I’m working on a new project which will take a fresh look at Europe at a key point in its evolution.
Over the next year, I’ll be researching and travelling to three cities, each illustrating an aspect of the trends and challenges facing Europe. Cadiz, reputedly the continent’s first city, represents Europe the old, a microcosm of Spain in its heyday but now in economic decline. Tallinn, capital of the Baltic tiger Estonia and one of the world’s most digitally advanced societies, exemplifies Europe the new. And Albania’s Tirana, with its multi-ethnic population and ambition to join the EU, embodies Europe the aspiring.
The idea crystallised suddenly out of what must have been my version of Brexit grief, a slow-moving subterranean current carrying feelings of loss, helplessness and yearning for something I had always taken for granted. The travel plans I’d been hatching for distant lands suddenly lost their allure, to be replaced by a new curiosity about the ‘Other’ that Britain was moving away from. What was this this geographical-cultural entity that I was missing already? Did I – and my fellow Britons – really know it? My new-found fascination was matched by a recognition that our relationship with the continent to which we belong was changing, creating a need for better understanding.
So I’ve chosen to explore some of the continent’s lesser-known cities, all of which are in some sense at Europe’s edges. The material I gather in Cadiz, Tallinn and Tirana will eventually become a book entitled – probably – A Tale of Three Cities, telling the story of Europe at a key point in its evolution. As I go, I’ll be sharing some of my findings, including the odd travel tip, and giving subscribers to my newsletter access to some exclusive material.
In the meantime, I’m starting a group on Facebook where disoriented Europeanists can try to re-orient ourselves and discuss the things that are getting left out of the political debate about Brexit. ‘Evolving Europe’ will be a place where we can share experiences and insights about our changing relationship with the continent, as well as celebrating some of its little-known corners and customs. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to request to join.
As my Austrian great-aunt Bettina never actually said: “You can take Britain out of Europe, but you can’t take Europe out of Britain.”
Get updates, including some exclusive material about the three cities, by signing up for my occasional newsletter here.
Other work-in-progress is destined to be published in midform – longer than an article but shorter than a book.
The working title of one midform project could be Confessions of a Post-American. It chronicles my discovery that, by accident of birth, I became enmeshed in the taxation system of America, a country I’ve only set foot in once, to the point where I could be bankrupted. The FATCA Diaries – a better, more explanatory title – will tell a personal story that has geopolitical implications for the relationship that all of us, willing or not, have with the United States.
The third project-in-the-pipeline is completely different from the previous two and – well, it’s a secret. But the photo below provides a bit of a clue: