I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I was old. Well, I’ve always been old really, I had a stomach ulcer at 15 and I’m on at least my fourth mid-life crisis. But real old. ‘Old’ old, to paraphrase Micky Flanagan. I know exactly when that hit me.
I was in a vintage clothing shop in Barcelona last summer. Now, I love a vintage clothes shop, I grew up on them. In the 1980s I used to buy loads of 50s and 60s stuff there. But this travesty in Barcelona had me riled and I very loudly exclaimed to the whole shop that, ‘This isn’t vintage at all. Most of this clobber is only from the 80s!’
That’s the thing about age, both reality and mathematical ability take a bit of a hammering.
But really, the reason why I shopped at vintage shops was because 80s fashion was rubbish, yet there I was in a middle aged fog in Barcelona surrounded by second hand acid wash denim, soul boy cagoules and leg warmers literally going, ‘It was better in my day!’
And that is the nub of Brexit. Yes, there’s zealots and the xenophobes but mainly, and voting patterns back this up, it was a howl against time. A cry of anguish against perceived modernity and change. The childish desire for the return of Blue passports just underlines that. I always said that if David Cameron had campaigned in the EU for the UK to change their passport colour, he’d have won the referendum but it turns out that wasn’t even necessary. We could have had blue passports all along, we just chose not to.
“The UK passport is an expression of our independence and sovereignty – symbolising our citizenship of a proud, great nation.” Theresa May said just before Christmas, in what must be one of the most depressing statements ever uttered by a British Prime Minister. Really? That’s what the British are reduced to? Travel document colour? The land of Shakespeare, Austen, Elgar and Gainsborough will now be known only by the hue of their transit papers? How utterly infantile. Symbolic? As I’ve said before, symbollocks more like. It’s a childish gesture rather than anything of any substance, the swipe against the modern world, flicking a V against the perceived suffocation of liberalism, climate change, multiculturalism and the dreaded political correctness. It’s the politics of the Wipelets generation.
The irony for me is that if people really want to peel back political correctness – and hey, who doesn’t want to get rid of manners and decency? – then Europe, particularly France is the place to go. The EU has been seen, and is often described, as diluting national character and imposing laws on standards and heritage. Well here in France they’ve given that the massive Gallic shrug. I’d quite forgotten that beauty contests even existed, but while the rest of the world was self-flagellating over patriarchy and endemic sexism, France was going mad for Miss France. The jaw-dropping cringe-worthiness of the event, held locally this year in Châteauroux and with Ed Sheeran topping the bill, and the subsequent saturation of the media coverage was just mind blowing, but would surely have got the Redwoods and Rees-Moggs giving it the full on 70s wolf-whistling. It was such an uncomfortable throwback. Much like the dozens of circuses that still tour the country with their ‘wild’ jungle animals lying forlornly in rusty cages. Remember when we had circuses like that in the UK? Weren’t they great? No. No, they weren’t.
Our local quincaillerie (Hardware shop) had a life-size painted Father Christmas on their window. Only it wasn’t a Father, it was a Mother. And she had her tits out. Take that liberal, Metropolitan elites, we do things differently in Europe. ‘It was better in the old days’, or ‘Here’ as it’s now known. You want old-fashioned values and discipline? My son has just been called up for National Service. National Service! Now granted this isn’t macheté-ing through the jungles of Malaya, it’ll probably just be a lecture to the youth on how to roll their trousers all the way down to the ankle. But IT’LL DO HIM GOOD.
My point is that the EU takes an awful lot of a beating in the UK, and gets blamed for just about everything when the problems, issues and blame are far more localised than that. It’s well-practiced propaganda, a distraction technique. You don’t like your life? The media and pro-Brexit politicians are saying, ‘Well look over there, it’s probably their fault.’
And those that argue against that orthodoxy are either the blood-sucking, traitorous liberal elite or worse, young. Just after the last election I saw a series of tweets where a couple of the usual faces, columnists of the ‘Clickbait Fascism’ brigade, you know the kind, they write sarcastic pieces about the metropolitan middle classes from the first class carriage shuttling between their London flat and their Cotwolds residence. Anyway, they were bemoaning the youth. Apparently there was now a desperate need for proper ‘education’ of young people in ‘economic reality’, otherwise why else would they vote for Corbyn? The ‘economic reality’ for those aged up to 35 is that their futures have been asset-stripped. They can’t get on the property ladder, they’re in debt because of higher education, they’re holding down two zero-hours contract jobs, they can’t get a Doctor’s appointment and they can’t afford to get a bloody train ticket either. All of which gets pushed aside by that great catch-all ‘The Economic Trickle Down Effect’, the idea that if those at the top are doing well, the wealth filters down which is about as steeped in reality as the Tooth Fairy. The only historical example of Economic Trickle Down theory in action is when Trump negotiated a good price for a couple of Russian hookers to urinate on him.
It’s always the ‘youth’ that cop it. The future is bleak because of them apparently. They’re rude and indolent. They all dress the same. Well it wasn’t the youth that voted for Brexit, it’s not the youth that fear change or hark back to a time of a soft-focus English village gentility, that actually only existed for a very few. I think for the sake of the world, we have to hope that this generation of youth don’t make the same mistake as every other generation before them and become whinging old gits. That for once they remember what it’s like to be young and keep that spirit with them to avoid the frightened, economic suicide of the current generation of old farts.
I’m neither of course. I’m neither young nor really that old. I’m middle aged, which is a bit like being politically centrist these days – neither of the other sides actually likes you. But I really hope that in the distant future young people stay ‘young’, and that in the present older people stop behaving like children.
This blog was started as a regular record of me applying for French Citizenship in the wake of Brexit. I’m still waiting to hear on that, but if you’re in the same situation read back on the 66 other entries for tips and hurdles. Or get in touch. A book will come. Eventually. Maybe. Here are my other books IAN’S BEST-SELLING BOOKS.