Symi Dream

Living on a Greek island

Symi Dream - Living on a Greek island

With no apology

With no apology

One of the responsibilities of a blogger is to be honest, and I like to think I am, but sometimes I find myself covering up certain truths, or white-lying my way around them for the sake of my readers. People who come to my blog want to see photos of Symi and learn a little of what it is like to live here. Well, I can tell you that from my point of view, living here is currently not as attractive as it has been these last 17 years, and that has nothing to do with the island, its people or the country. It has everything to do with powers beyond my control, and when things happen over which one has no control, it’s natural to suffer a shift in emotions, from security to uncertainty, from contentment to concern, and from acceptance to frustration which leads to anger.

People often say to us, “You’re so lucky” [to be living on Symi], to which I politely reply, “Thank you”, but in reality, it had nothing to do with luck. It had a lot to do with saving money, planning, going without, taking a huge risk and then making sure it paid off. It was also my right backed up by certain fundamental securities; access to health care, the freedom to come and go, the state pension in which I had invested would one day be paid and meanwhile, contributed to by contributions made here, to name three.

Now, I have no say in what happens to my future, I have no control over it, and that’s not a very secure place to be. By moving here, one of the rules I agreed to abide by, one of the things I understood, was that after 15 years of permanent residency, I would no longer be eligible to vote in the UK. Fair enough, I understood that, although I don’t agree with it and never have, but at the time, I saw it as a reasonable pay-off for having the choice to live in another country without hassle. Back then, of course, no-one expected the Spanish Inquisition, but it has happened, and it’s only going to get worse for me and millions like me who are denied a say in their futures, or who have simply been forgotten by their country of birth, the country that one relies on for protection. One’s homeland. Well, if you’re a Brit who exercised their right to live elsewhere, you can forget all that.

“No-one knows what’s going to happen. It’ll be alright,” and other platitudes. I hear and read these daily. “It’s scaremongering. We just don’t know. I shouldn’t worry about it.” Not helpful. One of the worst things about my current situation is not knowing; the other one is knowing that whatever happens later this year, my future would have been decided for me by other people, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Yes, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but the way things are going, I can’t see how anything’s going to be coming up roses for the likes of me. Something’s going to change, and what’s so frustrating about that is that things are perfectly fine as they are.

To help you understand these honest thoughts of mine, I’m going to borrow an analogy from a post I saw on Fakebook. I’ll try and keep it brief.

Imagine Kent is the UK, and the rest of the country is Europe.

I was born in Kent. When I was in my 20s, I moved to Wiltshire for work, and later to Lancashire. I’m now living in Lancashire, working, paying my taxes, backing up my state pension for later life, paying into my state health insurance scheme the Kent government runs, popping across the county borders to see the family from time to time, and considering a job in London. Then Kent decides it doesn’t want to be part of the UK anymore. Well, a few rich people from Orpington don’t because a local newspaper and a few others lied and persuaded everyone they’d be better off going it alone. Kent sticks to its guns no matter what and there you go, it’s now no longer part of the country.

No-one at Kent County Council is bothered about me because I am living in Lancashire. They keep my health insurance contributions and pension fund payments, but won’t let me benefit from them, and it doesn’t matter that they’ve reneged on our deal because there’s nothing I can do about it. Then Lancashire says that to carry on living and working there, I need to magic up a large sum of money and put it in the Co-Cop bank of Preston, and because I am from Kent, I can’t benefit from the county health scheme, so I have to provide my own. Even though I’m married to a Wiltshire lad under Lancashire law, I’m still not from the county, and that might become an issue. “We’re not sure yet, but don’t worry about it, you can always move back to Kent.”

Except if I do, Kent won’t protect me for at least six months because I haven’t been living there, and their living costs are far higher than they are in Lancashire, so I can’t afford to live in Kent anyway, but that’s okay, as it “Was your choice to move away, so it serves you right. And, by the way, unless you find a way to live in Kent, we’re not giving you your pension. Thanks for the money, but it’s ours now, serves you right, traitor.” (And other insults.)

If you’re in the UK and live outside the county you were born in, I am sure you can imagine how you would feel if forced to return there, leaving behind everything you have now. I am not saying that’s going to happen, I am trying to point out how worrying the possibility is, and how frustrating to have no say in the matter. And please, no platitudes. “They won’t kick you out. It’ll be fine. Wait and see.” These are as helpful as, and almost as insulting as, “You chose to live there. Serves you right. Traitor. Remoaner.”

I’ve not put that as eloquently or with as much detail as the article I read, but I hope it makes things clearer, and you start to see why so many of us immigrants from Kent to other beautiful parts of the country are worried, frustrated and angered by the behaviour of those old men in Orpington.