A Surreal Christmas and Security

I got back from a trip to the UK yesterday afternoon. It was the first time I’ve been back to the UK in ten years. I originally planned to spend a week there, over Christmas. but my younger sister, who I was staying with, asked me to stay another week and I thought why not. Now, I rarely if ever get personal on this blog, which is a pity because when it comes to my family you really couldn’t make it up. I’ll just say that I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with my father and more than a decade ago we had a major falling out. We’ve had no contact since then, except six months ago when we had an exchange of letters and agreed to a reconciliation (my father is getting quite old now). Even so, it was still very surreal sitting down to Christmas dinner with my father, my mother and my younger sister. Likewise with the pub meal we had on New Year’s Day, when we were joined by my older sister. It was the first time in about 25 years that all the family had sat down and had a meal together. Before the New Year’s meal I visited a good friend of mine who I haven’t seen for years. He’s a bit of a cosmic character and we used to be neighbours, living in caravans. Incidentally, and never one to miss the opportunity of plugging a book, all this past stuff is related in my third memoir, The Iberian Job.

As I drove away from the small town where my family live, heading back to France, I suddenly felt incredibly tired. I suppose it was the emotional strain of it all catching up with me. I got down to Portsmouth at 8pm, where Brittany Ferries awaited with their overnight sailing to Caen. Storm Eleanor was raging and the quayside at Portsmouth resembled the opening scenes from the Wizard Of Oz. As an old sea dog I wasn’t too worried about the weather, although Brittany Ferries had to cancel two of their other sailings that day due to the storm. At this point this blog post becomes a bit of a mishmash, from the personal to the political, because as we were being loaded onto the ferry there were no passport control or security checks on that Portsmouth quayside. By contrast, when we came over from France we used the Le Harve to Portsmouth route and at Le Harve it took ages to be loaded onto the ferry. The jovial passport control guy said that his boss had told him to give all British passport holders a hard time, because of Brexit. At the security checkpoint an armed soldier searched everyone’s vehicle, but it was only a cursory search; no doubt looking for illegal immigrants rather than anything ISIS might be up to.

Getting back to that stormy night in Portsmouth two days ago, where there were no passport or security checks, when we drove on to the ferry car deck, on each side of the deck, spaced at about 20 feet apart, were loads of French soldiers carrying sub-machine guns and eyeing us passengers suspiciously. This made most of the passengers nervous, myself included: what the feck was going on?! Well, I’d say it’s all part of the encroaching police state, which at the moment is more noticeable in France than in Britain (in France the state of emergency has now been written permanently into law, despite massive protests against it). Another aspect of the encroaching police state is the increasing censorship of free speech, both in France and in Britain. The psychopaths who rule us are using salami tactics, building the cage bit by bit, thinking that we won’t notice.

It’s almost as surreal to watch the emerging police state as it was to spend Christmas with my family in the UK.

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