“Yes, I made it….!”. I have just arrived back in the UK with a fully restored Land Rover Discovery. I was quite stressed about entering the country because during the two year restoration process overseas, the car was SORN-ed in Britain. Also, for that reason, it did not have a valid MOT. So, when I called my MOT garage in Kings Lynn I received the strong advice not to drive the car to an MOT appointment with them in Kings Lynn because I would be driving without road tax. Although the law states that one should drive to the nearest certified MOT station with a car that has an expired MOT certificate…..I guess it’s stretching that aspect of the law to the very limit when I drive a distance of 120 miles “to the MOT station of my choice”.
One can only road tax a vehicle with a valid MOT…… “You can’t risk it mate…..since Britain is now stuffed with all them cameras”….is what I was told. So, I booked an MOT appointment with a garage which is 500 yards from the Ferry Terminal in Harwich. Apparently, they have these situations all the time with UK citizens who work and live abroad/military personnel, etc. Not a problem…. I left the car with this garage in Harwich and we all went for a hearty breakfast in the Premier Inn Hotel which is just a short walk. The car has been brought back to its (near) original new state and should sail through the MOT. I wasn’t worried, just a bit nervous.
After about 30 minutes…. I remember this well because I was just about to take a bite of egg on toast…..I get a phone call…..”Listen mate, I can’t pass your car through the MOT…the emission values are exceeding the limit”. I answered: “it can’t be, I had all this thoroughly checked before I made the journey over. After all, it has a fully restored engine and good catalytic converters which have been tested and have been driven less than 5 miles since installation” The result of this message, was that I ate my breakfast far too quickly and felt my digestive system protesting for most of the remainder of that day. What didn’t help either is the fact that I ran back to the Garage in order to try and quickly sort out this mess. I didn’t want to be stuck in Harwich. When I had covered half the distance…I must have been on the parking lot of Morrisons, the MOT garage rang again:…. “It’s allright now mate…we didn’t have the sampling probe pushed in deep enough into your exhaust…. we’ve got good values now”. Pffff…. keep breathing…..
There was another reason for my slightly elevated stress level when we entered the country. My son and his fiancé were with us in the car when we entered the UK. My son’s fiancé is South African. My son lives in Holland and his fiancé had arranged a “Shengen Visa” which entitled her to travel freely within the European Community except for the UK. But the thing is…. when you are a citizen of the Republic of South Africa, carrying a passport of said country as your legal travel document is really holding on to a mere worthless piece of paper….you might as well carry a toilet roll when crossing the border. South Africans must be without a doubt the ultimate “Persona Non Grata’s on the Globe”. They require visas for virtually every country in the world. There’s a good chance that when you are a citizen of Nauru, Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati or Djibouti that you are able to enter a country without the challenges a South African will have to endure. Moreover, a visa for a short stay in Britain will cost a South African in excess of £100, –
I therefore had a heightened level of awareness as we finally pulled up at the window of the immigration officer in Harwich. But I have to say…. she was wonderful. All paperwork checked out fine and off we went.
I have now mentioned two instances which describe a response to a situation with an instantly stressful reaction, followed by winding down when, in actual fact, it turned out that there was really nothing to be stressed about. The funny things is, that I am stressed when I am on holiday. I work on ships you see. I am a seafarer and gone for periods of three months, sailing around the world. I am on “a floating island”….a cruise ship with its own laws, rules and regulations. I have working weeks of 80 hours and I work every day including the weekends. I am 24/7 on call on a ship that carries 420 crew members and 800 guests. As Chief Engineer I am overall responsible for the technical operation of the vessel. But you know……I have no stress. All kind of challenges are thrown at me and my team every day…. but I do not feel stressed. I become stressed when I go on holiday. The idea of all the mail that’s waiting for me, as well as many different parties “that want something from me” stresses me out.
When I recently came home after three months at sea, there was a substantial group of people who wanted to see me. The Bank Manager needed to discuss new financial arrangements. Two cars for MOT’s (see above) and not to forget to pay Road Tax in time. I needed to sort out the financial situation of my Mother who’s currently in a care home and as it turns out, she’s paying too much. I had to cancel an insurance which was cancelled previously but despite the confirmation of the insurance company that this cancellation was processed, they keep taking money out of my account during my absence. My other son has come to live with me, so the council tax needed amending. A new TV license was required. I paid too much on my utility bill during my absence,…. do I need to go on….? Lots of work to do, whereas really, after completing a three month contract at sea, I should be laying on the beach sipping Pina Coladas….. and cooling off in the sea. Instead I am rushing about, and I am beginning to realise that we are not free individuals anymore. “The system” is forcing us to comply and the rules and regulations to comply with are on the increase. It appears that our political representatives create more laws than we, as a society, can keep up with. One of my biggest worries at the moment is that London will reverse the alignment with the European Union, as soon as Brexit is a fact. To give you an example….and hang on… here’s an important revelation…. I am an alien.
I am a Dutchman living in the UK. I own a home here, have a mortgage, do my tax returns, pay road -and council tax and I spend my money here and I truly enjoy being here. Whenever I drive off the ferry in Harwich, it feels like coming home. I feel more British than my wife…. who is British.
I love this country. I can really be myself here. I feel free. I can still drive my Land Rover off road or on some beautiful green lanes, I can go clay shooting with my sons. In most of Europe these sports are nearly impossible to perform. I enjoy the Country Life. I really enjoy walking on the North Norfolk beaches where nobody is charging me money for access. And I love the typical British witty sense of humour. I can really have a good laugh here. I can therefore totally sympathise with the British citizens who wish to preserve that independent “Britishness”…..the preservation of that typically British heritage and culture, which has always been rather “different” from the rest of Europe….and perhaps the World. We drive on the left, we poor milk in our tea, we cue for the bus, we moan about the weather, we know how to party and have fun and “fish and chips” is as British as a London Cab. And so are pork pies and Cornish pasties. None of these typically British trades and goods have been exported. And when they have been…..abroad they’re just not as good. Anyhow, now that I am not on board of a ship I wondered if in this pre-Brexit phase, I should check if my “alien status” could be a reason for soon not being allowed into the country. Well……sure enough……I dug up something on a “gov.co.uk“-site…..
I will need to complete a form with which I have to ask for “permanent settlement”. All the data that I provide on the form will be compared with what the Government already has on file of me….and the good thing is….it appears to be a really simple procedure! I can take a “selfie” and upload it to the respective website. This picture will be compared with picture files that have been collected from previous entries into the country. And all should be well. However…..this web application only works for people with an Android phone. Those of us who have chosen to use a mobile phone which is virtually bomb proof with regard to unwanted viruses and crashes….and I am obviously referring here to the iphone creation of Steve Jobs and his team of bright sparks……those people will have to still send in their passport because the Governmental software is not compatible with “iphone devices”. The settlement approval process for those poor souls can take up to 5 weeks. Great…..another stress contributor, because I hate sending in my passport. It carries valuable visas for countries around the world which I visit with my ship. When my passport is lost, I’ll be busy for weeks to obtain those visas again on a much unwanted Embassy trail. And I cannot travel abroad to go on a real holiday without my passport. It’s a mess.
You can imagine that I am a bit divided when it comes to the whole Brexit matter. I am quite neutral when I look at the reasons for exiting the European Union and the reasons to stay in. Is “Britin” the opposite of “Brexit”? Are we really exiting for the right reasons? These contributions to the EU are a fraction of our GDP. When we don’t pay those contributions anymore……is that money going to pay for the much needed improvement of the British roads? Or is it going to lift the NHS to the level of “most efficient public health care system in the world?” Is it? Is it really? This is not a political platform and that’s good, but I need you to know that these thoughts keep me busy. When I first came to the UK in 1986 I noticed that the British were speaking of “Europe” whenever they travelled to the mainland. That was 15 years after the UK became a member of the EU. Now, 32 years later, nothing has changed in that respect. “We are still going to Europe”. We tank liters at the petrol station, but the fuel efficiency of cars is still expressed in MPG. Many people will still refer to the rather course measure of “stones” when they speak about their weight. When you dive deeper into this, there are many more examples of the British holding their grounds and avoiding having to adopt typical “European Uniformity”. Seriously….just think about it…..it’s great that we still have the Pound Sterling. Now that we come out of the EU we can do what we want, and we might as well re-introduce those typical old British coins such as: “the half crown”, “two shillings”, “sixpence”, “halfpenny” and not to forget the “farthing” which was withdrawn from our monetary system in 1960. Quite frankly I don’t understand what the whole Brexit fuss is about. I believe we have never been “all in” anyway….not really. Why am I busy with all this? I shouldn’t be…I am on holiday…..I should be relaxed, but I am stressed.