“What do you miss about the UK?” I asked my father a few months after he and my mother had moved to France, back in 2010. He pondered for a moment.
“I’m not sure I necessarily miss the UK, but there are certain things I know I’m missing out on,” he replied. “I feel bad that I’m not going to be voting. Like I’m letting someone down…”
I think of this now, nearly a month into our trip, because in just over a week there will be referendum in Scotland regarding independence. Although I cannot take part in the vote, the result will have a profound impact on me. I am British (not English), my family name (Watson) is Scottish – and we have our own tartan, the summers of my youth were spent in Scotland and I still take regular jaunts north of the border for camping and mountaineering trips. I love Scotland and I love the Scots; it and they are part of the country I am from. That country may be about to splinter.
I’m not even sure what I want the result to be. As I said, I consider myself British and for me, Britain includes Scotland. That said, I believe in democracy and equality, and if the Scottish people think they would be better off as an independent nation and vote that way, then I can’t argue with that. If I were in London I would be glued to my laptop, watching the news and reading the newspapers, studying the latest polls, analysing editors’ opinions, watching debates.
Instead, out here, thousands of miles away, I’m thinking about how best to open a coconut, where we will stay in Fiji and whether or not to go over to Iririki Island for a swim and a spot of lunch later today – fairly superficial stuff. I’m a 100% sure that I would rather be here than in London, but I can’t help feeling I will be missing out.
In about eight months, there will be another important vote – the UK elections. And, unless our funds prove to run drastically short, then I will probably miss that vote too. Once again, it will be a big one as it could go a number of ways: a Conservative or Labour win, or another right-wing coalition are all possible. Anyone who knows me also knows how mortified I was after the last election results and the sweeping changes that have affected my country since. Again, wherever I will be at the time of the election (somewhere in South America I expect), I’m sure I’d rather be there, but again, I expect I’ll also feel that I’m missing out.
It’s not just politics, but news in general. I read today that a ceasefire has been agreed in Ukraine, temporarily at least. This is the first event I’ve really absorbed about the crisis in several weeks. I realise that I’ve no idea what’s happening or has happened in Gaza, Syria and the rest of the Middle East – it was all headline news when I left. UK and World news in general is all a bit disjointed and distant – I feel as if it doesn’t affect me currently and, thus, I feel ignorant and guilty. I understand what my father meant. Not only am I missing out, but I’m also letting someone down.
On a lighter note, Norwich have played five games so far this football season and I’ve not watched a single one of them. The England cricket team are getting spanked by India in the one-day series and I’ve not once cried out in despair as we surrender yet another wicket cheaply. Rosberg and Hamilton raced wheel-to-wheel and collided in the Belgian Grand Prix and I didn’t hold my breath in anticipation throughout.
It’s a strange feeling, missing out. This trip is something I’ve thought about for over a year. I’ve planned for this trip and saved for this trip and I’ve made sacrifices for this trip and so, I think I deserve this trip. I wouldn’t want to go home, open my laptop, read the newspapers and watch the TV instead. I’d be missing out on this trip instead.
I guess the important thing is to remember that there will probably be very few times in my life when I can take a trip such as this. It’s OK to miss out on news and a few events. It’s OK to be a bit ignorant every now and again. And it’s OK not to feel every agonising defeat of yet another disappointing Norwich season – it’ll probably be better for my health anyway.
Whether I’m in the UK or not, the Scottish people will vote for their future, the UK will elect yet another inept political leader, the Middle East will remain unstable and English batsmen will continue to get out for ducks. I will have plenty of time in the future to worry about these things and I would be a fool to think that I can change any of them from my flat in East London.
Maybe, just for a year, ignorance is bliss.