Thursday, 20 May 2021

Park Life in Paris- Le Jardin du Luxembourg and Parc Monceau

 I guess there are generally two groups of holidays- makers: those that rush around making sure they see everything or those that prefer to totally relax, venturing only to the nearest bar or restaurant. However, you choose to spend your trip or holiday, is very personal. I do like to see something of the area around me but I also like to take some quieter moments for myself.

Oddly enough the times I appreciated the most, whist on holiday, were quite mundane, sitting in a local park, large o small and reading a book, just watching the world around me or listening to some music.  (Through my headphones of course) These were often, peaceful, contemplative moments, when the sun shone, the sky was blue and surrounded by plants, flowers and trees what could be more perfect.

Even on city breaks, I often find my way to a local park. Everyone’s favourite, mine included is the iconic, Le Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris known locally as the Luco. This is one of the most featured travel spots on Pinterest. Situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Gardens, were inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence and were created by Queen Marie de Medici in 1612, who was homesick for her native Italy. The gardens, which cover 25 hectares of land, are split into French gardens and English gardens. There are several listed buildings within the gardens: the Palais de Luxembourg, the Musee de Luxembourg and the Orangerie which houses plants from the Mediterranean. Also, there are 106 statues spread throughout the park including the monumental Medici fountain. At the southern part of the garden there is an English style orchard containing ancient and forgotten varieties of apples. 

These beautiful gardens have appeared regularly in French literature, perhaps most famously in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables where Marius and Cosette first meet. This is my favourite book and when I sit in the gardens, I can imagine these partisan young lovers, sitting by my side. Today, it is still a great place to relax, reflect and enjoy some lovely greenery in the heart of a city. Whilst visiting Paris, it’s always one of my must-dos.

One of the first landscape parks to be made in Paris, is the Parc Monceau, which can be found in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The park was created in the 17th century upon the orders of Phillippe of Orleans and designed by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle. The designer used Rousseau's words to explain his aim, to bring together all ages and all parts of the world in a single garden'. Today it is one of the most elegant parks in Paris and surrounded by impressive mansions, in one of Paris's most upmarket neighborhoods.Visitors can enter through the great wrought iron gates embellished with gold.

The park covers eight hectares and has an English style, informal layout. Many ages and parts of the world are represented by follies. Such as: A Renaissance archway belonging to the former Paris City Hall, an 'Egyptian pyramid', Corinthian pillars and even a Dutch windmill. There are also many statues featuring some of France's leading figures including Guy de Maupassant, Alfred de Musset and Frederic Chopin. The artist, Claude Monet painted five paintings in the Parc Monceau.

This park is one of the prettiest in Paris, with lots of paths, ponds and stream. It is close to Champs-Elysees and other strategic touristic places, and offers some quiet places in the city for both Parisians and tourists to spend peaceful and pleasant moments.

Parks, are one of my pleasures, I hope they become yours too. 

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Some of My Favourite Holiday Places- Capri

 Many of us have favourite holiday places, these are places that are memorable, sometimes we visit only once, others we return to again and again. I always think that there are too many wonderful places in the world to just keep doing the same thing each year. But its personal. As I haven’t travelled now since Autumn 2019, I have been thinking more aboutt past holidays destinations.

Italy is a beautiful country with lots on offer, I think my favourite place is the island of Capri. This small island is just off the coast of Naples on the Amalfi coast.  Some may feel that’s it's an expensive over-commercialised destination crammed with day-trippers. But no-one can deny that Capri has earned it's fame for many reasons. It’s natural beauty, delicious cuisine, world-class shopping, walking trails, historical buildings and stunning vistas.The combination of island simplicity, natural beauty yet with a busy, cosmopolitan lifestyle, offers something for everybody.

There are two separate towns on the island of Capri as well as the port. Capri town, with its well-known attractions and famous shopping streets has a tangible deluxe feel to it. Anacapri (Old town) is more residential with quiet lanes and a traditional feel. From here you can take the chair lift or funicular to the top of Monte Solaro.I am scared of heights but this was worth it. So take a few deep breaths.

This peaceful Mediterranean retreat yet fashionable meeting place has been popular since roman times. Despite its size it was a destination on the grand tour attracting everybody, from philosophers to princes, wanting to spend at least a week, if not months, experiencing the dramatic land and seascapes and the hospitality of the islanders. Many of these visitors decided to stay for the entire year. It was the place to see and definitely the place to be seen. You can fully understand why it has been a long preserve of celebrities and the super-rich needing a hideout to rest and let their hair down for a few weeks.

Steep cliffs rise majestically from an impossibly blue sea with elegant villas covered in wisteria and bougainvillea. If you take a stroll along via Tragara, this is the path that takes you past the once luxurious private villas that are now 5-star hotels. You will discover the Faraglioni rocks, the symbol of the Isle of Capri and be rewarded with spectacularly, wonderful views. Take a bench seat, they are s placed around the lookout area and marvel at the view of the glorious coastline and sheer drops.

In this unique and enchanting spot, Villa Lysis, was built in 1904 by Count Jacques d'Adelswärd Fersen. Villa Lysis is as eccentric as the nobleman himself, who withdrew to Capri in self-imposed exile to escape a series of scandals in his home country. Edouard Chimot, was commissioned to design a Neoclassical decadent refuge, which Architecturally was mainly  in a Art Nouveau style, his elegant, luxurious home was both reserved and opulent at the same time. The villa was Dedicated to the youth of love and the Latin inscription above the front steps “AMORI ET DOLORI SACRVM” was a shrine to love and sorrow. In 1985, Villa Lysis passed into possession of the Italian state and the building was restored in the 1990s by the Lysis Funds Association (founded in 1986) and the Municipality of Capri. In 2014 the Apeiron Association began a restoration program to transform the house into a cultural centre and event venue. I visited in the mid-90s and loved the feel and vistas of this romantic villa, having seen the more recent pictures perhaps it has lost a little of its charm. 

Close-by, is where the Roman emperor Tiberius had built his Villa Jovis two millennia earlier. Tiberius made it his home when Rome became too hot. If his biographers are to be believed, he got up to all sorts of scandalous behaviour inside his imperial cliff-top villa. You can still visit the ruins of his villas. For more than a decade in the early part of the first century AD, this picturesque Italian island was the principal home of the emperor, Tiberius. (Known as the Tyrant)  He lived a life of extraordinary debauchery, fortified by the finest food and wines served by nude handmaidens. Troupes of beautiful youths of both sexes, gathered from all corners of the Roman world and he hosted endless summer orgies, so by all accounts a good time was had on Capri.

In equal measure to his lechery, however was his bloodlust, he watched his enemies being tortured before being thrown 300ft off the cliffs into the sea below. Close to the Emperor's apartments was a precipice called Tiberius Fall, because from it, he would dispense with unwelcome visitors or disobedient servants, rumour has it even unwanted wives. Putting aside the gruesome history, its still one of the stunning places, I have seen and there is a peacefulness. (Even with the hordes of tourists)

Capri is definitely worth visiting, whatever your budget as you’ll enjoy some sublime moments and take lovely photographs, it what must be one of the most iconic photographic settings.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Holidays of My Childhood

There is a lot of confusion at the moment whether we will be able to take our holidays overseas this year or if we should remain in the UK for our summer breaks. I have been thinking a lot about the holidays of my childhood, although we did travel to Spain in the mid- seventies,( as package holidays were becoming more affordable) I remember going on holiday to Blackpool and caravanning in Flamborough Head (known for its picturesque lighthouse) as a child in more detail. Based in Yorkshire my family often had day trips to Scarborough, Bridlington and Whitby.

As you work your way south along the Yorkshire coast, Bridlington is the last of the four great resort towns after Whitby, Scarborough and Filey. It’s been in use as a port from prehistoric times and has been an important port for fishing ( and for collecting shellfish) since its earliest days and has a huge wealth of history that tends to be forgotten. Bridlington came into its own as a seaside resort in the Victorian era. In the main because of the recently completed railway links from Hull, Scarborough and York. Many of the Victorian buildings along the promenades still remain, most converted into hotels and guest houses although not quite as smart they were and some have seen better days, but still having a jaded grandeur like many of the UK seaside resorts. The North Promenade has lost none of its charm, both perfect for a stroll, watching the fun on the beach below or enjoying the view out to sea. I can still imagine Victorians and Edwardians going for a stroll in their best clothes and taking in the clean, salty air.

 I remember the amusement arcades, bingo, donkey rides,sandcastles on the beach, traditional seafront of souvenir and sweet shops, fun fairs and fresh fish shops boasting some of the finest local catches. The harbour was great. At the top of those steps, you could smell the fish along the harbour and in the gift shops like the lovely shell shop. Small boats could take you on a mini- tour. The food stalls sold, fish and chips, waffles, lemon topped ice cream's, doughnuts, seaside rock and candyfloss, washed down with pop and Horlicks or hot chocolate to warm up. My siblings and I were often ill on the car journey home. The bracing weather, left you windswept but invigorated, we talk about blowing off the cobwebs, a fitting description of an English seaside holiday. The seagulls were (and are still) fierce in attacking careless holiday- makers who lost their meals to the sky diving birds. The boating lake and neat gardens, the mini- golf, the spa, which all seemed very grand to me as a child,with my love of history. 

As an adult, not much has really changed since I was a child, now we are in the age of package holidays and it’s cheaper or was cheaper to spend a fortnight in sun-kissed Spain with its all-inclusive incentives that spend a week on the Yorkshire coast with the prospect of rain and wind rather than sun. However, it’s a great place for families seeking a traditional seaside holiday with its long wide beaches, the old market town and Bridlington quay, the harbour, the amusements and the revamped Spa offering live entertainment.

In the 1970's and 1980's, Driffield Day free coach outings to Bridlington were popular in bringing holiday makers and in 2019 this was relaunched to offer free coach travel from Sheffield, to encourage visitors back to the town.

Bridlington has been a popular tourist destination since Victorian times and perhaps as we start to look at what’s on our doorstep rather than flying off to the sun, its forgotten charms will be remembered and enjoyed once more.  


Wednesday, 10 February 2021

A New Life in the Sun

As most of us are housebound and rather unlikely to be flying off to warmer climes anytime soon, we are all looking for a bit of escapism! One of my secret pleasures is watching A New Life in the Sun on channel 4.  As I usually work, I only get to watch it once a week, now I am getting to see the whole weeks episodes. This series follows expats as they follow their dreams of setting up new lives and businesses (in the sun) it started in 2016 by the production company, True North, it’s now on series six.  Despite the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, hundreds of enterprising Brits still continue to pursue their dreams of a new life overseas, even with the increasing obstacles. Spain ranks as the best place in Europe for expats wanting to enjoy a new life.

This is not that show where people find dream homes in Europe. And while we daytime viewers often daydream about spending our lives sipping wine on a sunny terrace, particularly on cold winter days. It’s a much more realistic documentary series, following Brits as they set up new businesses in mostly Spain and France. We see them through the highs and the lows. Some are starting B&Bs, while others are setting up a restaurant, yoga retreats, microbrewery, or a fishing boat charter business. There’s not a lot of time to relax as many discover! After renovating their properties, dealing with a whole array of problems from bureaucratic hold-ups and demanding customers. But in most cases, they insist that life is better than ever after taking the plunge, thanks to their businesses thriving, a better work-life balance and much more clement weather.

Any dramatic life change, especially one involving uprooting and adapting to a new culture, will have highs and lows, so it’s really interesting to see how tough (or easy) it is for them to start afresh abroad. I am always quite shocked at how many give up every thing to start a new life with limited cash resources, no knowledge of the business they are running and no ability to speak the language of their new country, I don’t know if I find this stupid, brave or a mix of the two. However, many advance preparations are made, there will be always be an element of risk in moving abroad, and I guess that its this willingness to call on a certain degree of open-mindedness, flexibility, and sense of humour that are vital ingredients in making a successful go of it.

I spent some time working in Spain and met some English, Germans and Americans who were living and working overseas. It was a great experience and one I would not have missed, but at times it was really hard. You don’t always have the things you take for granted, like drinking water, hot water, mains electricity, phone lines, the internet and local shops. Just popping out for milk is completely different when it’s a forty-minute drive to the nearest shop. Living in the  rural countryside in Spain can be harsh and isolating. (With no local public travel in some areas)  As for the weather, well its not always lovely and sunny, in fact it can get very cold in the winter, even in spring, up to May it can be warm in the day but very cold at night. And it does rain, the worst rain I have ever seen was in Madrid, the sunny city in April and Southern Spain in early September.

I found on my travels that some British people who move to Spain like to live in some kind of insulated English bubble only mixing with other Brits. I think, it’s not a wise move to not meet with the locals, who will go out of the way in most cases to welcome you and offer assistance. Many expat areas in Spain are hotbeds of bitchy gossips, silly arguments and over- drinking, as they often have lots of time on their hands and little to do. It’s a circle that you can end up being very unhappy in and you will not experience what life in Spain is really like. Learning to speak Spanish and offering to teach English, finding out how to cook the local dishes and going to the local fiestas, is a great way to spent any free time and embrace the culture.

If you are wanting to take the plunge and feel like showing the world your journey on the way then contacts: True North at They produce the long-running series follows brits across Europe as they embark on their new adventures, and are looking for new businesses being set up: anything from bars, glamping, water and adventure sports to vineyards. Anything really!

Evidence shows too that if someone has worked abroad once, they are more likely to do so again. There is a kind of psychological make-up which enjoys an exciting nomadic lifestyle, and that probably never goes away. My grandfather always called me a nomad, whether I am or not, I don’t know but I do know I still have the traveling bug and hope I always do!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Italian Ice-Creams and Fish Suppers in Scotland

I have just read Mary Contini’s book Notes to Olivia about her Italian family’s early days in Edinburgh. She is the owner of the famous deli, Valvont and Crola. Scotland's oldest Delicatessen and Italian Wine Merchant and one of Europe's most original Specialist Food Shops. I will come back to the story of this a bit later.

Scotland has long enjoyed an affiliation with Italians since the first immigrants arrived in the late 1800s. It is estimated there are tens of thousands of Scots of Italian heritage, including high profile figures. Italian immigration into Scotland forever reshaped the country's culinary and social landscape.

Interestingly, post Brexit in 2016 there was the biggest surge in immigration in 100 years. One thing that makes it similar to the first phase of immigration from Italian is that large numbers are fleeing due to the lack of opportunity often in Puglia, Calabria and Sicily.

From the late 19th century, Scotland saw an increase in Italian immigrants. At this time, many Italians experienced poverty. Men fled to Scotland to make money to support their families in Italy, sending for them later. For some, it was seen as a stopping point en-route to America. Initially, they came from northern areas such as Tuscany, but emigration spread to the south by the 1900s. When America changed its immigration policy and closed the door of opportunity for many of the poorest Europeans, Scotland saw a further increase in Italian immigrants. The main reasons to seek a new life was as a direct result of economic conditions. Living conditions were harsh, with famine and sometimes droughts. Furthermore, Italy had an agricultural-based economy that was experiencing severe hardships and industrialisation was slower than in other European nations.  Many saw an opportunity to go elsewhere to earn a better living. After a slow start, in which the Italian immigrants failed to make any real economic progression, the Italians seized the opportunity to move into the catering world. Initially working as ‘hokey pokey’ men, selling ice cream from barrows, these men had been recruited in London and then sent to Scotland. They quickly moved into working-class areas, combining ice cream making with selling fish and chips. Restaurants and takeaways were established and sold food made using ingredients widely available in Scotland like fish and potatoes. To this day most Scottish towns still have an Italian chippy.

Fish and chips became essential to the diet of the ordinary man and woman, through the latter part of the 19th century and well into the 20th century. The fish and chip trade expanded greatly to satisfy the needs of the growing industrial population of Great Britain. In fact, you might say that the Industrial Revolution was fuelled partly by fish and chips! Nobody, however, could dispute the Italian influence after they had spotted the business opportunities to be had north of the border by selling pesce e patate. Stuart Atkinson, Scottish executive councillor with the National Fish Friers Federation, said their role was significant. As large numbers of Italian immigrants entered the Scottish fish and chip trade from around 1890 by 1914, they dominated the trade and opened many shops throughout Scotland.

From humble beginnings, by the 1920s these barrows had been transformed into luxury establishments in the city centres via working class areas. There are many famous Italian businesses in Scottish society like Nardini’s which boasted a beautiful Art Deco tearoom that became an key attraction. There was a greater degree of acceptance from the Temperance Movement as the cafés chose not to sell alcohol. Cafés such as these were as much an assertion of an identity in a new land as they were a business as a means of breadwinning. Helping to integrate the new arrivals into the communities of Scottish towns and cities. They were popular ventures for immigrants, and locals took very quickly to the idea. 

In Glasgow, police statistics show that in 1903 there were 89 ice cream shops in the city. A year later that number had nearly doubled, reaching 184, and by 1905 there were estimated to be 336 ice cream shops in the Glasgow area alone. Many made a living from the Scottish sweet tooth. ITally is slang for Italian and the title refers to both Italian blood and to the raspberry sauce added to ice-cream. It is fair to say that Italian cafés were at the heart of Scottish culture, but the question remains as to whether Italians were fully accepted in Scottish society. Their cafés were often the scene of unruly behaviour. This led to cries that the Italian cafés were morally corrupt, articles appeared in newspapers reporting the ‘ice cream hell’. Their popularity wasn’t universal and they did encounter some hard times along the way, which most likely strengthened the ties of the growing Italian community, who helped one another when needed. Immigrants can enrich and bring a new dimension and flavour to the customs and culture of their adopted land. And I am sure that the colourful Italian community must have added character to the dour cities, towns and villages in Scotland. 

What whetted by interest in this subject was the story of brothers Alfonso and Vittorio Crolla who emigrated to Scotland and established a small ice-cream and confectionery in 1906. They were to team up with Raffaele Valvona in 1934, by that time an elderly shopkeeper who was thought by the Italian community to need the acumen of the Crolla family. They sold easily affordable food, mainly to the Italian immigrant community. This succeeded brilliantly, helped by the fact that a lot of returning troops after the war, who had fought in Italy, had acquired a taste for the Italian meats, cheeses and olives.  Having concentrated on inexpensive produce, Valvona & Crolla made the shrewd decision, as supermarkets began to undersell local businesses, to specialise by importing the best Italian food and drink. They were to be a pioneer of healthy food, never failing to point out the virtues of low-cost tomatoes and packets of spaghetti. Alfonso died in the war, but Alfonso’s son, Vittorio continued to work with his uncle, taking over the business in 1945 with his brother-in-law, Carlo Contini.

For 40 years Victor Crolla, was the head of the family at Valvona & Crolla.  His Italian delicatessen was famous not only in Edinburgh but among tens of thousands of festival and other visitors to the Scottish capital. The language in the shop was sui generis (a hybrid between Leith Scots and High Neapolitan) It speaks volumes for the family's relationship with the Scots that during the Second World War the shop's loyal staff continued to keep it open so that there was a business to return to. Victor Crolla, stepped down in 1985, but in the words of his nephew Philip Contini who ran the shop, he continued to be the spiritual head of the store. In 2019 Philip and his wife Mary, handed over the reins to their eldest daughter, Francesca Contini Mackie, Alfonso’s great-grand daughter making this a fourth- generation family business which brings a little bit of Italy to Scotland.

I wish them a continued success; I am a great believer in family and local businesses. I also think it shows how important it is to mix cultures by immigration and hope this does continue as it enriches all our lives for the better!

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Learning More Lingo…….

Many Britons are turning to learning languages like never before, according to the Guardian Newspaper. French is one of the most popular choices, as many adults took up a language online during lockdown. The timing seems at odds with recent events like Brexit and Covid stopping overseas travel. With our recent exit from the European Union, should we be saying a very firm and British Goodbye? Yet for many in the UK, it seems that on our departure it is more a case of Au revoir.

Academics maintain the recent upsurge in language apps in Lockdown, shows a pent-up interest and wish to study languages. For a nation supposedly averse to speaking other languages, the British have been turning in large numbers to foreign tongues as a first resort in the absence of more traditional forms of entertainment and communication. 

 It shows there are a lot of people who want to learn a language. It’s surprising how often you meet people in all walks of life who are taking language courses. But many people have been put off by unrealistically difficult exam syllabuses at school, GCSE and A level papers are too demanding and grading is too harsh when compared to other subjects.   Oxford Professor Katrin Kohl 

Formal language learning in our schools has declined substantially over the last 15 years, but there are some signs of encouragement. The British Council’s annual Language Trends survey showed a marked increase in children who took French or Spanish at GCSE in 2019, although A-level entries were still down. It would be great if parents could encourage their children to see the importance of learning another language. In 2018, 96% of pupils in upper secondary education in the EU’s 27 countries learnt English as a foreign language. In a majority of EU Member States, more than three fifths of all upper secondary education pupils were learning two or more foreign languages.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the human experience is our ability to connect with others. Being able to communicate with someone in his or her language is an incredible gift. Bilinguals have the unique opportunity to communicate with a wider range of people in their personal and professional lives.

Despite the decline in schools, adults continue to value language highly, the British Council found. During the spring lockdown, 10% of adults in the UK began learning a foreign language or returned to one after a break. A third of those surveyed said that Spanish was the most important language for young people to learn, followed by French at 20% and Mandarin at 18%.

Thousands more are learning Spanish, German, Italian, or other EU languages, with some of them hoping to improve their language skills to a level where they qualify for citizenship of a European country. Since British citizens no longer have the right to live and work in EU countries after the 31st of December 2020. The UK is now one of Duolingo’s top five countries by the total number of daily learners, according to the app’s UK general manager, Colin Watkins, with a rise in new learners of 132% on last year. Events like Brexit and Covid plus cultural moments like the Olympics are driving the change, he said. “Brits now want to be better citizens of the world when we travel, when we do business, when we meet people in the UK.” 

I was introduced to Duolingo by a work colleague in lockdown. And since June 2020 have been learning three languages every day.  I introduced my mother to this app and at 76 years old she is learning Spanish. I like the easy- to- use, fun format of Duolingo, I don’t think you could become fluent, but I combine a mix of CDs and books as well as the phone app and have been surprised at how much I have learnt.

I have long been embarrassed at how poor my own language skills and those of my fellow brits are compared to my French, Spanish and German friends. To think that many ex-pats cannot speak the language of the country they live in is wrong on so many levels. Just because English is spoken in most countries is not really a valid excuse. You can simply use your smartphone or other devices to translate everything on-the-go. And while technology certainly helps with communication, but it can never replace human interactions. Be warned, Google translate is also not fully accurate!

Colin Watkins, from Duolingo, says that many of the 15 million people who have signed up to Duolingo’s online courses are not aiming to become fluent but to gain a basic level of understanding. As one of our first courses French was already very popular, so to see it make the top five shows new learners have chosen it because they want to travel there in the future, maybe want to do business, emigrate, or just pick up on what they learned in school.”

Other language learning apps are seeing similar rises. Memrise saw a large increase in new users in March, and 70% of people using its platform are learning Spanish or French, while German, Italian and Japanese are also popular.

The app, Babel helps its community remember the vocabulary they learn through six memory stages using “spaced repetition,” moving words through exercises that are arranged to aid retention. In bite-sized, 10–15-minute lessons, students have opportunities to gain skills in reading, writing, grammar and speaking in their target language in likely scenarios, especially for travel.

Yes, learning a new language is a big challenge. But if you can get in the right state of mind and you're not looking for overnight fluency, the progress you make will make can make you feel incredibly proud. You do have to remain consistent for a few months to see steady progress but it is totally worth it and the more you do it the easier it gets. It’s also a great way to keep your brain in trim studies have shown that using more than one language can delay the onset of dementia by four to five years. Yet another great reason.

Bon Chance et Au revoir.

Is it Finally Over-Brexit?

The UK officially left the 27-member political and economic bloc on the 31st of January 2019, three and half years after the UK public voted to leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum. Sticking to the EU's trading rules for 11 months while the two sides negotiated their future economic partnership.

How did it all start? In a public referendum held on the 23th June 2016, the majority of those who voted chose to leave the European Union. I was a remainder myself, and many of the people I know who voted were not 100% sure which way to vote. Many people have now said if they had the chance to vote again, they would have voted to remain in the EU.

The UK had long been expected to leave the European Union on the 29th of March 2019.  However, following a House of Commons vote on the 14th of March 2019, the Government sought permission from the EU to extend Article 50 and agree a later Brexit date. On the 28th of October 2019, the EU Ambassadors agreed to a further Brexit extension to the 31th of January 2020.

It has taken, several years, much discussion, a national election a new Prime minster and leader of the opposition party. On the 12th of December 2019, Boris Johnson won a majority in the UK General Election and reaffirmed his commitment to ‘get Brexit done ‘by the 31th of January 2020.

On 23 January 2020, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 received Royal Assent.  This is the legislation that will implement the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the UK and the EU. On the 31th of January 2020, the UK was to leave the EU and enter a transition period. The transition period ended on the 31th of December 2020 and the United Kingdom, finally left the EU single market and customs union. 

So, is that it then? Most of us in the UK have not been able to figure out exactly what this deal was, however much we tried to follow! Just as no-one totally understood the reasons for leaving. Deal or No deal have summed up the last few years.

Some people thought we were actually leaving Europe, no, we are Europeans and still part of Europe. We do care about our European friends, who most likely think we don’t. Its all like a bad divorce, with passing time it could hopefully become more amiable.

So, what is actually changing? Before Brexit, the U.K. was part of the E.U.'s single market that allows people, goods, services and money to travel freely around the continent with little or no checks at all. In December, the two sides agreed a new trade deal to replace their old partnership. Businesses and travellers, alike have been waking up to the reality that the new system has the potential for serious disruption to their old life’s.

Brexit has also caused disruption inside the U.K. itself. Extra paperwork has meant delays and empty supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. but is treated differently in terms of trade under the new post-Brexit deal. Even large retailers like M&S have had difficulties. Some British online retailers have said they are no longer able to ship to Northern Ireland. (even though it's all part of the same country)

This new era has begun for the United Kingdom after it completed its formal separation from the European Union. Replacement arrangements for travel, trade, immigration and security co-operation came into force when the UK stopped following EU rules.

Boris Johnson said the UK had "freedom in our hands and the ability to do things differently and better" now the long Brexit process was over. But opponents of leaving the EU maintain the country will be worse-off. In Brussels, there is said to be, a sense of relief that the long Brexit process is over, but there is regret still at Brexit itself. Basically, the European Union thinks that Brexit makes both the EU and the UK weaker. This is a valid point.

Whether we like it or not, and most of us don’t, significant changes are here, for trade, travel, security and immigration and more changes could well become more apparent in the months ahead.

It’s a time of great change, uncertainty and sadness that this should have even happened. But life goes on Post- Brexit and the only way is forward and to work with it. I hope my many ex-pats friends are ok, as like in Ireland they are experiencing the worst deal in all of this.

I love travel and have always hoped to retire overseas and hope I still can!