What’s Up Doc?
I was never the kind of kid who got frightened by Dr Who. All those tales about watching from behind the sofa always seemed a little hyped to me; and if you found clearly-cardboard monsters the stuff of nightmares, then face facts, you probably had other issues. Watching from behind the sofa though is now pretty much how I’m conducting my adult self. Through split fingers I soak up the madness, horrified at the cynicism, the malevolence and the downright insanity of the world. It’s like a car crash on a grand scale, you know it’d be better not to look, but you just can’t help yourself. And once seen, the horror can’t be unseen.
I try to be sanguine about it, but it doesn’t last. I am a French dwelling British citizen. I work in the UK and live on the continent. If the rules the British government are applying to EU nationals in the UK are reciprocated in France, there’s a chance I would have to leave. Not my family, just me. And because I object to the idea of my family being split up, I’m a Remainer, a saboteur, and this week, a Centrist Dad. Yeah, whatevs. I really fail to see how ‘Centrist Dad’ is an insult frankly, ‘Hey you, yeah you, with your balanced reason and working testicles, you’re the problem!’ Right you are then. When not being extreme is considered threatening, the world really has spun off its axis.
There’s a scene at the end of Peter Bogdanovich’s screwball comedy What’s Up Doc?, where every character appears in court at the same time, most guilty of something, some just caught up in the farce but all of them shouting, making their case, or just fighting, while the harassed circuit court judge tries to make sense of it all. I feel like that judge at times. Everything’s rushing at us all at once, it’s almost impossible to take it all in and digest it.
Some of the bigger, more sinister things don’t even make headlines any more. The Chinese President Xi Jinping has been made a President for Life. A dictator in other words, all powerful and endless. Now, it may turn out that President for Life may turn out like a Bag for Life and only last a couple of weeks, so he’s not hanging around. ‘Anti-social’ people for instance, are banned from trains. Boom. Straight in, no mucking about. ‘Anti-social’ in China means of course, political opponent or basically anyone who may have a problem with Presidents for Life. It’s tempting, as a regular train traveller to say, ‘good on you’. I’d like to see that rule applied to late-night train travel myself, but then the most anti-social people in the UK tend to be the ones running the train companies, so how does that work?
President Xi avoids the courtroom mêlée, preferring Confucius-like calm. Trump is making the biggest noise, shouting ‘You’re Fired!’ at anyone within tweeting distance, this week’s casualties being the Secretary of State and the Secretary for National Security. One can’t help thinking his Presidency might be very different if he didn’t believe his own reality TV catchphrase, something more humble like, ‘Oh Donald, stop being such a bumptious twat.’ Trump offers congratulations to Putin who, against all the odds, won an election. Trump was advised not to congratulate him and instead condemn his role in a nerve gas terrorist attack on British soil, but you know bright lights, confusion, blackmail from the Kremlin, things get confused. So Putin sits quietly at the back of the court, a feline smirk on his face and holding an umbrella whose tip is glowing green.
Boris Johnson, having made a journalistic and political career out of mocking and attacking the EU and its institutions, runs around desperately trying to garner support from the EU and its institutions. Theresa May lauds the unity and support she’s been offered from a club she’s been slagging off and is desperate to leave. The leader of the opposition says that we should send a sample of the nerve gas back to Russia, as they request. The inference being that their security services are far more trustworthy than our own. But then that’s Corbyn’s schtick. The enemy isn’t out there, it’s here, in our own ranks. So, as Labour frontbencher Owen Smith writes that if Brexit looks like it’s tanking – I mean, imagine? – we should reassess it, Corbyn says, ‘You’re Fired!’, garnering a warm glance from Trump. How dare you? Corbyn supporters attack Smith, how dare you publicly elucidate a Labour policy agreed at the 2016 Labour conference. There are many who think that this Conservative government is one of the most venal, cynical, talentless and dangerous in British history. Maybe, maybe not. But they’re lucky that they have an opposition who not only agree with their biggest, most divisive policy, but who are clearly more interested in fighting the moderates within than the extremists without. It’s the purity of opposition, with Labour now just playing to their own vengeful extremists and making power, and the ability to actually represent the people they claim to, more unlikely. Owen Smith was opposing the government, that’s what the opposition does, but the leader of the opposition sacked him for that. Go figure? As they say.
Then other Labour zealots attack the idea that Labour moderates may leave and set up their own party. It’s unprincipled, is the cry. Your principles are unprincipled in leaving behind Jeremy’s principles. You must forget your principles for Jeremy’s principles, it would be the principled thing to do.
At this point, the harassed judge bangs his gavel at the absurdity of it all.
Neil Hamilton pushes his way to the front and the judge rolls his eyes, ‘I’d like to complain about 9 year-olds with childish views!’ says Hamilton, a man so dense and thick skinned he should have his own seat at the periodic table. ‘Where are the Brexit supporting 9 year-olds?’ He cries, before being strapped down and pinned by Putin’s umbrella, briefly uniting the world in gratitude. The new blue British passports will be made in France, the government announces, breaking the truce. It’s international Free Trade, it’s value for money, it’s what you voted for! And nobody understands because nobody knows what they voted for, or why. ‘People knew about the Irish border, the economic uncertainty and dodgy chicken!’ Shout the Brextremists and the Socialists in union. Really? There was a bloke on Eggheads this week who’d never heard of Mia Farrow. That’s a bloke choosing to be on a quiz show, so don’t tell me the electorate is well informed. Paraphrasing Preston Sturges here:
‘They voted for it in Sunderland!’
‘What do they know in Sunderland?’
‘They know what they like!’
‘If they knew what they liked, they wouldn’t live in Sunderland.’
The farce and the courtroom clamour gets louder. Facebook has been selling off my dinner pictures and the results of my ‘What Piece of Furniture Are You?’ quiz results. A transition agreement has been reached prompting a haddock faced man who was on the EU fisheries committee, but who couldn’t be arsed to turn up, to throw fish in the Thames in protest. The SNP decry the transition agreement and the inclusion of the Common Fisheries Policy but they want to remain which means adhering to the Common Fisheries Policy. ‘Stop this!’ Says a tall man who wants the UK to ban gay marriage and abortion and replace them with top hats and nannies for all, ‘we risk making ourselves look a joke nation!’ Too late pal. Too bloody late.
The gavel bangs louder. The transition agreement drops any pretence that British citizens’ rights will be protected on the continent, but the rights and integrity of British goods will be. So after Brexit, I’ll approach the war-torn border of Ireland with a cheddar cheese sandwich and the cheese sandwich will be allowed straight in unchecked, and I won’t. Well done everyone, well played.
The judge bangs the gavel so hard now the head flies off and the bench collapses. It’s time for a lie-down, time to hide again, probably behind the sofa.
This blog, read by hundreds of thousands since the day after the referendum, has gone bi-weekly because the insanity and complete lack of perspective is too much at times. Every so often, I have to ignore the news, don some headphones and whack out some showtunes.
Here are my two best-selling books from happier days. WATERSTONE’S LINK