As some of you may know I’ve left Vietnam. After 6 years in a place I’ve grown very fond of and 15 years out of the UK it is with some trepidation that I return to the place of my birth. Watching from afar after 10 years of Tory austerity and a brexit vote which seems to have divided the country inexorably it seems like the country has become a far more miserable mean-spirited and unequal place.
My fears seemed to have been confirmed minutes after touching down on British soil. After bidding thanks to the glitteringly teethed and overly made-up Emirates flight attendants rather than the surly miserable faced immigration official I was expecting to welcome me back to my homeland I was greeted instead by a surly miserable machine who informed me I was standing too close to the camera before inviting me through with a flash of green lights and a swish of electric doors.
The next thing to great me was a massive sign proclaiming “baggage trolleys £1 non refundable fee”. Yes I know it’s not much but to me it’s symbolic of a much larger malaise blighting the country. The desire to commodify and sell everything that could possibly be sold. A process which began long before I left these shores but seems to have accelerated even further in recent years and which is having a deleterious effect on society. Not just in terms of equality – do we really want to live in a society were essential services can only be accessed by those who can afford them – but also from
an ecological perspective. For me one of the reasons why our planet is dying is because we have monotised everything. Things only seemed to be valued if they have value, and value is very narrowly defined in pounds and pence. Hence clean air, healthy soil, biodiversity, natural landscapes, in short everything we depend on for life is no longer valued.
I was slightly surprised to see that the toilets were free which made my first shit on British soil for more than 3 years all the more satisfying.
So moving forward this project is going to be slightly different. Rather than observations of our civilisations tragically avoidable descent into chaos juxtaposed with depictions of the beauty of Vietnam. It will now consist of observations of the UKs tragically avoidable descent into chaos shortly followed a few years later by the rest of civilisation, juxtaposed with depictions of the beauty of Scotland.
And so back to my return to the country. Maybe it was just the airport that was getting me down. Soulless temples as they are to globalisation (and not any of the positive aspects of it), consumer capitalism and environmental destruction. But my mood improved upon exiting the terminal. It was almost warm and the sun was almost shining. Not bad for Manchester.
Then the driver for the car hire transfer was unremittingly cheerful and helpful. As were his colleagues in the office, who dealt with me efficiently and with a constant flow of Northern chatter. They even upgraded our car to a BMW because they thought our bikes wouldn’t fit into the Skoda I booked. So I got to pump 250g of planet threatening carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in some comfort and style. Maybe life in this country isn’t going to be so bad after all.