Bashed and Blocked by BREXIT

Anyone who has watched the news in the last five days will know what I am referring to in this post — BREXIT — the completely shocking vote by the United Kingdom to leave the EU and go it alone. Of the eligible voters, only 73% actually voted on such an important issue and the LEAVE segment won by less than 4%. There are countless media reports of how manipulated the elections were by outright lies and how, drummed up by a floundering economy and anti-immigrant sentiments, the people of Britain allowed their lives and futures to be highjacked by a cast of buffoons.

Here is our own small tale of how our lives have been impacted by this shocking event and a bit of discussion about emotions and stifled dreams.

We returned to Australia three years ago and almost immediately made a plan to return to Europe, this time permanently. After one fairly carefree year as apartment-dwelling renters in a trendy neighbourhood of Melbourne, we came slightly further north and purchased a run-down house in a good neighbourhood — a house to be polished, then listed for sale, then sold to fund our return to Europe. I had been very strict with our finances for that first year in Melbourne and that served us well when we moved into the Project House because the outlay for building supplies was going to be substantial.

For two solid years, we drastically altered the hideous old house with good bones — living amongst dust and rubble as one room after another was transformed. Mark and I moved packing boxes and furniture from room to room as each room was torn down to the studs, insulation was installed, new timber double-glazed windows went in, and then fresh new plasterboard went up. The kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, 3 bedrooms, a huge long hallway, and a really large living-room were all completely redone. Mark also repainted the entire exterior and added a slick new screened porch with a decking floor and a slatted exterior. We had a wood-burner insert installed into the old fireplace by a professional installer and we added stainless steel ceiling fans in several rooms along with really lovely and energy-efficient lighting fixtures. Our energy bills for both electricity and gas have been slashed by more than half in the months since the last of the insulation and double-glazed windows went in. That was a very satisfying result!

While Mark was doing 99% of the filthy and gritty work, I kept him ‘fed and watered’ as I waded through boxes and boxes of household goods that we had not seen for five years or more and began listing items for sale so that we could go back to Europe in a pared down state. I am still awash with a 3+ year backlog of paperwork that has to be sorted through, filed, or shredded — but I’m getting there. All was well and we were thrilled with the results and beginning to allow ourselves to feel the anticipation of our first work-assignment in Normandy, France.

The house was done last week, the real estate agent was chosen, and the contracts were ready to be signed. He was bringing them to us for our signatures on Saturday morning at 10 AM — but we awakened on Friday morning, 24 hours before the signing of the contracts, to find that BREXIT had happened and our dreams were in tatters.

Our ability to go back and work in Europe was all conditional upon Mark ALSO being a citizen of the EU since he has a UK passport. But if the UK had decided that they no longer wished to be a part of the EU, we no longer had the guaranteed right to work or live in all of those European countries or even to travel freely without visas as we crossed borders. Everything we had worked towards for three solid years had just gone up in a puff of smoke.

We’ve been trying to put a good face on it and we believed we could do that a few days ago. But then it all began to sink in and for the last two days we’ve both just felt black and blue — as if we’ve been mugged. Neither of us is sleeping and we’re wandering around like zombies during the day because we get up and down at night. I got up to go to the toilet last night and ended up sitting there sobbing.

Mark keeps going outside during the day if it is not bucketing down rain and he’s furiously trimming bushes and trees and chipping branches and ripping apart the old wood shed, etc. He doesn’t always talk about his emotions — he normally just gets on with it — but his heart is so broken that he came in to wake me up this morning and admitted that he is deeply, deeply depressed.

We’ve always had an agreement loosely in place that we are NOT allowed to both get down in the dumps or depressed at the same time. Well — that’s gone bye-bye because we are just staggering with grief. We went out for coffee on Sunday with a friend and she congratulated us on being sensible — so we can put a good face on it when we need to — but it’s just a tissue-thin facade.

We had a plan that was carefully nurtured like a young and newly planted tree. It grew and was fertilised by our input of dreams, Mark’s beautiful work on this house, my penny-pinching and diligent research and connection-making, and the follow-on volume of invitations in countries all over Europe. Then JUST as our beautiful tree was filled with leaves and ready to bear fruit — along came BREXIT with a chainsaw and cut it down in one violent movement.

My Facebook post to friends and family two days ago sounded upbeat and chipper and we had decided to apply the ‘fake it until you make it’ approach to moving on from our brutal shock. But that set of intentions didn’t even last for 24 hours before we were both feeling distinctly fragile and, to be truthful, rather lost. How can you spend three years of planning and two years of non-stop renovation, select your agent and be ready to sell, and then have your work of three years just evaporate overnight?

For now, we have no choice but to stay put until we see if there will be a reversal of BREXIT and we will be allowed to resume our planned return to Europe. It’s an either/or situation for us. We are either going to embrace the expense and inconvenience of moving half way around the world, back to Europe and starting over again because that is where our hearts sing — or we will be forced to accept Australia and just get on with it. That made me nauseous as I typed that.

Moving W-A-Y beyond our personal concerns, there are now generations of young people who may not have the same opportunities to live, work, and study between countries in Europe that we did due to the pull-up-the-drawbridge mentality of the BREXIT folks. I am heartbroken for all of those people with their whole lives ahead of them who have had their options diminished.

The social fabric of the United Kingdom is now torn. For half of the population to think, dream, and believe that the way ahead is in the completely opposite direction from the other half of the population is rather incomprehensible. How is that sort of division to be healed? How long will that take to manifest?

We are quite startled and frankly horrified by the daily reports of hundreds and hundreds of acts of aggression and verbal assaults on anyone who is not a WHITE and native-born British person. A collective madness seems to have been unleashed and some people believe that this referendum has given government-sanctioned permission to behave in a most uncivil manner. How can anyone think that it is appropriate to aim streams of bad language at people on the street because of their skin colour, the language they are chatting in to their friends, and how DARE anyone terrorise innocent children on the street or at the gates to their school and scream at them to f*ck off back to where they came from! This is shockingly racist and xenophobic behaviour and it isn’t the England that I once lived in and loved — the place where Mark and I met in London 22 and 1/2 years ago, got married in a medieval registry hall in Norfolk, and lived in a seaside flat overlooking the sea.

This post has gotten quite long — but you can expect updates in the weeks ahead as we sort out what to do next and how to proceed. We can’t just say that we are going to force ourselves to live in and love a place that neither of us loves or feels right in. Our bodies and spirits don’t resonate with Australia and we feel rather broken right now.

Having a pretty house isn’t a soothing balm on an open wound if we just want to scream in pain every time we leave the house.

It’s all very raw right now — very raw.

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Growing The Group

SUBSCRIBE to our list!
SUBSCRIBE to our list!

A very quick note today…

Time for some growth!

I’ve added a SUBSCRIBE form to the side column — and that enables you to receive a very quick email whenever I have posted new content.

Whether you are using a computer, a tablet, or a mobile device — please do sign up so that you can stay up to date on where we are and what we are up to.

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life Please respect the words and images on this page. All rights reserved.

Adaptation

A detail of a startled man holding his head in his hands on one of the side arches of the medieval Marktkirche in Hannover, Germany.
A detail of a startled man holding his head in his hands on one of the side arches of the medieval Marktkirche in Hannover, Germany.

Advice from friends who are experienced writers/bloggers/journalists is usually quite welcome — but the ‘Oh no!’ image above reflects a dilemma that I’ve been dealing with. Before we strike off into the world again, I’m taking a bit of a stand about adapting what will be on this site. Here’s why.

In the past, it seemed easy to just classify this as a travel blog and it led to some good writing and photography assignments since I used it as a showcase. BUT, the advice to just leave this site in that one category never really sat well with me.

From this point on, I am going back to the original idea for this site and that will include several of my own eclectic interests alongside more mainstream topics. You’ll be seeing a mix of articles ranging from photo essays and stand-alone photo of the day posts, travel articles that are sprinkled with photos, updates about our progress, occasional whinging about whatever is an obstacle to overcome, and sometimes the content is going to be topical social commentary, historical research, political reflections, and more.

I feel strongly that since the world is shifting so rapidly, it’s important for me to go back to longer journalistic articles that give a real feel for places or which inform the readers of the current ‘vibe’ versus the tourism office public relations spiel. If people are trying to decide between travelling in or relocating to Country A or Country B — wouldn’t they rather have accurate boots-on-the-ground reporting about what’s unfolding in that place and perhaps some history about what the forces are that are creating these changes?

This site has never been monetised with promotional tours or free hotel stays or anything else of any monetary value. If they had been, I would have made a note of disclaimer and that rule will also apply in the future.

I’d like to feel comfortable doing long-form essays, op-ed pieces, or outright critiques about places, people, and situations without feeling like I have to take the Ebay feedback approach of always saying something nice so that I get good reciprocal feedback. When it applies to real world issues, that’s not a helpful or truthful approach.

So come along for the ride as we finish this house in the next few weeks, sell it (send us some positive vibes!), pack, and head overseas to old fave places that make our hearts sing and new places that we’ll be both working in and exploring as future settling-down options.

We’re certainly never going to get into a boring rut if we live like this for the rest of our lives, eh?

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page. All rights reserved.

Softly, Softly — (shhh!!!)

Softly, softly and oh-so-quietly — things are moving in our lives and it’s time to talk about that.

Yes — I am actually back — and hopefully I won’t be disappearing again!

We’ve been living in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia for just over a year and a half — and what a LONG slog that has been. We purchased a 1950 house in rather dire condition to renovate and now we’re almost done. At some point in the future I will do a full post (with pictures!) of just how totally grotty this house was — and what gorgeous work Mark has done to transform it.

So — good — time to relax and enjoy the finished house, eh?

Um — no!

NewTimberDoubleGlazedWindowsInstalled

We’re about to put the house on the market in about 2-ish weeks, hopefully sell rather quickly, and head back to Europe. Yes, we are both aware that Europe is in rather a lot of upheaval since we left — but we’ve come to the firm decision that Australia is just not where we want to spend the rest of our lives.

In preparation for a lot of new and exciting posts about planning the trip back, where we are going, who we are interacting with, how different life is on the other side of the world — all accompanied by gorgeous photography — I have changed the theme and the look of this website (do you like the Mid-Century vibe of the header?)

AND — I’ve made some new links that will lead you to all of the OTHER places where you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Things to accomplish in addition to (deep, DEEP sigh!) sorting, packing, selling furniture and cars, selling the house, donating a huge number of items to charity, booking all of the flights and hotels and making a travel schedule…
1. Finishing the book that I have been writing for the last year.
2. Creating some new e-books about the sort of non-traditional lifestyle that we lead.
3. Learning to make and edit small videos that will share our travels or be instructional.

Those are the plans — and that’s where I’ve been for such a l-o-n-g time away from this site.

Watch this spot — there may be even MORE changes ahead!

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life Please respect the words and images on this page.
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By The Sea in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK

By the sea is where I wish I was right now. But in lieu of that reality, here’s a flashback photo essay from a trip to the lovely seaside town of Aldeburgh in Suffolk in the UK.

By the way, not ALL beaches are sandy. This one is a perfect example of that. Enjoy!

 

Medieval Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, built in 1520, with the village memorial cross to the left.
Medieval Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK, built in 1520, with the village memorial cross to the left.

 
A seagull sitting atop one of the medieval brick chimneys on Moot Hall,.
A seagull sitting atop one of the medieval brick chimneys on Moot Hall,.

 
Fishing boats on a gravel, sometimes called shingle, beach in the UK.
Fishing boats on a gravel, sometimes called shingle, beach in the UK.

 
Close-up of a the beautifully coloured pieces of stone comprising a gravel beach, sometimes called a shingle beach, in the UK.
Close-up of a the beautifully coloured pieces of stone comprising a gravel beach, sometimes called a shingle beach, in the UK.

 

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Photo of the Day: The Overwhelming Urge To Sleep!

Giving in to the overwhelming urge for a nap, this older couple simply parked on a street in England, locked the car, and gave in to that urge. They were completely oblivious to the amused pointing and kindly laughter of everyone passing by. Sweet, eh?

 

An older couple in England were apparently overwhelmed by the urge to sleep!
An older couple in England were apparently overwhelmed by the urge to sleep!

 

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Hot Pants and Big Hair

It was such a retro look that my head fairly well snapped when I saw it on ample display in Newcastle Upon Tyne in the north of England. Really ‘Big Hair’ on women of all ages. I don’t think I’ve seen such a generous use of the teasing comb and cans of hairspray to create that sort of back-combed volume since the 1960s.

What was even funnier was that we were in a vintage bookstore at one point during our four weeks up there and there was a book on sale that was a ‘Look Back to 1960s Newcastle’ — and all of the women in that book would have been the mothers or grandmothers of the people we were seeing on the streets. Some of the folks in the North of England seem to have gotten stuck in a time warp!

Regional trends included the messy buns — the sort of teased up and pinned up look that Brigitte Bardot used to do so well — or tight buns — teased up and smoothed into not-a-hair-out-of-place firmness with gel or hairspray. And we saw this look on women from teenagers to senior citizens. We were checking out at the grocery store one afternoon and it was everything I could do to not snap a quick pic with my iPhone of the middle-aged check-out clerk who had a bright red beehive hairdo that was towering above her small face!

Then there was the range of hot pants on display (on some icy days in February?) — thankfully on the really young girls and not on the middle-aged gals who shared their love of Big Hair with a large percentage of the Newcastle demographic. Interesting too that once we returned to London and Norfolk from our month up north, we never saw a beehive, teased bun, or hotpants look down there!

Apologies for the graininess of some of these. I did snap a few of them on my phone!

 

Teased up back-combed hair on young girls in a Newcastle mall going from the most bouffant on the left to the least voluminous on the right.
Teased up back-combed hair on young girls in a Newcastle mall going from the most bouffant on the left to the least voluminous on the right. This was taken on an icy cold day at the end of February.

 
Interesting fashion and hair at the hardware superstore.
Interesting fashion and hair at the hardware superstore.

 
Two young girls with teased chunks of hair sitting on the floor in a shopping mall.
Two young girls with teased chunks of hair sitting on the tile floor in a shopping mall.

 
Hotpants (even on the coldest winter day!) and big teased up hair are very popular amongst the teenagers of Newcastle in the UK.
Hotpants (even on the coldest winter day!) and big teased up hair are very popular amongst many of the teenagers of Newcastle in the UK.

 

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
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