"The Proud European Challenge: Post five photos that make you proud to be European and show what that means to you."
This was a friend's suggestion on facebook and I thought it was a good idea. Here is what I wrote and the first collage shows four of the photos I posted. In these I am in Montpellier, France in 1970 [yes, I know we joined the EU in 1973 but we were on our way in and things were already getting easier]; in Messina in 1998; on my way to Elba in 1977 and in Legnano [Milan] in 1996.
"Freedom of movement has allowed me to study and work in several European countries, where I have been lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. If the barriers go up again, we will all be the poorer, in every sense, for it."
But of course I didn't want to stop at five photos so I'm posting some more here. Below is the Charles Bridge in Prague, which became one of my favouite haunts in that lovely city; in 2009 I am being interviewed in Buggiano [Tuscany] about my translation of the poet Antonio Lonardo's book; I have very happy memories of my 45th birthday in Modica in 1995; and Prague again with colleagues in 2003 [the 5th photo I put on facebook].
Then there is what being in Sicily means to me: it means being in a particularly fascinating, culturally mixed, part of a country I've loved since I was 19. Sicily for me is the purple sea at Eloro, the bread arches of San Biagio Platani and having the opportunity to share a little of my own culture with Sicilians, for whom I always make Welshcakes on St David's Day. The island is also rich in the Greek heritage from which culture as we know it in the West first blossomed. When I'm feeling low, I remember Agrigento and am reminded why I am here.
Being in Sicily also means looking across the Strait of Messina to the Calabrian coast, the beginning of a journey to the New World for so many in the last two centuries. They were economic migrants trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, a perfectly natural desire that is being derided these days. They weren't caged and beaten before they left, killed on board ship for asking for a drop of water or thrown overboard when they grew weak but their journey was long and arduous, as was their path to work and acceptance at their destination.
I, too, am a migrant, albeit from choice and I am here to understand. I want to be part of a Europe of opportunity, not a Europe of barriers and I want the country that made me to be part of that too.