Category Archives: Brexit

I used to think I was Polish

red nail polish blood
… or rather, that I had Polish Ancestry. You see, my grandfather was from East Prussia, and as a child I got that confused with Poland.

I thought having ‘Polish blood’ in my veins would somehow make me exotic / fiery.

But I didn’t / I wasn’t. Much later, I understood Poland’s contribution to the European project. I connected with Poland through its (sub) culture, and much enjoyed punk bands like Post Regiment (from Warsaw).

Below is from a review of their 1996 album Czarzly:

“Incredible Album by Obscure Polish Punk Band

…The primary vocalist is female and sharply enunciates her yelled vocals in Polish, occasionally peppering the songs with a little melody. There is a gruff male vocalist that does backups and generally takes a similar approach. The interplay between the two vocalists is really well done and makes this such an enjoyable record to listen to. Despite the speed and the fact that I don’t understand a word of Polish, the songs are quite catchy. …”

I loved it although I discovered Post Regiment quite late. It turns out their female vocalist Dominika Domczyk (AKA Nika) appeared on Polish (?) TV in 2015 (watch how the kids get more and more fired up as the song goes on).

Post Regiment’s Nika on TV (2015)

I much prefer your earlier work.

Post Regiment – Czarzly (1996)

Here are the lyrics to a song on Czarzly, Znów:

Przechodzisz obok kogoś
Przelicza to co ma
Ktoś wyrzyguje myśli
Zbyt bliskie ścieku dna
W powolnych tonąc kroplach
Dostrzegasz swoją twarz
Nie pragniesz czynić dobra
I nie chcesz czynić zła
A ból rozpiera cię wyrywa się
Chcesz wyć
Znów zniekształcony obraz
Znów pijesz żeby żyć
Dziś wlewasz w siebie wszystko
Za drzwiami został cel
Nie słyszysz nie rozumiesz
Co wokół dzieje się
Na wprost droga bez znaku
W zmierzch co unika dnia
Powoli się zanurzasz
Przeklinasz czas bez dna

Google translate to English – it sounds like it’s about drinking / alcohol / desperation / fun / being young!

 You are passing by someone
Converts what it has
Someone is rid of thoughts
Too close to the bottom drain
In slow sinking drops
You can see your face
You do not want to do good
And you do not want to do evil
And the pain bursts you out
You want to howl
A distorted picture again
You drink again to live
Today, you pour everything into yourself
Behind the door was the goal
You do not hear, you do not understand
What’s going on around
Straight ahead without a sign
At dusk, who avoids the day
You are slowly submerging
You curse bottomless time

My European tour as we approach Brexit has now visited Scandinavia, Norway, Lithuania and now Poland. The amusing thing of course is that Brexit hasn’t even happened yet (and some say, never will!). At least it means I can keep writing the occasional blog post and share what I remember of the countries that make up my nation.

Brexit food stockpile

My Brexit food stockpile is taking shape. Last week, I received a delivery of food cans and other items (roughly from my list of no deal Brexit food supplies).

I love having a cupboard full of stuff that will keep me alive for a while.

Brexit food stockpile

Should I stockpile food for Brexit?

I was surprised this week to speak to quite a few people who looked at me like an alien when I talked about my emergency food supplies for Brexit. Thankfully the issue now has started to be covered in the news a little bit more, what with (as a little bird tells me) the UK Government completely descending into chaos and the likelihood of a hard Brexit increasing by the day (I say, BRING IT ON, as I’ve had enough of the incompetent fool that is Theresa May. Let it all descend into chaos and her and the Tory scum be forever tainted).

And YES, you should start buying tinned food and so on in great quantities, if you can afford it. The chances of food shortages in the case of a hard Brexit are high, if last year’s Beast from the East wintry storm is anything to go by (I couldn’t get any milk or bread, and I live in a city). It’s a crisis of the Tory’s own making, and poor people will be hit exceptionally hard (nothing new there – Tories hate the poor).

Here’s my own list of what food to stockpile for Brexit which will hopefully serve as a good starting point.

Brexit food memes to lighten the load

Below is a collection of somewhat amusing Brexit food memes that will make the entire sad story slightly more bearable…

1) Brexit cereal

Brexit cereal

2) Brexit stockpiling food book

stockpiling food for brexit book

3) Bread after Brexit

brexit food

Where is Lithuania near?

I googled ‘Where is Lithuania?’, as I couldn’t remember if it was ‘North enough’ to qualify for my next story and memory of a country in Europe (after Scandinavia and Norway, we’re still in the North, and I don’t have a story about Denmark other than visiting Freetown Christiania and buying drugs there on Pusher Street in 1993. Christiania seems to since have turned into a tourist destination – Capitalism Eats Everything).

christiania denmark
Christiania in Denmark. CC image courtesy of franganillo on Flickr

But I digress. This is about Lithuania – the next stop on our journey.

Where is Lithuania?

Lithuania is North of Poland, to the right. Roughly on the same latitude as Denmark. I know a couple of Lithuanians but (shame on me) didn’t really know much about it, other than it used to be part of the then USSR (and gained its freedom from the Soviet Union when that went down in 1989/90. A lot of shit went down in the late 80s, early 90s come to think of it: the break-up of the USSR, the fall of Yugoslavia!)

Where is Yugoslavia located?

Yugoslavia was located in Southern Europe.

This is what Yugoslavia used to look like. The country ceased to exist in 1991/1992.

Yugoslavia map year 1981
A map of Yugoslavia (1981)

I remember the horrible Balkans war which I studied ‘as-it-happened’ live during my Politics lessons in High School in the early 90s, and later (2000/01)  the humanitarian crisis and people fleeing from war, being covered on TV news.

A map of Lithuania

Lithuania map

Lithuania (in the North of Europe) is one of the countries whose people should seek friendships with Germans (and vice versa). They share a common, dark past – Lithuania was one of the few countries where mass extermination of Jews started as soon as the Nazis (Wehrmacht) invaded the country.

The killings were carried out both by Germans and Lithuanian partisans (in the first two days, 1,500 Jews were murdered by the latter). In total, the genocide rate of Jews in Lithuania – around 95% of 250,000 were murdered – was one of the highest in Europe, thanks to cooperation of Lithuanians with the Nazis (who were very good indeed at propaganda and whose campaigns built on existing anti-Semitist sentiment).

The Lithuanians I know today are friendly and hard-working, mindful of their past and positive about their future. They no longer live in their home country and have little care for what happened over two generations ago. They’ve become, like many of us traveling Europeans, anchor-less, with an identity rooted in neither country nor nation.

Trakai island castle lithuania
Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania


The Best Band in the World comes from Oslo, Norway

In 1993, a friend of mine and I traveled to Oslo by train, hoping to meet the band that had influenced us so, so much. In those days, punk / hardcore bands tended to put out their own records (or formed small labels to do so), and often times their contact details including address and phone numbers was printed on the sleeve. So we figured we should go there.

I really cannot recall how we found their house (this is way before the Internet / Google Maps and whatnot) – it’s possible we bought a street atlas of Oslo when we arrived in the city. It’s crazy to think that you used to just get on a train with a rucksack, a tent and a couple of train tickets,  with little plan as to exactly what to do when you arrive, where to sleep, little preparation in terms of money (other than exchanging some to whatever foreign currency you needed). Our age might explain it – we were teenagers, and fearless.

I do remember arriving in Oslo and hanging around the main station which struck me as being very clean. There were a couple of drunkards in the station and a couple of cops in the process of removing them. I clearly remember that alcohol was very, very expensive, even then. Not sure about cigarettes, although back then I still smoked.

We ended up going to a campsite somewhere outside of Oslo – it was one of the cheapest, with basic facilities. One night it was so cold I slept on the floor in a toilet cubicle inside the campsite facilities rather than in the small 2-person-tent. I don’t think we ate all that much (I was Vegetarian and had to make a couple of exceptions to have a fillet-o-fish, the rest of my diet was french fries when ‘eating out’  and chocolate spread on rolls when in the tent or on the go).

My friend was a boy – we were friends, not lovers. I didn’t mind sleeping beside boys or in the same bed / small tent as them; it was fully innocent (though others sometimes didn’t understand how you could have a deep platonic friendship with the other sex – you can, if you don’t fancy them!! I trusted him and all my boys were friends, not ‘men’ or even ‘the other sex’ – all of that poisoning came later).

A couple of days after arriving in Oslo, we got on a bus and traveled from our campsite across the city, to this band’s address. I took a photo of the house from the outside (not reproduced here but yes, I have evidence).  We then went around the back and knocked on a door. The singer didn’t seem to live there, and the other band member weren’t there at the time. However after we’d explained in heavily accented English the reason for our visit (to 2 or 3 people who appeared to be the band’s friends), they let us in and offered us a a couple of beers. We must have chatted for about half an hour or so and then, before we left, the friends gave us the first 2 LPs (vinyl) of the band as a present – they had a few copies of these rarities still in the house.

Once back at the campsite, my friend and I tossed a coin as to who would get these precious and rare records to take back home, and I WON!!!!! I WON!!!!!

I still have them in my house. One record was released in 1989, the other in 1990. They changed my life.

Below is the band with their singer, live in 1989. She was 18/19 at the time. I’ve also included one from 1991 (after she had her dreads cut off).  In the final videos from 2014, she is around 44 (the 2014 videos / music is with a different band).

Just imagine: In 1993, we traveled all the way to Oslo by train, because of our undying love for a band from Norway.

Life but how to live it – 1989

Live but how to live it – 1991

Castro – both videos from 2014


What Scandinavia gave to us

In my stories of Europe, I thought it a good idea to start in the North. The North of Europe has recently contributed to some great gems of popular culture (Nordic Noir is only one example), but let’s first take a peek at our joint history.

In the middle ages, parts of the UK – Orkney and Shetland –  used to belong to what was then Norway! Both were annexed to the Crown of Scotland in 1472 (read more on the history of Shetland on Wikipedia).

The other obvious influence of Scandinavia on us here in the UK are the Vikings. I’m not going to bore you with historical facts on the Vikings (the TV show of the same name is quite terrible) – they first invaded in AD 793 raiding the monastery at Lindisfarne in the North East of England (I went to visit it ages ago, but wasn’t aware of the connection at the time!). The Vikings last came in 1066 and fucked off after William the Conqueror arrived.

Their legacy – aside from their genes was to put a mark on our  places: In Yorkshire, there are 210 place names ending in -by (e.g. Selby, Grimsby, and Whitby), -by is old Norse for farmstead, village or settlement. There are also 155 ending in -thorpe (e.g. Scunthorpe), which means something similar (secondary settlements) (source).

Whitby is of course also famous for being the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s gothic novel Dracula – he stayed there in 1890 (a European connection to explore another time).