Bad Patriot

It’s not often I have the chance to visit the Barbican, the well-known art centre in central London, but this morning I did. Alas, I wasn’t there to see a concert or to watch a dance performance, but to submit my application for British citizenship.

Not wishing to get too intimate with foreigners, I presume, the Home Office has cleverly outsourced some of its citizenship application services, which is why I found myself sitting opposite a mild-mannered and ever so friendly librarian in a quiet corner of the Barbican library.

It was all perfectly civilized, almost pleasant in fact if it wasn’t for a camera that had been specially installed to allow the Home Office to spy on applicants.

‘Should I wave at them,’ I asked, pointing at the camera.

‘You can if you want,’ the librarian said, ‘but to be honest, I’m not sure anyone is actually watching.’

Having checked my documents, scanned my fingerprints and a photo of me that made me look anything but a ‘person of good character,’ the librarian pressed ‘submit’ on the screen, and off went my application to the Home Office.

Since no one asks to see evidence of ‘good character’ to obtain a library membership, I signed up to get a card before leaving the library. That way, my visit wouldn’t have been all in vain, should the Home Office decide I don’t measure up to their notion of what makes a British citizen.

If it hadn’t been for Brexit, I probably wouldn’t have considered applying for a British passport, but with a British husband and British children, joining the tribe makes sense given the current political climate. My reasons for wanting to become British are purely practical, however, and as I’m already a bad Swede, will I now become a bad Brit as well?


It’s just that national identity has never been particularly important to me. Yes, I am Swedish, but that doesn’t necessarily make me more inclined to hang out with other Swedes than with people of different nationalities. Frankly, I don’t care what nationality you are as long as you’re a decent human being.

What matters infinitely more to me than national identity, citizenship, Brexit, Boris et al., is the future of our planet. For the science is clear: we are facing not just climate change, but wholesale climate breakdown within our lifetime. In the face of that stark reality, can we afford to squabble about who belongs within our borders and who doesn’t? After all, our national self-interests, our quests for bigger, better, greater nations, have themselves contributed to the accelerating change in climate that now threatens to destroy not just individual nations, but all of us.

Some will say I’m a hypocrite for banging on about climate breakdown while still driving my (hybrid) car, flying back to Sweden every few months, and failing to give up meat, and it’s true. But I’m learning. I’m making an effort to educate myself about the science behind climate change and the destruction of ecosystems, to make better-informed choices for myself and my family. It’s not enough, I know, but that is no excuse for turning a blind eye and getting on with business as usual.

I might be a bad Swede, and soon a bad Brit as well, but I’m at least trying to be a decent human being.

Beware the Clown

When you put on a clown suit and a rubber nose, nobody has any idea what you look like inside.  (Stephen King)

shutterstock_1135838741 (1)I never much liked clowns, and as a child, I found them nothing short of terrifying. I always felt there was something sinister about clowns; they might be stumbling about on a circus stage, falling over and making a fool of themselves, but beneath the silly exterior I sensed something much darker.

Little surprise then that I’ve been feeling edgy lately, given that each day that passes brings my adopted home country closer to acquiring a clown as prime minister. A lying, cheating, racist clown, no less. Despite his abysmal record as a politician, he is far and away the most popular candidate for the prime ministerial post, soon to be vacated by Theresa May.

It wasn’t long ago that Mrs May was lambasted in the media as the worst British prime minister in living memory, but I bet that two years from now, we will look back at her premiership with much kinder eyes, because if the recent past is deemed a farce, that’s nothing compared to what’s to come. Continue reading

Who’s the Loony One?

Everyone has a neighbour that’s a little odd, a bit crazy even, or just plain annoying.

I am that neighbour.

While my husband is everyone’s dream version of the good neighbour –  kind, friendly, always helpful and understanding – I am the neighbour that moans about the deplorable state of the council’s street cleaning services, snaps at drivers who take up more than one parking space so that only two cars can park in a three-car parking bay.

I am the neighbour who makes no secret of wanting to slip out at night and cut down another neighbour’s infernal palm tree, whose foliage always end up littering the street outside our house after a spot of wind and rain.

shutterstock_671085028I am the neighbour who stomps around in mud-splattered wooden clogs outside my house, armed with a litter picker and a bin bag, doing the job that the council evidently couldn’t be bothered to do.

Yes, I’m the loony neighbour, and I don’t give a damn. Continue reading

What Truly Matters

It’s over, he’s gone, and we survived. Can we finally breathe out now?

I’m talking about Donald Trump’s state visit to Britain, of course, an event that seemed only to deepen the current divisions in the country. While some were aghast that Trump was afforded such an honour, others were equally aghast at the politicians who declined the invitation to the Queen’s state banquet in protest at Trump being invited in the first place.

‘Whatever we think of Mr Trump himself, we must respect the office of the US presidency,’ some opined indignantly on radio and television. ‘Why should we,’ others objected, ‘when Trump himself doesn’t respect and honour his office?’ I’m inclined to agree with the latter.

If you still believe that Trump deserves the red carpet treatment simply because he is the president, consider the fact that he, the president of the United States, trolls people on Twitter, calling the London Mayor Sadiq Khan ‘a stone-cold loser,’ the actress/singer Bette Midler a ‘washed up psycho’ and Prince Harry’s wife ‘nasty.’ And he’d barely landed in Ireland following his UK visit, before he likened the Irish border to his proposed wall between the US and Mexico, at which point the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, had to point out that actually, Ireland did not want a border at all.

Is this a man worthy of a state visit?

Thankfully, he’s left the UK but not without ruffling a few feathers, including, most crucially, suggesting that the NHS would be up for grabs in future trade talks between the US and the UK.

Trump is not a politician; he’s a businessman and a ruthless one at that. He doesn’t give a toss about people’s well-being; he cares first and foremost about money and glory. That makes him dangerous, as does his refusal to accept the reality of climate change.

While I have little faith in politicians these days, I have no more faith in business people. People’s lives are not something to be negotiated, traded for economic gain, yet that is precisely what the British government has been doing for years and post-Brexit it’s only going to get worse, as long as the money-obsessed Tories are in power.

shutterstock_269150525I recently helped my 9-year old daughter revise for her school exams and preparing for her R.E. test, the principle of ‘stewardship’ came up, the idea that humans are responsible for the world and should take care of it.

To my daughter, that principle made perfect sense, yet the reality is depressingly different.

Instead of taking care of each other and nature and doing what we can to preserve the world for the benefit of future generations, we obsess about growth, productivity, money and ‘progress’. We’ve all but forgotten that we too are an intrinsic part of nature and that by doing violence onto nature, we’re doing violence onto ourselves.

It’s easy to feel cynical and dejected in the face of the political games being played out at home and abroad, but we can’t afford to let those feelings paralyse us. Complacency won’t do, hiding from the world won’t do, telling ourselves there’s nothing we can do to change things, won’t do. This is the time for active engagement, however small, however seemingly insignificant and futile. Every bit of action matter.