Saying adieu to my flat for the winter on a hot summery day, the first we have enjoyed in a week or so. My flat sitter flew back in from Greece at one am yesterday: twelve hours later I am packed and gone, heading south for the winter. The first two weeks of the trip are planned, the next three sketched out and the remainder is unknown territory.
Calais is my first port of call. Being here gives a real insight into some of the things going on in the world today. The last two kilometres of the road to the ferry terminus is lined with two lines of barbed wire fencing, two metres or so high. It's like entering a fortress or concentration camp. Beyond the barbed wire to the north is an enormous shanty town of makeshift shelters. If one didn't, read the papers one might think there was a festival going on. But it's 'The Jungle', a waiting place for thousands of refugees and migrants seeking asylum or a better life in the UK. This summer the media has swamped with tragic and accusatory stories of the ever growing tide of refugees and migrants. my flat sitter has been working on the coal face so to speak, documenting numbers and conditions in Greece, a country racked with its own domestic problems. Now I am at another end of the chain, a closed sea border that these desperate people repeatedly try to cross, often putting their lives in peril. It's worth reflecting how lucky I am to pass, without let or hindrance, a reflection that Isabella made on being free to get on a plane in Greece and fly home.
The other thing that being at a port brings to mind is the sheer volume of stuff being trucked across Europe. There's more than a hundred articulated lorries, waiting to get on my ferry, from all parts of Europe, from the Baltic states to Portugal, from Ireland to Romania. That's just for one ferry, these ferries cross the channel every hour, twenty four hours a day. That's an awful lot of goods being moved around the world. And you know the juxtaposition of the two things really seems to say a lot about our society. Yes we want things, more things than we need, so many things that choosing between them can cause countless hours of indecision, or at least anxiety. But basically we don't want to find a place in our society for traumatised victims of terrorism, civil war or economic marginalisation. I'm not going to talk about rights or wrongs here. I'm just observing what is happening from a longer distance perspective. It doesn't paint a pretty picture of our society.