Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Five Stages of Brexit

First, the Denial.

It can't be true, can it? I mean, they've printed those numbers the wrong way round...surely?

Ok, ok, don't panic: so the vote's gone the way of all Leavers, but that doesn't mean we'll actually, you know...go through with it...does it? Cameron doesn't want it, David Beckham doesn't want it, even Boris Johnson seems a little confused about it all. And anyway it's not legally binding. And if the MPs go along with it and we invoke article 50, well...it'll take ages...and we're still European for ages...and perhaps something will happen anyway, we'll vote the Tories out and Labour will still be in a mess so we'll vote in that new Women's Equality Party, that nice Sandi Toksvig looks as if she and Angela Merkel could sort it all out over tea and kuchen, it was all just some giant misunderstanding anyway. And something heavy will fall on Nigel Farage's head.

Next, Anger: Like, what the $%£*??? Seriously? SERIOUSLY??!!!!! You've made me lose my sense of identity completely - I'm no longer European, I don't feel like I belong in my own country, AND this has actually got me feeling some respect for DAVID CAMERON??! Even though of course it's all his fault for capitulating to the media frenzy surrounding Nigel Farage, well OK it's more Nigel's fault really, him and Boris oh and Jeremy's lack of enthusiasm and the continued lies from the Leave campaign and the tabloid press. Not to mention all the people who vaguely wanted to remain but couldn't be bothered to actually, you know, VOTE or anything... and as for those people who wanted to log some sort of protest against poverty and unemployment and that nagging feeling that things were never going to get better but never really expected this to happen, and who spent much of the day after googling 'what is the EU' - well, don't get me started.

Then Bargaining. See, if I just sign this petition, we can vote again. Or this one - it suggests that all you lot could leave, but me and my friends and that sensible woman in Scotland, we can stay...  or if not stay, then at least have freedom to travel without a visa and maybe bring back a bootload of wine... Or, forget England. I'll move to Scotland, just before they tow it out to sea. Or Canada. Or the moon. Or I'll stay here, here in my nice inclusive city where 62% of us voted to remain, and dig a trench round us, and fly the European flag FOREVER.

Inevitably: Depression. Waking in the night not knowing why I feel sad then remembering - they took away my identity, my children's dreams of easy travel and jobs and study, my hope that the world might struggle together to find better solutions to poverty and displaced people and worker's rights and, and, and - they told me to just get over it and accept democracy. Then the endemic prejudice that I have lived alongside all my life - the sentences that begin, 'I'm not a racist, but..' or 'The problem with the Muslims, is...' - seems to explode into bitter and naked racism. Not xenophobia: that would suggest an irrational fear. This isn't fear but a display of ugly, triumphant power. I feel I am in a shrinking minority. I pass strangers and wonder which way they voted. I feel weepy, inclined to hug anyone with a Polish accent. I watch and read more and more news reports, gong back again and again to the source of pain, like feeling a shattered tooth with my tongue, unable to leave it alone however much it hurts.

And soon...Acceptance? Please soon, although it feels far away. I don't want to feel that every second person I meet is no longer on my side. I don't want to be looking out for opportunities to say 'I told you so'. I want my sense of perspective back, and my feeling that most people are, you know, OK, not just those who agree with me. I want to believe that most Leavers are equally appalled by the acts of racism we've witnessed. I want to have hope that we will not just scrape through this by the skin of our teeth but we'll find a positive way forward.  And I want to dislike David Cameron again, and STOP typing in CAPITAL LETTERS all the time.

Perhaps, if you have read this far, you feel it is inappropriate that I based this blog on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' model for the five stages of grief. Dealing with the aftermath of Brexit is hardly the death of a loved one, after all. But I wanted to record how the emotional response feels, right now, four days on; and I recognise in myself and many others a similar pattern to that of the model. Kubler-Ross believed that it was not a linear thing; in grief we circle and whirl through these stages, locked into a particular stage sometimes for weeks, sometimes for seconds. We have little control, at the start; but gradually we begin to find an ability to focus, and accept. She herself adapted it for understanding our responses when faced with the loss of a romantic relationship - and, for me, that is a little what it feels like. It's not politics, or finance: it's love. Sorry if I sound histrionic: but this is my - new - reality. Just give me time to pull myself together, and eventually I'll stop talking politics all the time; although my feelings may take longer to change.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”     Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, June 16, 2016


We used to call it a Continental Quilt, back in the 1970s.

I can still remember the changeover from our very British blankets and eiderdown. My parents had one first: quilts were French, or maybe Swiss - anyway, they were going to make life easier. More modern. More Continental.

Since then we have learned to call them duvets. We have stopped calling every croissant we consume a 'Continental Breakfast' - it's just breakfast. We understand that cheese can be runny, that cream that tastes a bit off might be meant to be that way, and we wouldn't think for a minute that spaghetti grows on trees.

It's something daring, the Continental
A way of dancing that's really ultra-new...

And now we are one week away from the not-very-United Kingdom's referendum on whether to leave the European Union. One more week of vitriolic mud-slinging and quiet desperation; of each side having no idea why the other side feels as it does, despite the fact that we're all parroting the same old line, 'of course I understand your concerns, but...'; because we are arguing with very different approaches, not just different standpoints. The Leave / Brexit camp not only gets the coolest moniker; but it gets to display all the passion, the bravery, and the anger. And the Remain camp? We get scaremongering (however apt), the status quo, and a meek promise to do better.

So here's what I feel: from the moment that the merest possibility of a referendum was suggested, I have felt the nagging possibility that something that makes up part of my identity may be taken from me. I am European. I like the rag-bag of member states, each with its cultural norms and personalities. I like the way we all borrow ideas and nuggets of culture from each other, so much so that visiting any of these countries feels both different and homely. I love that we have a system that ensures that men and women from each nation have to sit down together and struggle to find common agreements - obviously because the picture before any of this was much bleaker, and given to murderyness; but also because it's a little bit funny, no? - trying to make sense of German pedantry and French stubbornness and British awkwardness and so on through the processes of committees that force some sort of uniformity whilst acknowledging our differences. An impossible circle to square. And in that there is a strange sort of hope that we can find ways to tackle some of the huge problems the world faces, and to enjoy each other, and to maybe bring about the next revolution in bedding whilst we're at it.

You'll find while you're dancin'
That there's a rhythm in your heart and soul
A certain rhythm that you can't control
And you will do the Continental all the time

I feel European; but I also feel British. God bless the Queen but it's not the sight of all that flag-waving on the Mall that does it for me. It's the way we slightly tut in the direction of downright antisocial behaviour. It's the belief that tea will always save the day. It's the misplaced annual faith we have in the summer weather that sees the supermarket shelves choc full with barbeque ingredients. It's our universal love of the underdog. It's our strong sense of the ridiculous, and the national sport of self-depracation. None of that is threatened by our involvement in the EU, nor by the Polish and Spanish people I work alongside. Vive la difference, as they say on the Continent.

And please stop with the posts asking me to 'like' if I'm proud to be British; my feelings are far too complex to reduce to that one single word. I love my country, despite. Despite its history, its colonialism, its racism, its belief that it is in some way reduced or fallen on hard times. Despite our inability to truly value and promote the learning of any other language. Despite our whitewashing of past glories and our failure to embrace the new ones - in art, sport, science, music and yes, in politics. Despite recent football thuggery. Despite Boris Johnson and even Nigel Farage.

But please, please don't take my membership of the EU away from me. Or my duvet, for that matter.