The lady on the bus was older than I am. Possibly her grey hair aged her prematurely. She may have been about my age.
She was studying an English book – ‘negative contradictions’ was all that I could make out. It was aimed at people learning English but was also written in English. Clearly, she was set on improving. Learning and improving are the same thing.
I believe she looked Mediterranean. And tired. For a second I glimpsed her face and she had a round face, a “moon face”. She was dark around her eyes and her tanned skin looked as though it would be more comfortable in the sun than here in the misty, wet Scottish morning.
It occurred to me she might need to apply for a residency since we were getting so close to Brexit.
A pang of disappointment and anger passed through me. Anything to do with Brexit now had that impact on me. Most of my life I had hoped to work part time and move to Spain. Now that was a whole lot more difficult. Recently the economic situation had made it feel wrong to settle there. Spaniards need work and housing. When I could contribute I would go there. To a small town or village and in one of the less visited regions.
Did I have the desire this woman had? Would I sit in queues at the Ayuntamiento (Council) to get a visa to work? Would I visit the big cities and stand in long queues to be questioned. Would they want me – us? People argue their reasons for leaving a Union like the European project but, really, it is a display of disregard and lack of will on our part. We chose to feel that Europe hindered us and have clung to some idea we are a “better” nation. Not different – better. It is our way. At least enough of us to vote for Brexit. We never participated, not really. We paid lip service and paid our way. We were like the idle members of a good gym. We paid the direct debit each month but never worked out. Every few months we went along, had a coffee and people were polite to us. They knew each other and played squash on a Thursday. The Germans would swim there most mornings, early. We never did. We blamed them for our insecurity. It is the British way.
I asked myself again – would I sit on a bus on a bad day reading Spanish texts. Learning and improving. Would I study the grammar and the history to be tested on it? It would probably come to that. More importantly – would my wife? Is it fair to expect that of others simply to allow me the indulgence of a new life? A life, moreover, I am not sure is a whim or a destiny. I don’t know.
Then I began to realise that I would. I may do. Middle age has made me more determined to take a more direct approach to life. We do not have forever days. Lost friends and family teach you that. We only have so many days and there are only so many which go to plan. Yet the attainment of those good days is worth the gloomy mornings on a bus going to an inconsequential meeting.
Fingers crossed for that woman and the story I have written based on a glimpse of her complexion and her reading material. I wish her well. I wish myself well and I regret the perception of a smaller world which Brexit has left within me.
I remain stuck here on an island of grey people, lazy dreams and saggy ideals. All the weight of that wealth on our southern end is dragging us down to the depths. To remain afloat we have decided to use “immigrants” as ballast tossed overboard so we can keep our heads above water. Or so it seems. We could simply have distributed the weight more evenly. We were not sinking – just listing.
Image: View toward Zahara from a hilltop in the Sierra de Grazalema, 2018