Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Elderly Interrailer

So here I am on my annual summer holiday on a TGV train between Paris and Bordeaux. This is something I have been meaning to do for years, to revisit an Interrail journey that I first did when I was 16 or 17, it is so long ago now I can`t even remember how old I was.  That journey really changed my life and had a role on how I was going to go on and view the world.  In those days, in the early 70s, foreign travel was nowhere as common place as it is today and even if Brits did go abroad it was normally for a week or so to the English enclaves of the Costa Del Sol so even if they were travelling "overseas" they could still get those British cultural staples of warm brown beer and fish and chips. Particularly for a lad like me, uneducated, from the South Wales Valleys and not from a particularly affluent background European​ travel was almost unheard of.  My older brother had visited Paris a few years earlier but that was seen as almost unspeakably exotic and bohemian. Looking back though these mists of time i am still somewhat baffled as to what motivated me to want to go on that journey. Advertising played its part as I remember there was a damp billposter  under a railway arch near my house which told of this fairly newly established scheme called interrail which provided cheap international rail travel for those under 26 in Europe and Morocco. MOROCCO FFS!!!! If Paris had seemed unspeakably sophisticated to me you can imagine how Morocco sounded.

Fair play to my parents I didn't have to hassle them that much to stump up the cash for me to go on my first interrail trip.  To be honest i think they saw it as an opportunity to get away from my local environment for a while as I was going off the rails a bit and also I managed to get two of my friends to say they would come with me so although  know they did struggle to finance it I think they thought they would be letting me down if they didn't. In the end although it didn't really help with me going off the rails for a while it was a seminal event in my growing up.  It took me out of my comfort zone of my own cosy environment and made me aware there were other ways of doing things, other ways of viewing the world and our way at home was not simply the only or even the best way.

I am only a few days into my trip but I already feel the spectacles of the 'other' altering the way I view things back at home. Reading my Facebook, Twitter and news feeds from back in the UK it strikes as a country obsessed with brexit and that not moved on one iota from where we were at during or even before the referendum. The leavers are adamant that they won the referendum fare and square and that we are going to leave no matter what.  The remainers on the other hand argue that the referendum argument was won on lies and anyway it was only "advisory" and should be simply ignored.  To me to be honest neither of these arguments sounds credible.  I don't know what the solution is to this mess the UK finds itself in but whichever way you look at it the country is split 50/50 and any solution needs to take both sides with it which neither of those previous arguments does. Believe it or not here in Europe people don't care about Brexit, they have other things in their lives and it hardly makes the news at all. Britain is in a crisis of its own making and only Britain can get itself out of it. To be perfectly frank I have gone past caring as I am disillusioned by the behaviour of both sides.  Although I am convinced the UK will be poorer on many levels through brexit I think I personally I will survive (although I will probably lose my job) but that is something I can live with. So, whatever side you are on just stop adopting a dog in a manger attitude and think how we can all move on from where we find ourselves at the moment.


  1. I've long since moved on from Brexit, personally, though I'd much rather it was managed by Corbyn than May or whoever replaces her as none of that lot seem to have any idea at all about how to do it. My concern, as always, is 'austerity' with its endless punishment of the poor for being poor, extending now to the middle for not actually being rich. Brexit will mess everything up if its not done right, but it's unlikely to kill anyone. Austerity, has killed many already, has made life a living hell for many more, and with the loss of bursaries for medical training it can be guaranteed to go on killing for the foreseeable future until people finally stop it.

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  3. Sorry about the delay in responding I have been far too busy travelling :-) I very much agree with your sentiment and I think I am in the same place in relation to Brexit; the deed is done we need to move on but I do fear, as you do, that particularly a Brexit negotiated by May and the rest of the Nasty party will simply result in more people being poor and an extension of the cult of austerity and Corbyn and Labour offer a better alternative in this situation. We are where we are with #Brexit, not a place I personally would have chosen to be but unfortunately at the present moment I feel the ardent remainers are offering as little prospect of progress as the dyed in the wool UKIPers and isolationist Tories.:-(