Lying Flat on my Farce
‘Have you had an MRI scan before?’ Asked the smiley blonde nurse. By now I was already on the tray, positioned like a CD ready to be played in the big machine, so the question seemed a little redundant.
‘No.’ I replied. Maybe she thought I was nervous whereas in fact I was still reeling from the fact that not only was she wearing crocs, but that they were both different colours. I don’t mind wacky, and I’ve no doubt working in a hospital can be a stressful, emotional environment, but please, have some respect for others if not for yourself. Overt religious symbols aren’t allowed in public buildings in France, so I don’t see why this sort of carry on is legal.
We had done the procedural list: all jewellery removed? Yes, even my wedding ring for the first time in over ten years. Any tattoos? Not since I’d successfully, finally, scrubbed off the Peppa Pig one from my inner thigh after some late-night tomfoolery. Any allergies? Does an aversion to zany footwear count? No then.
‘Ok.’ She said, a little bored with her routine. ‘It’s very cramped in there, a little claustrophobic, and it can be quite noisy too. Will you be ok?’ She made it sound like a Ryanair flight, of which I am something of a veteran. Over the course of the last twelve years I’ve developed the ability, while travelling, to create a bubble for myself. Even on restricted, boisterous budget flights, I can easily drown out the tumult and hubbub, and quite readily fall asleep. It’s not the world’s most exciting superpower I grant you, but it’s a help. And I immediately felt the same wave of drowsy relaxation hit me as I glided gently into the machine. It would take about twenty minutes, she said from behind me. And to be honest, I was looking forward to it. A bit of calm, a bit of bubble-time, away from the incessant brouhaha.
Everyone seems to be shouting at the moment. There’s no escaping it. It feels that where Brexit is concerned we’ve reached a tipping point. People are so entrenched, they’ve dug their positions so deep and said the same things so often that the only recourse now is to repeat them all over again, but at an ever increasing volume. Unless you’re John Redwood of course, who just tweets a cycle of Brexit non-sequiturs, baseless, often deliberately incorrect propaganda which he doesn’t follow up. He probably thinks it’s the zen approach, but he just sounds like some cheap Fortune Cookie, a rentaquote for the easily duped. He’s become a comic figure, a cast regular who’ll pop up now and again to garner a cheap laugh. A British sitcom trope played beautifully by a terminal straight man.
The definition of farce is ‘a comic/dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterisation and ludicrously improbable situations.’ Well now, that sounds familiar, it’s Brexit in a nutshell. All the ingredients are there for a fast-paced, red nosed, trouser-dropping West End hit. We have the pompous men in suits whose particular role is the classic ‘misunderstanding’. They have the secret files in front of them, Brexit Impact Studies in this case, but while refusing to let anyone see them they also admit to not having read them. ‘Release the files!’ Shout the press and public. ‘No!’ the men in suits reply. ‘They are so unimportant we haven’t read them yet, and are therefore withholding them as a sign of their unimportance.’ It’s a classic Whitehall farce fodder.
We also have funny foreigners, an absolutely vital ingredient, and who get up the noses of the men in suits with their funny foreign ways. Gérard Araud, the French Ambassador to the US, does it brilliantly, coming up with a stonewall banker, always guaranteed to get the men in suits gurning for laughs in their confusion. ‘Maybe I’m too Cartesian,’ says the funny foreigner, ‘but leaving the largest free trade area in the world and 53 trade agreements on behalf of free trade is weird.’ You see? The very backbone of farce, the oxymoron that must be defended despite it falling about your ears.
And it is falling about their ears. The pound falls, retail figures are the worst since the financial crash of 2008, the construction industry is in recession… but, splutter the men in suits, rushing around the stage slamming doors so that shelves fall down, and holding open a window in one hand while trying not to topple a priceless vase with the other, from this will rise freer, tradier agreements! Each one more freer and tradier than the last! Yes, agree their sworn enemy the workers, standing in their flat caps, eating saveloys wrapped in the Socialist Worker and eyeing up the silver, from this will grow a Socialist nirvana where all men will be free to be told what to do for the good of everyone they don’t already get on with. The audience laugh at the oncoming car crash, it’s a classic farce set up. Supposed rivals wanting the same unattainable goal. Of course, in traditional farce that goal would be the very tall, scantily clad blonde, who’s wily enough to play both at the same time. Brexit is our buxom blonde in this modern re-working. The blonde is a wig though, the bust the result of heavy padding and the suspenders are Union Jack efforts, clinging for dear life to foreign made stockings.
Enter David Davis, our bumbling, lovable hero. A man out of his depth, dropping files and documents all over the stage and referring to future trade partners like er, Czechoslovakia. The audience can barely control themselves. Czechoslovakia! He said Czechoslovakia, a country that hasn’t existed since 1993! Davis, a brilliant comic actor who does cheeky, knockabout comedy like no one else in the profession milks the applause with further talk of trade deals with the Assyrians, and friction-free exports with Atlantis.
The curtain falls on the first half, the audience refresh themselves and wait for the villain to appear in the second half. And there he comes, you want comic oxymorons with a hint of fascism? He asks, well we got ‘em. The Daily Mail, the shining Excalibur in the war for freedom, independence and sovereignty dusts off its attack on a free, independent judiciary and this time slashes away at free, independent universities. Why are they all remainers? They ask. Why are these institutions of learning, these world class hothouses of evidence-based research and thought not on our side? The audience laugh again, but not as much as before. Dark fascism isn’t all that funny really. Ask Herr Flick from Allo, Allo. The Gestapo aren’t great with jokes, even when the punchline is always to get your secretary to strip down to her bra and panties. Presumably they, The Daily Mail that is not the Gestapo, though the line is blurred, were defending the work of Tory whip, MP Chris Heaton-Harris who wrote, on parliamentary headed notepaper, to universities asking them to name lecturers who talked about Brexit. Nothing sinister in that he said, I was researching for a book. Presumably one of the few books that will be left after The Daily Mail has burnt the ones that don’t fit its narrowing, pernicious agenda. Heaton-Harris is swiftly accused of McCarthyism and then investigated in a McCarthyist way. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, It’s Reds Under The Beds time, and we’re back on slapstick track again…
And so it goes on and on, a directionless, increasingly clichéd, worn out farce. A mirthless, angry burlesque that spirals from comedy to tragedy and back again with no end in sight, just an interminable run to dwindling crowds.
‘Is everything ok, Monsieur Moore?’
So ensconced in my bubble was I, so happy to be briefly away from the hue and cry, that I hadn’t even noticed I’d been ejected by the machine.
‘Fine. I think.’ I said, sliding gingerly off my tray, groggy from a heavy, but too brief nap. I limped down the corridor, having rather enjoyed the experience. I mean a double spinal hernia causing sciatica and with some ‘simple’ arthritis thrown in is probably a reasonable outcome considering some of the diagnoses that were going around my head. I’ll take that. It will probably mean more epidural style cortisone injections, or even surgery, but that means I get one of those open-at-the-back hospital gowns again. The ones where your arse hangs out and people pass, point and laugh. Proper comedy that. Proper farce.
This is the 60th Full English Brexit blog, so far it has 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.