Sunday, 26 June 2016

England, bound in with the triumphant sea

I hope the 52% are right and, along with the other 48%, I’m wrong

Nothing lasts forever. Everything changes. Change – whether slow and gradual or sudden and violent – is an unstoppable natural force. In every local council election I’ve ever voted I’ve been quite content with the outcome – I’ve always seen a Labour or Green Councillor elected where I’ve been living. In the nine General Elections where I’ve had a vote (1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015) I’ve only been happy twice: yes, that’s you, Tony Blair (or at least Chris Leslie who was the young Labour MP who ousted long-standing Conservative Marcus Fox from Shipley in 1997 and then kept the seat in 2001.)
Tony Blair, Chris Leslie, Marcus Fox and Philip Davies

The AV Referendum in 2011

Now I’ve had the experience of two national referenda (one on AV in 2011 and the EU In/Out vote in 2016) and in both cases I have experienced a disappointing outcome. In the first referendum I think the wrong question had been asked for what the majority of people polled wanted (instead of “Should the ‘Alternative Vote’ system be used instead of ‘first past the post’?” the politically actively-engaged wanted something like “Should parliament debate and implement a system different to ‘first past the post’?” The choice in the referendum was between the status quo and a choice that was not a popular alternative. And there was a low turn-out and very many young people were angry with Nick Clegg for climbing into a coalition with the Conservative party.



The EU Referendum in 2016

The recent EU referendum was called primarily to put an end to in-fighting within the Conservative party. The result turned out to be, in my opinion
  • a protest against the Labour and Conservative governments’ inability to manage the consequences of immigration
  • a class revolt against the perception of globalisation
  • an inability of the Remain campaign to counter the oft-repeated (mythical) Brexit slogan of “Take back control”
Sadly the Brexit campaign persuaded the electorate to Vote Leave on a series of advertising promises and slogans that were misleading or impossible to achieve so, even in the space of two days after the result, key Brexit figures were admitting that
  • £350 million per week cannot be put back into the NHS
  • immigration levels will not be changing very soon
  • economic conditions are likely to be unstable for an unspecified time
  • Cornwall and South Wales will not be receiving UK funding equivalent to their EU grants
and, within hours of the decision sinking in
  • The Prime Minister resigned
  • Scotland announced its intention to reopen Scottish Independence plans
  • Northern Ireland’s fragile peace settlement stirred up sectarian arguments about the border with Ireland
  • Brexiters were publically wishing they hadn’t voted leave
  • Donald Trump and Marine le Pen congratulated Brexiters
  • Other far-right organizations throughout Europe rejoiced
  • Racist attacks increased in public throughout the UK according to social media postings
  • The pound dropped to its lowest level against the dollar in 31 years
  • £122bn pound was wiped from the FTSE 100 within minutes of the result
  • Europe made it clear that they wanted Brexit sooner rather than later to end uncertainty
  • France is pressing for Britain to take charge of its own border instead of processing migrants in Calais
    Dangerous politicans and ordinary people who have been hoodwinked, imho

The big statistics

  • 17,410,742 voted to leave 
  • 16,141,241 voted to remain 
  • 13,047,993 could have voted but didn’t (72% of people voted)

One way of looking at the overall figures is that 29 million didn’t vote to leave and 17 million have voted to leave. I know that is not the way democracy works but, if we decide to an adopt an Australian-style points system for immigration (which incidentally increased the number of immigrants settling in Australia….) I hope we can also adopt their voting policy which says that if you are eligible to vote it is mandatory and you get penalties for refusing to vote (you can spoil your ballot paper if you want to protest about the voting choices.)

The age statistics (the saddest statistics of all)

  • 18 – 24 year olds: 27% Leave; 73% Remain 
  • 25 – 34 year olds: 38% Leave; 62% Remain 
  • 35 – 44 year olds: 48% Leave; 52% Remain 
  • 45 – 54 year olds: 56% Leave; 44% Remain 
  • 55 – 64 year olds: 57% Leave; 43% Remain 
  • 65 – 99 year olds: 60% Leave; 40% Remain
In other words, people over 45 (who won’t live with the long-term consequences) voted to deny people under 45 (who WILL live with the consequences) what they wanted. And don’t get me started on the fact that 16 and 17 year olds can join the army, give blood and pay taxes but still don’t get a vote….

Pyrrhic Victory

A pyrrhic victory is one where even the commanders wish they hadn’t won because the costs have been too great. The term is used as an analogy in fields such as business, politics, and sports to describe struggles that end up ruining the victor. There are already signs that the Brexit leaders are unsettled because David Cameron has unexpectedly resigned without triggering Article 50 - and they are hurriedly meeting to formulate the Brexit plans, speculating about who would be brave enough (anyone?) to trigger Article 50. In the case of King Pyrrhus of Epirus, he defeated the Romans at Heraclea in 280BC and Asculum in 279BC but his army suffered irreplaceable casualties. And the Romans kept coming. And coming. And coming. In Plutarch’s account he cries:
“If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”
The Romans kept coming. One anxiety I have is that the people who voted Brexit will gradually realise that the country is not suddenly Ye Olde Merrie England and
  • Immigration will continue much as before (unless there is a proper overhaul of tax evasion, zero hours contracts, minimum wages, working tax credits, back-to-work programmes, the education system, the entire welfare system including pensions – all of which could have politically happened whilst still being a member of the European Union)
  • Laws will continue much as before (unless there is an erosion of workers’ rights, health and safety recommendations, extra laws to try to get the same rights as we currently have for trading as part of the European bloc)
  • All the changes to the law, to trade agreements, to infrastructural and cultural investment will take many years, a lot of money (I wonder where that will come from?) and, oh yes, a great many bureaucrats to work it out. Who has the skills to do this sort of work? (People working for the European Union…. Or, more worryingly, Brexiters who don’t have a clue….?)
    In a few years time....

I hope the 52% are right and, along with the other 48%, I’m wrong

I started with the above sub-heading and it is worth repeating. I find it very easy to admit when I’m wrong and I always apologise if that happens. I hope the dreams of the Brexiteers are realised, as long as that doesn’t mean England becomes a mean-spirited, inward-looking, isolated land that gets stuck in the past. Past blogs have outlined
I'm not traumatised by being on the “losing side” (I like being in a minority and an underdog) although, quoting from my blog about "Amsterdam, City of Sin":
“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” (Anne Frank)
Financial Times reader Nicholas Barrett's viral post

What have we done? (John of Gaunt in Richard II says)

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry….
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out….

Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
The United Kingdom, Great Britain, Little England (and Wales) - what does the future hold?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Remain or Brexit pursued by a (Russian) bear?

Harriet's birthday at Bolton Abbey.... Harriet's French-speaking job is in the balance....
Contemplating potential sadness
Being retired I have been able to spend many hours reading about tomorrow’s EU referendum. I have tried to read more Brexit than Remain arguments because some of the people I love are contemplating voting to leave the EU and I want to be able to understand if the vote does not go the way I hope. My initial instinct was to Vote Remain, largely because I believe that global cooperation is a better future for mankind than individual countries going it alone; but the more I have read and studied, the more I am now a Remainer by absolute conviction. If tomorrow the country votes to leave the EU, I will be extremely sad.
The Botanist in Leeds - need to celebrate Life, Birth, Optimism, Future....

Rocking the boat

The UK is currently in a gradually improving recovery period – and it seems to me that Rocking the Boat would take us backwards politically, economically, culturally, historically and philosophically. If we Brexit tomorrow, not only will we need a bigger boat, we will have to start – without hesitation – building a brand new boat, on our own, without instructions! That might work if we could
  • operate in glorious isolation and ignore the rest of the world
  • close our island borders
  • fill all the vacancies in the jobs that Brits don’t want to do
  • trade with only ourselves until we can renegotiate all the international deals that we currently have by being a member of the EU. The historical pattern of international trade has involved in the first place multilateral negotiations centred around the World Trade Organisation, currently dominated by the US and the EU; and, then, a new wave of bilateral trade deals involving major negotiations with a whole series of countries including the US, China, India, Indonesia, the Phillipines – in these deals the EU is the world leader and these are the ones we would have to negotiate as an individual country (“back of the queue”as President Obama pointed out). Unless of course we applied to join the Single Market and thereby accept free movement of people…
  • and re-integrate the 1.2 million non-taxpaying ex-pat (mostly) pensioners from Spain, France and Italy whose residency rights in Europe will have to be negotiated according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which is very explicit: the acquired rights of states are preserved upon termination of a treaty; but the situation of natural and legal persons is to be determined by agreement (either in advance or upon exit.) The EU Treaties make no provision in advance; residency rights have to be agreed upon withdrawal. If they all have to return, they will become a (non-contributing) drain on our current resources.

Labour In

My Mum always voted what Labour voted and the official Labour line is Labour In. Thus, in honour of my Mum the past two weeks, I have been out leafleting, pounding the local pavements with Labour In campaign leaflets and I am now living in a house with a Labour In garden post.

For whom the bell tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

(John Donne)

Overwhelming support from admirable sources

Why are people suddenly frightened about intelligent expert opinion? About evidence-based research? If you were going to have an operation, you would want an expert to operate on you. If you were going to send an astronaut to the International Space Station, you would want an expert to go there. It is perverse to disagree with the overwhelming number of intelligent individuals and groups who are supporting the Remain campaign with public and detailed letters (references can all be found on the Wikipedia page here):
  • 1,285 business leaders in a letter to The Times today
  • 200 senior Healthcare Professionals working for the UK NHS right here, right now
  • 150 scientists and researchers working in all branches of Science, led by Professor Stephen Hawking
  • Over 100 university leaders
  • 279 leading economists
  • 300 leading lawyers
  • 300 leading historians
  • the 18 most senior leaders of the Armed and Security Forces
  • Premier Football League boss, Richard Scudamore and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (who both want the UK national teams to stay in the Euro Football Tournament)
  • 300 Writers, Artists, Architects, Actors, Directors, Painters, Comedians, including, for example, Eddie Izzard, JK Rowling, Jo Brand, Tracey Emin
  • 25 of 30 Cabinet Ministers
  • President Obama and the vast majority of world leaders
  • 25 major newspapers and magazines including The BMJ and The Lancet (health professionals), The Farmers Weekly, The Economist and, surprisingly, The Mail on Sunday and The Times (possibly because of the letters they have been sent)
  • 16 Local Government Authorities
  • major organisations like the CBI, National Farmers Union, Universities UK, Quakers, Friends of the Earth, the Round Table, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the TUC (and all major trade unions including the Fire Brigades Union and UNISON)
  • Archbishops of York and Canterbury, 
  • CEOs of All UK Airports
  • Bosses of Asda, Aviva, BAE Systems, BMW UK, BP, BT, Burberry, Cisco, Dixons, Easyjet, Ford UK, Fujisu UK, Jaguar UK, Lastminute, Lloyd’s, London Stock Exchange, M&S, Mothercare, National Express, National Grid, Ocado, 02, Pearsons, Prudential, River Café. Rolls Royce UK, Ryanair, Santander UK, Shell UK, Siemens, TalkTalk, Unilever, VirginMedia, VirginMoney
  • The Labour Conference on the basis of
  • jobs
  • investment in our economy
  • protections for workers and consumers
  • increased security that cooperation with our continental neighbours provides

Brexiters include:

  • Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Ian Duncan Smith
  • Dennis Skinner and Frank Field (latter two Labour MPs I greatly respect but disagree with on this topic)
  • the Shipley MP Philip Davies (my own MP....)
  • Donald Trump, former Australian PM John Howard
  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Katie Hopkins, Julian Fellowes, Michael Caine
  • The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and another 9 newspapers including the Communist The Morning Star 
  • 5 declared major employers: Aspall Cider, Go Ape, JCB, Tate and Lyle and Wetherspoons
Do I want to ally myself with these people?

Brexit pursued by a (Russian) bear

Not a Shakespeare reference to The Winter’s Tale this time, but my worry that Russia will celebrate the most if the UK leaves the EU. A fractured Europe would please Putin profoundly; the list of conflicts between and within European states suggests that it won’t be long before rivalries erupt if, as predicted, a Brexit leads eventually to a collapse of the whole European project and the end of the single market, the most advanced trade agreement on the planet (currently with no close competitor.) Time and again throughout our history we have entered European conflicts, sometimes starting them by way of conquest and sometimes in order to protect our independence by stopping another power from swallowing smaller countries. Michael Dougan’s lecture summarising the reasons to Remain is very persuasive and his further comments (on the university of Liverpool website) about immigration are compelling.

If you’re not prejudiced against experts, and are still unsure which way to vote, some extracts from their letters are below

Extract from what the NHS professionals wrote:
"As health professionals and researchers we write to highlight the valuable benefits of continued EU membership to the NHS, medical innovation and UK public health…. We have made enormous progress over decades in international health research, health services innovation and public health. Much has been built around shared policies and capacity across the EU…. EU trade deals will not privatise the NHS as the EU negotiating position now contains clear safeguards. Decisions on NHS privatisation are in UK government hands alone. EU immigration is a net benefit to our NHS in terms of finances, staffing and exchanges…. leaving the EU would not provide a financial windfall for the NHS".
Extract from what the university leaders wrote:
"Inside the EU, we are better able to collaborate with partners from across Europe to carry out cutting edge research, from medical and healthcare advances, to new materials, products and services. In the EU, the UK is also a more attractive destination for global talent, ensuring that our students are taught by the best minds from across Europe. This has a direct impact on our economy, driving growth, generating jobs and ultimately improving people’s lives".
Extract from what the leading historians wrote:
"On 23 June, we face a choice: to cast ourselves adrift, condemning ourselves to irrelevance and Europe to division and weakness; or to reaffirm our commitment to the EU and stiffen the cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world.
Extract from today’s letter to The Times by business leaders:
"Sir, We own and run more than 1,200 businesses, from micro companies to the FTSE 100, employing more than 1.75 million people. We know our firms are stronger in Europe. Our reasons are straightforward: businesses and their employees benefit massively from being able to trade inside the world’s largest single market without barriers. As business people, we always look to the future — and a future inside the EU is where we see more opportunities for investment, growth and new jobs."
Extra material from Professor Michael Dougan addressing immigration:
"– a significant majority of the foreign nationals living in the UK (2/3 at the last national census), and over half the net immigration each year, come from outside the EU. That is almost entirely within our own domestic competence and power – we seem to be good at immigration, without needing any help from the EU.
– as regards those EU nationals who come to the UK: it is completely dishonest of prominent Leave campaigners repeatedly to claim that there is some sort of unconditional right to move to and settle in another Member State. We all have a right to circulate – that is the basis on which, e.g. we go on holiday to Spain and France. But when it comes to settling in another country, there are three main categories of right under EU law:
for the economically active (ie in work and paying taxes)
for students (eg enrolled at university and thus paying tuition fees)
and for those wealthy enough to look after themselves and their families without relying on public benefits.
There is no right to “benefit tourism” under EU law.
– Against that background, it is unsurprising to find that – according to all the objective social science research – EU migrants are significantly more likely to be younger, better qualified and economically active; they pay far more into the country in work and taxes than they take out in public benefits or services.
– When it comes to the particular situation of Eastern European migrants, we are rarely reminded of the fact that the UK was one of only three Member States (the others being Ireland and Sweden) that chose not to impose transitional restrictions on the rights to free movement of new EU citizens during the “Big Bang” enlargement of 2004. We chose to let these people come here as we did; no one forced us to and we could have decided otherwise. Small wonder that many other Europeans regard the UK debate as rather hypocritical.
– And nor should we forget that free movement is a two way street. Massive numbers of UK nationals travel for pleasure, study and work around the EU – taking advantage of all the benefits and convenience and protection EU law offers. Around 2 million UK nationals have also settled in other Member States – and the objective social science research suggests that those migrants are more likely to be economically inactive, ie they are not actively contributing through work and taxes to their host society. Again – small wonder other Europeans think there is a real double standard at work in the UK debate.
– It is also worth recalling that the accession of future Member States requires the unanimous agreement of the 28 governments plus their national ratification processes. The only large applicant is Turkey – and there is no realistic prospect of Turkey joining the EU within any of our lifetimes – not least since several countries have indicated that they would hold national referenda on any Turkish deal, obviously in the expectation that their populations would overwhelmingly reject it.”

Vote Remain!


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Blog One Hundred

Me - proud as punch because I'd sewed up my jumper myself - not sure who cut my hair!

Blog One Hundred

Welcome to my 100th blog. Time to take stock. What does the Blogspot data tell me?
  • TheReadinessIsAllLetBe has been visited over 13,000 times, so far
  • So far, people in 76 countries have followed links to the site
  • Apart from the UK, the countries that visit my blog most frequently, so far, are:
  • the US, Ireland, Russia, France and Germany
  • So far, the top most frequently-mentioned topics are:
  • Family, Shakespeare, History, Yorkshire and Reading

Edward Patrick Johnson and Annie Elizabeth (Veronica)

We are all the product of who and where we came from, so I am glad that Family and Yorkshire feature in over half my posts. When Annie Penn married Eddie Johnson…. they produced five children, one of whom was me. As an adult there are many questions I wish I could now ask my parents about their lives, their opinions, their decisions, their feelings. I wish I could ask advice from both of them. I wish I could thank my Dad for giving me an appreciation of classical music and of Shakespeare but he probably also gave me an addictive personality so I could challenge him about that. I wish I could thank my Mum for giving me a love of history and of reading fiction, of giving me the capacity to love without qualification and enjoy walks in the countryside; but I also know she saddled me with a delusional and romantic cockeyed optimism.

Joseph, Michael Christopher and Teresa

How much did my siblings mould me when I was growing up? How could we all be so different, being brought up by the same parents; but also, in noticeable ways, how could we be so similar? Nature or nurture and in what proportion if a mixture? (Do those snake-belts – worn by Josh in the picture above – still exist for boys today? If not, why not?)
(Portrait on wall) Grandad Penn, (Back Row) Harry, Minnie, Annie, Joe, Reg, (Front Row) Claire, Mary, Granny Penn, John

Mary, John, Harry, Claire, Joe, Reg, Annie, Doreen and Minnie

I wish I could thank my parade of aunties and uncles who came in and out of my life throughout my first 18 years. One of my strongest childhood memories is listening to my Mum and Auntie Claire nattering endlessly about the world and their neighbours, family and friends, a cavalcade of anecdotes from the lurid past and the vivid present to expand my horizons. What would my Grandad Penn (hovering behind my Mum’s head in the picture above) have to tell me if I could ask him about his life? I knew enough and to spare about Granny Penn’s gangrenous leg, her mysterious snuff box and her teeth which she often sent me to find. In a notebook of my Mum’s she writes that her eldest sister, Mary, was born in Normanton; her eldest brother, John, was born at Outwood; siblings Harry, Claire, Joe and Reg were born in Nicolson Row; and she and her younger sisters, Doreen (who died) and Minnie were born in the house in Chapel Yard which no longer stands in Wakefield. Why were the nine children born in four different locations? (I know that the above picture was taken by my brother Josh at the house in Woodhouse Road on Eastmoor Estate which was my Auntie Mary and Uncle Alf’s house, the house where Gran lived out her final days.)

Mick’s 1970s Wedding

As far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong, family) but this picture (when Mick married Jan) is the only time we were photographed as a sevensome….? I remember my platform shoes and those flares. I remember Mum saying “I like my legs in this picture but I wish my hat didn’t shade my face so much.” Funny what you remember…. Funny how time goes by…. Funny how in the 1970s I had no idea I’d be able to scan pictures 40 years later and put them in a kind of internet diary…. Here’s to the next 100 blogs!
Funny how almost 30 years ago....

Friday, 10 June 2016

If you prick us, do we not bleed?

Shakespeare’s humanity
We are all the same under the sun. Britons, Europeans, Asians, Americans, Africans. We have all arrived by meandering means in the countries of our birth through migration, intermarriage and emigration. The descendants of “true Brits” are now largely in Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The rest of us in England are the mixed-race children of Celts, Romans, Frisians, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, Normans, Flemings, Africans, Jews, Huguenots, Poles and Indians – all in significant groups of invaders or immigrants before 1960. Barabas in Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, Donald Trump-like, rejects compassion, love and hope. Shylock in The Merchant of Venice reminds us, Eddie Izzard-like, that we are all “healed by the same means.” I’ll be Voting Remain because that’s what Shakespeare would have voted and because I’m persuaded by History, Culture and my Hope for the Future of Mankind, never mind Europe.
The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe

Be moved at nothing

Christopher Marlowe’s main character in The Jew of Malta is Barabas. What actions does Barabas take during the play, that make him such a villain?:
  • he murders his own daughter, Abigail, along with a whole convent of nuns
  • he engineers the deaths of two young friends in a duel
  • he murders two friars, two prostitutes and his own servant
  • he burns alive a Turkish troop of soldiers and galley-slaves
  • and he delights in his evil plots and is unambiguously hateful.
The only thing you can say in Barabas’s defence is that everyone around him is equally corrupt. (Maybe not the poisoned nuns or the incinerated galley-slaves….) His overall message is pitiless:
First, be thou void of these affections,
Compassion, love, vain hope, and heartless fear;
Be moved at nothing, see thou pity none,
But to thyself smile when the Christians moan.
Shylock, the sympathetic villain in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

If you tickle us, do we not laugh?

Comparing Shakespeare’s dramatic treatment of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice with Marlowe’s treatment of Barabas in The Jew of Malta seems to me one of best illustrations of why Shakespeare has risen so far beyond his contemporary writers. Marlowe has created a character whose villainy would directly feed into the prejudices of the Elizabethan audience against Jewish people. Shylock, though villainous in some of his behaviours, elicits genuine sympathy both from the story, the structure and the language of The Merchant of Venice. On the one hand he pursues a bloody revenge course by insisting on cutting away a pound of a man’s flesh and he treats his daughter like a possession equating her to his gold; but on the other hand he provokes audience sympathy because he is spat upon, is insulted openly and, in the famous “merciful” trial scene he is brutally forced to renounce his faith and lose all his possessions in a verdict far more punitive than he deserves. Shakespeare gives him the most powerful speech about how all humans are the same under the sun:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
Probably the brainiest man in Europe Votes Remain! - good enough for me!
Vote Remain!

Friday, 3 June 2016

The sea hath cast me on the rocks

What would Shakespeare do?

Some people use WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) as a guide to life’s difficult questions. It is no surprise to my family and friends that my internal guru question is WWSD…. What would Shakespeare do? Would he vote to Remain in Europe or Brexit pursued by a bear?

What I have been I have forgot to know

Shakespeare’s writing always seems to empathise with castaways. A previous blog highlighted Thomas More’s appeal to the mob to embrace the migrant (click here to read.) Characters washing ashore in other lands feature throughout the plays: the Antipholus twins, their parents and the Dromio twins in The Comedy of Errors, Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Pericles and Thaisa in Pericles, Perdita in The Winter’s Tale, Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest. Shakespeare’s work is riddled with characters recovering from being adrift and cast out. Pericles, washing up on the shores of Pentapolis expresses how many migrants must feel:
Alas, the sea hath cast me on the rocks,
Wash’d me from shore to shore, and left me breath
Nothing to think on but ensuing death….
A man whom both the waters and the wind,
In that vast tennis-court, have made the ball
For them to play upon, entreats you pity him….
What I have been I have forgot to know

 European locations and European sources

Apart from setting his plays all around the Mediterranean (see map at the end of this blog – click here) Shakespeare also went to European writers to source his plays: Leo Africanus (Spanish Moroccan), Appian, Homer and Plutarch (Greek), Ariosto, Bandello, Boccaccio, Castiglione and Cinthio (Italian), Belleforest and Froissart (French), Montemayor (Spanish), Ovid, Plautus, Pliny the Elder and Seneca (Roman Italian.) Most of these were most likely in translations but it was clear the influence of Europe animated Shakespeare's writings. My head and heart tell me that if My Boy Bill could vote in the forthcoming EU referendum he would vote Remain.