Neither great, nor united

lake district

Once again, I am in an airport, waiting for a flight back to Berlin. Usually I am excited, calmed, relieved to be going back. But this time I am embarrassed. I have to go back to wonderful Germany and become another unwilling representative of what my home country has done over the last week and a bit. I have to join the ranks of British expats living in Berlin, palms superglued to their faces as they try to digest the constantly spiralling idiocy that is taking place.

What happened as a result of the referendum was a calamity. Hearing the news, and watching it unfold day by day, has been like a person watching their middle-aged father make a series of ill-advised and insane decisions as the result of a sudden mid-life crisis. Dad has quit his job to try to set up a ska band with his friends. Now he has spent much of his savings on an autographed Stratocaster. Now he has left Mum to shack up with a 39-year-old groupie who runs a cattery. Oh god. What will we say to him at Christmas?

Before I left for the UK, everything seemed like it would be just fine. My Facebook feed was a waterfall of pro-Remain comment. The only hint that the Leave campaign even existed was the occasional nauseating jpeg of Nigel Farage gurning out of my computer screen as an illustration of just how preposterous the idea really was. Who is listening to this guy? Lol! Make him a meme, forget him forever.

Then I flew to the UK, and my mum and I trundled up to the Lake District for a holiday. As as we travelled up the country, I began to notice the purple posters barking their message from lampposts and motorway bridges. Huge ‘LEAVE’ billboards, trashily clipped onto the sides of abandoned lorry containers which were dumped at the sides of the road. Small ‘LEAVE’ signs bluntly slapped onto railings and garden walls. Here was the Leave campaign. They were not on the internet at all; they were in real life, mingling among ad posters for McDonalds. Maybe that is why they won: like the sporty kids at school, they went out and ran around, getting athletic and tanned and popular, while we nerds stayed at home on our computers, getting good grades and remaining un-snogged.

How disappointing when the vote came through. How embarrassing to watch the dough-faced, turkey-necked politicians take turns to scarper in the face of blame and responsibility. How cringeworthy to see the result get analysed by intelligent pundits from other countries, whose insight into the implications does not extend to seeing the agonising shame so many of us feel about our country now.

On the way back from the Lake District, a large yellow banner had been hung underneath the biggest ‘LEAVE’ billboard we saw on the journey over. The banner said, in pugnaciously red text with sharp serifs, ‘PRAISE THE LORD’.

A few days later, I met some friends in the afternoon – they are both German teachers and were recovering from an exceptionally hard day at school. One of them, a German national, told me how she cried all day when the results were released. In classes, her students cried with her.

I cannot cry. Disappointment and revulsion are deadening emotions. They do not bring you to tears; they only compel you to pull back, turn away.

Rose T