NEVIS ISLAND GUIDE

After visiting Nevis for many years, I feel qualified to share these tips with anyone wanting to spend time in this idyllic place. My guide is light-hearted and impartial and I hope will be useful!
Things to do while staying on Nevis – some personal recommendations by travel writer Oliver Gray.

(Updated March 2024)

* For convenience, all directions start at Oualie.

1. Try out the hot springs
Drive down to Charlestown and through the town. Keep your eyes peeled for a small green sign pointing to the right saying Baths. You can park there and entrance to the baths costs nothing. It is said that years ago a famous Hollywood actress tried to buy the baths and turn them into a luxury spa. The Nevis government said that they should be open to all, so the tradition remains that you can access the waters for nothing. There are several different entry points and you can loll in the 100 degree Fahrenheit healing waters. It’s a secret that a few tourists find out about. It’s by no means luxurious but it’s authentic and a great place to meet the locals. Just nearby is the excellent Nelson Museum (although it keeps unreliable opening hours) and the abandoned Baths Hotel.

2. Check out The Botanical Gardens
Continue driving along the same road round the Island anti-clockwise until you see a sign for the botanical gardens pointing to the right. The gardens are beautiful, tranquil and well-maintained and you can easily spend an afternoon here peacefully wondering around. There is a Thai restaurant on site but it’s seldom open. You could afterwards have a cocktail in the nearby Montpelier Great House. This place was famously visited by Princess Diana and family (and is currently for sale, if you have a few million to spare).

3. Visit Golden Rock
This is an absolute must. Continuing down the same road, after about a mile, follow a large red sign up the steep hill to the left. Here you will find one of the world’s most legendary hotels, set in incredible tropical rainforest gardens. Golden Rock is famous for its amazing lobster sandwiches and boy, do they live up to their reputation. Home made bread stuffed with fresh lobster, they also come with French fries and salad. They aren’t cheap but they will keep you going all day. Afterwards you can wander round the grounds and, if you dare, go out the back and try and make up your way up the hill to the “Source”, accompanied by green vervet monkeys and goats.

4. Go to Oualie Bay
It’s a place full of character and is more down-to-earth than some of the up-market resorts. Some of the beaches on Nevis can be quite steep to enter but at Oualie you can ease in safely. There may be a little seaweed but there are no rocks and there’s always something fun going on to watch while you are lying on the beach. In common with all other beaches on Nevis, it is public and there is no obligation to purchase anything. No one will hassle you and it’s almost always very quiet and peaceful. If you do eat there you’ll find one of the cheapest options on the whole island. Try their Rotis, they are lovely but leave plenty of time for them to be prepared, as it takes a while! Enquire about their live music (normally Tuesdays and Sundays, and of wildly varying quality depending on which musicians turn up) and BBQ evenings.

5. Visit Chrishi Beach
If you want to feel sophisticated, this is the place to hang out. From the price point of view it is the opposite end compared to Oualie prices and the clientèle is up-market, so it’s a good place for a special treat. Their brunch is recommended. On the attractive beach are scores of free sun loungers but entry into the sea is pretty steep and the waves can be big. Here you can watch the Sea Bridge car ferry going in and out. Chrishi’s owners are Norwegian and in recent years it has become a hub for the island’s flourishing film making industry.

6. Have a meal at Indian Summer
For the first few times we came to Nevis we thought it seemed silly to go to an Indian restaurant, but when we eventually did, we didn’t regret it. It has a tremendous reputation and lives up to it with very large portions and tasty food. You’ll never finish it but they supply you with take-away containers, so you end up with two meals for the price of one.

7. Have a Killer Bee at Sunshine’s
Probably every visitor to Nevis will end up in Sunshine’s at some stage. It’s not as easy to find as it used to be because there are no signs from the main road. Turn right by the smart new shopping development and follow a green sign to Pinney’s Beach. At the end of the road you will find a series of beach bar restaurants, including Lime, Double Deuce and a pizza place, plus a new artisan brewery. Sunshine’s is the very last one you will come to. It feels pleasingly authentic, especially as the owner Sunshine himself holds court there every evening. The food is excellent and the Killer Bee punches more than live up to their reputation as strong and tasty. Definitely do not have more than two. Sunshine is no fool and the high prices do reflect the fact that it’s only steps away from The Four Seasons resort and is a favourite place for its wealthy customers to go for a bit of real Island life, so don’t expect your evening to be cheap. However, you will be gifted a huge plate of fresh salad as soon as you sit down, hardly leaving any room for the main meal!

8. Go somewhere nearby on foot
From Oualie, you can wander along the main road for about a mile. On the left you can go through the woods to an almost completely deserted beach (Lover’s Beach), where there are display boards explaining the life cycle of turtles. A bit further along, turn right and visit the fascinating, historic Cottle Church. This is a very moving experience, because it contains detailed display boards with explanations of the shameful history of slavery on the island. If you still have energy, go a small distance further and have a cocktail at the recently renovated and re-opened Mount Nevis Hotel. You can hang out by their swimming pool and the view is sensational. They do food as well.

9. Take the bus
Buses around the island are frequent and extremely cheap and fun as well, with lively chat and loud music. There are bus stops every few hundred metres (look for a number plate with H on it) but the buses will stop anywhere if you signal to them. It’s a much cheaper option than a taxi if you don’t fancy driving or maybe want a drink, but they don’t go much later than around 7 p.m. There is a pretty bus station in the centre of Charlestown where you might have to change onto a different bus depending on where you want to go.

10. Go to town
It is definitely worth spending at least half a day in Charlestown. It’s a lively and characterful place and the Alexander Hamilton Museum is definitely worth a visit. From there are you can walk down to Pinney’s Hotel. Walk through its grounds and that will bring you to Pinney’s Beach, by far the most impressive stretch of sand on the island. Just outside town on the main road is the Artisan Village, a sweet place where local craftspeople sell their wares from brightly-coloured cottages. You can wander along as far as Sunshine’s, which is a great place to catch the sunset. The collection of beach bars here is being rapidly upgraded and Lime has added Lime Cabanas, a large beachfront restaurant that is aimed at the cruise ship passengers who are boated in from St Kitts. Here you will get a nice lunch for a reasonable price.

11. Visit the Heritage Village. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past in the form of a folk museum based around an abandoned sugar mill. You can just wander round (free) or spend 10 EC dollars for a guided tour. It is near Golden Rock, on the other side of the road. If you are feeling adventurous, you can drive all the way down Hanley’s Road to the remote Windward Beach, where Princess Diana was chased by paparazzi in 1993.
12. Learn about the culture and history of Nevis. Apart from the Heritage Centre, other places highly recommended to visit include Fort Ashby and the New River Estate. Fort Ashby is a gem but hard to find, tucked away opposite the Funky Monkey buggy hire place near Indian Summer. The fort itself is an amazing place, complete with huge intact cannons. The New River Estate is situated on the other side of the Island in Gingerland, near the Heritage Centre, but again, you have to keep your eyes peeled for the difficult-to-spot signage. You will be rewarded by a fascinating insight into rum and sugar manufacture and detailed but sobering information about slavery.

13. Brief further recommendations and gourmet delights:
For special meals, you can go into the hills to Bananas restaurant and art gallery (it’s well signposted off Bypass Road). The owner of Bananas has recently taken over L’Escale, which is just round the corner from Oualie – you can’t miss it and it’s walkable. The theme here is French cheeses and fine wines and it has a Bistro ambience. Or head for the Yachtsman Grill in the Hamilton Resort and Spa. Here is also arguably the best beach on the island for swimming. You can use their recliners too and maybe have a pizza (outstanding) or a cocktail afterwards. Their rum punches are superb. We ended up going there every day, as the beach is so perfect.
If you fancy a really special meal, try Luna, a fine-dining establishment on the Cliffdwellers site, where the food and ambience are exceptional and you pay a lot for them! By contrast, and arguably even more fun, go round the corner to Dewdrops, a delightfully authentic restaurant where you will pay much less but still get a truly lovely meal. Either of these places can be reached on foot from Oualie if you are fit, or you can drive there in five minutes.
Buy a crate of Carib – it’s cheaper that way. You can buy direct from the depot, which is situated next to the Valu Mart supermarket on the edge of Charlestown.
Have a really authentic Nevisian dining experience at Wilma’s Diner in the heart of Charlestown. Wilma cooked for Princess Diana and thus carries the motto By Royal Appointment. Other recommended authentic local establishments include Beauties, in Cox Village, and Rosie’s Patties, which is outside Charlestown near the commercial harbour.
Also just near Fort Ashby is the Barefoot Beach Bar. It’s part of the Nelson Springs resort but you can just walk in for a drink or something to eat. Their speciality is sushi.
The Nisbet Plantation resort is a very interesting place with information about the relationship between Fanny Nisbet and Horatio Nelson. You can still take a look but sadly it has now been abandoned and is derelict. It’s quite near the airport, where there are a couple of shops and also a good pizza restaurant called the Runway Grill. It’s cheap and cheerful and you can eat in or take away while checking out the parked private jets. Also near the airport is a lovely bar and restaurant called Drift, owned by the Canadian proprietors of Luna. It’s a sensational place for a sunset cocktail or a smart meal. If you know and love the TV series Death In Paradise, Drift is just like Catherine’s Bar (although a little more up-market!)
Fruit and veg stalls can be found at various locations around the island to supplement your supermarket shops. We are not sporty types, so can’t tell you much about golf, watersports, fishing and cycling but there are good facilities for all these, mainly based at Oualie.
If buying petrol in the smaller petrol stations, remember they only take cash, not cards. Whenever you pay anywhere in US dollars, the change will come in EC dollars. It’s useful to have a small supply of each in your pocket.

Have fun and please let us know about any other discoveries you may have.

PS. For our visit in 2024, my wife gave me ten Rum Punch tokens for Christmas.

Rum Punch Top Ten Chart
(Non-drinkers avert your eyes, all opinions subjective (and hazy)

1. Yachtsman Grill – strong and tasty, a perfect sundowner.
2. Sunshine’s (Killer Bee) – still an amazing experience but trading on its reputation – now small in size and served in cheap plastic cups.
3. Luna – owner Vicki has created her own recipe featuring Bajan rum.
4. Lime Cabanas (Snake In The Grass) – in the heart of the tourist area but still good value.
5. Indian Summer (Bombay Punch) – their own take on the tradition.
6. Mount Nevis Hotel – fruity and sophisticated.
7. Dewdrops – not very potent but extremely cheap.
8. Bananas – heavy on the lime.
9. Oualie Bay – nothing special.
10. Four Seasons – a total rip-off at double the price and half the quality of anywhere else.

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Andy Warhol was right

In November 2022, I was walking down the road in the village where I live and it struck me that something had changed. It was a relatively minor thing. What had happened was that the road sign for St Mary’s Terrace, a quiet side street, had been removed and replaced by a new one.

Nothing unusual in that, I supposed, but as an ex-English teacher and a writer of grammar textbooks, I spotted immediately that there was no apostrophe on the new sign and that it said St Marys Terrace. I pointed this out to a friend of mine who lives in the street and that was where my involvement in the subsequent developments ended. My friend, who is called John, got together with some of his neighbours in the street and they agreed that they didn’t approve of the new sign. Apart from the missing apostrophe, they also objected to the change of style from a rather pretty cast-iron sign to a much blander and less attractive modern version.

After some discussion, they decided to get in touch with our two local city councillors, who set about righting this wrong with a certain amount of alacrity. The campaign eventually reached the dizzy heights of a full Winchester City Council meeting, where various unexpected aspects appeared during the discussion. One of these, according to the leader of the council, was that there was in fact a newly-introduced national policy to avoid punctuation on road signs. The slightly implausible reason for this is allegedly that it might cause confusion to the drivers of emergency vehicles and delivery or postal vans. Another completely unexpected comment pointed out that local author Jane Austen herself was reputedly prone to playing fast and loose with punctuation.

Meanwhile, because I have an “in” with the local newspaper, I sent in a small paragraph to their jokey feature at the back of the paper that identifies quirky little stories. The paragraph, accompanied by the necessary photos of the contrasting signs, pointed out that omitting the apostrophe was not only incorrect grammatically but was also incompatible with both the Land Registry and the Ordnance Survey, in which the road name does indeed contain the vital item. There was no response to or interest in the small article and I forgot about the whole thing.

Then, last month, I received an excited email from John, in which he enthused about the fact that the original sign had now been returned and reinstalled by the council. I had had no idea that any of this was going on, but of course was delighted to receive all the details. Our extremely resourceful and energetic local councillor had taken it upon herself to visit the council dump, plunge head first into a skip and emerge triumphantly clutching the original artefact. The City Council had agreed that it should be reinstated and arranged for a renovation to be undertaken. This involved shot-blasting the cast iron sign, which was then handed over to John’s young daughter, who painted it with specialist metallic paint, but not including the errant apostrophe.

In John’s email, he invited me, as the original person to spot the problem, to take on the privileged task of filling in the missing punctuation mark. As I did so, my wife kindly took a photo of the event. At this stage, I thought it might be fun for the Hampshire Chronicle to print the “after” photo as a demonstration of a bit of people power. I duly sent in a brief update, which again was printed in the back pages.

Then something even stranger happened. I received an email from something called the Solent News and Photo Agency, saying that they had spotted this item and wondering if they could come and interview me and take a photograph. Because we have a local BBC radio station called Solent, I assumed it was something to do with them and that what could be expected might be some brief coverage of the story by them. I had no idea of what was about to happen.

Within two days, my photo and a not completely accurate series of articles implying that I was some crusty old retired colonel-type with bigoted attitudes to traditional grammar were to be found gracing the pages of all the national UK newspapers apart from The Sun. My inbox was pinging every few seconds with amused emails from friends spotting the online versions of these articles in far-flung places like America, Canada, Australia and various European countries. Before I knew it, I was being interviewed on the phone by the Canadian national broadcaster for a programme that turned out to be syndicated across the US as well.

“My god, you’ve just been on the six o’clock news!” exclaimed a neighbour. I found myself at one stage turning down a live interview with BBC Radio 5 live because I would be in charge of my grandchildren that morning, which would have made for quite a chaotic and interesting bit of audio.

One particularly interesting aspect was the different angles taken by the various papers. The first one I saw was a very long piece taking up most of a page in The Guardian. The writer had done his homework and everything in it was accurate and fair, also largely supportive and uncritical. The i newspaper also covered it accurately. The Express, meanwhile, tried to turn it into a council-bashing exercise, which actually was the complete opposite of the truth, because the council had been pleasantly supportive. The Mail, of course, homed in on house prices in the village, while the local paper in Southampton somehow dredged up an author who wanted to turn it into a culture wars item, calling me, whom of course he had never met, a “hectoring ignoramus”.

A friend in Ireland called to tell me that there were over 300 comments on The Times webpage, but it was behind a paywall and I sure as hell wasn’t going to give money to Rupert Murdoch. I tentatively asked if I was being trolled and was relieved to hear that nearly all the comments were supportive of correct apostrophe usage.

A quirk of Facebook is that messages can sometimes not appear immediately, so it was a few days later that I discovered a whole raft of communications from various publications and broadcasters around the world, all wishing to me to share my words of punctuation wisdom with them. Among them was, oh god, an invitation to appear on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s programme on GB News. Instead of replying that I would rather cut off my own head then be in the same room as that worm, I merely deleted the message and blocked the sender.

Anyway, all that stuff about lining budgies’ cages  and being today’s chip paper is absolutely true, because within 48 hours the entire thing had calmed down and blown away. The only reason I had been featured in the photographs in the first place was simply that the reporters arrived on a weekday, when everybody else was out at work. One thing I will say is that they did their job extremely well. They were exactly as you might expect reporters to be, young, slightly unfashionably-dressed guys, one with a spiral notebook and pen and the other contorting himself into various positions in order to get different angles on his camera. They certainly did a brilliant job in elevating an extremely small and mundane event into an international news story.

Me, I’m just happy that it turns out that Andy Warhol was right. Yes, even after fifteen minutes, people do stop me in the street and say “Oh, you’re that apostrophe guy”. 

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The History Of Automatic Dlamini

The History Of Automatic Dlamini

When John Parish joined Winchester new wave band Thieves like Us in 1979, the group thought they were getting a drummer. The nineteen-year-old from Yeovil had answered an advert in the Melody Maker and travelled up to St John’s Rooms in Winchester to audition. They had no idea that before long it would spell the end of the band, because John’s creative input and determination would immediately become so influential and upset the internal balance. Within weeks he was contributing his own songs and suggesting changes to the arrangements of existing ones, and it was already clear that this was going to be beginning of a long and productive career.

In 1981, after the record deal they signed turned out to have little value, the band split and John returned to Somerset with new, different ideas in mind. Browsing in WH Smiths in Yeovil, he was recognised and approached by drummer Rob Ellis, who worked behind the counter. Ellis had been impressed by the fact that John was one of a small handful of people from Yeovil to have appeared on a record (TLU’s Mind Made in 1980). The two became friends and formed a band called The Headless Horsemen. Initially, it was a six piece, including Mark Vernon on keys. Vernon later became PJ Harvey’s short-lived first manager, but the Headless Horsemen quickly settled into a format featuring Parish on vocals and guitar, Ellis on drums and Dave Dallimore on bass.

The trio gigged extensively in the Somerset and Dorset area and made a fine demo tape, three songs from which were featured on a South Of England compilation called Burnt Offerings. Standout tracks were a fairly straight version of the Beatles’ Drive My Car and an extraordinary slow song called Hopeless, whose sparse instrumentation and deep-thinking lyrics pointed to a way forward. The band’s only vinyl appearance was on the now-legendary 4-track Sheep Worrying EP (on a local label), which featured their song A Glimpse Of Heaven. Parish’s outfit of choice on stage in Headless Horsemen times was a bright red Spiderman jumper. He was an avid collector of Marvel comics. Also during this period, and for several years after, Parish was known by his nickname Scott Tracey, because of an alleged resemblance to the Thunderbirds character. Ellis, meanwhile, was known simply as Rabid. These names persisted well into Automatic Dlamini days, being used in official press releases, interviews etc.

In 1982, Parish wrote a song called Whose Business Is It Anyway?, in which he abandoned his guitar and instead, played drums and percussion along with Rob Ellis, and the two of them sang in harmony all the way through. The sound was very unusual and the song got an immediate reaction when played live (in venues such as Salisbury’s Cathedral Hotel). That song marked the genesis of the Automatic Dlamini sound and coincided with Dave Dallimore leaving the band to go travelling. Rather than continue as they had been, Ellis and Parish decided to start a new band with a whole new set of music that was based entirely round the sound of double drums and percussion, plus bass and vocals.

Initially just Parish and Ellis started work on the project as a duo.  Rob Ellis recalls, “There were a good few months after the end of Headless Horseman when John and I functioned basically as a recording-only two piece, and made a home 4-track cassette set of three or four songs, not limited by having to be performable live. We were very much inspired by our both loving The Dreaming by Kate Bush and the percussive and vocal and experimental abstract sound of that (which was a big factor in establishing the sound of Dlamini as it became). We actually sent the tape to Ms Bush at the time and received a lovely complimentary letter back from her!”

Their search for a bassist came up with Jamie Anderson (who’d been a guitar pupil of John’s) just in time for their debut performance, at the TDK Battle Of The Bands contest in Plymouth. Encouraged by the reaction (all the other contestants, apart from the winners obviously, opined that Dlamini should have won), the trio holed up in a rented cottage outside Crewkerne to “get it together” in the time-honoured tradition. Eventually, they had created enough material for a full set.

It was by no means a casual project, and it involved a great deal of hard work. John Parish’s reputation of determination and perfectionism was a deserved one. Jamie Anderson (who is now an estate agent in France but still plays music) remembers: “The idea was quite clever. John believed that a lot of people would not like either the sound or the look of the band, as it would be perceived as being too different at the time. If, on the other hand, we played everything perfectly every time, and the band was supremely tight, then people would feel comfortable with that and listen to what was being offered, and look at what was going on. We adopted that theory and found that, just by rehearsing to the level where we couldn’t get it wrong, we could carry an audience with us, that might otherwise have been hostile towards the band.”

When ruminating on what to call the band, Parish remembered a story which gave him an idea. “At the time, a friend of mine was working as a soil scientist in Swaziland, where Dlamini is a very common surname. Some of my friend’s co-workers had unusual first names, Automatic being one of them. He had a brother called Torquewrench. We just liked the sound of it.” 

The band looked and sounded unlike anything else around at the time, which enabled them to establish a strong local reputation. Parish/Tracey was stage front, leering rather frighteningly as he walloped his collection of ‘found’ percussion instruments, which included a Castrol can and a plough share, emphasising their bucolic environment. The bass was the only melodic instrument and innovative use of head microphones gave them freedom of movement on stage. Meanwhile, the harmonies were other-worldly and the stage outfits ever-more eye-catching (varying from track suit bottoms held up with braces over T-shirts to brightly coloured one-piece boiler suits). In this format, they gigged at venues such as the Antelope Hotel in Sherborne, before a major break in the form of an appearance on the Bristol TV arts show RPM. 

In 1983, Rob Ellis discovered the Wall Of Voodoo album Call Of The West and both he and Parish became obsessed with it. A friend of theirs knew Richard Mazda, the album’s producer, and offered to send him an Automatic Dlamini demo. A couple of months later, Mazda called Parish up out of the blue, said he loved the Automatic Dlamini stuff and offered to cut some demos with them at IRS studios in London, which he could blag for free, as he was associated with Miles Copeland at the time. Sadly, the masters of these recordings have been lost. “It’s a shame”, says Parish, “because I think these were some of the best recordings the original three-piece ever made. Those couple of days in the studio with Richard were also foundational for me as a producer and informed my understanding of what a producer could bring to a session”.

Over the next few years, the band continued playing shows, building a cult following around the south west, but never achieved a breakthrough. Recordings were issued sporadically. A song called I Don’t Want To Hurt My Father was included on a local compilation vinyl LP called Class Of ’83, which was memorably launched at a riotous party in Milborne Port. Their most prominent release was a four track 12” EP (The Crazy Supper EP), which was self-produced apart from Me And Judy, produced by Richard Mazda. They followed this up with a 7” single, I Don’t Know You But, again on their own DforDrum Records.

It was at this stage that the band flirted with the mainstream music industry. Jamie Anderson takes up the story: “After a gig in Taunton, we were introduced to Carlin Music by a management team that wanted to produce us. One session with them proved that we wouldn’t see eye to eye with them, but we had the deal. They gave us a creative manager called Kip Trevor, who was great fun and enthusiastic, but who wanted us to sound like Adam and the Ants. However, he agreed to sessions at Bram Tchaikovsky’s studio in Lincolnshire and sessions at Crescent, where we recorded the Crazy Supper EP. Kip used to try and visit during the sessions, much to John’s horror, so I got press-ganged into taking him to the pub. But it was the Carlin deal that enabled us to do the Crazy Supper and I Don’t Know You But… EPs.”

By 1986, band leader Parish was growing tired of the three piece drums/percussion/bass sound and wanted to introduce another instrument. Giles Smith, who was later to become a sports journalist and author of Lost In Music, joined on guitar and percussion and the first four-piece Dlamini show was at Yeovil College in December 1986. The line-up then went into a state of flux with Andy Henderson (later of Echobelly) replacing Rob Ellis, who went on sabbatical for six months. Jamie Anderson was replaced on bass by Ian “Olly” Olliver, a Yeovil musician who later went on to a career in the police force.

In April 1987, after years in fairly sordid and invariably freezing rented farm cottages, Parish, Ellis & Olliver all relocated to Bristol. A couple of months later, Giles Smith left the band and was replaced by Jeremy Hogg on guitar/slide guitar, whom Parish had met through Maria Mochnacz. Hogg was to become a long-term collaborator with Parish and indeed is still in the John Parish band today. Rob Ellis rejoined the band at the same time and the new four-piece line-up remained in place for the next year, issuing a 7” single called I Don’t Know You But …

With the help of Carlin Music, the band graduated to the Idea record label in 1987, issuing Me And My Conscience on 7” and 12“, followed the same year by the album The D Is For Drum, which collected together all the single/EP releases, plus four previously unreleased tracks. This was a vinyl-only album, self-produced apart from one song, Your Idea Of Heaven, produced by Richard Mazda.  The D Is For Drum was a high point for the band, being licensed to labels in Germany and Spain, and being renowned for the sprayed graffiti of the front cover, which will always be the emblem of Automatic Dlamini. The sleeve, designed by Rob Ellis and photographed by Maria Mochnacz, featured the now four-piece band cavorting in front of Bristol’s old prison gates on Cumberland Road. The painted album title was prominently visible on the gates for years to come.

By 1988, Rob Ellis had become unhappy with the guitar-led version of the band and decided to leave. Andy Henderson again returned to replace him and at the same time, the band was augmented by an 18-year old singer and saxophonist called Polly Harvey. She had been turning up at Dlamini shows in Dorset and presenting the band with cassettes of her songs. This represented a stylistic turning point. The first show of this short-lived line-up was in the summer of 1988 at the Moon Club in Bristol. After only a couple more shows, however, Olliver and Henderson left the band to pursue other interests, leaving Parish, Jeremy Hogg and Polly Harvey to form the core of Automatic Dlamini Mark 2 (1988-1991).

Dlamini had been invited to play in Warsaw and Berlin (where a German label had licensed the first album) in October 1988. As the shows took place behind the Iron Curtain, it wasn’t possible to take money out of Poland, so they decided to spend the fee on a recording session in Warsaw, where they recorded three songs, including Giraffe in Warsawa. This was an iconic song which arguably encapsulated the archetypal Dlamini sound, with strong vocals (Parish singing lead but Harvey beginning to make her presence felt in the background), loping, fragmented percussion and bizarre lyrics. It ended up on the unreleased Here Catch… album. On the Poland trip, they were joined by Jerome Ball from Parish’s old school band Godot (keys/drum programming/vocals).

After a series of auditions in early 1989, they finally settled on a new rhythm section consisting of Ben Groenevelt on bass and Japanese percussionist Ichiro Tatsuhara on drums. This line-up was arguably the strongest and certainly the most memorable of Automatic Dlamini’s career. They played frequently in1989, including a three-week tour of East and West Germany and a two-week tour of Spain, as well as many UK club dates, but, returning from a Spanish tour, they found themselves stopped by immigration. Drummer Tatsuhara, not having a valid visa, was immediately deported to France. It took several months for him to get the necessary papers to get back into the UK, and meanwhile, Dlamini had gone into Chris Baylis’s VM Studios in Oxford to record the second album, Here Catch Shouted His Father. Alan Hodgson from Oxford drummed on the first sessions, but Tatsuhara was back in time to drum on the later tracks.

The album was finished by early 1990, but they failed to find a label to put it out, so the band began to lose momentum. This seems an extraordinary state of affairs, when you consider the huge worldwide success to which the core of the band was to go on. It also makes little sense when you listen to the album, which is a thrilling combination of innovative songwriting and imaginative playing, but it’s a familiar tale in the music industry. Few people have heard the record other than in bootleg form.

For several years, John Parish had been developing his parallel career as a record producer, working with west country bands like The Brilliant Corners and The Chesterfields. Again though the Richard Mazda connection, he had become friends with Wall Of Voodoo, playing percussion on the Seven Days In Sammystown album. In early 1991, he joined Wall of Voodoo guitar player Marc Moreland’s new band The Ensenada Joyride, while Polly Harvey started putting together her own band with ex-Dlamini members Rob Ellis and Ian Olliver. This (with Steve Vaughan replacing Olly during its recording) was to become the original PJ Harvey trio which was to record Dry, and later Rid Of Me. For a while, the two bands existed alongside each other, as an extraordinary situation developed regarding record releases. The last show of Automatic Dlamini Mark 2 was on June 7 1991 in Stokes Croft, Bristol, but this wasn’t quite the end of the story.

In July 1991, Parish, Jeremy Hogg and Polly Harvey recorded three tracks at Press House Studio, with Mark Tucker engineering, for a radio session. All three songs ended up on the final Automatic Dlamini album, From a Diva to a Diver. The rest of that album was recorded in Yeovil in the latter part of 1991 by Parish and Hogg, with contributions from Harvey, Andy Henderson and Ian Olliver. The album was engineered by Martin (Bastie) Beresford, except for the three radio session songs by Mark Tucker. Meanwhile, other things were happening. Parish took a job as a lecturer at Yeovil College on a new Performing Arts BTEC course, and his classes were taught at the Ice House, which was the new studio opened by Dick Bullivant in Yeovil. Affectionately known as Head, he was and remains a vital part of the PJ Harvey camp, being in charge of her live sound to this day.

The previous album having failed to attain a release at all, Parish was determined this wouldn’t happen again, and went about finding innovative ways of getting it out to the public. His wife Michelle Henning came up with a stunning sleeve design. An old friend of Parish was running a publishing business for schools, so had access to CD duplicating facilities and was able to finance the manufacture. As for the parallel vinyl release, that was taken on by a local label based in Street, Somerset, run by Jon Mates and called Big Internation. Thus it was that From A Diva To A Diver was released on the Revilo/Big Internation labels in September 1992. It was a happy affair, because stocks sold out quickly, leading to re-pressings and no one being out of pocket. It was fitting that Automatic Dlamini should leave a final recorded legacy and it’s a product that everyone involved views with satisfaction.

A final version of the band toured to promote the record, doing several shows at venues such as The Gardens In Yeovil and the Bristol Bierkeller, supporting the PJ Harvey trio. PJH mania had already broken out and many in the audiences probably had no idea of the history of everyone involved. The shows were emotional affairs as Parish, Olliver and Ellis again shared the stage – but not necessarily in the same band! This five-piece Dlamini consisted of Parish, Jeremy Hogg and Elisa Young with Olly back on bass because, by now, he’d been replaced in PJ Harvey by Steven Vaughan. On drums was James Powell, Georgie Fame’s son, replacing Andy Henderson.

The remaining final dates weren’t a triumphant swansong. The last show was in late 1992 at the Louisiana in Bristol, but prior to that was a gig at the Kennington Cricketers in London, where there was a total of one paying customer. But far from being a sad end, it once again signalled a new beginning, and this time on an incomparably bigger scale. Parish started to write more abstract instrumental music, initially for college theatre productions, and that led to the Dance Hall at Louse Point collaboration between him and Polly Harvey in 1996. Since then, with a few ups and downs in between, they have been pretty much inseparable musical partners, producing seven PJ Harvey albums together and touring the world. Parish’s production career has gone from strength to strength, with albums for the likes of Eels, Tracy Chapman, Aldous Harding and many, many others. Plus he still has his own band with a new album in current production. Meanwhile, Rob Ellis, too, has gone from being PJ Harvey’s long-term drummer to carving out a distinguished production career in his own right, working with Anna Calvi, Marianne Faithfull and Placebo.

Asked what he had gained from his youthful days in Automatic Dlamini, Ellis gives a revealing answer: “I learned how to play drums loudly and as a feature in a band and actually hone my ability to play the drums and sing at the same time, which came in pretty useful later on in the PJ Harvey days. One thing I remember fondly is very early on, maybe at our first ever gig, we played at a party in someone’s garden and we did a cover of Human League’s Don’t You Want Me Baby with just drums, percussion, vocals and bass, with me and John doing the duet exchange. That was an amusing and inventive twist on the original version.”

The one remaining mystery is the Album That Got Away. The much-bootlegged Here Catch Shouted His Father has never received an official release (Cherry Red expressed interest but nothing came of it). When quizzed about this, Parish replies in typical fashion: “There are several reasons. I have so much stuff going on now that I’m really interested in, that I find it hard to commit any energy to something that for me is the distant past. Also, there are so many different people involved at different levels in the various Dlamini recordings – many of whom I lost touch with years ago – and trying to figure out the mechanics seems like way to much effort for something that feels done to me. Plus, any interest that a Dlamini compilation would spark now would be mainly because of Polly’s involvement – and I don’t think that’s fair on Polly, or me really!”

Always looking to the future and seldom backtracking – that’s John Parish in a nutshell.

Automatic Dlamini discography

Class Of ’83 – one song, I Don’t Want To Hurt My Father on compilation album, Rapp Records 1983

The Crazy Supper EP – DforDrum records 1986. 4 song 12” EP. 3 songs self produced, 1 song (Me and Judy) produced by Richard Mazda

I Don’t Know You But… B/W I’ve never been that colour anywhere before – DforDrum records 1987.  7” single  

Me And My Conscience B/W Me and My Conscience (family edition) 7” and 12” single – Idea Records 1987  (12” single also has two mixes of Love Smarts.)

The D Is For Drum – Idea Records 1987         (licensed to Ear-rution in Germany 1988, and Fly in Spain in 1989. Vinyl only album. Self produced except for two songs Your Idea Of Heaven and Black & White, produced by Richard Mazda

Johnny Pineapple B/W Whose Business Is It Anyway? Both produced by Richard Mazda – Unreleased 12” single – due to be released on Roustabout records in 1988, but distribution fell through at last moment.

Here Catch Shouted His Father – Unreleased (but much bootlegged) second album from 1990

From A Diva To A Diver – CD/Vinyl album. Big Internation/Revilo Records 1992

BoysGirlsMenWomen – flexidisc single. Big Internation 1992

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Denmark in Polly Pocket, 2022

Our journey started in the fun city of Harwich, quite a good place to embark from because it’s so horrible that you are glad to get away. The only place we could find to park up was a pub called The Castle and as I entered to announce our arrival, I could see that a very rowdy party had just arrived. We anticipated a dodgy evening but actually they all sat down to dinner and were very quiet. We had a classic English pub meal as a farewell and retired to Polly, who was parked up in the little pub car park with another couple of travellers. The £20 facilities were minimal to say the least, in stark contrast to what we were to experience in the next few weeks.

In the morning, the boat was surprisingly packed with rather pleasant Dutch families with young children. This must mean that Dutch families like coming to spend their holidays in England, quite a strange thought really. We immediately hit the motorways, which in Holland seem to have particularly frightening and unpredictable road markings, not to mention strange and dangerous traffic light sequencing. As usual, I was terrified because my motorway driving phobia is in the process of turning into something that affects me as a passenger as well as a driver. Luckily, Birgit is the world’s best driver, which helps a lot. Our target was the city of Delft, where we found a superb modern campsite situated next to a wildlife park in the suburbs. We feasted on tinned sausages and beans on toast and got stuck into to the magnificent DVD series Bates Motel, which was to occupy us for the next couple of weeks.

The next day was dedicated to exploring Delft, and extremely rewarding it was. Delft is an absolutely beautiful city with echoes of Bruges and Amsterdam. Attractive buildings front numerous canals and we managed to put in 15 thousand steps, including a tour of the Delft pottery. A fantastic river trip was conducted by a hilarious student who pointed out all the dents he had made over the years, even adding a couple as we chugged along. We sought out a gorgeous canalside pub for a sunny beer and even found a great Asian snack bar near the campsite. Birgit wanted croquettes and I wanted spring rolls and both were on the menu.

I had been slightly dreading the next day’s outing, which was the world-famous Keukenhof tulip display, but actually it was one of the highlights of the trip. What seemed like an expensive admission price actually turned out to be well worth the several hours we spent among the gorgeous blooms and beautifully cultured parkland. Then it was a long and tedious motorway drive to a tiny woodland campsite in a place called Overjissel, where we were the only guests. We hoped to get away with not paying because there was no one there, but a guy turned up in the morning to take my money. It was then that we identified a significant problem. As had happened in previous years, there was obviously some kind of gas leak and our first canister, which was supposed to last for about a month, was already completely empty. The only solution was for me to switch the actual canister on and off each time we cooked from then on. On the way to Birgit’s friend Gitti’s house near Bremen, we spotted a camper van dealer and stopped to ask his advice. His advice, while stroking his luxuriant beard, was, ”Forget it, you’re never going to find a canister like this anywhere in Germany and you will also never find anybody able to fill it, because the fittings are so unusual.” Oh well.

Gitti provided us with a lovely asparagus lunch on her mini-farm in the countryside before we had to hit the road again to Elmshorn, where we were to stay with my old school exchange teaching partner Gert. We weren’t sure how we would get on, because it had been a very long time since we had seen him and his wife Margrit, but they were extremely welcoming, allowing us to put all our stuff in their fridge and also do some washing. Having identified a camper van dealership in the area, we drove there in the morning and were greeted by the fully expected shaking of heads and negative response regarding anything we could possibly do to sort out the gas, so instead we bought a small gas stove that we could use if we were to run out.

This was our 41st wedding anniversary and we were determined to make it a good day. First we visited the futuristic Philharmonie building with panoramic views of the city, then had the compulsory ice cream, spent an hour in the warehouse museum and several hours in the incredibly brilliant Miniatur Wunderland model railway display. I promise it is much more exciting than it sounds. Birgit had her heart set on asparagus and steak for supper and my doubts about whether we would find such a thing were confounded by rounding a corner and finding a smart and delightful restaurant serving just that exact repast.

The next morning was initially spent in a supermarket stocking up on cheap beer and food before a long, wet and not particularly exciting drive to Tønder, just over the border in Denmark. The campsite was situated next to a leisure centre, where there was a bizarre gathering going on of people who go skiing together in the winter and caravanning together in the summer. As was the trend absolutely wherever we went, they all clustered round Polly Pocket, demanding to inspect her in intimate detail and expressing their jealousy despite their own huge and opulent mobile homes. “Please may we look inside?” was a familiar request almost every day.

The adjacent swimming pool provided a great location for a morning swim, prior to spending the day in the pretty town of Tønder, whose museum was outstanding and contained a tall tower full of designer chairs created by Hans Wegner, a famed furniture designer. There was also a display of quirky pottery with a Covid-19 theme. In the evening, confused to hear loud bass tones coming from somewhere, I investigated and found there was a country-rock gig going on in the leisure centre. It was sold out and anyway didn’t sound good enough to tempt me to spend the whole evening there, so instead, we self-indulgently snuggled down to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, something which I normally don’t confess to anybody, on account of concern about my street credibility. Now it has reached such a state of self-parody that watching it is almost a credible thing to do. It did go on upsettingly late, until way past my bedtime.

The next morning saw me taking a wallet that I found in the gents’ toilets on the campsite to the reception, where I was informed that the owner was in despair, having thought he had lost it forever. A few minutes later, he identified me, embraced me and insisted on giving us two bottles of wine by way of thanks. Would it have been too much for me to ask for white instead of red (as we don’t drink red)? I decided that would seem ungrateful.

Just near Tønder is the unspeakably beautiful village of Møgeltønder, where we admired the frescoes in the gorgeous church and the palace where Prince Joachim lived until recently. Nearby was the island of Rømø, on which we suddenly found ourselves driving across an enormous beach, where the sand is so compacted that vehicles can access it. We drove almost to the seafront, parked up and went for a long and invigorating walk.

The campsite we found was almost deserted and foolishly, we entered the attached restaurant, where we proved the truth of the adage that you should never buy a pizza from anywhere whose speciality is not pizza. It was outrageously expensive and piss-poor. The next morning saw a successful trip to the factory where they make Ecco shoes, although we did initially march straight into the administration building instead of the outlet shop. Like me, Birgit has foot issues and Ecco are the only shoes she can wear, so she was delighted to find a couple of pairs and stock up for a while. The rest of the day was spent in Ribe, Denmark’s oldest town, climbing the high cathedral tower, shopping and eating ice cream. It was a pretty place with a posh campsite where we could read and have a quiet evening.

The next stop was an absolutely delightful campsite in the sand dunes near Hvide Sande. It had an indoor and deserted swimming pool, where we swam every day for the next four days, because this had been planned as a longer stopover. On previous trips, Birgit had been subjected to having to drive far too often and far too far, so we had arranged to have extended stops at various points along the route. Supper was a magnificent German creation called Miracoli, which is spaghetti with tomato sauce and so-called secret spices. I created this in the luxurious kitchen which was available for all to use. This was a feature of every Danish site we went to, so civilised, so useful, so obvious when you think about it.

I certainly don’t plan to describe all our meals, but you can take it for read that virtually every day we had a Danish pastry in the afternoon and some form of tinned monstrosity in the evening (trying to save gas by not cooking potatoes or pasta). Every day we had long walks on the beach, through the dunes and the marshes, but by the fourth day it was starting to get chilly and on the final night it was extremely wet and windy, to the extent of keeping us awake, as the van rocked in the tempest. We had decided not to eat out very often, simply because we knew the Danish prices would be so high, at least for those on a UK pensioner’s income, but the following day we did have a fish and chip lunch in Glyngore, a pretty village and fishing port.

Now it was time to hit the most northern point in Denmark, the pretty city of Skagen. First we visited the amazing sunken Rujberg Knude lighthouse in the dunes, which had been physically picked up and moved a few hundred metres inland to stop it being engulfed by the sand. On reaching Skagen, we undertook a very long but beautiful walk on Grenen Strand, out to where the two oceans (Skagerrat and Kattegat) meet. It’s probably one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen.

Our first full day in Skagen was one of those days you can describe as perfect. Slightly grudgingly paying a high admission fee to an art gallery, we entered through the front door to be confronted by what appeared to be two Monet prints … except that we quickly discovered that they were in fact Monet originals. A couple of his most famous paintings, which rarely leave Paris (and when they do are only allowed to leave for a maximum of six weeks) were on display. We had amazingly pitched up in Skagen two days after they had started to be exhibited there. My breath was quite taken away and I stood and gaped at them for quite a long time.

In town we found a new ice cream shop that had just opened. We had already discovered that no café in Denmark sold either decaf coffee or English breakfast tea. As these are the only two hot beverages I drink, it was quite frustrating, but the delightful owner recommended me to try quince tea, which was delicious. On the campsite, we were able to hire bikes. Cycling facilities in Denmark are out of this world. Virtually every road will have a cycle track running alongside it. Inspired, we did a big bike tour out to the Sand-covered Church, yes, another place that had been threatened by encroaching dunes. While we are on the subject of identifying things that are particularly Danish, on most days we indulged in an ice cream. There are ice cream parlours on every corner and your ice-cream comes, if you ask for it, covered in some outrageously sweet gunk which is pink and appears to be melted marshmallow.

It is true that things like beer are extremely expensive, as are meals out, but I guess it’s all relative because the Danes earn on average £5,000 a month. Also, the beer is extremely strong so you don’t need many of them. As it turned out, I brought the full unopened packet of Alka-Seltzer I’d taken with me home untouched, because I drank so little and didn’t have a single hangover. The Danishness I’d expected was fully in evidence, everybody speaking perfect English, everybody being friendly and the environment being pristine (no litter anywhere) and absolutely no sign of any kind of deprivation. No wonder it’s claimed to be the happiest country in the world; the quality of living is higher than anything I’ve ever seen in any other country. Of one thing there was no evidence: multiculturalism. That was something we missed.

We parked our bikes outside one of the many harbourside seafood restaurants and tucked into to a glorious repast of mussels, shrimps and langoustines. If we were going to eat out, we were going to do it in style, even though (another surprising bit of Danishness) you had to order and collect your food at the bar, like in an English pub. With that in mind, and to round off the evening, we sought out the nearest Skagen had to a dodgy pub, in which I indulged in a local liquor shot, which was passed out through the window. Entering the pub was less pleasurable because it was full of smokers. Yes, smaller pubs in Denmark allow smoking, even though the population looks startlingly healthy. It was actually rather frustrating, because many of the corner taverns looked very appealing, but we were unable to enter them.

Overnight and all the next day it was horribly wet and windy, again keeping us awake overnight. In Skagen there are houses of famous artists from the Skagen school which you can visit, so we did that, seeking out Anchers Hus and Drachmanns Hus. They were charmingly quaint places but we got completely drenched going from one to the other. At this stage there was little to be gained from staying where we were, so we moved to another local campsite which we spotted had a swimming pool and splashed around in there for a while, completely alone. In the rain, we retreated to the van and watched a film we had been lent called The English Patient, which we found unbearably tedious and pretentious, despite the many Oscars it claimed to have won. Yes, we had finished Bates Motel and to my horror I realised there were two further series that I had failed to buy. Instead, we moved on to a German series called Charité, which was absolutely great.

The inclement weather persisted the next day as we moved on to Ebeltoft via some dramatic and exciting Viking graves which, like many historical attractions, were free to visit. We ended up on a campsite which was actually not the one that we had planned to visit but the adjacent one, which was sadly far more expensive. It was, however, very scenic and we were able to park overlooking the ocean and sit on a small pier sipping aperitifs on a bench as a fisherman unsuccessfully cast his line multiple times with no result. That night, once again, we were buffeted by very high winds

There was an attraction in Ebeltoft which I only entered because I knew Birgit would like it, but in fact was completely blown away by the glass museum. Here we were able to watch glass being blown and experienced some outstandingly brilliant glass artworks. This place and its adjacent frigate ship Jelland, which we also visited, set a trend at the other end of the scale from the free admission attractions. It makes you realise how lucky we are in the UK to not pay for entering museums and art galleries. In the space of 24 hours we paid enough admission fees to cover an annual National Trust subscription.

That night saw us arrive in the city of Aarhus, where we had chosen a campsite situated at the end of the futuristic light railway system that has recently been built. It was so wet on our walk to the tram stop that we had to cower under umbrellas and some bushes for fifteen minutes, getting splashed by passing cars, but it was all worth it because the Aros modern art museum was sensational. So too was the pleasant Latin Quarter, where we were privileged to enter the beautiful cathedral while rehearsals were going on for an organ concert, which meant we got the whole caboodle for free. The guidebook told us about something very unusual in Denmark, namely a restaurant that was both cheap and good. Indeed, the only way to get into it was to pitch up at 5pm and get into a queue. This place was called Olinico and we had the most sensational three course meal for less than we would have spent in the UK, sitting smugly as customer after customer was turned away for not having got there in time.

We drove on the next day to the attractive town of Silkeborg (where the museum featured Tollund Man, a rather likeable bog-preserved warrior with a mysterious past) and boarded the world’s oldest steamboat for a long lake and river cruise. It included a stop-off at Denmark’s highest hill, which was actually not very high at all but still took quite a bit of puff to reach the summit. The campsite just outside Silkeborg offered a great day to do a bit of lazing around and chatting to neighbours. We took a chance and set off on a gorgeous walk through the woods down to the idyllic lake and wandered among the millionaires’ mansions. There must be a lot of extremely rich people in Denmark, including the kind lady who was working in her garden when we stopped to ask for directions. She’d been married to an Englishman who obviously was successful in business. On their divorce, she was left enough money to buy her lakeside mansion outright. When I commented that it must have cost a million or two, she merely replied, “A lot more than that”.

The next stop was Yelling, where KIng Harald Bluetooth established the Christian monarchy around 900. In Yelling, you find the runes declaring his rule. We were to hear a great deal more about Harald Bluetooth and his various relatives in the coming days, as we visited a number of different Viking sites, something we felt was essential on any visit to Denmark. As the weather was poor, we spent the afternoon in a castle (Ekeskov Slot) which looked as though it was going to be a theme park, an idea at which I bridled. It actually turned out to be brilliant, containing huge exhibitions of vintage cars, a slightly intimidating maze (where I got completely lost) plus a treetop walk with which to engage with my vertigo issues.

The next day was spent entirely in the van as it was so wet. It was a pity because we were right on the seafront and should have had a great view of the Storebælt Bridge. Instead, we stayed in and watched the appropriate Bridge Of Spies on DVD, before creating a rather sophisticated egg salad in the camp kitchen. The following day was not a particularly good one. We drove through hail and thunder, sheltering in the excellent Viking ship museum at Ladby before deciding, because of the weather, to enter the Hans Christian Andersen museum in Odense. This was our only major disappointment as tourists in Denmark, because it was poor quality and outrageously expensive. Some tech-obsessed nerds had somehow managed to squeeze all the joy out of the fairy tales and the whole thing was just a massive bummer (as I said in my Trip Advisor review. I only do those if somewhere has been either exceptionally great or spectacularly awful).

We drove on through the monsoon on the motorway, not doing my phobia any good at all. We took the decision to move on to another campsite simply because it had an indoor pool. I cooked another dose of MIracoli in the kitchen and we watched a sexy film called The Reader with Kate Winslet, which was quite good but we were still cold and feeling fed up. We were beginning to have issues with the electrical hook-up, which is very important because it enables us to watch films and keep things cold in the fridge. Using gas for this wasn’t an alternative because of our gas supply issues, so one way and the other, Polly Pocket’s technology seemed to be letting us down. This was making me feel quite anxious because I am a technical dunce and couldn’t do anything about it. For the next few days we battled with the electrical issues before eventually realising that we had simply been very unlucky and plugged in to defective mains supplies at two camp sites running. So it wasn’t Polly’s fault at all!

We spent much of the next day wandering rather aimlessly round a woodland sculpture park, which was actually fun and intermittently impressive, although completely random. Another absolutely outstanding museum was the so-called Welfare Museum in Svendborg. This was situated in the town’s poorhouse, which amazingly had only closed down in 1974. With clear and detailed information and exhibits, a logical layout and strong human interest aspects, this museum was the best of the entire trip and certainly put the Hans Christian Andersen place into perspective. We repaired to the super-hip harbour area, where I fulfilled my long-overdue ambition to consume the enormous prawn open sandwich I’d been dreaming of, accompanied by some super expensive craft beer, while we lounged on deck chairs on an artificial beach. 

The next morning it was time to finally cross the Storebælt Bridge that we had been observing from afar for so many days, and pay a mere £30 for the privilege. In Trelleborg, on the other side, there was an excellent Viking fortress where we spent several hours before arriving at a quiet family campsite and continuing to battle with the electricity issues, observed with some interest by the weekend campers. Many of the sites we stayed on were almost entirely filled with people who have their caravans there permanently and treat them as weekend homes. The bigger campsites were visited more by people like us, travelling off-season in mobile homes and normally parking up just for one or two nights. These vans are invariably two, three or even four times the size of Polly Pocket and we are always dwarfed by them.

Other than that, though, the other travellers, who were almost entirely either Dutch or German, showed very little sign of wanting to interact with us or anybody else. It’s a slightly strange world that I really wish could be a bit more friendly. You stand next to complete strangers doing the washing up and the only response you get to any cheerful remarks you might make is the odd grunt. One of the more surreal experiences is when you line up in the morning awaiting your turn to pour your piss into the chemical waste pit. The amount of urine some people can generate in a night is astonishing. In my typically paranoid way, I convinced myself that the unfriendliness was a Brexit knock-on and went out of my way to be ultra-friendly and communicative, but received very little in response. Almost all the mobile home owners travelling out of season are pensioner couples, some of whom don’t seem to address a word to each other all day. In the main, it was more fun to be on the smaller family campsites populated by Danish people, who at least would always nod in a friendly manner and say hi.

What about the British travellers, you ask? There weren’t any. In the five and a half weeks we were on the road, we didn’t see or meet a single UK tourist.

The Roskilde music festival in 2000 was hit by a tragedy in which nine people were crushed to death during Pearl Jam’s set, but the Ragnarock music museum oddly doesn’t mention it. We spent a fun couple of hours in there learning about Danish music history, of which I knew little. The festival re-creation was unconvincing to say the least. More exciting on balance was the huge Roskilde Cathedral, where all the Danish kings and queens are buried. What a bunch of reprobates! Nearly all of them were alcoholics who frequented prostitutes.

Now it was time to visit the island of Møn, which is dotted with frescoed churches, several of which we entered and marvelled at the eccentric and sometimes quite brutal artworks on the ceilings. Every day in Denmark, we passed several of what we called Lego churches, which seemed to have been mass-produced to a single design and simply plonked in each village. The only place in Denmark that features cliffs, white cliffs indeed, is Møns Klimt. In order to appreciate them, we had to first walk down 500 steps and then somehow get back up them. This was pretty exhausting but we had a good sense of achievement when we managed it without being too out of breath.

The campsite we had chosen in the very dull town of Sakskøbing turned out to be pretty rough and ready, but it was all we needed. Every town in Denmark has several Turkish pizza grill establishments and we felt the time had come to try one. In the town square there was a very pleasant and refreshingly cheap one, where I asked for gorgonzola on my pizza. The chef must have taken my request rather enthusiastically because it came with immense globules of gungy cheese which proceeded to give me horrific nightmares all night.

We had intended to spend the following day doing washing and general admin but as the washing machine on the campsite was predictably out of order, we instead decided to explore the island of Lolland, which turned out to be a fine decision. The town we chose was called Maribo, in which we found a gorgeous lake, a beautiful cathedral and a very nice coffee shop. In the tourist office a kind lady recommended two places nearby. One of them was frankly incredible: the Dodecalith standing stones, a gigantic installation of granite structures and electronic music positioned overlooking the sea in a slightly elevated position in a huge wheat field. We had frankly never experienced anything like it and were quite overcome with emotion. On the way home we popped into the Krenkerup brewery, a craft beer establishment attached to a castle, featuring delicious and mainly pretty potent concoctions. We sat outside in the courtyard in blazing sunshine and sampled several of the beers. The only downside of this brilliant day was being beaten at Møbi for the 8th time in succession in the evening.

We were due to leave Denmark the following morning and I found myself feeling quite tearful, because I had grown so attached to so many aspects of this beautiful country. However, things quickly deteriorated when I foolishly checked my online banking and found that British Gas had deducted £550 and was threatening to do so every month from now on. After a sleepless night freaking about this, I decided eventually to ring them and, after hanging on for half an hour, embarrassingly discovered that the whole fiasco was entirely my fault because I had submitted a wrong meter reading. My relief was tempered by acknowledgement of what an idiot I had been.

Feeling reassured, we boarded the car ferry to Puttgarden (Germany) and drove through the Schleswig-Holstein countryside, stopping in slightly down-market Grömitz for an ice cream and a walk on the promenade. This was enlivened by Birgit’s ice cream being snatched from her hand by a huge, aggressive seagull.  The normally reliable sat nav took us, via three other wrong ones, to a very hard-to-find campsite near Neustadt in Holstein, where we finally got the washing done and Birgit had her long-awaited sauna. Again there were problems, because I was supposed to take the washing out and put it in the dryer, but sadly I hadn’t understood where the washing machine was. The one I found was empty and I convinced myself (why?) that someone had stolen all my pants and socks. When I suggested this possibility to the receptionist, she flew into quite a rage and shouted at me for not paying attention. The washing was eventually found in a completely different building from the one where I had been looking. For dinner we were down to Lidl canned soup and super noodles.

The campsite was prettily placed near a sandy beach, where we spent a genuine holiday day lounging around and watching people rather unsteadily paddle boarding and kayaking. I was determined, before we left Germany, to dine in a Greek restaurant (they’re everywhere) so we set off for Neustadt in Holstein, a pretty harbour town, where to our amazement we found ourselves parked up directly in front of a beautiful such establishment, where we were able to indulge ourselves in meat and beer in the evening sunshine before wandering over to a local brew pub to round things off.

Just about five weeks after setting off, the next day was to be our final one camping in Germany. Wishing to indulge in a nostalgia trip to my old student haunts in Schleswig-Holstein fifty years previously, I had expressed a desire to visit Plön, a beautiful town set on a series of giant lakes and crowned with the most spectacular castle. It wasn’t without its difficulties because when we found an ice cream shop, we discovered that, along with many establishments in Germany, it didn’t take credit cards. Then, when pitching up for a boat trip around the lake, we were inevitably told the same thing, which meant a long jog back into town to a cash machine and catching a much later boat. Still, it was idyllic, and the beautiful day was rounded off by catching a performance by a trombone orchestra consisting of around 200 members rehearsing in the castle grounds.

From there it was non-stop socialising with family and old school friends in Bremen before heading back onto the very crowded, lorry-filled motorways which took us to Hoek van Holland and the end of Polly’s sixth European trek. On the whole she behaved pretty well and we managed to get home without having exchanged a single harsh word, which we felt was quite an achievement.





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Chuck Prophet And The Mission Express

I know plenty of people who claim that Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express are the best live band in the world, and it’s something I’d find it hard to argue with. There are certain bands that you can see again and again and never grow tired of, and the Mission Express certainly fit that description. I’ve seen them more than thirty times, often doing very similar sets, yet the excitement never wanes. The current line-up features, from left to right, Stephanie Finch on keyboards, James DePrato on guitar (depending on the stage configuration, he might either be to the right or left of the front man). At the back is drummer Vicente Rodriguez and next to him, always at the rear of the stage, never the front, is bassist Kevin T. White. Front and centre will always be Chuck Prophet but he will always be in a line with the others, never projected forward as the traditional front man. To his audiences, he will always be the supreme entertainer. When I first came across the Mission Express, it was a different line-up. On rhythm guitar was the affable Tom Heyman, the drummer was Todd Roper from the band Cake, but the other three were in place. A Mission Express without Kevin T. White is simply unthinkable, his bass playing being the anchor which holds together the music. A beatific smile permanently on his features and a signature pork pie hat forever on his head, Kevin is the bedrock of the Mission Express, the kind of person you trust with your life. He lives outside San Francisco with his delightful wife Lisa and plays with countless other bands. When the Mission Express is off the road, he’s in permanent demand. Vicente is the drummer who succeeded a series of previous incumbents, who in recent years have included Kyle Caprista and Paul Taylor. Vicente has survived numerous world tours and now is as much of a Mission Express institution as Kevin and second guitarist James de Prato. James is a model of professionalism and his massive stage presence has helped develop some of the Mission Express’s finest songs into irresistible Thin Lizzy-style twin lead workouts. Stephanie Finch is often referred to as the power behind the music. She tends to have her keyboard positioned at right angles to stage front, which enables her to keep an eye on what is going on and crucially, to be ready at any moment to interact with her husband’s stage activities. She tends to look quite serious and inscrutable but she’ll suddenly burst into the most glorious smile when something particularly musically infectious occurs. I’ve never encountered a greater front person than Chuck Prophet. I knew I was going to like him just on the basis of his name, which encapsulates the coolness which he naturally possesses. How can we describe him? With the excellent hair that all rock stars require, a seemingly casual yet perfect wardrobe sense, a unique and expansive sense of humour plus, of course, towering guitar playing ability, he holds the eye of the audience riveted throughout any set. You wouldn’t say he has a brilliant voice in a conventional rock sense, yet he sings in a way that could never be mistaken for anybody else. A typical Mission Express set will be close on two hours and will normally feature about 50 percent new songs from whatever album the band is touring at the time. They tend to release an album every two years and tour around the world twice for each release. The remaining songs will be Prophet classics, selected according to his mood. The only two that are more or less guaranteed to be played are Summertime Thing and You Did, both featuring the guitar pyrotechnics for which Chuck is renowned and revered. How to describe them? Well, they’re made from his trademark slightly battered Telecaster and the soloing seemingly owes no debts to any guitar style that has gone before, no blues clichés, no twiddly-diddly rock showing off, just the perfect spattering of notes in a way that beguiles the audience and hits the soul in a deeply satisfying way. Sure, he sweats, jerks and grimaces like all good lead guitarists should, but not in a way that is in any way derivative or inviting comparison with anyone else. Unlike many in his position, fronting a band that plays his own compositions, Chuck is funny. Some in the audience are there to connect with his stories and pronouncements almost as much as for the music. No two nights will ever be the same, but certain institutions can never be omitted, such as the warning before You Did that anyone with a weak heart condition should leave the room before the song commences. My favourite Chuck show-opening gambit was from the Temple Beautiful tour, where he would leap on stage, cast his eye around whatever inevitably seedy venue they were performing in, and pronounce, “It’s great to be back in (insert the venue name). If these walls could speak they’d say … ‘Clean me, it’s f****** dirty in here’”.
Our shows with Chuck Prophet however have never been entirely straightforward. The first time we put him on at the Railway, the show was marred by the presence of a complete maniac in the audience. We had over-filled the venue and this guy was pressed right against the low stage at the front, straight in front of Chuck. I remember him being a small bloke, dressed incongruously in a black suit. He decided to spend the entire evening heckling, not necessarily in a nasty way but shouting incomprehensible stuff into Chuck’s face throughout the set. Not being used to such behaviour, we had no security in place and I had to dispatch my brave wife to lure this guy away from the front and get him out of the room, whereupon the landlord ejected him into the car park.
Another day I remember with mixed feelings was a “double show”, during which the Mission Express played two shows in one day at the same venue. A friend told me that some close friends of his were getting married that day and that their greatest wish would be to bring all their guests to the afternoon show. It sounded like a great idea, but what I hadn’t realised was that a lot of drinking had already gone on before they arrived. Some of the guests were quite rowdy, but Chuck coped with it all in true professional style, inviting the happy couple on stage to waltz through a rendition of “Then He Kissed Me”. Truth to tell, the bride was paralytic, and before long, she was annoying members of the audience, and one in particular who confronted her. I feared a wedding brawl was about to break out, but Birgit, peacemaker supreme, managed to defuse it. The audience member demanded a refund, which I granted with painful reluctance.
I don’t know what it is with Chuck, but when we put him on in a venue in Southampton, something awful happened. After the show, his priceless notebook containing lyrics, notes, set lists and other vital material was stolen from the stage. It absolutely ruined an otherwise happy evening and Chuck, of course, was devastated. I was certain that it would never be returned but amazingly, two weeks layer, someone slipped into the venue and left it on the bar in a plain package. The relief was overwhelming. I guess the person who took it had a conscience after all or maybe had just been drunk and realised what a stupid and cruel thing it had been to do.
It was at yet another Chuck show, this time in the Talking Heads in Southampton, that we nearly had our first murder. The support act was Bob Frank and John Murry, performing, appropriately, a set of murder ballads. Chuck had a particularly stern tour manager, who decided that Bob and John were over-running. Tactlessly, he simply pulled the plug on them, even though they were going down a storm. Within moments, John Murry had the roadie up against the wall with his hands round his throat. Of course he was pulled off but what were we to make of it? Well, uncharacteristically, I sided with John. He’d been unprofessionally treated and was also (though I didn’t know it at the time) in the throes of a terrible heroin addiction. Now that John is my friend, a friendly, peaceful, unaddicted and fiercely intelligent artist, we laugh about it, but it was hairy for a moment!
The reason for this series of shows in Southampton was an attempt to increase the size of the audience. The Railway was filled to capacity but every time we did a show in Southampton in a bigger venue, the numbers stubbornly refused to go up. That’s why we eventually ended up doing the two shows in one day at the Railway. The final Southampton show was the one I remember with least pleasure. In the dressing room, the band was accompanied by a hanger-on who was taking photographs. In contrast to the charming band members, this person behaved in a demanding manner, ordering a bottle of red wine on my tab without asking me and complaining bitterly when they ran out of milk for tea, claiming I had not provided enough. That might have been true but there was a small convenience store just a few paces away and it might have been simpler just to go and buy a bottle of milk rather than kicking up a fuss. Then, unbelievably, there was yet another maniac in the audience, this time a young guy who was over-enthusiastically dancing around and knocking into people. One of my regulars came up to me in an absolute rage demanding that I do something about it or he would sort it out himself. From the look in his eye, I assumed a brawl would be in the offing, but in the nick of time, the ever-professional Chuck engaged the troublemaker in conversation and ended up actually handing over his acoustic guitar for the guy to strum a few chords on it mid-set. As audience interaction goes, that was a hard one to beat.
Normally the band stay at our house but Chuck and Stephanie prefer hotel accommodation, fully understandable and very sensible. Not even that has always been straightforward, though. On the occasion when Stephanie Finch and the Company Men played at the Railway, we emerged after a beautiful musical evening to find that it had been snowing outside during the performance. Chuck and Stephanie’s hotel was the Travelodge in Eastleigh, to where Birgit managed to transport them, just before the blanket of snow would have made it impossible. In the morning I drove over to collect them for breakfast, my small car slipping and sliding all over the road and threatening to crash into trees. I’m not sure how we made it. The result was an extended stay and a cancelled show the next day, as road conditions were so poor that it would have been dangerous to travel.
Normally we would put the couple up in a nearby B and B in the village, a typical chintzy establishment, no doubt with nylon sheets and comprehensive rules and regulations. Anything less American would be hard to imagine, especially the rule that breakfast had to be completed by 9 a.m. This was quite unreasonable for people who had been energetically performing music till late the previous evening, but the stern landlady remained steadfast. She had met her match in Chuck Prophet however, who treated her to his opinions in uncensored language, vowing never to darken her door again. She, in turn, contacted me, assuring me that she would never again put up any rude Americans. In the end I took her some flowers and we called a truce.
I thought I would make up for this by putting the couple in a really nice hotel when they came as a duo to play at my 70th birthday party. Surely nothing could go wrong this time, but it did. Having spent two hours doing a comprehensive soundcheck, just before they went on stage somebody tripped over the lead to the mixing desk and all the settings were lost. To say that they were upset would be an understatement, but as professionals they were of course quite right to be peeved and the show went on with nobody in the audience realising the drama.
When the Mission Express toured with Willy Vlautin as support, they discovered in the morning that their van had developed a serious fault which would make it dangerous to attempt to drive up the motorway to their next gig. This meant that I spent the day with Willy Vlautin, wandering round the environs of an auto repair shop in Fareham, cementing a friendship that has lasted for many years. That was a good result. It also meant that yet again, the next day’s gig was unavoidably cancelled.
We thought we’d be hosting Chuck and band again later this year, but would never have dreamed that he’d fall ill and have to cancel all his dates until recovery. But his doctor said it would be fine for him to play a few shows in Austin while I was there in March with my friend Paul. We decided to take the opportunity to follow the band around for a day – this wasn’t creepy, by the way, just an opportunity to catch some great music. Few artists inspire admiration and loyalty like Chuck, and the air was filled with emotion, a mixture of joy and sympathy. The afternoon show was at Lucy’s Fried Chicken on South Congress. The band members were beaming with nervous happiness and Chuck himself, despite a hint of frailty, was exploding with his usual energy and good humour. During “Wish Me Luck”, tears were flowing round the room but one thing I knew for sure: Chuck would treat his recovery with the same determination as this performance and would be back.
Now things became even more surreal as we scootered to a house concert held in the garden of a multi-millionaire businessman, whose house was named The Castle. Indeed it was a castle, with a full stage in the garden. It felt like a scene out of some Netflix movie, as servants flitted discreetly around, firepits crackled beneath the uplit palm trees and, most worryingly, mysterious men in black suits sat in sinister groups, speaking an unidentified language. This was a rare outing for the Mission Express cabaret set (no You Did, but a sublime Summertime Thing), which was performed with good humour to an audience of largely disinterested non-music lovers. What an extraordinary experience.
Their third show of the evening was held down the road at C-Boys. The doorman tried to extract 25 bucks from us, so we went to Saj, the Pakistani owner of the adjacent food truck, who simply opened the side gate and let us in, in exchange for us purchasing some of his excellent falafels. On the minuscule stage, Chuck and the Mission Express, seemingly indefatigible, laid waste to a wild audience, climaxing with a mind-boggling version of “Willie Mays Is Up At Bat” featuring Charlie Sexton on third guitar. Seldom has any musical experience ever felt so intense.
Photo: Paul Dominy

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DETENTION

Published on September 7, my new book is a light-hearted education memoir with dark elements, which will “ring bells” for many readers. It shows how I endured:
– a troubled adolescence in a minor private school
– heady days at university in the Swingin’ Sixties
– eventful spells teaching in Europe
– an illicit affair
– dark and bright days in a UK comprehensive
– a dramatic career change
and lived to tell the tale.

Pre-order the paperback here at the introductory price of £9.99:





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Order Citizen Of Europe stickers

Show where you stand by sporting this 14 cm diameter colour glossy bumper sticker. If you don’t want to sully your vehicle’s paintwork, they are also ideal for luggage, instrument cases, laptop bags etc, etc. This is a non-profit sale and the price of £3.00 includes UK postage. Click here – you don’t need a Paypal account, just use your credit or debit card if you don’t have Paypal. Ironically I can’t ship to Europe, as it is too expensive! Please tell any of your friends that they can order here too. Best to send them the direct link to here as it might be difficult to find otherwise. Thanks!





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Order Citizen Of Europe badges

Show where you stand by sporting this lapel badge (one inch colour button badge). This is a non-profit sale and the price of £2.50 includes UK postage. Click here – you don’t need a Paypal account, just use your credit or debit card if you don’t have Paypal. Ironically I can’t ship to Europe, as it is too expensive! Please tell any of your friends that they can order here too. Best to send them the direct link to here as it might be difficult to find otherwise. Thanks!





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Why I Am A European

Why I Am A European
My father was a linguist and used his skills in the Intelligence Corps during the war to help defeat the Nazis. I was born in 1948 and from quite a young age, I always remember meeting people from other European countries. My mother had taken in Polish refugees in Scotland during the war and I remember a particular friend of my parents called Oki, who owned a Polish restaurant in London where we would occasionally go. He gifted me a set of Russian dolls which I found completely fascinating.
When we moved to the Cotswolds when I was four, various neighbours had au pairs from Switzerland, France, Austria and Germany. We couldn’t afford au pairs but somehow they gravitated to our house, possibly because Father could speak to them in their languages. This meant that my parents made many much-loved friends in Europe, even though they didn’t travel much themselves, and these lovely people would always visit us when passing and send us Christmas gifts.
When I started secondary school, I was mediocre in most subjects but immediately took to languages. I have a very strong memory of my French teacher, whose nickname was Prune. He would write declensions and conjugations on the blackboard at extraordinary speed and it was noticeable that I enjoyed copying then down and learning them while most of my classmates didn’t. As soon as it was possible to take up a second language, I opted for German and immediately realised that I would be destined to do something with this language in my adult life. There was something so orderly, respectable and logical about the language and I loved it even when I had to move to a different teacher, a tiny gentleman call Willie Waters who shared Prune’s lightning blackboard skills but had a short temper. I just found it easy and very satisfying to make progress, even through the A-levels which entailed painstaking word-by-word analysis of extremely tedious works by Goethe and Schiller.
In my mid-teens, Father took me to France with the intention of encouraging my linguistic tendencies. We stayed in a small hotel in a town called Mantes-La-Jolie outside Paris, where I was supposed to make friends with the proprietor’s son. I actually didn’t get on particularly well with him but was completely entranced by the other-worldliness of this country with its different architecture, customs and cuisine. Later on, I was sent on a summer course in Tours in the Loire valley, where I got my first minor taste of an adult experience, meeting people from a range of different countries. I stayed with a sweet family who were incredibly kind and generous to me in every way. This was where I learnt to be consistently outward-looking throughout my entire adult life. Although I happen by chance to have been born British, I have never had nationalistic feelings at all. Having been privileged to travel so much, I just adore the various cultures.
The following summer brought a completely life-changing exchange visit to a small town called Schöningen, right on the East German border. I was able to see the armed DDR guards and the border wall at close hand and form the clear opinion that cutting oneself off from other countries for ideological reasons was a terrible, inhuman thing to do. The way I was welcomed in Schöningen was absolutely wonderful. Everybody was bursting with hospitality and friendliness and I made numerous lifelong friendships with people like Detlev, Brigitte, Christa and Knut. Of course I ended up studying languages at university, where many of the lecturers were from France or Germany. The course was actually called European studies, a very early example of such a concept, and more and more I came to feel more European than British. This was solidified during the most fantastic ‘year abroad’ in the Baltic sea port of Kiel, where I made yet more lifetime friends like Jochen, Ilse and Albrecht. I loved it so much that I went there for another year after completing my degree.
I very much wanted to stay on but this was in pre-EU days and my qualifications wouldn’t have been recognised. Therefore I returned to the UK to do a PGCE teaching certificate and, as soon as that was completed, hightailed it back to Germany, where I was privileged to teach English for three years in a state grammar school. Once again, the way I was received was full of warmth and hospitality. I have to say I loved every minute of it and have remained close friends with colleagues and ex-pupils – in fact so close that I ended up marrying one particular ex-pupil nearly forty years ago. During this period, a colleague and I spent each holiday hitch-hiking round Europe, visiting a total of nine countries and marvelling at our freedom to do so without hindrance. The only exception was Berlin, where my (now) wife and I had to split up and use different ways into the East, because she was German and I was English. Never in a million years would we have dreamt that, forty years later, an extremist regime would once again inflict this indignity on us, and that that regime would be a British one.
I was now intending to make my life and career in this very orderly and friendly society, but at the end of the three years, a political situation grew up and, even though by then we had entered the EU, it was possible for the authorities to terminate my contract and hand it to a German national. Not even thousands of people protesting on the streets were able to change this, and a return to the UK was the only option.
Back in the UK, I landed on my feet in a major way by ending up in a school whose head teacher was a linguist who was utterly committed to the European ideal. Languages were a very important part of the curriculum and for over twenty years I taught in that comprehensive school where all the pupils were very open-minded and there was never the slightest trace of any anti-European feelings. Part of my duties entailed taking annual exchange visits to Germany, and to this day I regularly get ex-pupils telling me that it was one of the most important events of their young lives. We even took a large group to Paris each year and their wide eyes and smiles showed how much they enjoyed and appreciated being exposed to a new culture. I was able to spend a blissful term teaching in a secondary school in France on an EU-organised teacher exchange programme. There I had the same experience as when I taught in Germany: well-behaved, polite and enthusiastic pupils, unhindered by things such as ridiculous uniforms and an excellent social mix, because private, fee-paying schools are almost unknown. There was a great international mix, too, with a good proportion of Portuguese and North African pupils, all speaking perfect French.
Eventually, I quit teaching because my little publishing company had become quite successful. Every single aspect of that company was European, creating reading, listening and speaking resources that enabled so many ex-pupils again to tell me, when I met them in the street, how they were able to communicate on holiday and how much they adored visiting various European countries and being part of them, because of course by then the UK was a full member of the EU. Naturally, both our children are bilingual and massive fans of everything European, particularly their German family and French food!
I know a certain amount about the culture of most European countries but I know most about Germany. What sets that country apart from the UK is that it’s an almost entirely egalitarian society, structured so that few people earn vastly more than others, and there’s a very strong sense of social responsibility in matters such as the environment and education. The gigantic social gaps that are found in this country don’t exist in the same way, and there’s very little in the way of what we know as our class system. No wonder, then, that I am attracted to that kind of society and repelled by the kind of government this country currently has in place, presiding internally over obscene inequality and externally over policies of isolationism and xenophobia.
At the moment, of course, people are naturally concerned about the effects of Brexit on the level of the economy and their personal day-to-day well-being, worried about food shortages, increased bureaucracy, transport issues, pet passports and goodness knows what else. Of course I am worried about these things too, but I hope I have shown above that the most hateful aspect of Brexit is the arrogance and snobbishness that looks down its nose at foreigners. If any Brexiteer tells you “I’m not a racist”, it’s almost certain that he or she is lying or self-delusional. Go on any forum and ask them to explain what advantages will be gained from Brexit and they are completely incapable of coming up with any, other than meaningless platitudes about “sovereignty”, which they can’t explain. It’s nationalism, plain and simple. They are perfectly happy to be ruled over by unelected bureaucrats, as long as they are British unelected bureaucrats. They have no problem at all with the House Of Lords and the Monarchy so yes, they are racist, even though they may not recognise it in themselves. So, for me, it’s all on a personal level rather than a macro-level, and I was casting around to find some sentences to express my feelings when I came across a comment on a Facebook forum that did it for me. I have copied it and reproduce it here now:
“It’s so sad that Brexiteers never saw that the EU was about people, to give them as many freedoms and rights as possible, to live, work and love freely in any EU nation. The EU is far more than just trade. It’s about its people’s lives, and how they want to live. Brexit has taken away all this from us, and given us absolutely nothing in return”.
And this is it for me. It’s about people, human interactions and civilized, open-minded behaviour. People who go on about nebulous concepts such as sovereignty are comparable in my mind to religious fanatics, in that they are committed to believing in something that doesn’t actually exist.
One thing I struggle with is that I believe in tolerance and understanding and reaching out to others. This was a hallmark of my Sixties generation, so it’s particularly horrifying to note that people of my generation, whose parents, like my father, fought for the chance to remove animosity from Europe, now display exactly such animosity. Logically, my policy of tolerance should make me feel warm towards Brexit supporters and forgive them for what they have done. This is where I realize that I am a much harder person then I thought I was. These people have deliberately inflicted pain, inconvenience and cruelty on other human beings for no logical reason, and for that I will never forgive them.

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