Notes from Nottingham: Is Winter Over Yet?

For  the last few weeks, I’ve started to wonder if Britain has managed to go on some tectonic exchange programme with Siberia. To leave any building with central heating is to take your life into your own hands, and you can easily practice looking into the distance with a melancholic look, like a character from The Killing. Nottingham is beautiful on a clear day – whatever the season – but when it’s grey, it’s as dull as it gets.

Still, there has been enough to keep myself active during the cold weather, although my resolution to avoid chocolate has shockingly been uninterrupted. Surely that deserves some sort of Nobel prize… 

Column Writing, Collected

Earlier this week, I got word from the homeland that some column writing I did for the Irish-language community publication, An Taobh Ó Thuaidh (‘The North Side’) has been published in a new anthology. Scéalta agus Filíocht óna Maidineacha Caife (‘Stories and Poetry from the Coffee Mornings’) is edited by Claire Lyons, and the book launch will take place at The Snug on Main Street in Skerries, County Dublin, on Saturday, 25th February at 6:30pm. All are welcome to attend, although sadly I won’t be able to attend the launch myself.

Meanwhile, my own poetry collection, Fás | Growth, is on track for digital publication this spring – more on this when I have a publication date confirmed.

More Writing

Last Tuesday, the first meeting of the year for the Nottingham Writers Collective took place, with a record turnout! Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema played host to the meeting, reserving a great table at their Mezzanine Bar for the group, free of charge. We read out the results of our writing assignment from December, focused on the theme of intimacy or closeness. We’ve also got plans to collaborate with the Nottingham-based literary magazine, Lucifer, so I’m looking forward to that.

Trump to the Left of Me, Brexit to the Right…

I’ve written, commented, and tweeted quite a lot about Brexit in recent months, both before and after the referendum result. I’ve noted how the feeling of being welcome and part of the community now feels lessened; that I am now another European immigrant in the UK, as opposed to being just a European in another EU state.

I’m also aware, that as an Irishman, I’m seen by some Britons (regardless of their thoughts on the EU) as exempt from the debate of immigration. I’m white, a native English speaker, and from a country that – until 100 or so years ago – was part of the UK. I see myself as an immigrant, but some don’t. Weirdly, that feels wrong, although it is becoming clearer that the Irish will have a special status in post-Brexit Britain, according to reports on the UK government’s white paper.

Earlier this month, when I was down in London for work, I found myself in a popular cocktail bar in Covent Garden. A chatty and friendly barman got into a good conversation with my English cousin and I, and I asked him what he, a Hungarian living in England for three years, thought about his future in the UK post-Brexit.

“We want to stay in London, but if we can’t, we can’t…”

He sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and smiled with peaceful resignation. “What can we do? Hopefully, they will let us stay here. It will affect my girlfriend too: She’s Polish. We want to stay in London, but if we can’t, we can’t. My brother left Hungary too, and now lives in Galway. He likes it there, so maybe Ireland could be an option for us, but I don’t want to leave the UK right now”.

I had a feeling he wasn’t alone in his attitude. Earlier in the month, at my first Irish-language conversation group night, the topic of Brexit also came up. For the other Irish people who had gathered – some having lived in England for over ten years – there was a general attitude to look at returning to Ireland relatively soon, now that Brexit was inevitable, albeit unclear.

Trump was another topic of conversation that night (“is amadán é” being a well-used phrase that night; ‘he’s an idiot’), and while Brexit seemed silly (at best) to us, Trump’s election was beyond alarming – and we weren’t even American. My partner and I once considered the possibility of living in the U.S. for a year or so, but since Trump’s election result, that daydream evaporated into the air. Even a potential holiday later this year seemed like an unpleasant thought, with every news update announcing another move made by Trump and his administration. I genuinely worry for my friends in America, especially my LGBT friends.

A Little Reading, Too

I’m currently hooked on Helen Russell’s brilliant book, The Year of Living Danishly. As a total Danophile and someone who’s fantasised about living for a short while in Copenhagen, the book provides a great insight into Danish society, everyday living, and even aspects of life in Danish that aren’t as great.

Reading more about Danish life (and, from Helen’s perspective, how it compares to British life) makes me wonder more about Irish society. At various points through the book, I realise that Ireland is somewhere on a scale between the UK and the Nordic countries when it comes to attitude to weather (a great talking point, in English or Gaeilge), food, work/life balance, traditions, drinking, and happiness.

The Danes have ‘hygge‘, while the Irish have the ‘craic‘, and while they’re not direct comparisons, it’s interesting to see how Ireland compares against Denmark. Danish life isn’t perfect or ideal, Helen learns during her year on Jutland, so it makes me feel that my life in Nottingham, and my home in Dublin, aren’t so bad after all.

I wouldn’t say no to another holiday in Copenhagen soon, though.

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