Saturday, October 26, 2019

"Brits in Spain resort to Irish ancestry to stay in the EU after Brexit"

[Photo:  (GETTY)]
"On June 23, 2016, Emma O’Sullivan spent the evening in her apartment in the Gràcia district of Barcelona, initially concerned and later shocked by what she was hearing on the BBC: that 52% of her fellow Brits had voted to exit the European Union, leaving her and around 1,300,000 more British nationals living in the EU in a state of limbo.
“After the initial shock, I went through all the stages of mourning,” she recalls. “Denial, fury, resignation…” In fact, according to the Kübler-Ross model for dealing with grief, the third phase is bargaining, and this is essentially what Emma did; she negotiated her own exit from Brexit.
Fortunately, her grandfather on her father’s side was originally from Cork, allowing her to claim Irish citizenship...
(Ireland used to receive around 6,000 applications for citizenship a year before the 2016 referendum. But last year alone it received 25,000, some from British nationals living in Spanish territory.")
Read more from source here.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Now available at Documenta -- my latest book: "Slow Travels in Unsung Spain"

My new non-fiction title is now in-store and online at DOCUMENTA independent bookshop in Barcelona. 

"a compelling and eclectic narrative full of the unexpected " -- Nick Inman, Rough Guides

Saturday, October 12, 2019

"Natsukashi" -- My latest column for Catalonia Today magazine

This morning, with the dying of this summer and noticing the shortening of the hours of light in the evening, I remembered that exactly two decades ago I went with my new wife to live in the city of Kyoto, in Japan.
It became possibly the single most influential experience in and on my life. 
To look at a period of what became three years and see it as one complete experience (or a collection of thousands of experiences wrapped into one) is obviously unusual. But Japan is exactly that: unusual. 
In fact, it’s unique. Living there, I found myself sometimes saying to myself or whoever was near me, “Everything here is different. Everything!”
Of course not literally everything is, in fact, different there but that was how Japan and its people struck you, especially at first sight. 
Essentially, Japanese people want the very same things as you and I, and the rest of the inhabitants of the planet. We all basically want love, food, shelter, respect and satisfaction. But it often seemed that how they thought they would get these wants was a polar opposite to me, a 30-year-old male from Australia, so geographically close to Japan.
The Japanese language is unique, too, like every language, I suppose. There’s a word in Japanese - “natsukashi” - for which the closest translation in English is “nostalgia”. This translation, though, does not do justice to such a complex, nuanced word that is actually a highly emotional one.
In Japan you would find even primary school children saying this word, not just adults. I think this is because from a very young age in Japan you are taught (or at least influenced) by parents, schools, and wider society to reflect back on your actions, your experiences, and even individual moments. This is a mentality not currently in vogue in much of the Western world, partly because Japan is a very formal society.
There is a structure, a ritual, an accepted composed method and set order (and a set order of words in a phrase) for virtually every daily action the Japanese do; whether it is eating, leaving home, getting to or leaving school or work, or even how you conduct relationships with people. 
To my wife and I and our non-Japanese friends, for at least a year or two, this was mystifying, confusing, frustrating but eventually somehow comprehensible. Although it was quite simple to understand and learn the basics of daily routine, having relationships with Japanese people was another matter, despite the fact that almost everyone was extremely kind to us.
The multiple layers of meaning that everything has in Japan can be seen in my current nostalgic yearning feeling towards Japan through the word ‘natsukashi’.
It turns out that my understanding of this word was not quite on the mark though. After researching it, I find that this feeling is better expressed by the longer word ‘mukashiwonatsukashimu’. ‘Natsukashi is apparently a more simple term for someone or something that is dear, desired or missed.
Next month, I plan to write a follow-up article on some specific examples that illustrate the points I’ve made above about Japan, this most unique of unique places. Until then, I’ll finish with a ‘haiku’ I wrote in Japan. ‘Haiku” is the traditional 5-7-5 syllable simplified form of poetry that’s designed to recall a single moment:

Portuguese song voice
Sweet, controlled, but free and light
Heard in a night street.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, October 2019.]

Sunday, October 6, 2019

"The Pickpocket Slaves of Europe"

"The pickpocket slaves of Europe have prompted a major international investigation by the Netherlands regarding the...forced child pickpockets in Europe…

In Eastern Europe, children are living what the Dutch press calls a modern Oliver Twist story.  

Some of the children are being held against their will and forced to beg and steal their way around Western European cities.

According to the findings of an international investigation called Operation 13Oceans, these young thieves, as young as 8 years old, are picking pockets and involved in other petty crimes in the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Spain.

Several kids appeared on the radar of the Dutch police when they saw the same faces over and over again, with different names each time. They had picked them up, booked them, and let them out on the streets again, in a never ending cycle. 

Eventually, as the cops ran their faces through the databases of Europol and other international organizations, a list of around 300 kids emerged. 

The children are invisible victims because it is hard for society to see the sinister hand of organized human trafficking that lies behind the petty thievery that afflicts so many European cities, helping to stoke the anger against “migrants,” many of whom are Roma, but many of whom are not.

A Dutch prosecutor said, “What you see is often not what it appears. When you see a mother begging with a child, for instance, you don’t necessarily think about the infant being forced to serve as a prop for a woman who is not its mother at all.”

Another member of 13Oceans added, “As the children get older, they are forced to steal for a criminal organization. We are actively watching four international criminal networks.” More specifics were not given, since the investigation in ongoing.  But the ages of the children range from 8 to 16, he said.

In the past, investigators tended to look at this issue as pickpocketing or so-called mobile banditry offenses…but now in this case the children are considered victims rather than offenders.  Some of the victims are demanded to steal up to [$1,115] a day."
Read more from source here.