A Half-Century Around Europe

A Half-Century Around Europe

Available on the 28th March, 2024

This is a light-hearted and illustrated account of the experiences of a British baby-boomer and his family in coping with the cultural differences living in continental Europe.

The account covers the period of fifty years from 1973, when Edward Heath took the U.K. into the “Common Market”. The author recounts what it is really like to integrate in four different European countries and draws contrasts with life in the U.K. and the U.S.

Interesting after-effects of WWII are a recurring theme and are treated sympathetically as well as leisure activities, which are enthusiastically described. The surprises and the joys of life in Switzerland, the country in which the author’s family has settled, are recounted with special loving care.

The author tries to allay any suspicions which Brits may have harboured against our continental neighbours. He maintains that we should, on the contrary, treat them as close friends and concludes with an appeal for deeper trust and co-operation between the members of geographical Europe.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 3

One day the young folk of our Freiburg Squash Club arranged a hike through the local countryside, part of which led through a wine-growing area. The vineyards were, as is often the case, on steep south-facing slopes, in soil which was somewhat dry and hard-packed. Weeding, raking, and tending such soil is hard, even back-breaking work, particularly in the heat of the day. I felt very sorry for an elderly, thin, and grim-faced couple who were toiling away there and looked like they had been doing so for hours, whilst we jauntily and laughingly strolled past them.

I was reminded of my summer stay as a student in Grenoble, France, many years earlier. I had hiked out into the countryside on my own and strayed onto the land of a French peasant farmer. Well, in the early sixties, French peasants were not like British gentleman farmers. They had a reputation for shooting first and asking questions afterwards. They were understandably suspicious people because they did not believe in banks and so their worldly fortunes were stashed away in the form of gold bars under their beds or in their mattresses. Just as I was realising that I was on private land, I was confronted by a red-faced farmer with dog and shotgun (or was it a blunderbuss?), who roared something unintelligible at me. I then beat Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile record.

Back to the Freiburg vineyards, you can imagine my horror when my colleagues laughed derisively at the toiling old couple. I cannot remember their exact message, but it was to the effect that they were idiots wasting their time scratching at soil like hens when they could be at home enjoying their pension and sipping schnapps. I expected them to roar with rage and let loose with their shotguns, but, to my amazement, they laughed and returned the raillery “in spades”. This is proof of the absence of class conflict in Germany.