Well I definitely picked the right week to take a week off cycling as it’s pretty much been wet the whole time I’ve been in Oulu. As mentioned I’ve been thinking about the fallout from the EU referendum and I still can’t order my thoughts to a point where I feel comfortable writing a coherent blog on it. I’ve been using my free time to read a lot and it’s interesting to see the reactions and thoughts of others being put forward. However parsing those through my own filter and creating something worthwhile is proving difficult even though a part of me really needs to do it (if only for my own piece of mind).
So instead of anything coherent below is something I wrote for the June round of the writing group I’m involved in. I actually wrote it on Monday so yes, I was late submitting. The piece was supposed to be a response to this by Robert Macfarlane however my post (and pre?) referendum pessimism seems to have come through. As an aside I don’t really like the writing of Macfarlane as I think it is unecessarily ‘flowery’ but this is better than the ‘The old ways’ book I read by him. However that is just my prejudices around writing style.
Also if you think that my clearly dystopian future vision could never happen (and the likelihood is that it won’t) then this article provides a nice bridge to get to the point where you realise that it is still somewhere in the realms of possibility rather than total fantasy. Also my response to that article was that it was a lose/lose situation as follows:
“Is it not a lose lose? Defend freedom of movement, economy tanks due to unsustainable debt bubble, immigrants blamed, rise of right. Stop freedom of movement, withdraw from common market, right wing dystopia as described in the article. The Media is never going to publicise widely the real reasons for misery.”
I’m a happy sort, anyhow here’s the fiction.
“This ain’t no anthem, we must fight them”
I sat down with my back against the cool stone of the monument and looked across the battlefield. In my head I imagined this place in the past. The smell of smoke and gunpowder, the noise of muskets and cannons, shouting, screams. The two sides floundering in the mud of this flat fertile plain. After over 200 years people would fight again here soon. To a degree it would be the same sides Swedish versus Russian in a land that for the last hundred years had been neither. Except this wasn’t really a battle on the basis of nationality but ideology. Both sides would be a mixed group of people from across Europe. ‘Our’ side here was mostly Swedish but there were also native Finns, British, Norwegians, German, Dutch. The other side did comprise a large portion of Russians but equally there would be British and other Europeans with them. Strange to think that a political ideology with a name part formed from the word national was now an international force.
I thought back to what had brought me to this place for the second time in my life. It’s hard to admit that what you viewed as scaremongering came true. Even when that was no fault of your own and you did your best to fight it. When it was clear that the Nazis were going to take control in England we had fled to Scotland and then onwards across the North Sea to Norway. Myself and my girlfriend crammed into a small yacht with six others. Including myself there were only two of us with any experience of sailing, and neither with experience crossing hundreds of miles of sea. We had made it though against all the odds, to a notion of safety. It was naturally logical to answer the call when the Norwegian and Swedish governments had agreed to combine their limited resources and asked for people to fight the forces amassing now to the east and west of their borders.
When I volunteered they initially sent me to Umeå where I joined the Swedish brigade known as the Umeå blacks. A name given due to the colour of the shirts and clothing worn by most of the rag tag bunch in lieu of uniforms and the far left bent to their politics. The irony of this name was not lost on me knowing the history of the ideologies we were fighting. From Umeå we crossed the Gulf of Bothnia to the small area that was controlled by our side in what was once Finland. They said my previous knowledge of the area would be useful, I wasn’t sure. So unexpectedly for the second time in my life I was here, at this monument to the battle of 1808, looking out across the plain.
I looked to my left and saw a figure in black climbing the path up the hill towards the monument. My hand closed briefly on the handle my rifle. “Hei” came the greeting. I replied in kind recognising him as one of the Finnish fighters on our side. Anything to report he asked. “Ei” I replied, no. He smiled and from his pocket handed me an apple. Getting to my feet I responded with thanks, “kiitos”. We embraced and with a last look back over my shoulder at the plain I set off down the path to the village.