I think over the last couple of years I’ve managed to keep things together. There’s been ups and downs, mainly downs to be fair, but the occasions when I have actually howled at the moon in despair have been rare. By turns I have been angry, despondent, appalled and confused. My livelihood is at stake, my dual nationality family under threat, my country of birth acting like a loon and in the grip of empathy-free ideologues and my own identity up for grabs. But there’s been one constant, one undeniable source of comfort and strength through it all. The one fixed point in the turbulent sea.
Say what you like but without a light, fruity Provençal of an evening, I’m pretty sure that I’d be trussed up in a straitjacket by now, dribbling into the walls of a padded cell and muttering feverishly things like, ‘What do you mean they knew what they were voting for? No busses mentioned WTO or hard borders?’
My favourite is a rosé called Les Tourettes, picked for obvious reasons, and which has carried me through darks days and light. Always there when I need it, always taking me to just the right level of giggling Devil-may-care insouciance, with a hint of heavy swearing thrown in. It’s perfect. It’s a friend. It’s also disappeared. Les Tourettes has vanished from the shelves of the local Super U, the first victim it seems of a nationwide shortage of rosé. A combination of increased worldwide demand (I like to think I’ve contributed) and bad weather last year means that rosé production has dropped by roughly 12%. Also, roughly, my annual quota.
I’m not taking the hit well. I may be lacking the Tourettes tipple but I’m filling the gaps with some quite astonishing bouts of Tourette-style vulgarities; the scales have fallen from my eyes and without my faithful, grape-based anaesthetic I’m not coping at all well with what I see.
It’s the sheer, undiluted gall of the whole thing that gets me. The bare-arsed brass neckery of gossamer smooth political hypocrites who make no attempt at consensus, while talking about consensus; wang on about common sense, while showing none and sneer at the intransigence of others while ostentatiously kissing their own ideological team badge. The childish, whiny squawks that come from both sides of Parliament make it look even more like a crêche for special needs kids than it did before. That Boris Johnson is the chubby only-child in the corner eating crayons is no surprise. He’s lost his effervescence has Boris. It wasn’t meant to be like this. Everything in life has come so damn easy for him, so he doesn’t understand why a continent of 400 million people isn’t just bending to his will like the new boys did at Eton. Despatched to South America to ‘talk trade’, he’s not had much luck and opines that he could do with his own state plane, and not have to use the Prime Minister’s which is busy and ‘too grey’. His politics are now like that of a desperate fugitive, offering hostage-taker demands, ‘Give us a plane or the economy gets it!’ And not for the first time, the image isn’t of some highly intelligent international statesman, it’s of an over indulged unpleasant man-child, stamping his feet to get his way.
If a man who pledged £350 million a week to the NHS trying to divert funds to make his travel more comfortable isn’t enough raging hypocrisy, then step forward William Rees-Mogg. Rees-Mogg, a man so austere he makes Victorian patriarchal values look like the rules at the Playboy mansion, is sending out publicity decrying the hypocrisy of fellow politicians. How dare MPs still campaign to be tied to the EU when their constituents voted to Leave? It’s undemocratic, he thunders, sending the scullery maid to fetch more Bromide for his tea. He has a point I think, I really do. But coming from the most gibbering, toxic Brexiteer whose own constituency voted to Remain it’s very much a ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ approach and therefore, I suppose, perfectly in keeping with his 19th century double standards.
What Rees-Mogg needs is a lesson in 21st century double standards. A lecture in slimy, playing to the gallery modern duplicity stacked with faux intellectualism and a thin veneer of concern for others. He needs Gove. Michael Gove. There’s too much team playing in politics, Gove says. Too many ‘identitarians’ unwilling to see the other sides point of view. Brexit was a good thing because it led to the demise of UKIP, he claims, which is like saying that the Great Plague was a good thing because it controlled the rat population. But for Gove to decry ‘identity politics’, and embrace some form of political consensus after all the talk of remainers and snowflakes and saboteurs takes some nerve; I mean well played and all, that but it’s easier to turn the other cheek as it were when you have more than one face.
I genuinely think that as none of the promised trade deals are emerging, even the Commonwealth nations Australia, New Zealand and Canada are negotiating with the EU before the UK, and that more and businesses are moving out of the UK (Airbus and its £200 million contract is just one example) and that UK growth and investment figures are at their worst for years, we should be bottling up Gove’s Chutzpah for export. Whack out some Blighty Brass Neck for dithering dictators across the globe. Of course, Gove also said the ‘union has never been stronger’ (he hasn’t talked to Ireland or Scotland then) and that post-Brexit Britain will have better and tougher environmental laws than the EU. So I suppose he wasn’t expecting much scrutiny either. Those’ll be the EU laws that Britain is being taken to court over because we continually don’t reach those targets then?
The thing is, I watched some of the Royal Wedding last week, sceptical as always about these things, but couldn’t help being reminded of 2012. Great Britain was a very different place then; it seemed open and friendly and, as always, when asked to put on a show, was pretty bloody happy with itself. It had every right to be. Now, of course to many a Royal Wedding and the attendant pomp, circumstance and hoopla is an expensive anachronism and automatically a turn off for the Republicans. Fair enough but while our elected representatives blather on about new planes, ‘identitarianism’ and immigration, it takes an arcane, undemocratic, centuries-inbred monarchy to show real 21st century values at work. It showed a modernity that has simply vanished from our politics; it showed joy, energy and forward-thinking. I don’t know, can I really be nostalgic for 2012? Isn’t it too soon? Or am I just looking back through rosé-tinted glasses?
This blog has been read by hundreds of thousands since it first started. It’s the story of my attempt to gain French nationality while covering the madness, as I see it, of post-referendum politics.
Our retirement plan Chambres d’hôtes, that’s B&B to you, will open sometime in the autumn, have a look… La Pause – Val de Loire