Britain after the rain: a personal reflection

Apart from the obvious, two things took me by surprise in the aftermath of the vote to Brexit. The first was the cold dark bubble of gloom through which I trudged all day, despite the heat and sunlight in my suddenly not so safe Mitteleuropean home. Second was the reaction to the news by some of my Facebook chums who voted to remain in Europe.

Quality street

I grew up in Little England before it was even called that. The Suffolk market town my family moved to in 1967 was snowy white. Racism was so casual as to be taken for granted. Although my grandfather was born in London, I was called a Nazi at school because of my weirdo surname.

The irony is that the fascist BNP was spawned close to the town. Jug-eared, glue-sniffing skinheads used to come up on the train from London to be trained as the shocktroops of tomorrow. They were as pathetic as they were dangerous.

In the mid-70s, my parents bought a house on what had once been the poorest street in the town. Back then, our neighbours were farm workers, postmen, dinner ladies - the 'ordinary people' that monstrous toad Farage-o so likes to champion. Today, my Mum and Dad live among BBC-wallahs, media monkeys, classical musicians, artists and lecturers.

These naice people have decided they are the community. They're the ones who mobilise to stop cheap and admittedly cheerless supermarkets opening up in the town. (The fact that there are less fortunate people whose family may have lived there for generations, could lay greater claim to being the real community and who can't afford or don't want to shop at the deli is irrelevant.) This rural outpost of the chattering classes may employ townspeople as cleaners and handymen but they make no effort to understand or integrate with them.

They're exactly like so many of my friends who voted to remain.

The quality of compassion

Most of my Facebook friends - chums in the real world too I hasten to add - have exemplary right-on values. They're constantly asking me to sign petitions protesting against all kinds of evils and begging for more compassion and mindfulness in the world.  So, I was taken aback by the vitriol they aimed at the leavers.

Anyone who had voted to leave was automatically stupid and had been conned. My friends (some of whom believe all manner of preposterous shit) were, of course, far more knowledgeable and informed. Am I the only person to find that assumption of superiority so patronising as to be dangerously insulting?

Don't get me wrong, I think the vote to leave was a grotesque step backwards and it has the potential to make my life as an expat far more complicated than before. But I understand why many of the leavers voted the way they did. They'd had enough of being treated as if they were either stupid or didn't exist . And I would ask how many of my remain friends live in 'ordinary working class' communities (whatever ordinary and working class are now). I would ask how they know what people who voted to leave think or feel.

The answer, I suspect, is that they simply don't. I definitely don't.

Divided we fall

Before I left England for Spain, I lived in a stubbed-out street in an East Anglian city. My neighbour was a rough but amiable geezer around my age. I was never quite sure what he did for a living. Most nights we'd leave our front door at the same time, me heading for my local and him to his. Both were two minutes walk away.

My neighbour wouldn't have dreamed of going to my pub, which was patronised by real ale and wine drinkers with interesting jobs. His was one of those that look terrifying even when they're closed. I would never have set foot inside. Without being too simplistic, I always thought the fact that we were neighbours but didn't drink together was a pretty good metaphor for what had already happened to Britain.

In the past ten years that garden fence divide seems to have grown into a chasm. With terrible consequences, as we've seen.

A little epiphany

The morning after the morning after, I was sitting outside a cafè drinking coffee and I was overwhelmed by the sheer aliveness of the people who strolled past. They were all beautiful in their humanity. It struck me that it's a miracle we're here on this planet at all.

And we're all in this together. No-one here gets out alive. We don't have a choice of colour. So we don't have the luxury of hating difference. Especially when we're living with the possibility of the whole shithouse going up in flames. Somehow we need to include ourselves back in.