Lib Dem Locked Down in Greece…Part One
By John Gillet
This is Aldbourne resident John Gill- ...Aldbourne? Village. Near Ramsbury. No? Near Hungerford? Ring any bells? No? Oh well, it's in Wiltshire, and like most other Wiltshire villages, is packed with people who unthinkingly vote Tory and think Boris is "a right laugh". I've lived in a beautiful 17th-century cottage here for 10 years. My name's John Gillett. But locally I'm known as "John the actor". Probably other things too, but mainly that one, because.... well, because I'm an actor. I'm known as Aden Gillett when I swan about the stage, but John the Actor when I swan about The Blue Boar or Crown in Aldbourne.
This is an account of being stuck in a strange hostile country, very different from the one I've been familiar with all these years........... Brexit Britain.
A sad benighted land that I decided to escape....... for a few weeks..........
It's Friday 13th. Of course, it is.
Friday the 13th of December, 2019. The Tories have won. With a thumping majority. The dream is over. It's now.........a nightmare.
Yesterday I was in Winchester.
My constituency: Devizes is a lost cause. A well trained Labrador would be elected here, as long as he wore a blue collar. So, I travel to Winchester. Try and help Paula Ferguson over the line. Knock-up possible Lib Dem voters, just as I had done in the victorious Brecon and Radnorshire by-election on a sunny August 1st a few months before.
"Can I ask if you've voted? " "Will you be voting?" "Will you be voting Lib Dem?" Exciting. Elections.
But today....... black skies. Monsoon rain. Mobile phone sodden, useless, after 5 or 6 hours. No way to get voting information back to Lib Dem H.Q. Lib Dem H.Q. know anyway. Farage's deal with the Tories has slammed the door shut on the Lib Dem revival.
Lifelong Lib Dems voting Tory, because "Corbyn terrifies me", in a marginal constituency with no real Labour presence. Where is the logic? I couldn't find it. I still can't.
Not voting this time - revoking article 50 is undemocratic.."
"Well okay, but...you're letting Boris and his cronies in," I bleat. Persuading......nobody.
And then the lowest moment.
"I like that Boris: he makes me laugh."
Rain pouring down. Mobile phone drowned. Freezing.
Go home John.
No need to check the results the following day. The Lib Dem grapevine had left us in no doubt. Britain had voted the Tories in. Yet again. Brexit now really does mean Brexit. All those marches, all those petitions, letters to M.P. 's, ............. useless. The lunatics have been handed the keys of the asylum.
I'm sure you like revisiting that day as little as I do. This is a Lib Dem site after all. But you probably came to terms with the result better than I did.
Possibly because I'd been suffering badly from one of those unpronounceably long arthritis diseases, or possibly because I was the victim of a little too much.........hope, I felt wretched. Hopeless.
It seems I looked it too.
A friend took pity on me. She has a sister who knows someone who has a studio type apartment on Antiparos. Small Greek island. You can stay there over the winter. Very cheap. No one goes to the islands until June. Nice though. Warmer. Sunnier. Do your arthritis good. And it's ..... not England.
That was the clincher. Not England. Let me be anywhere, but my country. Let me out of here! My gorgeous country has been overtaken by.... Wormtongues: inexpert Goves, Alan B'Stard Raabs.... A Cabinet of none of the talents. Mordor has cast its shadow across this green and pleasant land. It is now officially... Borissed. Trumped. Terminally grey and unpleasant.
I pack 4 shirts, 6 pairs of socks and pants, jeans and a Guernsey ( "...take a sweater - it can get cold at night.." ). I plan a glorious journey by Eurostar to Paris, then a train to Milan. Overnight in Milan. Wake up early. Train down Italy's east coast to Bari. Overnight ferry to Patras. All these wonderful exotic names.... On on on. Glorious non-aeroplane travel. I'm already high on my lack of carbon emissions.
Tough. Because now my arthritis is so bad that in late December I have to begin injecting a drug once every 2 weeks. It's an amazing drug. It works. My arthritis has..... disappeared. After 30 years. Astonishing. However.....
This amazing drug needs to be refrigerated, doesn't survive long out of a fridge. Blah blah blah. And it's expensive. We'll only give you 4 at a time. It'll cost you €400 a pop in Greece by the way. So .....
My flight lands in Athens on Jan 10th 2020.
It's noticeably warmer than Wiltshire. There's the Parthenon. Here's my Airbnb. Walk around. Nice. Different. Different music. Different smells. Nice.
The next day. The tourist bus. I'm no different. Blankly absorbing old famous buildings. Getting more ignorant by the minute. Did I know NOTHING about Greece? It seems so. By the time the bus reaches the Acropolis, I'm so ashamed at my lack of knowledge, I can barely look it in the face. I get a taxi to Piraeus and hole up in another Airbnb. Early ferry next morning. 3 hours to Paros and then another very wee ferry trip to Antiparos.
By early afternoon on Jan 12th, I'm on...in?.... on Antiparos.
The sun is shining. It's ... sort of.... warm. I mean for January. For January, it's baking, actually. The water in the little harbour is a beautiful see-through green. Fish tootling around. Blue blue sky. Bloody hell. It's frickin gorgeous!
To be continued...