“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
School’s out for the summer and I should be looking forward to our first proper break since we moved to the UAE. I’ve had one full week off in 10 months and I am, frankly, knackered.
I should be basking in the glow of end of year report cards (note to self: check report cards before posting), reflecting on the kids’ progress in mystifying ways I can genuinely take no credit for…
Like Amnesiac’s prowess in Science, or Kid A’s sudden ability to speak Spanish (which has been almost as instantaneous as when Buzz Lightyear gets reset in Toy Story 3). I should be looking forward to a few weeks of gentle rain, countryside, beer gardens and catching up with family and friends.
I mean, it’s the UK in summer – what’s not to like? Except right now, the UK looks anything but U. The mood seems ugly and violent; feral, like a simultaneous countrywide re-enactment of 28 Days Later. Visit Britain must be thrilled…
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
As a pre-summer parting shot, I should be regaling you with tales of domestic drama, from Amnesiac’s unexplained nosebleeds that saw him miss an entire day’s school this week while he underwent various tests and treatments (his bravery only lasted only until the doc started the cauterising…)
Or Kid A’s mighty struggles at the dentist as she had her wisdom teeth removed, in a bloody battle so epic they had to split it into two parts, like the dental equivalent of The Lord of the Rings.
(Speaking of blood, zombies, speaking Spanish and wisdom teeth, Kid A’s treatment was done under local anaesthetic, so no chance or recreating our favourite video of the year. “I can say pants!”)
Or maybe even I should be sharing a few comedy clips of our cat which managed to inflict an ill-timed and expensive injury on his tendon last week, resulting in: surgery; a plaster cast that makes him look like one of those Japanese lucky cats; three weeks’ confinement indoors…not to mention the Cone of Shame.
(Shout out at this point to Mrs LC who has basically spent the past week comforting smaller members of the household through seemingly endless hours of pain.)
But no matter how grumpy all his escapades have made the cat (and they really, really have), it’s barely a flesh wound compared to what the last week has made me.
Physically I might be unscathed from the past week but mentally, psychologically, I’m wrecked. I have absolutely no idea what Britain’s done, and it seems like nobody else does either.
I’m talking Brexit, of course (I’m not even mentioning the football) because last week, in an act of almost suicidal idiocy, the UK voted 52-48 to leave the European Union.
At a stroke it unleashed chaos, division, rancour and a family size pick n’ mix grab bag of deeply troubling implications.
Before we’d barely made coffee last Friday morning, the Prime Minister (who had led the losing “Remain” campaign) had resigned.
With the vote secure, the winning “Leave” camp popped up on morning TV shows to reveal that the promises on which they had campaigned were not actually promises at all, but were merely…“possibilities” (or “Lies” in case your Google Translate isn’t working).
Meanwhile, the pound and the stock exchange fell through the floor and people across the UK were waking up to find that if they didn’t already have a hangover from the night before, they did now.
For six years, the UK’s Chancellor had imposed austerity measures on the whole country in a bid to retain the UK’s coveted AAA credit reading. That went up in smoke earlier this week.
Whilst the leader of the ruling Conservative party did resign; the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn spent the week ensuring all the attention was on him by refusing to do the same.
Meanwhile the front-runner to replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservatives, Boris Johnson, has taken one look at the mess he’s created and – in an act of unbridled cowardice – decided that he’s now not the man to clear it up.
The morning after
And whilst many Leave voters were delighted with the result, just as many, casting their eyes across the havoc they had unleashed literally overnight, were suffering buyer’s remorse.
Some of the reasons people voted to leave are terrifying: like the people who thought they were genuinely voting for foreigners to leave the UK; those who thought Remain would win, so their vote “wouldn’t count”.
The ones I feel sorry for are those people who voted Leave because they genuinely thought that the money we ‘send’ to Europe would instead be diverted to the NHS? You know, like the Leave campaign promised all along and then, when they won, denied they’d ever said it (even going as far as to scrub all traces of their campaign promises from their website.)
Many people will have voted Leave with the best intentions (like reclaiming sovereign powers from unelected bureaucrats in Brussels). Unfortunately, however, their vote has been co-opted by UKIP, a right-wing, anti-immigration party, as an endorsement of their policies of division and hatred.
And guess what – it’s emboldened all the bigots and racists to spill their vile intolerance with ever-increasing fervour. The hideous accounts of verbal, physical abuse and violence on anyone perceived to be “foreign” up and down the land since Leave won has been chilling to see. Vote Leave may not have caused this outpouring of vile racism, but there can be no doubt it has legitimised it.
Like someone said about watching our football team lose to (the admittedly-excellent) Iceland on Monday: I haven’t felt this embarrassed to be English since Friday.
I’ll stop with the highlights here, because the Brexit story is developing so rapidly that they will almost certainly have changed between me writing this sentence and hitting publish.
So instead of looking forward to a well-earned break back in the country I remembered leaving, the one with the weather and the beer and the gallows humour I foresee many evenings of Brexit post-mortem, shrugging and sighing.
But that’s the country I’m heading back to this weekend. More divided than ever, split on political, economic, racial and generational lines, it’s going to be a fun few weeks and no mistake.