Europots and Eurokettles

Not so long ago I was accused of being a ‘Euro-sceptic Little Englander’ on account of my opposition to the Euro and my belief that Britain should leave the European Union.  It has happened before so I was not offended.  But it did get me thinking and my conclusions revolved around pots and kettles and the blackness thereof.

    Some years ago, before the days of the package holiday to Benidorm and the Costa-de-Earth, tourism was the exclusive preserve of the better off, the hoi-polloi being shuffled off, with bucket & spade and knotted hanky, to Blackpool or Margate for their annual fortnight in the rain.  The Continental traveller wore slacks and a tie and generally refrained from urinating in European streets.  He, even then, carried his Britishness with him, held high as the true banner of innate superiority, but he did at least, albeit with infinite condescension, indulge in the local fare.  He partook of the regional culinary delights and
occasionally practiced his schoolboy French or Italian on the long suffering indigenous population.  He was pleased to forge friendships with the better class of local citizenry and to enjoy all the strange pleasures offered by an alternative culture.   So also with the currency.  There was a particular delight in exchanging pounds, shillings and pence for pockets full of pesetas or francs, marks or lira, and in proffering thousands of ‘whatever-they-were’ for a single cup of cappuccino in a pavement café.  It was all part of ‘going abroad’, and with the added advantage of being able to nonchalantly deposit a small pile of left-over foreign coins onto the bar back home as a positive proof to other drinkers of one’s international standing.

   Then along came the EU and the gradual destruction of the very reason for going ‘Continental’ at all.  Standardisation became the watch-word and no country within the great European project can be allowed stray an inch (sorry, 25.4mm) from any one of million missives on the minutiae of life that are daily handed down to us by our Big Brother in Brussels.  Even the many currencies of Europe had to go because we are all now far too stupid to do the conversions.  Try the local food?  What do Benidorm, Alicante, Lanzarote, Valencia, Ibiza and hundreds of others have in common?  Fish & chip shops!  I think I’ll try the local beverage, waiter?  Not likely!  In the 60’s and 70’s it was Watney’s Red Barrel.  Now it’s John Smith’s drunk in a ‘Real English Pub’ with the natives kept well out of the way so as not to offend the visitors. 

   Once they cried, “Vive la difference!”  And when  we get the common European language, maybe we’ll all find out what that used to mean.

   The Europe of old, the Europe of nation states where Greeks and Italians once pinched bottoms and Frenchmen, quite properly, wore berets, rode bicycles and wore strings of onions round their necks, is slowly being consigned to the history shelves of the Euro-library.  Uniformity reigns.

   So, who is the Euro-sceptic?  Who is being anti-European in this brave new world of Euro-regulation and Euro-speak.  Me, for wanting to preserve all those little idiosyncratic differences that make us interesting and fun to visit?  Or the uniformity freaks and cucumber straighteners (Euromyth?  EU Regulation 1677/88 - look it up) who are trying to mould this wonderfully diverse continent into a one-size-fits-nobody nation state of Euro-clad shop dummies driving Euro-cars on the Euro-highway from one centrally designed concrete Euro-city in the French region to another identical one in the Italian?

    I think I’d rather go to Bognor.

From the Sumer 2004 issue of Nobbut Torver magazine