First things first. Today is granddaughter Charlotte’s 8th birthday. It wasn’t until very late in the evening that I got to talk to her after she had finished all her social activities. There will be more celebrating with an official birthday cake when Uncle J arrives on Sunday from the UK for a couple of days stay. Sadly for Charlotte, her favourite Auntie Laura can’t make this trip but it isn’t too long now before we all meet up here for a family reunion.
Charlotte’s paternal Grandpa died on Monday after a long illness and being in rural Ireland, she has witnessed the full traditional Irish wake this week culminating in the funeral yesterday. Mum was also experiencing her first wake and as hubby, Barry is the eldest child and organiser of the event, she has also been closely involved, including doing all the flowers and helping to receive all the hundreds of mourners. The following short BBC video posted within the last few days gives a very good idea of what an Irish wake is and how helpful it is for young and old to deal with death. Kate experienced exactly what is described and not the “Irish Piss-Up” most of us have considered it to be.
It was, of course, an exhausting week for Barry and I hope he can get some relaxation over the long weekend and perhaps some fun and laughs when his soulmate and brother in law turns up on Sunday.
For me, today was a bit special too. I had received a letter 10 days ago summoning me to the County Council offices at 9:30 this morning and requiring me to produce my UK passport and bank statement to one of the officers of the “Department for Aliens”. As I walked into the foyer, was greeted by a poster from the German Home Office encouraging immigrants to “Go Home” with offers of extra financial rewards for those who volunteer. I checked and sadly found out that this didn’t apply to UK citizens so long as their country was in the EU.
Panic set in. Could it be the UK Home Office has spread it’s area of operation to Germany? I am on paper, one of the Windrush Generation – born in Trinidad in 1954 and appear on UK resident records from 1970. Just this week I have been “in correspondence” with the UK Dept. of Work and Pensions as they sent yet another form to check on my status as a recipient of a UK benefit. I posted it back on Monday and included copies of my passports from 1974 to current to prove I was a legitimate UK Citizen. The benefit is not citizenship related but I have grave concerns I may be "disadvantaged" over the benefit payments I receive and would like “independent” help/advice but I don’t know who to turn to. I have no right to contact a UK MP and they are forbidden from helping people who don’t live in their constituencies.
Oh well, at least the German voluntary “Go Home” scheme means that if my UK citizenship is about to be taken away, I can as a Trinidadian, using my original 1954 birth certificate, get a free all expenses paid flight back to my “homeland”. There are worse things than spending your last years on a Caribbean island.
I took the long lonely walk down the empty 3rd-floor corridor of shut office doors and knocked timidly on the door marked “Foreigners Citizenship”. I got a friendly greeting, even with a handshake and duly handed over my burgundy EU, UK passport and bank statement. A few words were exchanged, the officer reached for the phone, made a short call, stood up and asked me to follow her. No doubt down to the cells in the basement. I just hope they are still serving breakfast as I hadn’t had any this morning with my nervous stomach.
Was though shown into a large meeting room and asked to sit opposite the officer when the Head of the County Council Aliens Department came in and sat at the head of the table and pronounced “ You have an interesting past”. We then stood up, she read off a sheet and I had to repeat the words. She shook my hand and handed me a “Certificate of German Nationality” together with a book of the Bavarian Constitution and including the German equivalent the “Grundgesetz” or basic laws. I was then told that I was now a German and enjoyed the full protection of the German State except in one country – the UK! Damn, that is the only country I may visit where I need protection especially from the likes of the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister …..
We finally shook hands again and I left the building as a Burger and no longer a Citizen. I drove the 200 metres or so to the nearest British cultural memorial, a roundabout. About the only item ever successfully exported by the UK to Germany in the 1990s.
I took the photo, and for those who have long memories, it is the same scene that I posted the day before Mrs May signed the “Article 50” letter and had it delivered at a cost of £1,000 to Brussels. That day was the start of my “Brexit” journey but today’s certificate cost €255.
Again my eyes were moist as I looked at the “Europe Fountain” on the roundabout and the various flags of the towns twinned with Mindelheim, including East Grinstead. I stood about hoping a “British-made" car might appear when a 49-year-old man stopped and asked me a question. We got chatting – he is from the former East Germany (21 years old when the wall fell), is married to a Hungarian, lives officially In Austria but has come back to Germany as earning a living in Austria is difficult at the moment and here there is an overabundance of job offers. As he can only get home occasionally, he reckons the family will now move here soon. It was a lovely chat and once again showed the beauty of the freedom of movement within Europe.
As my daughter responded in a message I sent her from the roundabout: “be proud to be a citizen of Europe and join my two grandchildren and my son in law in Ireland in this exciting, developing group of nations”. Sadly my new citizenship expressly does not include the same rights for my (no longer dependent) children, who both remain British.
The EU is by no means perfect but it is moving forward and learning from all the mistakes of its individual nationalistic pasts but still rejoicing in the large multitude of various regional identities and traditions. I wish though that the step taken today had never been necessary and I suspect when asked my nationality, I will still say “British”.