I leapt out of bed and immediately fell flat on my face. My panicky urgency had got the better of my memory. In my haste I’d forgotten that, hopefully temporarily, sciatica and arthritis mean standing up or walking erect are early morning luxuries. It wasn’t the only thing I’d forgotten either. I’d forgotten to set my alarm.
When I miss a connection, either plane or train, I never do so by hours. There’s never a ‘well, that went hours ago, never mind.’ It’s always by an agonising few minutes, a narrow miss. Last week I stood on a platform in Paris, staring at the train I wanted, but had to watch it leave as the doors had just locked. This time, I had woken up at 7, my flight was at 8. The airport was technically ten minutes away but bearing in mind I had to get dressed, drop off the hire car and hobble to a different terminal, I figured I’d get there just as the ‘aw, you were so close’ fake sympathy hit the ground staff’s faces.
I’d probably have tried if I could run. I’d have made a heroic, but ultimately doomed effort, and then swearily flounced off in high cinematic fashion, away to take my anger out on Plan B. But my pronounced morning limp meant that was impossible, and certainly unheroic. I mean if you’re going to have a limp, make it a Douglas Bader, legs shot off by the Gerries, roll. At the very least, an enigmatic Inspector Morse effort. Something that smacks of bravado and gallantry. What I have is the ‘someone trying to break in new shoes’ gait, or ‘trodden in dog poo and trying wipe it off as I walk’ walk. It’s ignominious to say the least, which is possibly why, in my mind, I’ve built it up to far more than it is, and I await the MRI scan with Woody Allen-style pessimism, ‘Hey, I thought it was sciatica, but honey, I have a tumour in my head the size of a basketball.’
I do not look for the bright side often, it’s not my thing. I admire people who do, my wife Natalie for instance, tends towards the ‘things will work out’ point of view, and grating though it is at times, thank God one of us does. The household would be like a Methodist wake if we were both like me. But you know what? For optimism to work, for it to really take hold, there must be some grounding in reality. Whatever you’re optimistic about, it has to be attainable, even notionally. There’s many reasons I could never sit at a dinner table with John Redwood for instance, but his call for ‘optimism’ and a brighter outlook from the treasury, despite the relentlessly gloomy Brexit data, is getting right on my already frayed nerves. Redwood and his fellow Brexit Jihadist, Bernard Jenkin, seem to think that if the Treasury just cheered up a bit, or maybe skipped to the water cooler while holding the hands of gloomy colleagues then things would improve. That maybe Great Britain’s economy wouldn’t be showing the slowest growth of any of the developed nations, or the pound wouldn’t be plumbing new depths, or future budgets wouldn’t have massive Brexit shaped holes in them, or inflation wouldn’t be threatening to go off like an indoor firework… none of this would be matter if the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, just stuck a hat on the side of his head and whistled a happy tune.
They are insane. As blinkered as any radicalised teenager and capable of far more damage. ‘So what if there’s no deal? We’ll be fine’, says Redwood, the same day that airline pilots collectively issue a statement saying that flights to Europe would immediately be grounded if that were the case. Experts, facts, reality. None of these things matter to the Redwoods and Jenkins of this world, the Greek chorus of self-destruction, their eyes shut while auto-eroticising on their Brexit wet dreams. I watched an episode of Peppa Pig the other day called ‘International Day’ and it frankly offered a more nuanced, intelligent and articulate view of geo-politics than weirdo Redwood has managed in his entire career. Those who actually wield the power know it’s doomed to failure too, hence the re-emergence of the ‘No deal is better than a Bad Deal’ mantra. That will leave the field open to blaming intransigent foreigners again, rather than taking responsibility for selling a product that was simply, and blindingly obviously, undeliverable.
There is still no clear idea what the government wants, so how can you possibly hope to negotiate? They’re like half-arsed student protesters.
‘WHAT DO WE WANT?’
‘We don’t know!’
‘WHEN DO WE WANT IT?’
‘Well, March 2019, or failing that perhaps some sort of ill-defined transition period. Can we get back to you?’
It’s not Jam, the government should be exhorting us to export, it should be fudge. And yes, my own mood might possibly be tempered by missing a flight, walking like one leg is six inches shorter than the other and the fact that my Citizenship Interview is coming up next Tuesday. I am terrified. The closer it gets the more I panic, the more I panic, the less focussed my reasoning and language skills become. People keep telling me I’ll be fine. ‘What are you worrying about?’ They say, ‘It’ll be easy for you.’ Unnervingly echoing the kind of head in the clouds, let’s ignore reality and just talk a good game horsepap that David Davis said about Brexit negotiations before he actually started Brexit negotiations. Well, take a look the man’s face now, it looks like an abandoned sofa with its stuffing spilling out. There’s a man who’s looked reality in the face and seen that it’s not a bucolic village green and ducks on the pond future Britain has post-EU, but something akin to Colonel Kurtz’s Vietnam only with fewer giggles.
I will do the work. I will do the prep, but I know, deep down I know, that it’s going to be a struggle. And because I know it’s going to be a struggle that realism is making me work harder. Of course, what I should do is have no idea what I’m walking into, not prepare for it and just surround myself with nodding cheerleaders saying I’m great and then be prepared to blame the doom-merchants for ballsing it all up. Pessimists don’t do that though. Yes, I’ll probably make a right old mess of it but it won’t be for wont of trying or lack of preparation. It’ll probably be because I forgot to set my alarm.
This is the 58th Full English Brexit blog, and has so far had hundreds of thousands of reads, which is just lovely. It will – hopefully – be part of a book. But when that book comes out is difficult to say, it’s with a brilliant agent and the feedback is good… but, you know, Brexit innit?
My other best-selling books are available here IAN’S BOOKS.