Au revoir, not goodbye

Today is one of the saddest days of my life. That is not “remoaning”, but mourning. If the Brexiteers can have a party in Parliament Square (though it doesn’t sound much fun, with soft drinks only and Ann Widdecombe for guest speaker), I can have a wake. Parties are for happy things – weddings, birthdays, to celebrate a new job or launch a book, start retirement or shout about a jubilee. A wake is to say goodbye to something or someone – millions of people – you are forced to part from by circumstances beyond your control. Usually that means death, but in this case it’s a vile mixture of xenophobia, narrow mindedness, triumphalism, misguided nostalgia, imperialism without an empire, and manipulation. Also gullibility, which is easier to empathise with – we’ve all been fooled over something in our lives.

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So today’s post, because it falls on the day the United Kingdom (I wonder, united for how long?) leaves the EU, isn’t about books or writing and I won’t share it in my more usual book circles. Instead it’s a personal expression of despair, a chance to mark this day that I couldn’t ignore while I have this tiny platform from which to communicate my views. However, I have written about European books in Reading for Remainers and More Reading for Remainers. Perhaps if I’d called them Reading for Leavers, some would have been swayed. I dislike the name calling and abuse that Brexiteers and Remainers throw at each other as much as I dislike the insults leavers throw at Europe. Not having access to a good education does not make you stupid, and some who have had the best education money can buy persist in making stupid decisions (I’m looking at you, David Cameron). But it’s on record that the higher their education level the less likely a voter was to opt for Brexit. Maybe the authors I was talking about, with their range of thought, their ability to empathise with varying characters and to make stories out of moral dilemmas and historical lessons, would have been a bit much for the Brexit leaders, who in turn manipulated the confusion of so many others.

I’m not necessarily any brighter than they are, but I had the advantage of being taught French by my mother, who had stayed on a war-ruined French farm as a paying guest in the 1940s. I studied French, lived in Paris and Dijon, made French friends I still see forty years later. I added Spanish. My daughter studied Spanish, Italian and German. I visited her in Zaragoza and Palermo. I went to Poland for work and received the warmest of welcomes, as warm as the ones I received in Greece even at the time they were being squeezed so pitilessly by the EU (which is by no means perfect, but you improve institutions from within, not by throwing a hissy fit and stomping off). My first novel has appeared in German and what a pleasure it was to work with the translator. Europe isn’t just for holidays but I’ve had some fantastic trips since starting this blog and invite you along with me to revisit Barcelona,  Lisbon (twice), Vienna (twice), Milan and Paris – not sure why I didn’t write blog posts about those two.

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My European friends in London are rightly saddened, angered, bewildered. Why should an award winning chef who’s paid taxes and employed staff for 23 years be refused settled status? Why should my French friend’s mother, living here since the 1930s, have to jump through the bureaucratic hoops of applying for settled status in her 93rd year? Why should child refugees now be kept from their parents, a casualty of changing laws that this untrustworthy government says will be “sorted out later”? Why, when there is more to unite than divide us, should ties be broken, trade deals stopped, links wrecked, friendship and help refused, cultures sneered at? Why would any sane nation reject easy trade conditions with its nearest geographical neighbours, and complicate collaboration on responding to health, science, environmental challenges which recognise no borders? Why would any sensible individual want to reinstate roaming charges, reject grants for anti-poverty projects and regeneration, create obstacles to staffing our farms, hospitals, restaurants and so much else? None of this is in my name.

How ironic that this week also saw Holocaust Memorial Day. I went to a wonderful concert at King’s Place, with Raphael Wallfisch the cellist. His mother, interviewed here,  survived Belsen because she played cello for the Nazis. Where I grew up in Finchley, North London, my primary school class was around 50% Jewish. None of my school friends had grandparents. They had all died in the camps, after sending my friends’ parents over on the Kindertransport. Would the British shelter those children now? My own parents both had their education truncated by the war but were lucky enough to be just too young for call up; my father-in-law was a POW; my friend’s father traumatized at 23 after driving the ammunition truck behind one that was blown up during the D-day landings. Hitler had to be stopped; whether war was the only means to stop him it’s now too late to say. But the EU was founded to prevent another war in Europe, and has been successful. Thank you to Guy Verhofstadt MEP who has done his best to keep us together as citizens , thank you to Jolyon Maugham and others campaigning for associate EU citizenship; thank you to Terry Reintke MEP who has set up the UK Friendship Group in the EU Parliament. Thank you to many, many others. Please wait for us, we do care about you, and we look forward to a day when we can move freely around Europe again with another freedom – the ability we’ll have won back, through dignified, well informed, unaggressive campaigning, to enjoy being both British and European again. There is one such campaign here: please consider joining.  

©Jessica Norrie 2020

28 thoughts on “Au revoir, not goodbye

    1. Alas, the signs already are that jackbooted fascism is feeling encouraged. But every wheel turns and it’s good to know people in other countries don’t think we’re all of a kind. Thank you for your comment, means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s the same here, Jessica. There is a deep root of people that are encouraged to be the way they are. And as you said, we’re not all like that. I think writers see a lot more of what goes on politcally and in society than we care to sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. My heart goes out to you as I read your eloquent blog post. Please continue sharing from time to time about how the Brexit process is affecting you and others in Britain. We here in the USA are wrestling with our own version of “xenophobia, narrow mindedness, triumphalism, misguided nostalgia, imperialism without an empire, and manipulation. Also gullibility, which is easier to empathise with – we’ve all been fooled over something in our lives…” Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, and the deep breath in, deep breath out is good advice. Actually a bit heartened as we had tickets tonight (bought long ago) for a concert in London very close to the Brexit party and were slightly dreading hordes of belligerent Brexiteers on the tube (subway). Not a sign of any of them — and it rained (literally) on their parade too. Good luck on your side of the pond!

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  2. Interesting story about your grandfather. I haven’t read Mortal Engines, though it’s been on my tbr list for a while. Liz Lloyd recommended it ages ago but I haven’t got round to it. I definitely will, though.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dystopian YA fiction certainly makes a change, discovered this when my son was a teenager. later volumes very violent but first book is v clever. BTW one of the jobs my grandfather didn’t get was on the Titanic, maybe just as well.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Is the first one a standalone? I don’t like cliff hangers. That was a lucky escape for your grandfather – although if he went down with the Titanic you wouldn’t now be facing the horrors of what Brexit will bring.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. No but if he went down with the titanic I wouldn’t be here replying to you. Can’t remember if Mortal engines is stand alone. I think it could. It’s definitely the first and if he didn’t know if he’d write another…?

        Liked by 2 people

  3. A sad day indeed. Nothing to celebrate in this household. The plan is to avoid the radio and TV, especially the ‘news’ with all the triumphant crowing. A time to escape into books if ever there was one. I just hope our European cousins understand we don’t all want to say goodbye.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Yes, was it Churchill said “jaw jaw is always better than war war?” And yet the past few years some British have almost behaved as though they need to create an enemy, just to take pot shots at it and make them themselves feel bigger.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. As you may know my grandfather was Scottish and although I would hate to see the break up of the UK over this, if Scotland now leaves and starts issuing its own passports, I’m signing up! At choir last night (London) the choir wanted the altos to sing with more venom but they were just too sweet. He said “Remember what’s happening tomorrow!” and you could immediately tell there wasn’t a leaver in the room! Could London join Scotland perhaps?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I didn’t know your grandfather was Scottish – but even if he wasn’t you would be welcome to cross the border and make your home here. When Scotland’s independence comes it won’t be only as a result of Brexit, though it would have certainly added weight to the decision. London joining an independent Scotland is an interesting proposition! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you! James Norrie, from Paisley, trained pharmacist (couldn’t afford to study medicine) came south because he couldn’t find work in Scotland. Have you read Philip Reeves “Mortal Engines”? Cities on wheels in a dystopian future, converging for alliances and battles. I see London, Brighton, Bristol, and many others trundling Scotlandwards….

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