hathycol: (buggar)
[personal profile] hathycol
I voted for Britain to Remain part of the EU on a truly apocalyptic morning. I had been awake half of the night, my childlike-inherited-from-the-female-line fear of thunder causing me to curl up against Richie at 2am as the windows rattled and the bedroom lit up with periodic lightening strikes. Still, I tore myself out of bed when the alarm went off, put on plenty of layers, and jogged through the tail end of the rain. Fat raindrops fell on me as I splashed through puddles, my glasses steaming up. In my unattractive running bumbag I had my phone, my keys and my polling card.

I queued up in a long queue, and squelched damply into the booth to do my duties. I had a joke with the polling station officers about how there normally wasn't a queue and I thought I could just run in and out. I cleaned my glasses, made triple sure I was voting the right way, and then popped my slip into the box and jogged home. I listened to a podcast about female representation in sci-fi merchandising.

It was a tense day, the sky gunmetal grey and hammering down water in sheets. By the evening, though, the rain eased off and I hoped, I hoped, I hoped that the storm was over. I went to bed at a sensible time. I felt Richie get up much earlier than me to watch the results come in, but I know the limits to which I can reach without sleep, so I left him to it. At 4am I got up. I was hoping for a day of exhaustion tinged with relief, probably with concern about the rest of the country and how Leave would deal with the disappointment.

Forty minutes later, all of the major broadcasters started calling it for Vote Leave. Richie and I looked at each other, aghast. He got dressed and went to the gym and beat the shit out of the weight machines, he tells me. I watched for longer, glued to social media. I did some cleaning, prepped my lunch. What else can you do? Nigel Farage came on to the TV and crowed about immigration, not 7 miles as the crow flies from my house, and I watched the pound move into freefall. I thought about the email we'd had from our Japanese HQ, warning of Brexit consequences. I thought of my company and the work it does with major financial institutions and I thought about my job. I turned off the TV, got a different train to work, and walked across an ashen-faced, red-eyed, City of London, past the Bank of England, past the shops just opening for the day. People scurried in their sundresses and Friday-casual jeans and shirts, looking like they'd had a shock. We had, I suppose.

It was a beautiful day. I sat outside and ate the lunch I'd made when I couldn't face Farage crowing on television about breaking up the largest peaceful initiative this country may ever know. This was just before we'd start to notice he'd also probably managed to destroy the Union and undo the Good Friday agreement, and Spain started to make a grab for Gibraltar, and the jobs started to move to Frankfurt. I knew about this at the time I ate my salad. Greek feta, UK salad leaves, a cheerfully bright plastic lunchbox made in China, a woman sat on a lawn and getting tearful. Conversations around me all about politics. I've never seen the like. I will see it again a lot, I think.

I have lost my country, it feels like. I wonder if this is the anger that drove the 52% of the country - the 55% of where I was born, for those interested - to vote Leave in such numbers and such rage.

--

I wonder if I'm being self-indulgent and selfish. The thing is, right, that my life was going really well. My career was coming together, in the private sector and in the City. I live in a wonderful, multicultural city. I have some savings. I'm healthy, I don't have children, I am married in a stable relationship and as such can halve my housing costs. I'm white. I'm straight-passing. I'm educated and have clawed my way out of the North and up by a social class. Sure, I don't own property but compared to someone on benefits in Hartlepool my life is blessed.

I get that people are angry and I understand why they have caused this uprising. I really really do. Maybe I have no right to be so angry in return. I'm All Right Jack is no reason to impose my will on others.

But I have tried to bring about change. If I wanted things to stay the same, my God, I would have voted Conservative and been done with it. I have consistently voted for the Labour party. I voted to change the electoral system to AV to try and give more people a voice in the electoral process. I am very, very pro-change. I don't think I should be a winner in the system. I don't think the system should have winners. This is not the right change. The racists, the fascists, across the country and beyond, are emboldened now because of the actions of our elites. Scotland is probably going to leave the UK. I strongly supported them staying in, in 2014. Now I don't want them to leave but I wish them well and will not oppose Scottish independence. The Conservative and Unionist party have, after all this time, probably just given Ulster to Ireland, 102 years after the Easter Uprising. All those people who died in the IRA campaigns and it is two Eton schoolboys who have given them their victory.

I am worried about this country. I'm worried about all my friends and colleagues who are not stereotypical white-English. I'm worried about anyone who relies on the public sector. I am worried about my job. I am worried about my future. In a very real way, I'm actually still potentially a winner. I have the necessary qualifications and skills to be a desired immigrant in New Zealand, as it happens. I have a Scottish spouse and Richie and I are starting to talk very seriously of a move to Edinburgh or Glasgow. I do not want to move to any of these places. I want to stay here, in the city I have made my home, that I am heartened to see opens itself up to everyone, that has serious flaws but I want to try and make it better. This is not the way to make it better. Despite my occasional wish to make it better, turning London into a city-state really won't help either. Our politicians are resigning, hiding, turning on each other. The Leave campaign says that it was the job of the government to have a plan for Brexit. I do, actually, slightly agree with them there, but now they should step up and try to find a way out of the chaos they have wrought, rather than simply say 'yep, it was all a lie'.

(I can see now why the boss of Wetherspoons so passionately supported the Leave campaign. It's the only place we'll be able to afford a night out, now.)

--

On Saturday I went out, as planned, to the 10km run I had booked a few weeks ago. My first official run, even though I knew my ankles weren't quite strong enough to do it without the odd walking interval. The sun shone occasionally through the clouds and I slowly looped my way around the outdoor cycling track at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Ground, in Stratford. (Remember the Olympics? Remember how proud we were to be British, that month?) My hair, split into pigtails, bounced gently and made useful sweat repositories. I had a podcast playing low in my ears, enjoying the music from the occasional stands it was playing. Haters gonna hate, you got me crazy right now. I grabbed a water half way around. I started to suffer towards the end but I sprinted the last 100 metres and leapt across the finishing line, hugged Richie who recoiled from my smell. I picked up my medal, my flapjack, threw on some deodorant and got the bus home. The runners high was incredible and I felt in love with the world again.

At home, I looked again at the vest I had bought as my Try To Enjoy Running Events top. It's got a print from the issue of Hawkeye told entirely from Lucky's perspective. It's a pretty awesome top. "OK, this looks bad," it proclaimed.

Even my top summed up my feelings on the whole thing.

--

My mother in law is here this weekend, in London for a course. Richie is out cycling. Tomorrow I have work. Life goes on. But it feels smaller, meaner, now.
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hathycol

December 2016

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