It is Sunday afternoon and I have just arrived in Poznan, Poland, approximately 1,704 km from my front door in Yorkshire and I left on Friday. I'm riding across Europe to gauge to see what the people there think about the EU referendum.
The people I have spoken with and the stories I have heard have surprised me to say the least.
By the way, I have not yet decided – I will use the people I meet along the way and the stories I hear to help me make my decision.
I left London around 10am to catch a train through the Eurotunnel from Folkestone at 12:40, I arrived in plenty of time, however, a train had broken down on our side of the tunnel so there was a 2 hour delay which passed quite quickly. I always marvel at the level of engineering required to build a tunnel underneath the Channel, how they managed to do it and make both ends meet in the middle was a true credit to all involved. I can only imagine the planning that went into making it happen. The Channel Tunnel is a demonstration of what can be achieved when two countries work together to achieve the utter impossible.
When I arrived at passport control I was asked by a customs officer if I could present my passport. Whilst we are within the EU, we still show our passports when entering France via the Channel Tunnel. What does this mean? Are we a part of Europe or aren’t we? Well whatever, lets move on. I ask him what he thinks about Brexit and he replies immediately and definitively – “the UK will leave” and grins at me like a Mexican eating nachos.
I ride on and there are no further checks, the checks are on our side of the tunnel, not the French side. Perhaps it was the UK wanting to see who was leaving rather than the French wanting to see who was entering?
As I rode out of Calais I noticed how warm it was, how smooth the road was, how quiet the traffic was and then I spotted a camp for immigrants. It is quite something to hear about this on the news, but to then see it on the side of the road in plain view is upsetting. It is not upsetting because the people look sad, indeed, the kids seemed happy enough and those I saw were playing football along a road through the camp. It is upsetting because these people have been made homeless, not through anything they have done themselves but by the actions of other people. My kids are about the same age as the children I saw playing. I am not sure how I would cope with this situation should it happen to me and my family – I have a lot to be grateful for. As I passed by, it was not the last I would see of this horrendous situation.
I left France and entered Belgium – just a sign on the road to tell me I was changing countries. No passport control, no checks, just a clear road and a signpost. Another way you know you are in Belgium is by looking at the road. It’s bloody awful, really. You go from nice tarmac in France to what could be loosely termed as worn cobbles in Belgium.
Along my route to Brussels I spoke to someone at a gas station, he was filling the vending machine and whilst I waited I thought I would pop him the question so turned to him and said “If you were me, would you vote to leave the EU?”. He looked up at me and paused, closed the door to the machine and then replied quite softly, “no”. I was somewhat surprised that 1) he had understood me 2) that he knew there was a referendum in the UK and 3) that he had an answer. Ok, I thought, here is an opportunity to dig a little deeper, does he know about the immigration issues we have, the amount of money we send across, the crippling legislation forced upon us? I replied “Why not?”.
He looked around as if looking for a chalk board but instead picked up the sleeve of cups he was about to pop into the machine. He showed me the sleeve of cups and said “this is Europe” then took one out and put it on the table by itself “this is you” – “why would you want to do that?”. We conversed for a little longer but he had answered my question in an instant and in that instant I suddenly felt I had a bit of perspective.
Got to bed quite early as the next day would be longer. The TV had six English speaking channels which was nice, how many foreign channels do we have?
By Duncan Gledhill, Digital Entrepreneur