25 March 2017 marks 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – which eventually led to the formation of European Union
This entry is unapologetically Eurocentric.
EU has always meant a lot to me. I was born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, in former Czechoslovakia. I was nine when Velvet Revolution that overthrew the Communists happened. I still remember bits of it; my mum taking me with her out to the streets, the banners, the slogans. This was 1989. Mere fifteen years later, both Slovakia and Czech Republic joined the EU–an astonishing achievement. It enabled me to make something of myself in UK, where I first came to in 2003 as an au pair. As 2003 was before we joined EU, I still had to wait a line outside the British Embassy early in the morning to obtain a visa.
I’ve never been patriotic, I’m just not wired that way. I’m a European. I am fiercely loyal to my home city of Bratislava (don’t let me hear anyone badmouthing it!) but that’s about it. People usually call me Eastern European, however I reject that label because that’s not what I am.
Bratislava sits on the border of both Austria and Hungary, the only capital city in the world located at a tripoint. You can easily walk between the three countries as you would in your favourite park. Some people even pass the border twice a day on their commute to work.
I came across this article by Guy Verhofstadt published in Guardian. Guy Verhofstadt is a former Prime Minister of Belgium, a Member of European Parliament and the leader of Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
In the decades since [the Treaty of Rome] was signed, European countries have worked successfully to fight against the return of the rampant nationalism that led to two world wars and the slaughter of millions of Europeans, finding a way to work together to create a largely peaceful, free and prosperous continent.
In 2017, the EU stands at a crossroads. Our common project is consistently attacked and denigrated by nationalists, often working with authoritarian regimes outside the EU, who wish to destroy the EU and once again set our communities and societies against each other.
It is ironic that, as we saw in the Brexit referendum, the postwar generation that benefited so much from European integration is now driving an explosion of Eurosceptic nationalism. Young people, a majority of whom deeply value their European citizenship, too often face barriers to full political participation.
Ah, but Brussels demanded they use low-energy light bulbs… or something.
Nationalists tell us that the nation state is best placed to deal with common challenges, but their argument fails the test of reason and ignores the nature of the trans-national threats we face. Climate change, international terrorism and the negative consequences of globalisation cannot be tackled by individual countries acting independently. If the European Union of today did not exist, we would have to create it.
And you know what’s funny? You can argue that UK is NOT a nation state. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.
Ultimately, nationalism will be rejected because its politicians are incapable of resolving the challenges we face. It is time for those who believe in a united Europe to stand up and be counted.
Beautifully put. I hope he’s right.
28 Members of EU
UK (for now)
I love you all.
Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, an Anthem of Europe, performed by Banco Sabadell Flashmob:
In this week’s photo challenge post, Ben posts a photograph of a donut, a cup of coffee and a glass of sparkling water, but tells us not to limit ourselves to edible stuff–but this is exactly what I’m going to do, even though I don’t normally blog about food or post pictures of food.
Let me introduce you to my favourite breakfast. Bacon sandwich + a cup of black coffee = heaven. For me bacon sandwich is the second best thing in the world (the first is pizza). But there is more to this shot.
We hear of things typically British and we hear of things typically Continental European. Nothing more essentially British than a bacon sandwich, I’m sure you agree. On the other hand, coffee is continental, whereas the Brits like their tea.
Best of both worlds then. Imagine if referendums never existed, we could have breakfast instead of Brexit. Sigh.
Speaking of which…
A very Belgian private detective with his very British sidekick.
For this Valentine’s Day, let me talk about about my favourite fictional couples (or, as is the fandom term these days “ships”).
Originally I was planning to post just one photo for Valentine’s–a shot of two figures from my favourite series with a simple card in the background–but a comment I made on this Goodreads Facebook post inspired me to expand it a bit more. At least this gives me an opportunity to blog about my favourite things.
The Couple That Gives Me All the Feels
“You’re mine,” she whispered. “Mine, as I’m yours. And if we die, we die. All men must die, Jon Snow. But first, we’ll live.”
Jon Snow and Ygritte (Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin). Equally good in books and in TV show. And the only love story that can truly melt my cold, cynical heart.
The series has a lot of memorable quotes, such as All Men Must Die (which inspired my blog’s tagline) and Winter is Coming and–You know nothing, Jon Snow. She’s the one with the common sense, he’s the one with the formal education. She teaches him about the Wildling ways, he shows her castles.
If I could show her Winterfell… give her a flower from the glass gardens, feast her in the Great Hall and show her the stone kings on their thrones. We could bathe in the hot pools and love beneath the heart tree while the old gods watched over us.
~A Storm of Swords
It was not meant to be, but I like to think there is an alternate universe where they stayed in that cave. And there is–Kit Harington and Rose Leslie are dating in real life.
Here’s the photo that I mentioned earlier:
Not Your Typical Couple
Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (the Millennium series). But not together as in together.
Lisbeth is one my most favourite fictional characters ever. She’s a brilliant hacker and she kicks ass. And she always look out for the vulnerable and the abused. I don’t ship her with Blomkvist in the normal way, instead I like to think of them as BFFs with benefits slash partners in crime. Besides, Blomkvist is a womaniser and Lisbeth is too much of a free spirit to settle down.
It was absurd to pretend that he did not exist. It no longer hurt her to see him. She opened the door wide and let him into her life again.
~The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest
In the English version they are played by Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. I once saw a comment on YouTube video of the trailer saying “Lisbeth Salander is so badass, James Bond is her sidekick.”
The Couple That Should Have Been
Jo March and Laurie, aka Teddy Lawrence from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, who ended up not together because the author threw a tantrum.
“O Jo, can’t you?”
“Teddy, dear, I wish I could!”
Then do, for god’s sake. Ugh.
I recently read Little Women for the first time in English. I love Jo, but I’m not a fan of the book. Some passages made me want to throw my (quite new) Kindle against the wall and it’s not because of the obvious mismatching of couples. It’s the constant preaching. Dog forbid you want to have fun once in a blue moon or a day off work… but I’m not here to talk about that.
If readers and Alcott’s publishers wanted Jo and Laurie to marry, there was a reason for it and that reason was that she wrote them that way. Apparently Alcott meant for Jo to remain single but the publisher was against it, so okay, 3/4 through he story Alcott introduces some German professor or other who would become Jo’s match but why, why oh why oh why OH WHY pair Laurie with Amy? Amy, that frivolous little shit that burned Jo’s book? Gosh, I hate her. She should have died instead of the loving, kind Beth.
Some fans say that Laurie was too immature for Jo. But he could have grown up, done something with his life and then come back and try asking her again. Like, character development, you know.
I can somewhat accept Jo with her professor but I will never be able to accept Laurie with Amy. Ah, what the hell, in my mind he never stopped loving Jo.
Forever and Ever and Ever…
Of course, it’s got to be them. The One True Pairing–OTP.
Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables series.
Poor Gilbert, though. It took years of suffering and almost dying for her to finally realise he was the one for her. The romantic hero she had dreamed about since her childhood didn’t belong to her life the way Gil did… and turned out not to be very interesting after all. Gilbert may not have written poetry but he could make her laugh, he comforted her. He got her.
There was nobody else–there never could be anybody else for me but you. I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.
~Anne of the Island
There was that time in Anne of the Island when Anne’s bosom friend Diana secretly entered Anne’s story into a competition for the best story featuring a baking powder Rollings. Diana simply took Anne’s story Averil’s Atonement, which failed to get published in magazines, added a line or two advertising the baking powder and sent it–and the story won the prize. Twenty-five dollars, which must have been a lot of money then. Anne felt very ashamed because she thought it meant, how we would say now, selling out. So when Gilbert came to congratulate her and she confided in him and told him she was afraid that her fellow students at Redmond will tease her for it, he had this to say:
The Reds will think just as I thought–that you, being like nine out of ten of us, not overburdened with worldly wealth, had taken this way of earning a honest penny to help yourself through the year. I don’t see that there’s anything low or unworthy about that, or anything ridiculous either. One would rather write masterpieces of literature no doubt–but meanwhile board and tuition fees have to be paid.
Contrast this with Jo March’s professor who got all superior over Jo’s silly stories. Jo wrote them to earn some money and thus help her family, the point that completely escaped the educated professor. (Maybe that’s why he’s penniless in his forties.) What’s interesting is, when Anne rejects Gilbert’s first proposal, her feelings are very similar to what Jo goes through when she says no to Laurie. At least one writer with initials LM knew how to satisfy her readers!
Boys Love Boys
Barca and Pietros from Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
I know Spartacus is not to everyone’s taste but I loved it. It has everything; profanity, violence, nudity, sex. It makes Game of Thrones look like a weak tea.
From what I’ve seen on Tumblr, another m/m couple from Spartacus: War of the Damned, Agron and Nasir seems to be the more popular one but I prefer these two. I was rooting for them so much and they had such a tragic end.
I do what I must, Pietros. I’ll return soon.
Girls Love Girls
Look who I just remembered:
Xena and Gabrielle. Friends? Sure, they were friends. That’s how it started.
Quote by the Warrior Princess herself, Lucy Lawless:
Now it wasn’t just that Xena was bisexual and kinda liked her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was “Nope, they’re married, man.”
You know what, I changed my mind. I think Xena and Gabrielle are my OTP after all.
The term Blue Monday was coined in 2005 and refers to the most depressing day of the year–usually third Monday in January. Well, in the Northern Hemisphere at least.
This idea has been dismissed by scientists and according to charity Mental Health UK, it’s been created to sell summer holidays. Quite likely, since Blue Monday was first mentioned in a press release by a travel company. Nevertheless, many people might be feeling very blue, so I thought I’d do a little colourful photoshoot.
I know I have published beads and paperclips before, I just like colours, okay?
One of the factors that supposedly contribute to Blue Monday is failed new year’s resolutions. But, isn’t it too soon to give up on them? The first month isn’t even over yet. There are 11 more months left. And whatever you have resolved to do, nobody says you should start on it on 1st (or 2nd) January. March is as good. Or April. Or June. I remember once reading some article which claimed that people would have more success if they set their resolutions in the beginning of September, as we still think of new academic year as the time to start something new. Certainly makes more sense to me that the middle of deep winter.
So, if you don’t think you’re doing well, please don’t throw in the towel.
I love the title of this challenge. It’s full of positivity. New Horizons is also a name of the NASA probe to Pluto. I’ve not managed to get a shot of any space probe yet, but I did manage to get a shot of a hot air balloon (sort of)–it’s that tiny red dot on the above photo. Speaking of hot air balloons, once I watched some movie with a hot air balloon when I was a kid and I liked it so much that when it crashed at the end, I started crying and my mum, who wasn’t watching it, ran to the living room, worried, asking what happened, why was I crying and when I told her, she said, don’t worry, they will fix the balloon and it will fly again! I remember she then went to the kitchen, where, I imagine, burst into massive laughter, though this couldn’t be confirmed; she has no recollection of this incident. (I don’t remember how the movie ended.)
I don’t know what’s on the horizon. On one hand, I can’t wait for 2017, on the other, I’m scared that after 13 (well, 14 by then) years of living in UK, some politicians will decide that I have to go. These guys have expressed it much better than me. But it also proves that you must not under any circumstances take anything for granted. My favourite saying is shit happens and now that shit happened, let’s see how we can deal with it. (Like, google “moving to Germany” for starters.)
I was standing on the street next to mine, photographing this, when a woman approached me and asked me what it was that I was taking a picture of.
“Old Cheetham Hill police station,” I said. Cheetham Hill is this area of Manchester.
The woman was pleasantly surprised and told me she was interested in local old buildings and had been trying to find out for years what this gateway was part of. There was no information on it anywhere.
I told her the truth, that I found it only thanks to Pokemon Go.
In fact, I never even noticed the gateway before, even though I have passed by it regularly for at least a decade. It was when I was catching Pokemon in the summer that I looked at it for the first time–it was a Pokestop. So we chatted a bit, I explained to her how the game worked and then we parted.
I haven’t been able to find out almost anything on the net about this old police station and now I really have to give it to those folks at Nintendo.
This obviously refers to “local” as in where I live, not where I’m from. My home town (if that is the right word, as in the place I was born and bred) is Bratislava. But this makes me think, what is local?
Some Tory politician or other (I’m not making the effort into looking up her name) said at a recent party conference, that firms should be hiring British people instead of immigrants. Because immigrants… well, immigrants. You know, immigrants. I’ve seen a comment on Facebook post that linked to that news article, which agreed with this politician and that it yes, the firms should be recruiting local people in the first place. What is “local people”?
I have been living in Manchester for 13 years, in the same area for almost 12, have been renting from the same estate agency for 11 years and been living in the same flat for 6. But immigrants.
It will take me a very long time to get over being bitter about Brexit.
So last week I started this series that I named Random and Weird Phone Shots, or RAWPS for short and I decided that I will only post these on Thursdays, one because it happened to be a Thursday and two, so that I could make it a Throwback Thursday. And throwback this is, as it’s from 2011. I still remember how I was walking down the street past this recruitment agency, when I saw this job advert in the window. I had to stop and take my phone out.
I have posted this pic on several sites at that time, I even wonder if the agency found out about it. I’m sure they’d probably think it’s tired by now, that I’m laughing at an old joke that has not been funny for five years but–come on. All of us that had to deal with recruitment agencies in our search for employment have had out fair share of frustration and if they expect us to have immaculate CV with qualifications and experience for a basic admin job, I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to mock them for advertising a position for a fluent speaker of a language that doesn’t exist. The applicants are supposed to be experienced even though for experience you need to have been in a job before, which you aren’t because you’re looking for one (was it the chicken or the egg that came first? I never know) but they are incapable of doing a ten-second Google search for what the language spoken in Austria is (it’s German, of course). And then, it’s close to my heart, as I’m from Bratislava, the city that borders Austria (also Hungary; it used to be trilingual but that is another topic).
I am remembering another occasion when I was asked whether I spoke Libyan. (“You mean Arabic?”) When I told my brother this, he said “Even Gaddafi couldn’t speak Libyan”. Well…
Maybe I should take up Mexican lessons. I like the food.