Le Grand Perplexite

14thJuly 2018. I’m on the deck of a Stena line ferry – stern end. The sun is shining, its warm and I’m watching England’s east coast retreat into the morning haze. It feels good, like an escape. We’re heading for Holland, then Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and France.

Seven of the twenty seven EU countries from whom we have declared petulant separation and, if our bull-headed government gets its way, to which we will find it much more difficult to travel after 2019.

Stena line is a Dutch company, notices and announcements are in Dutch and English. Of course all the Dutch speak perfect English : try speaking a few courtesy words of Dutch in Holland and you’ll get a reply in better English than that spoken by many Englanders. Like most EU countries, they manage a relaxed, confident sense of their national identity whilst mastering a second language now common to international communication. It makes me wonder whether our particularly gammon style of nationalism is somehow connected to our inability or unwillingness to learn the languages of our neighbours. Which came first?  The gammon or the egg? Our language arrogance/ ignorance or the chauvinism that drives it?

Or is it a circular, iterative relationship? It’s a researched phenomenon that language drives mental framework, our brains evolve their outlook and attitudes by using language to frame and reference the world as we experience it. So, a world in which everybody else speaks our language but we speak nobody else’s, is a world in which we think we can ‘go it alone’ ‘take back control’ and other moronic mantras of the braying brexiteers.  Our European neighbours, who live in a world where a common language drives communication with everybody else, find this perplexing. Which is precisely the logical response to the whole Brexit clusterfuck (a word pairing which I trust our European friends are using fluently). Perplexment.

So… escaping from England on Saturday 14th July 2018, the day after Friday 13thJuly, a day in which a sex pest, fascist, narcissist liar  – also generally believed to be mentally unstable – who has managed to become President of the USA:

  1. Had tea with the Queen of England
  2. Held the hand of the UK Prime Minister
  3. Declared his own interview to be Fake News
  4. Declared that the British people really like him, despite a 20,000 strong public demonstration in London against him and a petition signed by 1.8 million UK citizens calling for a ban on his state visit.

Also on Friday 13th, it rained in the UK for the first time in weeks, breaking the spell of a strange summer in which the English football team played in a World Cup semi final.

Those who connect with me on social media may have been aware of my World Cup status updates, ‘The Ball Kicking Posts’, a series of brief descriptions of the progress of the Ingerlund Men (let’s not forget that an English team reached a World Cup semi three years ago, but nobody talks about that because they were women) in a faux naïve reduction of the so-called ‘beautiful game’ to what it basically is : people kicking a ball in a field. Nobody gets shot or gassed or raped or trafficked in those 90 minute slots. At least not in the fields concerned. In other fields, in other places people continue to experience those horrors aplenty. Yet those who follow the game during the World Cup, which is almost everybody, talk about the ball kicking with all the doom, drama, weight and import of world wars, pestilence, famine and death.

Which is why, whilst I’m sorry for those – almost everybody – who had ‘hoped and dreamed’ of Ingerlund victory in the ball kicking, I was relieved when the Croatia men beat the Ingerlund men. At this current and peculiar time there were real risks, if the response by the lunatic fringe of Ingerlund ‘supporters’ to a quarter final victory against Sweden was anything to go by : Ikea trashed as a symbol/ taunt to the defeated adversary and an ambulance put out of service as a symbol of… what? The state? A society that assists those in medical need? Who knows what would have happened if we’d played France ? Pret a Manger and Patisserie Valerie under armed guard? Let’s not forget that after brexiteer ‘victory’ in the referendum, Poles and Italians were beaten up on the streets and other perceived ‘immigrants’ were abused on public transport and online.

Lovely lot, us Ingerlunders, eh? Our island psyche, framed by linguistic bombasticism, needs to identify enemies. Someone to blame for our defeats, someone to bully in the wake of our victories. Someone to scapegoat for the failings of a government and a refendum decision which our ‘democratic process’ brought about.

No wonder the Europeans are perplexed. So we sail from England’s shores to share their perplexment, hoping we’ll be able to have real conversations with the Dutch, German, Croatian, Italian, French people we meet – mostly in English of course – about how and why we want to continue to be European.

I’d rather be a European than an Ingerlunder right now. And I’m feeling I’d rather not come back. At least not till the smell left by Trump has gone. Best give it a while.

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