Weeing in the Ditch
‘It’s not very mod, is it?’ said Maurice, my 12-year-old, distraught. Always sensitive to the opinions of others, he feared for my social standing.
‘I’m sorry. I couldn’t wait any longer. And anyway, no-one can see me.’ I was standing in a deep ditch by the roadside, any passing cars would have seen only my head, like that of a golfer stuck in a vicious bunker, and I was having a wee. It’s practically a feature of the French countryside that at regular intervals you will see some bloke taking his ease and at least I was trying to be discreet. Most of the time these roadside human water features barely get out of the car.
‘I can see you!’
‘Look son.’ I said, zipping up. ‘Men have had it their own way for far too long. And frankly we’ve abused that power.’ I felt like prophesysing. ‘There’s going to be a shift, and the ability to pee standing up will be just about the only thing we’ll have left. So don’t knock it kid, don’t knock it.’
He gave me one of those looks that French people give me when I embark on a long sentence, a mix of awe and incomprehension. ‘Anyway,’ I added, ‘it’s part of my French citizenship process.’ He shook his head and ran off.
I was only half-joking.
I feel like the end game is near for my application. A friend of mine who had his final citizenship interview six weeks before mine, received his confirmation a month ago. Now, every departement is different and his French is good enough to shamelessly flirt with his interviewer (whereas my English isn’t even up that), but it means that my own decision might not be far off. Maybe, as a result, I’m behaving more Frenchly. This week I had my first thought ‘in French’ and it knocked me completely for six, or smashed my cochonnet if you will. Am I becoming more French? I don’t know. I’m angrier and less willing to put up with shit if that’s any indication.
I’m certainly feeling less British, I know that. The country that I knew, self-important and undeniably flawed as it was, is now almost beyond recognition. A vile, toxic political leper camp, controlled by ideologues, bullies and charlatans. I am no fan of the House of Lords who, like disappointed teachers, sent back the government’s homework on Brexit legislation and told them to start again. But the wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed was unbearable. We have constantly been told that leaving the EU would ‘restore’ the sovereignty of the British Parliament. Well, the British Parliament is made up of two chambers, so that was sovereignty in action. ‘It’s time for complete reform of the Lords!’ Shout the Brexiteers, despite the fact that Rees-Mogg, 19th Century Regressive Party, led a successful campaign in 2012 to scupper just that.
The rage was ugly. That the sociopathic Daily Mail wants everyone who isn’t white, over 60 and who owns Silver Jubilee mug hung for treason isn’t surprising. Loyal servant, Boris Johnson calls the Prime Minister’s plans ‘crazy’. And Dan Hannan MEP, the Salacious Crumb of Brexit, now worries that things aren’t working out. He had expected, by now, a national consensus based around a soft exit from Europe. It’s quite a brave thing for a career-Brexiter to admit that, but to then blame that lack of consensus on Remainers shows a hilarious lack of responsibility, like an arsonist complaining of the heat. I mean yes, why aren’t we Remainers on board? Is it because Brexit has proved to be racist and riddled with lies? Is that we have been called traitors and saboteurs simply for exercising our democratic right? What attempts have there been to create a consensus? At what point have the fears and views of the 48% been even slightly taken into consideration? Consensus comes from sacrifice and reasonable dialogue, instead Remainers have been told that they are the problem, that they ‘must be crushed.’
Nobody takes any responsibility on the Brexit side though. It’s the people’s fault, sorry, will. Those in charge are now just slavishly following the orders of the masses. Red-top newspapers complain of the increase, 20%, in the cost of holidaying in Europe without the slightest mention of why that is. The Brexit purists, the arch isolationist philosophers are worse. Dr Andrew Lilico, a Brexit economist writes that Brexit isn’t about me or you, in the greater scheme of things we don’t matter ‘Your next ten years are irrelevant.’ He says. How chilling. How devoid of empathy or humanity. How abhorrent. Like some soulless, futuristic computer controlling a dystopian Britain, decreeing that your family, your job, your health… means nothing. It’s all about the project. I suspect Dr Illico is comfortably enough off to ride out ten years of economic and social disaster; they usually are.
Like my citizenship application, Brexit itself feels like it’s reaching the end game, or more likely permanent stagnation, but the stasis can’t go on. Some ministers are urging Theresa May to ask the EU for a longer transition period so that they can decide which of the two ‘Customs’ options they prefer. It doesn’t seem to matter that Europe has already rejected one of them outright and announced the other ‘unworkable’. It’s such a ridiculous, unholy mess. The Daily Mail says that Brussels will be laughing at the British. They’re not. Like everybody else on the continent they’re utterly bemused, fearful even at what has happened to a genuinely great nation. It’s like watching your best mate fall to an addiction and they’re just too hooked on to see sense. And you’re losing them. Nobody is enjoying this, nobody is laughing. Well, except Putin and Trump obviously.
But the noise is the worst of all. The hysterical reaction to any Brexit setback, to any criticism, is getting louder and more banshee like. The Brexiteers behave like a troop of chimpanzees at the zoo. The slightest thing sets them off, then suddenly everybody’s running around in a cacophony of screeching one-upmanship, some are throwing faeces at their rivals, some are openly masturbating because their rank gives them the right. Then it goes quiet as everybody gets their breath back, until it all kicks off again not long after. The watching crowds in the zoo laugh nervously, frightened and in awe. Are we really closely related to them? They’re thinking. Sometimes it’s just too difficult to believe.
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