequence of Brexit. EU nationals living in Britain who have had children here, at the time secure in the knowledge that their EU citizenship gave them protected status, may now need to prove their residence entitlement at the time the children were born. Otherwise those children, some of whom could be old enough to be in work here, might find themselves without the right to permanent residency. A bit like the American Dreamers!

How many of us can provide evidence from twenty years ago? Maybe those who hoard paperwork and documentation dating back years and years, taking up space in files and on shelves, have been doing the right thing all along.

The Inuit people, in contrast, do not keep records (or at least they didn’t in the past but I bet they do now) but pass everything on by word of mouth, oral history, stories and legends. A certain Louie Kamookak put together the stories he grew up with of mysterious white men using ropes to haul a ship through the Arctic ice with stuff he heard later about Sir John Franklin’s two ships that vanished while searching for the North-west Passage. He spoke to historians and archaeologists and persuaded them that he could help them find the lost ships. Which he duly did.

I came across this story because historians and archaeologists wanted to pay tribute to him as he has just died, having spent much of his life trying ensure that they tradition of oral history continues among the Inuit.

I bet he was more interesting to listen to than Moonface on the bus.

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