11 o’clock, 11th day, 11th month. I am sitting on a bench on a railway platform in Breisach on the French German border, waiting on a train to take us north to where the wind blows after half a decade living on the calm right bank of the Old Rhine.
I have a tax form with me to fill out. It asks if we are moving ‘permanently’. The interpretation of words like this feeds the families of lawyers, accountants and other licensed criminals.
So yes my pretty little tax form, we are moving our home, permanently.
A friend once told me his family doesn’t suffer from longevity. If I do then I hope I have the get-up-and-go to move permanently a few times more.
The couple sharing our bench on the platform are from Cologne. They are full of praise for their home city and say it is a wonderful place to live and they are very happy there. They proudly show me photos of their son and daughter. Their daughter is studying medicine in Freiburg and their son is an officer in the German Navy.
The son takes after the father who was an officer in the Afghan army in Kabul.
They have not been back for 3 years. First they tell of the beauty of Afghanistan and of their love of walking in the mountains of the Hindu Kush. Then they tell of the years of fighting over tribal differences that have plagued their old home town.
Breisach, strategically situated on the border was beaten up in every European war. The forests have concrete bunker mushrooms, yet to be absorbed into the undergrowth, there are war graves, memorials and bomb craters. And ground radar is still used to check for UXBs before building works begin. Naturally, sick of being picked on the people of Breisach were first to vote for a European Union.
The 50 countries in Europe have their tribal differences too. There are 100 European separatist movements identified on Wikipedia, autonomists, separatists, regionalists, independents and nationalists.
Their demands range from recognition by, to independence from, some other tribe. All want “local shops for local people” .
“There’s nothing for you here. We don’t bother the outside world and we don’t want it bothering us”
Patrick Kavanagh described the importance of local issues in his poem – Epic
………..“Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.”
If these seekers of independence better understood the interdependence of all tribes and species they could direct their considerable misplaced energy into the big issues that really affect all local people, all people local to this planet, for, as e. e. cummings suggested:
all matterings of mind
equal one violet”