A trip to London, a councillor tea party and Irish citizenship

Raymond McCord holds up his newly issued Irish passport alongside his British passport outside the H

Cllr Paul Arnott has been approved for an Irish passport - Credit: PA

A personal view from East Devon Council leader Paul Arnott.

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott - Credit: Archant

For only the third time in two years, I went up to London last weekend.

Still possessing a dodgy immune system, I travelled by car, was fully masked at all times, and weaved my way along pavements wary of any sneezes like an overgrown Boy Scout exploring the jungle.

The purpose of the trip was to see son number two and his partner, the house they are hoping to buy very soon, and to meet her mum and dad for the first time – Covid19 having prevented this before.

Indeed, the young couple had only being going out together for a couple of months when they had to retreat from London to her parents’ home in Hertfordshire during the first wave back in Spring 2020. Feels like a lifetime ago now.

The parents were lovely, the dad an Arsenal supporter, which cannot be helped, and the mum as much as a livewire and positive thinker as her daughter. We couldn’t have been more pleased.

Early on Sunday morning, I dropped my wife off at Heathrow for her first plane ride in two years as she headed for a cheap five day trip with one of our daughters.

Most Read

All of which left me in the paradise of a sunny Spring morning at about 8am heading west from Heathrow and back down here.

It was early enough in the day that the traffic was minimal. I even managed to pass Stonehenge without stopping.

And without wishing to sound too sentimental, with every succeeding mile I felt more appreciative of the great beauty of our country – even seen from a Citroen trundling along the A303.

The rolling downs of Wiltshire and North Dorset, into the hills overlooking the Somerset Levels, and finally into Devon and a left turn down Stockland Hill almost all the way home.

The journey was also filled with anticipation, because arriving home at 11am I then had four hours to prepare a tea party in my back garden for many councillor friends from the Independent, LibDem and Green ranks.

For that same two year period, such a meeting has been near impossible, and even then could only be safely conducted - in my view - entirely outdoors.

We also had a very special person amongst of us we particularly wanted to honour, who has been pretty unwell for eighteen months and who we all have all missed.

It was great to be with her, to share a blissful afternoon in the sun, to affirm life.

There were a few informal speeches, and as the nervous host I was delighted to see my mounds of crustless cucumber or ham sandwiches polished off by those present.

Others brought cakes, savoury bakes and a magnificent offering of home-cooked scotch eggs.

When they had all left by about 6pm I flopped down on the sofa and as so often that great line from A Wonderful Life came to mind: “No man is alone who has friends”.

And also, no matter how tough life is for people, and how cross we can all get about things – indeed, a national sport is making mountains out of molehills – how fortunate we are to live in this particular part of this particular country.

The next day I received an email from out of the blue from the Passport Office in Ireland.

It was congratulating me that my year-old application for an Irish passport was approved, and it will drop through the letterbox soon.

Born from Irish parents in London, and British/English/South London/Devon to the tips of my toes, nevertheless I am considered in Ireland to also have been born Irish. That birthright includes a passport, and these days this allows me all the privileges we had until recently as Europeans.

That’s lots of layers of identity. I just wish all my lovely friends down here who wish it could still be European as well. Maybe one day.