Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bark: Escape to Victoly

It's been a somewhat hectic summer. Not only have I had a trip to Normandy last month, but I've been back home for less than a week after a ten day holiday in Norway; and on Monday, I fly out to Germany for a week.

Norway was idyllic - undoubtedly one of the best holidays I've ever had. I genuinely didn't want to come back. Especially when I saw on the news all the crap that was happening at Heathrow. It was getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the news coverage on CNN and BBC World from the newscasts on V for Vendetta, which was on the movie channel. The contrast between the hysteria over security and the serenity I enjoyed on the Sognefjord couldn't have been any greater.

I really don't like what's happening to the UK lately. How can it be anything other than a total victory for terrorism that the insane plans of less than two dozen people can lead to such chaos and misery for hundreds of thousands of people? And that was without a drop of blood being spilt.

I'm playing Civilization IV: Warlords at the moment for review, and last night I was struck by a particular (mis)quote of Benjamin Franklin from the Civilopedia when I unlocked the Liberalism advance: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

The original quote is: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

I don't know about you, but I don't feel particularly safe or secure knowing that people will think you're a terrorist if you try and take contact lense fluid or sun-block onto a plane in your hand luggage. Or that I should carry everything in a clear plastic bag, to show that I don't have anything to hide. If I hadn't booked the trip to Frankfurt and Leipzig months ago (i.e. had already paid for it all), I wouldn't be taking the plane on Monday. I certainly can't see myself taking the plane again (by choice) anytime soon. This shit's seriously getting out of hand. Next time I'm travelling to Europe, fuck all that, I'm taking my car and the ferry. At least then I won't have to worry about a body cavity search whenever I want to travel somewhere.

I can only see Britain going one way, as long as the government pursues this fucking stupid (and completely unwinnable) "War on Terror" - and that's down, down, DOWNHILL. I'm giving serious consideration to getting out of this country permanently - to a place where "freedom" isn't a nebulous concept that you can fight for abroad (sticking in our noses where they weren't wanted anyway) by getting rid of it at home. You can't justify *anything* and *everything* in the name of national security - it's ridiculous. Governments all want to be "tough on terrorism", because it makes them seem strong and makes them popular with people too stupid to realise that people are only terrorists because it works (i.e. about 95% of the population). All this "we don't negotiate with terrorists" shit - it makes me sick. Like the British Government didn't negotiate with the IRA in Northern Ireland... fucking hypocrites. It's just that the IRA were good *Christian* terrorists, so it was *okay* to talk to them.

It's not like there's anything really keeping me in this country other than debt - temporary financial necessity - and the inertia brought on fear of change. Once the car's paid off, I'm outta here, because I'd rather get out of this sorry-ass country and live somewhere where there isn't an overriding atmosphere of fear oozing through the media and society. That and because I don't want to be remembered as someone who coasted through life on autopilot and never did what they really wanted to in their lifetime because they were too afraid to take the risk. I don't think I could ever look myself in the mirror if I turned around in my mid-fifties and saw that I was still stuck here doing a job I didn't particularly like, just for the money, treading water and not doing what I really would love to do instead...

Seriously, what's good about the UK? Property prices and energy prices are through the roof - you can barely make ends meet when you've got a salary over £30,000 in the South East... and society? What society? We're all being carefully programmed by the government to be fearful, patriotic, good little consumer chavs with Burberry iPods, who should keep an eye on their neighbours because they might be Islamic terrorists... or paedophiles.

And don't even get me started on the Israelis and Lebanon. How can the UK government stand by for A MONTH, letting the Israelis bomb the shit out of Lebanon, before calling for an *immediate* ceasefire - and then have the temerity to claim that their foreign policy doesn't incite terrorism against the UK? Oh, sure, they said they wanted a ceasefire, they just didn't want to upset the Israelis by asking for an "immediate" one straight away... How many deaths were the result of that particular missing word in statements on the conflict by the US and UK governments? And never mind the inherent hypocracy that the US were shipping laser-guided bombs to the Israelis via UK airports for use in Lebanon all the time they were asking for a cessation of the violence. And just to show that they were being even-handed, they gave a bit of food aid to the Lebanese. As if that makes up for the fact that nearly all the weapons used to destroy the infrastructure in Lebanon were US-made. Still, I bet Halliburton are in for the reconstruction contracts. It's truly mind-boggling. To use another quote (this time from George Bernard Shaw) - "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." That pretty much sums up the Middle East at the moment...

So, I'm putting together an escape plan to be out of the UK within two years. That's if the Thought Police aren't in control of the borders by then. Norway looks like a good candidate for my political asylum application. The people there are lovely and the country itself is even more so - the coastal areas and the fjords are like the Highlands of Scotland - expect about five times prettier. There's not even so much of a language barrier to worry about - it's for all intents and purposes a completely bilingual society. Practically everyone is fluent in English and speak it better than most British natives. I was amazed by the TV over there - *all* foreign TV programs, from films, series like The Simpsons and CSI, to documentaries are all shown with subtitles and in their original language - not over-dubbed, as you'd expect over here, or elsewhere in Europe. No wonder they're all such good linguists. Norwegian itself looks like an interesting language, too - though I didn't pick up so much when I was over there, it's fairly intuitive if you've done some German - and the Bergen accent reminded both Fleur and myself of the Alsatian dialect in Alsace. If I were to live there, I'm fairly confident I could pick it up fairly quickly.

There are downsides, naturally, particularly that a pint of beer costs the equivalent of £6 in pubs and restaurants, which would rival your average London nightclub. Then again, I have to cut down on the boozing anyway. Besides, Norwegian Pear Cider is better than anything I've had out of an English orchard, let me tell you. That alone is worth emigrating for. Even Fleur likes it. I did seem to get on with the diet over there, however. With all that fish, reindeer (yes, I ate Rudolph) and plenty of exercise (including a 25km mountain bike trip around Solvorn), I lost over 3kg in little over a week. Pretty impressive stuff. A few months of that, and I might get into something approximating good physical shape.

I've been checking around on the internet (and in the windows of the estate agents in Bergen while I was there); it seems that as long as I don't move into the centre of somewhere like Oslo or Bergen, property prices are a heck of a lot more reasonable than they are here in the UK, as well. How does £30k for a square kilometre of land sound? Pretty damned good to me...

If I'm not living within a stone's throw of a fjord by Christmas 2008, writing my first novel, I had better bloody well have found a damn good reason why not...
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