I retired 10 years ago and moved to the edge of Italy, close to the French border and Monaco, for a number of reasons, none of which individually amount to much but added together made me realise that I didn’t belong in the UK any more. The financial crisis struck a few months later and I realised I didn’t like being retired anyway, so I resumed work and have been continuing ever since. It keeps me involved with the lives of others in a way retirement can’t.
I like this area because it feels like I’m at the centre of something special. One of my favourite places is Ventimiglia rail station, a kind of nexus through which everybody eventually passes. It’s the only place you can get into Italy from the rest of Western Europe that doesn’t involve tunnels or mountain passes. On any day there’s a queue of people of all nationalities waiting to buy tickets. Ventimiglia is the terminus for both Italian and French rail so people have to change here and maybe discover the town a bit while they wait for their next train. In a way it’s representative of the region generally, full of people of many nationalities. I suppose there are other places in Europe that also feel like this; Brussels or Strasbourg for example, but Ventimiglia is far smaller. I find it quite energising.
With all this diversity it’s easy to see Europe as not just a collection of countries but as something more coherent and significant. I’m simultaneously a Londoner, English, a Brit and a European, and I know others round here from all over Europe and beyond who feel much the same about their own origins and place in the world. To lose Britain from this rich mixture doesn’t just affect me personally; it takes away a big chunk of what makes Europe what it is. I believe Brexit, driven by the self-interest of cynical politicians and media owners and appealing to narrow nationalism, will make the continent a poorer place in both financial and cultural terms.
By a member of one of the SY2E groups.