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By Morak Babajide-Alabi
Last week some parts of the United Kingdom’s witnessed torrential rainfall which brought hardships to the people. Day after day and night after night the heavens opened up and released rain equivalent of what the country could have witnessed probably in a month. Dubbed the “biblical rain”, it caused many disruptions on the roads and in homes.
In some counties, especially in the North West, many homes were flooded and properties destroyed. The Emergency Services staff were kept very busy evacuating the residents and road users that were caught in the flood. Businesses and educational premises were under lock and key as they became inaccessible.
In Sheffield City, many shoppers were trapped in the ever-busy Meadow Hall Shopping Centre, while on the other side of the city, a slip road to the motorway was closed. The City Council officials were forced to declare the situation a major incident after the River Don overflew its banks on Friday, adding to the misery of residents.
As expected, the situation has provided opportunities for the politicians to try and sell their programmes in the runoff to next month’s general elections. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was in Matlock on Friday to relate with the residents of the city. The other political leaders are also expected to visit soon. This was not far from where the body of a woman was discovered in the first announcement of a fatality from the flood. She was reported to have been swept off by the floodwater. The Met Office had put in place 240 flood warnings during the week.
THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN
The British House of Parliament was dissolved last week Wednesday, signalling the start of electoral campaigns for the various political parties. For quite some time now, apart from BREXIT (the exit of Britain from the European Union), no other subject had dominated the airwaves like the calls for and against a general election. There was no unity of purpose among the politicians on what direction the country should face. While the divisions were on-going in Westminster, the general public could not hide their disdain for the politicians who they believe are acting out a script to derail democracy.
No British Parliament, in recent history, is perceived as openly against the wishes of the people like the recently dissolved one. With the long process of negotiating an exit deal and implementation of the result of the 2016 EU exit referendum, the general public lost faith in the “group”. A segment of the political leaders portrayed the members of the Parliament as enemies of democracy. They were openly called out as having outlived their existence and therefore good for nothing.
The parliamentarians did not do themselves any good, as they could not agree on any matter. The numerous opportunities of channelling a way out of the murky BREXIT waters were more or less “thwarted” by their moves. The sad aspect of this is that the majority of them had no clue what they wanted. No one said passing the BREXIT bill was going to be an easy job. It was realised very early in the process that with the composition of the House of Parliament, the possibility of overturning the wishes of the citizens on BREXIT was real.
Majority of the sitting members were adamant Remainers. To whoever was in government, the house, as constituted was going to be a big test in getting the country out of the EU. Remarkably, even before the start of the debate of BREXIT, there was a general feeling that the former speaker John Bercow would use his position to block BREXIT becoming a reality under his watch.
A few days after leaving office, he said BREXIT was the biggest mistake after the second world war. The Guardian UK quoted journalist Antonello Guerrera of La Republica who attended the valedictory speech of the speaker to the Foreign Press Association in London as saying: “I don’t think it helps the UK. BREXIT is the biggest mistake of this country after the war. I respect [the] prime minister, [Boris] Johnson, but BREXIT doesn’t help us. It’s better to be part of the [EU] power bloc.”
All is now history as the members have now been forced back to their constituencies to fight for their positions. Since Boris Johnson emerged as the Prime Minister he has made the dissolution of the parliament a focus of debate. Apart from this, Mr Johnson needs a majority in the house to ensure his plans for the exit of the UK from the EU. It will be recalled that the PM got into office with a majority of two and within days, he lost both. Leading a minority government is not the best place to be for any prime minister. This position has put Johnson in difficulty in solving the BREXIT logjam.
AND HALLOWEEN CAME!
On the last Sunday of every October, the UK clock is set back by an hour. No surprise, therefore, when after this annual “set back” the cold settles in immediately. This year was a bit different though, winter did not set in as fast as it does yearly but the rain has been wreaking havoc, as you read earlier in this piece.
It sounded strange to me when at the turn of the millennium I arrived in Edinburgh the last Saturday of October and I was informed that the clock would be turned back in the night. As a born and bred Nigerian I never knew the clock could be adjusted to suit the weather. You only “set” the “grandfather’s clock” forward or backwards when it missed its “beat” or you forgot to service it for a long time. So, to me, you don’t fiddle with the clock when there is no need to. However, it is said, when you are in Rome you behave like the Romans.
Among the events that come on the heels of the clock, change is Halloween. I heard about Halloween while in Nigeria. I read it was a night for pagans to celebrate witches. As a result of the “dark” connotation to it, I did not take much interest in it. Though it was not uncommon to see some Nigerian “celebrities” dress up as “masquerades” in the hot weather and pretend to be Halloween “buddies”. To me, while in Nigeria, I always thought they all needed psychiatric evaluation.
HERE COMES HALLOWEEN
As a JJC in Edinburgh, I noticed immediately days preceding the Halloween that all stores stocked and displayed the “ingredients” of Halloween. From pumpkin, cobwebs, witches’ hats, fireworks, costumes to good bargains on beer and spirits, especially cider drinks. Everywhere I turned to, the spirit of Halloween lurked. Schools encouraged children to come dressed in their Halloween costumes. And every kid on the street was looking forward to the “trick or treat” which to them is a classic event that gives the liberty to knock on neighbours’ doors and demand sweeties or gifts. For strange reasons, this brings back, every year, the memories of my youth – Christmas in the village visiting Uncles and Aunts.
After I witnessed my first Halloween I tried to justify the hype about it, but till this moment I still cannot understand. And every year, I try very hard not to scream “getaway” on the hapless kids that keep the age-long tradition of “trick or treat” going, whenever they knock on my front door.
As published in the Diaspora Matters Column of Sunday Vanguard of November 10, 2019