Covid and Brexit is a lousy mix
As we enter the second year of this pandemic, with its lockdowns and associated traumas, I feel some 20 years older. Never mind going to a bar or restaurant. This is a minor issue. It seems that the time when we could actually move freely across the EU, or anywhere unless you are Cummings, was that long ago. I have always based my life and future on the assumption of free movement. Never did it occur to me that any government would be so foolish as to remove it.
Within my family there exist 3 different nationalities; Irish, English and American. This makes us somewhat international and is mostly my doing. As I was bi-national, I sought that for our boys too – just in case they ever wanted to live in America, as one does. Later, I encouraged hubby to apply for an Irish passport as was his right. It even transpired that the boys can become tri-national through their Irish grandparents. Amazing. Then, in a twist, when Trump became the USA president, I renounced my American citizenship in protest. Thus I ironically became the only member of the family with one passport, a British one, and no hope of another.
That is that bit. I sowed the seeds.
My life-long game plan bites me in the tail
To continue – as a self employed person, I always thought buying cheap romantic wrecks on the continent to do up was better and more interesting than putting my hard earned dosh in questionable personal pensions. In fact the main papers encouraged it. Despite having a British passport, my parents were Dutch and I always felt that pull across the water. Hubby and children got the pull too. Truth be told, the wrecks turned out to be a good idea. Even in their dilapidated states they provided endless cheap, exciting and unexpected holidays. We thought about the future, retiring to one wreck, or two, maybe even maintaining a base in England as well.
Then the possibility of Brexit raised its worrying head and dangled the proverbial hammer-stroke-carrot above the unfinished works. Would it be as Boris promised – unfettered access for us all? I was not too sure so acquired Spanish residency.
Now proper, undeniably chaotic, Brexit has finally happened – complicated by Covid. Or is it the other way around? You may as well have dropped an iron slatted curtain on my head. Forget unfettered access – easy movement across the EU has now morphed into a rubik’s cube involving google, government websites and ever-changing restrictions. I worry about our half-renovated wrecks, sitting out there, maybe ransacked. Investments, otherwise deemed second homes, are not a permitted reason to travel in these times.
Selling up in Liverpool
But before that final death knell of EU membership, in the early stages of a second Covid wave our Liverpool house went under offer. We absolutely loved it, but now such a large place in a country we didn’t intend to spend much time in made no sense on many levels. We increasingly worried what on earth the British government was up to. Daily meandering political decisions and the obvious lack of NHS support did not help. It made us more determined than ever to leave for a simplier life.
December 18th, with much relief, I finally managed to board a plane to Liverpool. Deciding to be Covid-compliant, we spent our last Christmas there cleaning and packing up the family home ourselves before the new owners took over. 35 years of personal memories and 44 days of hard work with increasingly sorer backs turned out to be a good thing. We came across many moving mementos. For instance, funny letters from the children, photos we had forgotten about and early letters to each other during an international (yes, it had to be international) courtship.
Much of our past was actually off-loaded, reluctantly at first, then enthusiastically as we realized the release it gave us. Where were we going to put this accumulation of the past in the future? What sense did it have? Would we ever look at it again? Hubby drove eye-watering amounts to the Domestic Waste Centre in Bootle. The charity shops were not open for what stuff might have been of use. Oodles of black bin bags were already piled up forlornly in front of their shuttered facades. There was no other option.
Flights? What flights? Brexit bites us where it hurts
In the meantime, plans to return to Spain collapsed. As Brexit happened, whilst Boris encouraged a jolly family Christmas, so did the UK Covid rate increase in un-jolly revenge. He had been warned. One by one our nearest European neighbours closed their borders to all traffic from the UK, apart from nationals and residents. We were no longer one of them so could bloody well suffer the consequences! This meant that even my Irish husband could not travel as his residence is in Britain.
Flights were cancelled, re-booked and cancelled again. I googled and “skyscanned” the Internet seeking a route to Spain from the North, but in the end there was nothing to be had before April. Folks, don’t think it is simply a matter of hopping on a train to London to catch a flight. In the best of times it is not, but now with the demanded PCR test within 3 days of arrival at destination, the maths just did not add up. It was a non-starter for 50.
Eventually I found a solution. Transit via Amsterdam with KLM. Great idea until Holland closed its borders to the UK too, even for transit flights. So the search began again. Then I had another light bulb moment, even if I was beginning to think that all the light bulbs in my brain had blown. Liverpool to Dublin, then to Madrid. Hmm. Liverpool to Dublin was off (there used to be 3 flights a day), but Manchester was not! And neither was Dublin to Madrid. I booked it, despite the fact that the plane changes were tight and I had to self-connect. Additionally Madrid is nowhere near my residence. I could just sort that out with a couple of trains to Valencia airport, I reasoned optimistically? There I would pick up my ancient car and drive the last 2 hours to Masia Lavanda.
Some may be asking why this desperation to get to Spain? The simple answer is it is my home. In addition, what could I do in Liverpool with hubby in rented accommodation while the world outside was decidedly shut? It was an option neither of us wanted. Without me, he could peacefully work out his strategies to move abroad. For me, England felt like a prison, on top of which the Liverpool I loved presently looked like an eerie ghost town of Covid ruin. It rained almost everyday, occasionally stopping for brief bright vignettes. Bright moments beside, by 3pm the empty city assumed a grim winter darkness. It was time to go. “The Journey”, next blog…
Video James McKeon