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Friday, 15 December 2017

My Dad's Obituary. Which he wrote. Himself.

I can't write, still, about what my Dad meant to me.  I couldn't possibly find the words, yet.  My brother, Jon, and I were faced with this very difficult problem when it came to his funeral.  What the fuck could we say about the man who loved us with all his being, and never let us doubt it for a moment?  The man we were so proud to call our father?

In this, as in so many other things, Dad solved the problem for us.

It transpires that several years earlier, as a writing exercise, he wrote his own obituary.  He had previously, on the request of his friend Mike Graham that he send their old school friend Wogger Brian something to cheer him up in hospital following WB having had a stroke, sent this to Mike.  Mike was good enough to contact me after Dad's death and ask me if I'd seen it.  I hadn't.  He sent it to me.  I laughed harder than I had for a long time.  I sent it to Jon.  He laughed his socks off.  Did we dare to read it at his funeral?

You bet your arse we did.

Michael Bott

b. 1942 – d. 2042

Or in other words:  He came – and he went – and in between … nothing

Mick Bott was born in a mining village in East Kent in 1942.  By all accounts, while still in his pram he was shot at by a German fighter pilot.  The pilot missed – to the subsequent regret of many.  He attended the village school where he learned reading, writing, fist-fighting and some arithmetic.  He was regularly beaten, usually for laughing at inappropriate moments (an unfortunate habit that was to resurface regularly in later life – particularly at funerals).  He went on to Grammar school, where he continued to suffer regular beatings (only with bigger sticks), continued fist-fighting (only with bigger boys), and narrowly escaped expulsion.  He learned very little, but took perverse pride in his towering success as a truant.  Here, he was aided by an innate ability to create plausible stories at the drop of a hat, and a God-given talent for bare-faced lying (skills which were to serve him well in later life, when working for the European Commission).   The brief periods he spent within the school buildings were devoted largely to improving his skill at cards, thus enabling him to fund a youthful penchant for Fremlins Double Elephant brown ale and Capstan full-strength cigarettes.  Nevertheless, by dint of several hours of study at the Valsania café (a local bordello) he was able to leave school with some sort of qualifications, to start work in the local library on the day before his eighteenth birthday.

Here, despite a tendency to return drunk in the afternoons and swear at the borrowers, he passed a happy six months and became engaged to be married (an error he put down to a youthful inability to distinguish between true love and unbridled lust).  At the age of twenty-five, however, he met and married Beverly, who confounded the predictions of friends and family alike by remaining at his side for four decades, and providing him with two splendid children.  “She stayed with me,” he would boast, “for nigh on forty years – I couldn’t live with me for a fortnight.”

By this time, attracted by visions of untold wealth, he had joined Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise service, where he spent thirteen years in what he claimed was “the best kid’s job in the world” on account of the wide range of businesses - from oil and cigarette companies to diamond dealers and furriers – that he was employed to rob.  Nevertheless, he spent most of this time – not entirely coincidentally – gauging casks of imported wines and spirits and working in breweries, distilleries and the evocatively named “wet” warehouses.

In the end they made him settle down to control the Kent coast between Dover and Ramsgate, (where he failed utterly to prevent the arrival of some 3,000 illegal immigrants per year), the Hoverport at Dover (which subsequently went bust), the UK’s regional seat of Government under Dover Castle (which they closed down) and a small oils warehouse (which was later uprooted by the Dover Harbour Board).  In any event, by the time the UK joined the common market he owed its government almost exactly one million pounds (long story) and was nevertheless bored; so he got a job in Brussels at the Commission, took up the law, and spent the next thirteen years taking Member States to court for telling lies.  This task he compared to shooting very large fish in very small barrels – with a very big gun.

There was, however, a limit to the fun to be had from it, and – in the mistaken belief that it would prove more exciting – he turned to writing EU law and negotiating its enactment.  Finding himself in this capacity unable either to thump opponents or run away from them (the only two weapons in his armoury), he compromised by suffering two heart attacks – and surviving them unharmed (again, to the regret of many).

Another thirteen years having passed, he moved to Canada for two years, ostensibly to advise the federal government (which confounded its many critics by consistently ignoring his advice).  Returning to Brussels, he found what he was pleased to call his life’s work in tatters, took a view, and retired.  It was at this juncture that his wife walked out – cause or coincidence, who can tell?

Only now did he discover his true métier.  By dint of shamelessly stealing the work of fellow members of his local writing club and selling it to unsuspecting publishers, he was able to accumulate a considerable fortune which he devoted to an old age of unmitigated debauchery.  “It was”, he said, “either that or golf.”

He was to die on his hundredth birthday, drunk, penniless and smiling, in a Shanghai brothel.

It’s the way he would have wanted to go.

Cheers, Dad.  If you're raising a glass this weekend, raise an extra one to my dear dad.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Jack of all trades, Master of some.

I’m a polyglot, a polyvore and a polymath.  I used to be an omnivore (apart from sprouts), but as I can’t eat wheat any more, I don’t think I can really call myself an omnivore any more.  Although, ironically, I do now eat sprouts.

I and my other polymaths have, somewhat disparagingly throughout history, been referred to as “Jacks of all trade, masters of none”. 

I prefer to think of myself as a Jack of all trades, master of some.  There are some things that I am really very good at. 

Part of me wishes there was just one thing that I was really excellent at – really extraordinarily good at – so that I could just concentrate on that and bloody well do that better than enough other people to make an extraordinarily good living at it.

I think it’s easier to be that way.  To just have one thing to concentrate on and hone – one thing that you love. 

It’s certainly more popular to be good at one thing. 

“Oh, Paul is an excellent violinist – a prodigy.  Elena is an amazing tennis player – plays for county.”

But what about Jeremy?  He is a sensational violinist, county level tennis player, has a pretty fine singing voice, is a great artist, good at maths and gets “A”s in all his creative writing at school.  Somehow, nobody really knows what to do with that.  Somehow, Paul is amazing, Elena is phenomenal and Jeremy – he’s just a bit of a smart-arse, and a bit annoying, really.  He might be as good as the others at the violin and tennis, but he will be damned as a Jack of all trades.

First time I heard that, I thought “Yeah, Jack of all trades, that’s me!  Turn my hand to anything!  Useful Engine!”.  It was some time later that someone sneakily whispered “master of none” into my ten year old ear, and a small part of me – well, it didn’t die.  Worse things have happened to me than that.  But it curled up in a corner for a long time.  Decades. 

I tried to choose between a legal career and a career in dance.  Back then, it wasn’t terribly serious to even consider being a dancer, but I really wanted to, and I was good.  But there was always the “what if you’re not good enough” question, hovering on peoples’ lips and just behind their eyebrows.  I think they felt it was irresponsible to encourage someone to go into such a precarious career – particularly someone who after all COULD do something else.  As it turns out, the decision was taken out of my hands when at 16 I was run over, and had to have electric shock therapy to be able to walk again without a limp.  I tried to return to ballet, but within five or ten minutes, my foot would cramp up and the mangled ligaments in my arch would cramp, making my foot curl into a claw, and I would limp to the sink where I would run warm water over it and try not to cry. 

I tell myself that this was lucky – I never had to find out whether I was good enough, so I can always tell myself that maybe I was.  But it wasn’t really good, was it? 

So to the law with me.  Get thee to the Inns of Court! 

I managed somehow, despite the attempted sabotage of a teacher who developed an inexplicable (in my opinion!) dislike to me, to earn a place at King’s College, London, to study law.  I graduated a year early from school, and being just 17 years and four months old, I decided to take a year out before going to college.  During this year, I worked, as my parents were averse to the idea of paying for me to spend a year finding myself in Phuket.  I have no idea why – frightfully unreasonable, don’tcherknow. 

During the year out, I was offered an interview for a place at Cambridge, but they wanted me to give up my firm offer from King’s before they’d interview me.  I rang them to discuss this, and said I felt it was unreasonable to be expected to give up a firm place on the basis of a possibility.  I was told that I actually had a place, but they wouldn’t give it to me unless I came for interview and I couldn’t do that unless I turned down my firm place at King’s.  I told them to shove it. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Eyes Have It.

I've gone in to detail on what has happened to my eyes in the past, so here's a nutshell.  Or as much of a nutshell as I've ever been able to produce.

October 2015 - spotted a weird distortion right in the centre of my vision in my right eye, so a straight line looks like it has a little perfectly circular blob half way along.  Diagnosed as vitreo-macular traction - should sort itself out.  This was 29th October 2015 - two years and two days ago.

January 2016 - while teaching Zumba, saw my retina tear and a flourish of black pigment appear in front of my vision in my right eye - probably associated with vitreo-macular traction, but a very rare side-effect.  Leaped straight on train to Moorfields, still in sweaty Zumba gear, was seen at midnight and retinal tear repaired at 9am the very next morning.

31st March 2016 - vision looked odd.  Kept thinking there was someone creeping up behind me.  Shadows everywhere and blue flashes.  Went to bed at midnight, turned off light, turned on back-lit Kindle and realised that the bottom 5% of my vision was not there.

1st April 2016, being luckily enough in London from the night before, got to Moorfields at 7am, all the while watching the obscured portion at the bottom of my vision rising.  Like standing in a sinking ship and seeing the water rise.  Saw a consultant at around 9am (having been triaged and seen a series of nurses to do various checks, dilate eyes etc - really can't be done much quicker than that).  Consultant confirmed that my retina had begun to detach and was detaching quite fast.  He walked me upstairs to the appropriate waiting room, where I was put on the list for immediate operation.

4pm that same day, shortly after the fire alarm went off with hilarious consequences of a hospital full of partially sighted people milling around with arms outstretched, arses hanging out of the back of hospital gowns, looking for fire exits and generally panicking mildly (although more about missing our operations than burning to death), I was operated upon.

I had asked the surgeon for some funky pre-meds and had all sorts of cocaines and diazepams and lord knows what-all else besides, pumped into my veins and eyes, with the result that I was highly relaxed when the 12 year old surgeon clamped my eye open, remarking that I had very long eyelashes.  So relaxed, indeed, was I, that I drawled "why young man - are you flirting with me?" causing the senior surgeon and all the theatre nurses to get an attack of the giggles.

Anyway.  That all went as well as can be expected but I was told that due to the fact that my retina had fully detached by the time they operated (which was far faster than they would have expected it to do so), there was a strong chance that I wouldn't regain my vision in my right eye, and that if I did, it would be at best partial.

Was instructed to sit still and stare at a wall for seven days and seven nights (yes, sleeping upright), and thank god for Terry Pratchett audio books because sitting and sleeping upright, for the woman with the double scoliosis, corkscrew spine with Scheuermann's-afflicted vertebrae is - well, let's just say that was seven very long days and seven very long nights.  But on day 8, I saw some light - some movement of colour - and slowly, slowly, over the next ten days or so, my vision came back.  It was twisted and distorted, and looking at my children with my right eye scared the shit out of me because they didn't look like them and I was terrified that something would happen to my left eye and I would forget what they looked like.

Three months of minimal exercise followed.  Long, slow walks, with a nice long neck like a giraffe lady and a still head.  No gardening, even, because the head movement was deemed dangerous.  No Zumba - sob sob.

But it passed - of course it did.  These things do.  And all had gone a million times better than expected.

July 2016 I was told that the retinal reattachment, where they blast a laser through your lens (I absolutely won't tell you what else they did - you genuinely don't want to know), had caused damage to the lens, leading to a cataract.  Oh so sexy!  Cataracts, in a 48 year old.  But it was to be expected - it's a common side-effect.  I had to wait until it got bad enough to be operated on by the NHS, which is fair enough.  There are plenty of people who needed it more than I did at the time.  It was hard to watch the vision deteriorate again, and in a different way, but I knew what was happening, so it was okay.

This wait took about a year, during which things were fairly uneventful, except for the slow deterioration of the cataract.  Colours faded, detail and texture disappeared, and sunshine or electric light hitting the lens blasted bright dispersed light all around the eye, blinding me temporarily.

Eventually, the cataract was bad enough to operate on!  Hurrah!  I was offered the choice of having the op at Moorfields or Basingstoke.  Opted for Basingstoke, in order to leave Moorfields operating theatre clear for people with detached retinas etc.  I think I have mentioned this elsewhere so forgive me if you've heard it before.  I'm never sure if I've written for myself, sent someone an email or published a blog.

After a couple of administrative hiccups (like getting me in for my pre-op five days before the operation, and telling me at that point that I had to not wear my contact lenses for 14 days before the op... erm, oh-kayyyy ... so having to have the operation rescheduled blah blah), the lens replacement was done - July 2017.

I was told that as my eyesight is so bad, once they had dealt with the right eye, I could come back and have the left one done, on the NHS, as there would be a massive discrepancy.  The right one (the "bad" one) was on a dioptre of -13 plus 1.5 astigmatism by the time they operated, and dropping almost a full dioptre per fortnight by that time, and the left one (the "good" one) is now -7, which basically means I am blind as a bat without either lenses or glasses.  The lens replacement in the right eye would sort out the short-sightedness (all being well) and so I'd have one eye that wasn't short-sighted at all and one (the good one - hah!) that, without correction, is pretty bloody useless beyond a 5cm distance.

I know a few people who have had lens replacements and swear by them, so if you're thinking of it to improve your eyesight, bully for you and go for it.  I will not be having the other eye done.  I'll leave it at that.

Don't let me put you off.  Mine was bloody tricky, as during the retinal reattachment, they had to remove the vitreous jelly (I know, I said I wouldn't tell you, but it's relevant!) from inside my eye, and the body naturally replaces this jelly with fluid - I don't know what fluid.  Saline or something - just fluid.  When they do the lens replacement, they cut a small incision in the sac housing your natural lens, mince the lens in situ, and suck it out, leaving the sac temporarily empty, ready for filling with a nice new plastic perfect lens.  The sac itself is a millifraction of a hair's breadth thin.  In a normal eye, this gossamer-thin sac is resting on a nice bouncy but stable cushion of vitreous jelly.  In someone who's had a vitrectomy, this delicate sac is floating on water and moving about all over the place, making it extremely tricky.  As the surgeon explained to her junior, WHILE she was actually performing the procedure.  Cheers, bird.

Anyway.  That all seemed to go fine.  Happened on a Friday.  I started to be able to see (peering illegally out from under my clear plastic eye cup which was sexily taped to my face with masking tape, with a big purple arrow drawn on my forehead pointing to the eye that had been operated on) in the waiting room afterwards, having my cup of tea and waiting for Simon to come and take me home, and when I woke up on Saturday morning, my vision was pretty good.  On Sunday and Monday it was perfect.

On Monday night, it went "poufffff" as if someone had dropped a drip of oil onto the surface of my vision, and once more I couldn't see.  The next morning it was the same, so I rang the hospital.  They said not to worry it was early days.  I rang again the next morning, and this time remembered to explain my history (you always assume people know, don't you?) and they went "christ, fuck, shit, fuck, bollocks, bugger, how quick can you get here?" or words to that effect.  By this time my vision had become very granular - like a really cool film noir, but in colour, and actually not that cool when it's your actual vision.

** EDIT **  I forgot to add that at this point my vision was also completely whiting out any time I stood up or moved quickly.  The likely diagnosis given for this was transient ischaemic attacks - as a precursor to having a massive stroke.  **


In I went and HURRAH!  Yet another new and interesting way to go blind - this one, a very, very rare side-effect of lens replacement after retinal detachment.  I had developed the macular oedema which I'm sure I've described elsewhere so I won't bore you again.  First call treatment for this is eye drops.  Easy, right?  Wrong.  Three different types of drops, one twice a day, one three times a day and one four times a day.  Leave a minimum of 15-30 minutes between each type.  Alarms going off on my phone nine times a day, or there's no way I'd have remembered, big chart to tick off once I'd actually done them (rather than just been reminded by the phone to do so) and carrying my beautiful little eyelash pouch with me everywhere - bed, bath, kitchen, dog walks, Zumba, 'planes, trains and automobiles for ten weeks.  Some of the little fuckers stung like a bastard, too.  However, the second resort, if the drops don't work, is injections into the back of the eye, so you can imagine that I was not complaining about the drops, and was making bloody sure I did them as and when necessary, absolutely without fail.

Surgeon wanted to see me 6-8 weeks after the diagnosis of the oedema, to see whether the drops were working or the oedema was growing, which would, quite quickly, blind me.  Appointment was set, via letter, for 10 weeks post-diagnosis, by the admin department.  I didn't question this (because you always assume people know, don't you? ... again.  Learn that lesson, Pennington, for fuck's sake!).

I'd been given enough drops for two months, but I figured I could use each set for five weeks probably without too much danger of them going off and disintegrating my eyeballs etc etc (Drama Queen, moi?!).  The drops, by the way, were steroids to kill the oedema, NSAIDs to take down the inflammation and pressure drops to stop the steroids from inflating my eyeball until it exploded - no, not really - but it causes glaucoma which I really don't need, thank you very much.  I have had pressure issues at every step of this process, so this was particularly important.

At this stage my vision had changed again.  It wasn't so granular, but it was very cloudy and I was extremely concerned, but knowing that I had an appointment coming up, I figured it could wait a few more days.

Five days before the appointment, which was set for 19th September, I received a letter pushing the appointment back to 31st October - i.e. a full 16 weeks after the diagnosis, and ten weeks after the surgeon had wanted to see me.  There is a blog somewhere, or a Facebook post about how I eventually sorted this out (it did involve me having to cry down the phone, eventually), and how I managed to get my GP to prescribe me some nice fresh drops that were not contaminated from being open for too long (that definitely involved a lot of crying down the phone, for fuck's sake), and they managed to see me just a day later than my original appointment, on 20th September - although not with my own surgeon, but a jolly nice different chap.

That appointment was amazing.  The macular oedema was all but resolved by the drops.  No injections into the back of the eye.  I was bowled over.  I was amazed.  I was delighted.  For the first time since this began, I had an appointment where there wasn't some kind of horrible new shitty way of going blind.  Oh yeah, I had a posterior capsule occlusion (PCO) - the back of the lens sac had gone thick and cloudy, which meant that I couldn't see so well, but nothing dangerous, and something that is easily operated on, so hurrah!  Reduce the drops, Mrs Pennington, and we'll see you in a few weeks to see if it's completely gone and make an appointment for the PCO operation.  Ooh, when can we do that.  Tell you what, let's see if they've already filled your appointment that was booked for the 31st October.  They haven't!  Book yourself in.  So I did.

In I went today.  I was a little frightened, maybe, deep down, but I've got in the habit of assuming against all the evidence to the absolute contrary that everything will be okay, and fronting it all out accordingly.  If it's not (when it's not), that's when I deal with it.  I can't be doing with what ifs.  There are too many actual issues to be dealt with Right Now to be fearing possible consequences which may never happen.  I mean, while all of this has been going on, my Dad got ill, and iller, and better, and ill again, and iller, and better, and very ill, and died.  So.  You know.

In I went.  I booked in at reception and the Green Waiting Area, where I waited.  I had an eye test for my right eye where I could read everything down to the bottom row (GET FUCKING INNNNN!) and for my left eye where I couldn't even see the board, because I hadn't put my contact lens in that eye this morning, as when I took it out last night it felt like I'd taken off half the surface of my cornea.  I know.  Don't.  It's fine, honestly.

In went the dilating drops - both eyes, this time, so at least I currently match, even if I do look like a superannuated Beanie Baby - and off to the Green Waiting Area for The Waiting.  Ooh, here we go - hi def scan of the retinas, watch the birdie - no, the blue dot and try not to follow the red line down the way, keep still, don't blink, and off you go back the the Green Waiting Area for more of The Waiting.

When my name was called it was my surgeon who was seeing me, which was nice, as I didn't need to explain everything (just what had happened at the last appointment as neither of us could read the nice man's loopy writing).  She had a look.  She hummed.  She put the yellow numbing drops in and took the pressure of both my eyes - normal.  First time the pressure's been normal, unmedicated, in nearly two years.  She checked the surface of the left eye for corneal damage - none.  She brought my scans up on the screen, and we both had a good look at the one from July (oedema), the one from September (virtually resolved oedema) and today's.

"Mrs Pennington, that scan is pristine.  Your vision in your right eye is showing as 20/20.  Everything looks wonderful and if it's okay with you, I am happy to discharge you from our care today."

Guess who cried?  Me?  You're right.  Her?  You're right, too. 

Me:  "Gosh, I'm sorry - what a prat!  Please ignore me!"

Her:  (teary eyed and wobbly of chin)  "You've had a bit of a journey, Mrs Pennington, and I'm not surprised it's all quite emotional.  I'm delighted for you."

I don't think I realised until that moment how much this has weighed down on me these last two years.  It's all very well not acknowledging or worrying about potential consequences, but they do catch up.  Maybe it helped that there have been so many other things to worry about.  There has been no time to dwell.

Anyway, I pulled myself together sufficiently to walk out of the consulting room without freaking out the other Waiters in the Green Waiting Area - because I looked like I'd had really bad news - and made it to the loos, where I locked myself in and cried some more.  Then I pulled myself together again and almost made it to my car before I collapsed in tears again.  Christ on a bike - where are all these tears coming from - it's happening again as I type this.

I'm so happy it's over - at least for now.  My right eye vision IS 20/20, but that doesn't mean it's perfect, oddly.  It's still distorted, straight lines are not straight and never will be again, but so fucking what?  I thought I was going blind, and the bloody fabulous NHS has saved my sight.  I can SEEEEE!

I don't regret any of this happening, and I don't wish it hadn't.  It has been fucking horrible, but it has taught me a lot.  It has taught me not to take my sight for granted for so much as a second.  You'd think that a dancer, a reader, an artist, a cook, a photographer, a crafter, a gardener, a person, in short,  who utterly delights in her vision would have realised this sooner, wouldn't you?  It's taught me a lot more, actually.  I'm still learning.

The one thing I wish about all of this, with all of my heart, is that my Dad was here so I could ring him up and tell him:  "I'm alright, Dad", and hear him reply, "Who loves ya, baby?".

Pip pip.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017


The astute reader among you will have noticed that this blog at best hiccups and at worst does nothing, and that every time there's a new post after a long pause, it promises (see how she divorces herself from responsibility by referring to the blog as "it" rather than "I") to be more regular.

So we'll take that as read!

However - I have had an epiphany this time, I really, really have.  Here it is.

It's a life-changing idea.  One of the things I really enjoy in my day, as you may have noticed, is taking Sev for a walk.  It takes a chunk out of the day, as we generally meander for about an hour and a half, but I don't want to cut his walks down because a) he enjoys it and b) I get a lot of thinking done - I also get a lot of choreography done - but a lot of thinking.  One of the things I'm missing at the moment, and actually for years, now, is writing.  I never get the time to write.

So I have all these - I was about to say "amazing ideas".  Let's maybe make that just "ideas" and we'll see!  I have all these ideas that flit into my head when I'm walking.  Things to write about, to share, to discuss.  And I get home, and The Admin crashes in.  The house demands tidying, school uniforms and Zumba kit demand to be washed and (hahahaha I was going to say ironed, but that's a blatant lie - I don't do that) put away (seldom does that happen either, while we're being honest about what a fucking slattern we are), Facebook is shouting "read me", and while that MAY on occasion be a bloody good way of wasting time, it's also a bloody good way of communicating with my friends and family, who are largely flung far and wide.  So bog off! (defensive, much?!)  Customers need contacting to check that they're delighted with their jewels (which they almost invariably are, but on the rare occasion they're not, they're delighted by how easy it is to sort it out - commercial over).

The point is, by the time I finally sit down, if that ever happens, the (amazing haha) ideas are forgotten and the inspiration has gone.  So I've decided that I'm going to record myself rambling while I ramble, on my little voice memo application on the jolly old iPhone.  This gets no use whatsoever except for learning lines, and it's about time it earned its place on my phone, frankly.  Then I'm going to flipping well come straight home and type it all up.  Dazzlingly simple.  We'll see.

The main reason for this sudden determination to start writing again, in amongst all the other busy things happening, is that last week, while beginning to pack up my darling dad's house, I found a few files of his writings.  I'm hoping there's going to be a lot more on his computer, which is currently kaput and requiring TLC of the IT variety (yes, I have TIOATIOA).  Meanwhile, the sheer joy provided by being able to read his words and hear his voice in my head as I read - to have his words forever - is just the most precious thing that he could have left to my brother and I.

You know what?  If I'm THIS delighted by that gift, would I not think of doing the same for my children?  Maybe they won't want to read this stuff when I'm gone, but maybe they will.  Maybe when they're grown up and they have kids of their own, they'll want to be able to say "Read this - this was your grandmother." (Note to self, swear less.) (Second not to self, fuck it, - future grandchildren, this was your grandmother, warts and all).  But in any case, having received that amazing gift from my dad, I'm figuring I ought to at least attempt such a gift for my children, although I'm sure not with his level of skill.  But I's'll do me best.

Meanwhile, before he went in to hospital two years ago, Dad started a blog!  I'm attaching a link.  You may go and have a read if the mood takes you.  It's my gift to you.  I wish he had kept it for longer, but I'm glad it's there.  It's not a patch on his stories, mind, but nevertheless, his voice and attitude and general Mick-ness is in it.  Ladies and Gents, my Dad:  Dad's Blog

See, now I want to go back and tidy up the grammar, because this is a direct transcript of me talking to myself, but the kids just got home for school and I have promised myself I'll be a bit more present.
To quote my Dad - Pip pip!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Boat Trip - another bloody analogy.

Imagine this.

There are 65 of us, going on a boat trip in choppy waters.  The waters are choppy, no matter what happens, or which boat we choose, because that's how the sea is, these days.

We are stood on the beach, and we have the choice of two boats.

One of them is a boat which we've been sailing about in for forty years.  We have to pay for tickets, though, and some of us don't like that.  Some of us are not keen on the places it stops or the canteen on board, or the fact that we can't get a job behind the bar because one of those jobs is being done by a Polish person, and that's obviously the particular job we want.  The Polish person needs somewhere to sleep and our Mandy's renting a cabin out to them which is paying her Todd's school fees but if we were doing their job as well it would be better.  It's also a big boat and it's got loads of other people on it - we don't all know each other, but there are different languages and cultures, and we can all share stuff.

On the whole, although there are things we don't like about the boat, we're pretty sure it's sea-worthy.  It's been looked over by the coastguard and some shipbuilders, and various other experts, and they say it's the sounder of the two available boats.

There is a second boat.  Nobody's put it to sea for forty years, but that could make it quite exciting - we are all agreed on that.  There are a few considerations, though.

The coastguard, some shipbuilders and various other experts have looked it over and warn that they're pretty sure it's really not safe, although if we all bail out furiously for the first ten years or so, it may well improve.  There are no guarantees about this, but we're all pretty strong, probably, maybe, and financially robust enough across the board, obviously, to be able to afford the ten years worth of buckets we're going to need to bail with.  Actually, I bet someone would just give us some buckets.  We've been given buckets before on the old boat, after all.  Anyway!  There are some pretty exciting things about the new boat.

What are they, we cry?!  The company who own the new boat tell us some stuff.

One is that we are going to spend all the money we save on tickets for the old boat doing up the new boat - hurrah!  That sounds great!  Although, actually, we're not sure that we are paying as much for the old boat as we are being told we are.  But they wouldn't lie about that, surely?!

Another is that the old boat was run by a faceless and unelected crew, and we weren't able to have anything to do with where it went, whereas the new boat will be steered and owned by us, so we will have more control over the new boat - hurrah!

Hey, we forgot to tell you - this boat is going to be all for us!  Don't worry!  We'll still be able to buy stuff in the on board tax free shops, and everything!  Everyone wants to sell us stuff because we're really important and we buy loads of stuff.

Oh, and we really love this one - it's going to have a big shiny Union Jack painted on the side, and we won't let other people on because even one or two might sink the ship - so no Poles working in the bar!

Of the 65 of us, only 44 have a vote, because the rest are kids.

For one reason or another, only 33 of us 44 actually vote.  Some of the others were away unexpectedly, some were away but didn't get to vote for technical reasons - like their bit of paper which they asked for didn't arrive, some were away but had been told we would be staying on the old boat anyway so didn't get 'round to arranging for the crew to send them a bit of paper to vote on, some didn't realise we were really being asked if we wanted to leave the ship and that we were going to do so and some genuinely didn't know which ship was better, but trusted other people to make the right decision.  Anyway - who cares why?  They didn't vote, so they don't count.

Whatever happens, the 21 children have to go on the ship we vote for, and so do the other 11 who didn't vote.  No, we can't go on the boat we vote for, we've all got to go on the same boat.  No, if we don't vote, we can't just stay on the boat we were already on - we have to vote to stay on it.  Were you not listening?  I know we didn't say it very loud, and it wasn't printed on anything or, well, talked about at all, really.  Anyway!  Never mind!  It's happened, now!  Let's count the votes.

Of the 33 people who vote, 17 vote for the new ship and 16 vote for the old ship.

At this point - seconds after the votes are counted - one of the guys who told us about the new ship admits that we're not going to spend any money doing it up, because there wasn't really any to spend, let alone the large figure he told us about.  Oh dear!  There are some rumblings from the shore.

What's this?  It's emerging that we had plenty of say in where the old boat went after all.  Oh dear.  Apparently, it was our crew sailing it all along!  But what about the faceless guys?  Well, yes, they're there - that's who we've been buying our tickets off, after all!  But all along, any one of us had the right to tell the faceless crew where we wanted to go.

Okay, so because there were a lot more people on the boat, a lot more people would have had to have agreed to have gone there, but if everyone wanted to, we could have.  Now only a handful of people have the right to tell the crew where to go and remember!  It's the SAME crew!  They were always in charge!

But these faceless guys - they ARE faceless, right?  Nope!  They're printed up in the ship's log book, which you had access to all along, and guess what!  You could have voted for them all along, too!  Maybe you did?  Some people did, but a lot of those sadly thought it was funny to vote the guys who were planning to jump ship in to help crew the old ship.  There's a pretty good chance that in the last 17 years, he might have been doing his best to undermine the old boat, but not to worry!

The people who own the new boat (including that guy ^) just told us that the crew had no control over the big boat, for a bit of a laugh.  They actually did, and it turns out we had our own speedboat on the time for daytrips and things we wanted to do which the other people didn't want to do - we had that all the time!  And our own money to spend, too.

Oh yes, the shops.  Well, we can still buy stuff in them - yay!  Lots of the stuff might have to be made on board for a bit, or bought in from the big ship and other ships at a bit of a higher cost, because we haven't got contracts with any of the people who sell the stuff, at the moment.  I'm sure the people who do will really want to sell to our little boat, though, so they'll get around to working out the highest price they can get away with charging us that we are prepared to pay as quickly as they can.  And they are really going to want to buy our stuff, too - after all, it's handmade by local craftsmen.  It's not cheap, but we think it's totally worth it!

Actually, we're not sure if we can stop people getting on, after all.  The owners didn't really think we could, and they didn't really mean it when they said it.  Oopsie.  Sorry!

BUT!  You'll like this!  It's STILL GOT A UNION JACK ON THE SIDE!  YAY!

The guys who own the new ship suddenly start resigning from the board, but it's okay, because they've got lifeboats, life rafts and private islands, so don't worry about them!  They will be just fine.

The 16 people who didn't want to go on the new ship in the first place are royally fucked off.  Hang on, they say.  We never believed the new ship was going to have any money spent on it and we didn't want other people kept off it, anyway.  We like being able to buy good wine cheap in the tax free shop and we think the ticket price is fair.  We wanted our kids to be able to grow up with all the other people on the big boat, learn languages and feel they were part of the big boat.  We're really committed to this and we're pissed off our passports aren't going to let us or our kids stay on shore where the boat docks.  Now they're just going to be able to pop in for a quick run home then back on the new boat, without really getting a proper taste of the places.

We're REALLY pissed off about this.  We REALLY want to stay on the old boat.  We REALLY want to check whether you guys are still sure about the new boat - can we just check?  Just see?

The 17 people - well, they're not all quiiiiite as sure as they were, what with the lying about the seaworthiness of the new boat and the resigning of everyone who has anything to do with it, but quite a few of them keep shouting at the other 16 that they need to get over it now - we had a vote, people!  That's what the captain told us we should do and now we need to stand by it, no matter what!  That's how our system works!

A couple of the 17 mutter, erm, but, we're not sure.

The 16 people are still ROYALLY FUCKED OFF.

"No", they plead.  "We have never had a vote like this before - it is actually not how our system works!  Our system works in such a way that we pick the crew and the crew pick a captain, and we trust them to sail our ship.  As it happens, we also picked a bigger crew who make sure our crew don't all empty the bilges into the sea and do let the scullery maids have half an hour off to visit their mums once in a while, but our crew is still our crew, and we wan't to know why they're not steering the ship like we pay them to."

Oh great, now the captain's jumped overboard and the purser is just standing around looking awkward.

"Tough tits!" cry the 17 people.  "17 of us voted for the new boat, and we're all going on it because 17 of us said so!"

"Yes, but 16 of us said not, so we're all going - all 65 of us - because of ONE person!  Even the kids are going, and enough of them wanted to stay on the old boat to have made the vote go the other way."

"Yes but the kids can't vote."

"Well, don't you think they should be able to?  They are going to have to live on the boat for a lot longer than the rest of us."

"No but 17 of us said we wanted the new boat!"

"Well, two have said that they don't, so that will make it 18/15 in favour of the old boat, and we think a fair few of the people who didn't vote last time will make fucking sure they get to the polling station this time, so we think that even more of us want the old boat."

"No but 17 of us said we wanted the new boat!"

"But some of you have changed your minds."

"No but that doesn't matter - 17 of us said we wanted the new boat!"

"But some of you made your decision based on some things which have now been absolutely shown to be lies."

"No but 17 of us said we wanted the new boat!"

"But some of you have said that you just did that as a protest, to make the crew listen to you - but now you've stuck yourself with just this crew and no recourse to a second crew."

"Tough TIIIIITS!  You've HAD your democratic vote - that's your lot!"

"Really?  But it really matters - it's forever."

"Just get on with it.  Don't you like village fetes and cream teas and pubs?  What's wrong with you?  Why are you so miserable - you're getting everyone down!"

"I love village fetes and cream teas and pubs, but I also love fiestas and bratwurst and drinking coffee on the pavement outside a café in Paris!  Yes, I am fucking miserable, because I can't do all of that any more because you don't want to, and I don't think that's fair."

"Life isn't fair.  Cheer up.  We won.  You lost.  There was one more of us than there was of you, and even though that person at least has changed their mind, it's tough, because on that day two weeks ago, that was what they thought, and you, or rather we - all 65 of us - are just going to have to live with that forever."

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Democracy! For one night only!

I enjoyed that democracy.  Can I have some more, please, because I’m not used to it and I’m not sure I used it to its, or indeed my, best advantage?

More?  MORE?  No, you bloody can’t.  That’s enough democracy for you.

Very Dickensian.  Which is jolly British and ever so nice if you ignore Mr Dickens’s brilliant social commentary and biting wit.

I get why the people who are happy with their vote to leave the EU don’t want a second referendum.

What I don’t get is that they shout “Democracy!  The People have spoken!” as a reason not to have a second referendum.

Look, lads – you can’t have it both ways.

If a referendum is democratic, how is two referenda undemocratic? 

Does there come a point where too much democracy sends the whole thing into a handbrake turn and it turns in on itself?  What nonsense.

Democracy is a good thing.  Let’s have all the democracy.  No?

People who are happy with their vote to leave are not going to change their vote.

People who are happy with their vote to remain are not going to change their vote.

People who are not happy with their decision (either way) on 23rd June, given the enormous amount of information which has since come to light surely have the right to be heard?

How is that not democratic?

I’m actually campaigning on behalf of Leave voters, here.

It transpires that the Leave campaign told some very large lies and based their campaign on policies which they had neither the power nor the ability to deliver.  They haven't got £350million to give to the NHS.  They have no money and if they did, they wouldn't give it to the NHS, as they have already stated that they want to privatise the NHS - yes, that means you pay for your healthcare.  They also are not going to stop or cap or limit immigration, because they can't - and they knew they couldn't but they still based their campaign heavily on this.  They had no plan in place for what to do next, because they didn't mean to win.

People now know this and they feel cheated.

It transpires that a lot of people voted to leave the EU just as a protest against the government, and actually wanted to stay.

People now wish they had used their right to protest in a different way and feel robbed.

We also hear that people weren’t sure whether the referendum was advisory or legally binding – it sure wasn’t stated on the tin. 

Well, it’s not legally binding but, hell’s bells, 1 million more people, on one day, with a flawed and false campaign pushing them, wanted it, so let’s all go to hell in a handcart, because sticking to your guns, in this country, even when you get new information that demonstrates that you were wrong, is seen as a virtue.  This lady’s not for turning, my arse.

The popular press are finally printing some truths about what leaving the EU will actually mean to the average man on the street, rather than printing a load of emotive rhetoric, over Union Jack backgrounds, about how leaving the EU will Make Britain Great Again.

The average man on the street, now understanding what it means to him, feels horrified and wants to be given a second chance.

28% of the population believed either that we were going to remain in the EU by an easy majority or that their vote wouldn’t count anyway.

They now realize that this didn’t happen and that every single vote counted.  Whether they would have voted to stay or go, they deserve to be heard.

Young people, aged 16-18, were not included in the vote.  They are demanding to be heard, and they are the ones whose world was just made a little smaller.  A little more insular.

I believe they should be heard.

How does allowing any of these people to speak again qualify as undemocratic? 

Democracy wasn’t just for the 15 hours that the polling booths were open.

Democracy is ongoing.

When we hear new facts, we CAN change our opinions.

What I’d really like to do is wind back the clock and let people remember everything they have learned this last week, and give them chance to vote again for the first time.  Sadly, even though I’ve concentrated so hard I strained myself and risked a recurrence of my umbilical hernia, I can’t manage that. 

But I’d really like everyone to get a second chance to speak and vote in the non-science-fiction world that we live in.  With no Leave Campaign and no Remain Campaign pushing everyone’s buttons and playing with peoples lives for their own entertainment and the furtherance of their own careers.  Just a Campaign of Information – calm, measured information that will help The People to make an informed decision.

The People Have Spoken.  So what?  Are The People never allowed to speak again?

The European Union, and why I’m unlikely to “Get Over It” any time soon

Written on Monday 27th June, four days after the results came in.

My Facebook feed is divided into two groups of friends.  Friends who are bewildered and horrified that we have just voted ourselves out of Europe, and are trying to make sense of it and dig heels in to stop it from coming to pass  -  and friends who are fed up with the people who are still talking about it and want everyone to accept it and move on to making Britain great again.

I am beyond happy that my friend list doesn’t include one single person who wants anyone sent home or who advocates racism in any way, no matter which way they voted – and more of that, later.

It’s important to me to explain why this is so important to me, because I really value my friends and I am aware that some of them must be sick to the bloody back teeth of me.  I also want to try to articulate what it is that makes some of us feel so strongly about this.

In the run up to this referendum, right up until the day, I felt thoroughly nauseous at the possible ramifications but I worked hard to comment on the debate as calmly, informatively and in as non-partisan a manner as I could. 

This is hard for someone in my position, who believes with every fibre of her being in a unified Europe, but I really believed that not ramming my views down people’s throats, while explaining where general reporting and understanding was either deliberately or accidentally erroneous was the way forward.  I just really wanted to help.  Still do.

I think one of my mistakes in the way I approached debating this before the referendum was in being wholly logical, tackling the facts and deliberately trying not to get heated about it.  I didn’t want to scare anyone away from voting to remain in the EU with my sheer all-encompassing passion and belief in it.  I tackled the Big Lies which the Leave campaign employed, and which they are now having to admit were indeed whoppers, but I never addressed the emotional side.

So here it is.

In January 1974, my family moved to Brussels, where my dad was one of the first wave of Brits working out there.  We weren’t rich or privileged, we were just an ordinary working class family from the UK.  My Dad’s dad was a Kent coal miner and my Mum’s dad stoked coal into furnaces in a hospital, in eight hour shifts, morning, noon and night.  My dad, and all the people out there, had simply seen an ad in their local paper and sat a series of exams, followed by a grueling interview process.  In other words, ordinary people had applied for a job in an ordinary manner.

We, however, had a deep belief in the ethos of the EU from the start.   The mood in Europe at that time was one of hope.   A wholly optimistic belief in a bright future with a fundamental emphasis on no further wars within and between the countries of Europe.  No more young men would be sent to fight and die on the battlefields of France, Belgium, Holland – you get the idea. 

I, and my school friends, were bought up as genuine children of Europe.  We believe in it wholeheartedly. 

The implementers of this ideal were mostly young families from all over Europe.  Their parents had lived through and fought in the Second World War, and they wanted a better future for their children - and believe you me, they worked their arses off to ensure that neither they nor their compatriots, nor their opposite numbers from other member states (aka EU countries) would ever have to send their children, the children they had travelled across the continent to bring to Brussels with them, off to fight the children that they were meeting and befriending, going to school with, playing with.

I spent my entire school life, bar my very first term, in Brussels.  My school was set up by the EU to cater for the kids coming from all over Europe to build this bright new world. 

I don’t have much recollection of life in England – I was four when we moved to Brussels.  I clearly remember my first day at school in Brussels, however.  The school was enormous.   All on one site, the age went from kindergarten right up through primary through to the European Baccalaureat – A-level age.  There were at that time six language sections – English, Franco-Belge, Nederlando-Belge, German, Danish and Italian.  So take infant school, add primary and secondary school, put it all in one place then multiply by six and you’ve an idea of the size of the place.  Thirty to a class and more than one class per year group per language section, in some cases.  There were some 3,500 students there by the time I left – at which point we also had a Spanish and a Greek section.

Because philosophy is a compulsory subject in Italian schools, it was a compulsory subject at the European school.  All the language sections had to study it.  The same with economics.  The UK’s contribution to this was compulsory RE.  (My mum’s contribution was to add an Ethics option to the Religion thing.)

From the age of four, my playmates were chiefly British, as in primary school most of our lessons were conducted in our mother tongue, so we sat alongside our own countrymen for most of the day.  Playtime, however, we were all mixed.  Hundreds of kids of different nationalities, playing together in an enormous playground.  We really didn’t much notice whether someone was English, Italian, French, German, Danish, Belgian – we didn’t CARE!  We either liked them or we didn’t, and their nationality never once had anything to do with that. 

As we grew up together, the national distinctions became even less marked, as we all learned each others languages.  By the time we left school at 18, there was a definite European School lingo.  Because everyone spoke at least four languages, you would find the mot or phrase juste in whichever language first sprung to mind. 

When I first moved back to the UK – to London, to study Law at King’s College – I realized that it was going to be an effort to speak just one language at a time.  There were a few of us Eurobrats at King’s, and there was some resentment to begin with, as we appeared a little elitist, with our European manner and our peppering of our conversation with whole sentences in any old language we chose.  It wasn’t deliberate – we didn’t think we were better than anyone else – it was just how we spoke.  In fact, it now occurs to me that the only time in my life when I have felt awkward, alien and out of place was that first six months back in “my own country”.  Until now, that is.  Anyway.  Moving along!  This misunderstanding soon settled down and we integrated well enough – we were, after all, used to adapting to people.

The language thing is a microcosm of the whole thing, of course.  As much as we pinched words and phrases from one another, we pinched bits of culture that we liked, and, without realizing it, all sorts of other bits and pieces.  We became intermingled, European, unified.  However, we all still spoke our first language primarily, and we all knew that we were British Europeans or Italian Europeans or Belgian Europeans, and there was plenty of partisan banter.  We identified with both our home nations and our EU status.

The idea of going to war against our schoolmates, in the past, present or future, was wholly – wholly – argh!  There isn’t a big enough word.  Anathema.  Not strong enough.  Alien.  Nope.  Unthinkable is what it was - but really think about what unthinkable means.  It means it is so apart from your understanding that you can’t even think it.  Does not compute.  “Going to war with those guys – is that even a thing?”

By the way, in case you think the school sounds like a hotbed of elitism, I think I should at this point explain how it worked.  Anyone who worked for the EU, EC, EEC, whatever it was called at the time, was entitled to send their kids to the school, for free.  An enormous organization such as the EU doesn’t just employ Director Generals and highly paid boffins.  The cleaners, security guards and canteen workers had the same right to send their kids to our school as the Director General. 

I have always been immensely proud of this.  Very democratic – part of the ideal they are striving for.

I grew up knowing that I could work in any country in the EU.  As an adult, I could just up sticks and go and live wherever I chose.  Once I had a family, I could take my children and my husband, all of whom had that right as much as I did.  My children could choose to study art in Italy or engineering in Germany – or the other way around.  Or just go and live in Paris for a couple of years, working their way.

This right, which my dad worked almost his entire working life to create and nurture and protect, has just been taken away from me and from my kids, and I feel bereaved and very angry about this.

The belief that we are one united Europe, which was so deeply held in my very soul, has been destroyed.  I feel like someone reached in, ripped it out, tore it to shreds in front of my eyes, hurled it to the floor, dashed it with petrol and burnt it in front of my eyes, and I am reeling to my core at this.

It may sound overly dramatic to you, but I am not exaggerating my feelings.

And while they’re doing it, they’re cheerily telling me to stop moping, it will be fine.

I have tried a thousand analogies in my head, and I can’t make them work, but imagine that the village or borough, where you live and which you love, decided to take a vote as to whether you stay part Britain.  There’s 100 people in your village.  28 of them don’t vote, for any number of reasons – maybe one of them didn’t get home from work in time due to trains being totally effed up and major commuter stations actually closing (can’t even remember the last time that happened).  35 vote to stay part of Britain.  37 vote to go it alone. 

Going it alone means that your kids HAVE to go to the village school, and if the next village has a better degree course in something than yours does, it’s tough.  If they just fancy going and living in the next village because the view is nice from there and there’s a company there specializing in an area which particularly interests them and at which they are particularly skilled, they can’t.  As the votes have finished being counted, it transpires that the people who presented the case for leaving Britain lied.  Quite a lot.  They’re actually not going to look after the little cottage hospital in the village, for a start, and they didn’t expect to win so they don’t have a plan as to what to do next.  Despite the fact that they said they know there’s not a lot of houses left in the village and they’ll make sure they stop people from outside the village buying the ones that are available, or working in the village shop, they now admit that actually they are not going to be able to do this, and they never were. A few of those who voted to leave come out and say that they did so because they don’t like the parish councilor, and they thought this was a good way of showing that.  Some more say that they voted that way because they wanted their taxes to go to the cottage hospital, and they feel that they were lied to, and want to change their vote.  More yet say that they hadn’t realized that they were actually voting to leave Britain, and that they never thought it would happen, and that they want to change their vote.

Basically, that very small margin of two people (as you’ll have worked out, this is based on the percentage of turnout, then votes for and against) has potentially been heavily eroded.

But don’t worry, those of you who didn’t want to leave in the first place, we’re pretty sure it will work out in the end.  Probably. 

As it stands, in the UK, 28% didn’t vote.  37% voted to leave.  35% voted to stay.

Is it democratic to blindly stick with it and push on, forcing the view of 37% of the eligible voters on the other 63%? 

Or is it more democratic, before making this irreversible change – because make no mistake, there is no going back – to jussssst check one more time? 

If the result comes back the same, so be it.  If the people who want to leave still believe that it is right to do so, in the same numbers, the vote will stay the same, so where’s the harm? 

If it turns out that it goes the other way because people now realize that is NOT what they want – how is that undemocratic?

But on that tiny margin, with a lot of people now changing their minds, with the Sun and the Mail and the Express finally printing what will happen next with an unprecedented degree of accuracy, and their readers going “What? What? Why didn’t you tell us before?  We didn’t know!”, with the Leave campaign admitting that two of their three major platforms – increased spending on the NHS and reduced immigration– were just bollocks (the others are largely bollocks, too, by the way – they just haven’t admitted it quite yet), with this increase in racism which has fundamentally shocked all right thinking people whether they voted to leave or remain, I think the democratic and sensible thing is to re-examine this.

Is it not sheer pig-headedness to ignore the hundreds of thousands of people who are no longer sure they want what they voted for?  I think so.

Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.  That’s all the people.  Not 37% of the people.

We have a very adversarial culture in the UK.  We are very black and white.  The very layout of the House of Commons is adversarial – face to face, head to head, us and them, rather than circular. 

First Past The Post sets up a system where everyone in the country is ruled by a parliament almost always elected by less than half the country, rather than by a parliament who represent the proportion of each party that people actually voted for.  Everyone therefore has to toe the party line.  Tories have to back Tory policies most of the time whether they like it or not.  Labour the same.

The deep rifts opening up in our society at the moment are a result of our view that you are either with us or against us – what’s it going to be? 

And so now we have US and THEM, and I don’t wonder that so many people just want the fighting to stop, but I also don’t wonder that so many others are desperate to make sure – really sure – that everyone knows what we’re doing and is not prepared to lie down and say die until we all know this is what we REALLY want.  It’s not inevitable.  It’s still fluid.  There is still, potentially, a little wiggle room.  Let’s make sure we know what we’re doing before we slam any doors and turn the lock.

Back to our adversarial nature - as a result of the fact that we tend to back a side and fight our arses off for it, nobody really questioned that there was a campaign for Leave and a campaign for Remain.

Question that! 

There should have been nobody pushing an agenda!  There should not have been a campaign for OR a campaign against, there should simply have been a campaign of information. 

As it was, virtually all of the independent information pointed towards remaining a member of the EU being a damned good idea.  But because we are used to this adversarial system, everyone believed that that independent information and analysis was part of the Remain campaign, and as such dismissed it as electioneering.

Meanwhile, Leave clearly had no intention of winning, or having to fulfill their insane promises, but they put on a good show and Boris, whose plan was almost certainly simply to use the campaign as a platform to raise his political profile, was dismayed to have won and has spent the entire time since he won looking shell-shocked and back-pedalling like the committed cyclist he is.

It was all jolly exciting and jolly good fun sticking it to the man, but now the party’s over and we’re left cleaning up the mess, suddenly a significant portion of people are questioning what they were told, they are angry that they were lied to, they are shocked that their protest vote is actually going to change their (and my) world, and they deserve to be heard.

I am as angry on behalf of those people as I am for myself.

There are some things that I would like to state categorically, and stand by.

I do not believe that everyone who voted to Leave is ignorant.  I know and have debated with some very intelligent and eloquent Leavers, and I respect their right to their view and their vote.

I do not believe that all Leave voters want to change their vote, but I believe that a significant and growing portion, in the light of new information, do.

I do believe that all of my friends, both for and against, did their very best to inform themselves and make what they absolutely believed would be the best choice for them and their children.

I do also believe that many Leavers based their vote on a dishonest campaign and now know that they were lied to on a large scale, but I know that is not the case for everyone, and I know that it is patronizing to suggest otherwise.

I do not believe that everyone who voted to Leave is a racist.  I know this not to be true, and I will stand up for that.  However, I must temper this with the statement that the Leave campaign was incontrovertibly fought on both overtly and subliminally racist platforms.  The tit Farage standing in front of the Breaking Point poster is a case in point.  That should have been a breaking point, indeed.  I’m surprised that it wasn’t the moment at which people became sickened by the campaign and decided not to ally themselves with racism, precisely because they themselves are not racists.  I don’t understand how that didn’t happen, but I still don’t believe that all, or even most, Leavers are racists.

As to the assertions that it will all be okay, because Britain is Great, nobody knows what will happen next, a country that won two world wars and one world cup is perfectly capable of standing on its own two feet and we should stop harping on about what happened last week and get on with this week etc etc – I do need to address my attitude to that.

First, I really, really, really hope that everyone who believes this scenario to be correct is right.  I have no desire to be proved right in this instance.  I want our economy to boom and our nation to thrive – of course I do!  I’m not an idiot.  I’m not optimistic at this stage that it will, but I will do everything in my power (which is very little – same for all of us average Joes) to ensure that it is.  It’s like your teenage daughter hitching a lift home from town despite the fact that you’ve told her there’s a chance that’s not going to pan out too well.  If she gets home in one piece, you’ll rejoice.  If she doesn’t, you’re not going to go “I told you so”.

I’m not being pessimistic – I just believe that when a bunch of people who study this stuff and who have no axe to grind tell you in overwhelming numbers that one course of events will almost certainly have a good outcome and one will almost certainly result in years of struggle, it’s sensible to pay attention to them, and to acknowledge that they know what they’re talking about.

If it’s a question of people saying “I realize that there’s a 99% chance that the economy is going to be in a dreadful state for the next 3-10 years (as virtually all sources predicted), and I’ve looked into the reasons for that and into what we will lose and gain, all of which I now broadly understand, but I think it’s a price worth paying” – fair enough.

 If it’s a blindly optimistic “ah, what do they know, anyway”, erm, well, sorry for not playing.  That is a huge gamble to impose on the 63% of eligible voters who did not vote for this

I agree, nobody knows what will happen next, and nobody has a crystal ball to tell us what would have happened if we hadn’t done whatever we choose to do next, so there will be no point in “I told you so”, either way.  It’s not something I intend to indulge in, should things go horribly wrong.

If I have accept being asked to stop harping on about how devastated I am about this, I really think we should also stop harping on about world wars and world cups, especially disallowed goals in world cups.  That was a bloody long time ago and people are still moaning.  All we lost then was a football match.  We have lost so much more, now – even if the economy does well. 

So, my loves, I will continue to harp on, I’m afraid.  I hope you will see that what I’m doing is not moaning, but posting relevant information. 

Where the Leave campaign is shown to have lied or been economic with the truth, I will be posting that.

Where there is hope for a way to address whether it is right, in a democratic society, for 37% of the population to be given a mandate to strip a whole shitload of actual rights from themselves and the other 63% (35% of whom actively voted to keep those rights, and 28% of whom didn’t vote at all but definitely didn’t vote their rights away), especially when an emergingly significant portion of that 37% has now come out and stated that now that it is in possession of the facts, it would like to change its vote, please, thank you very much, I am going to keep hoping that the dream of a unified Europe can continue, and because I am an open book, those hopes will continue to be expressed in social media.

Petitions will be shared and clear statements about the effect that this has had already on the food industry, banking, jobs and the £ - I’ll still be posting those as long as there is any hope that people will realize what is happening and demand not to be bound to this minority vote.

I believe in not blindly following the result of this referendum precisely because I do believe in democracy.  There is plenty of precedent for referenda on important matters, carrying slim slim margins, being set aside. 

I don’t think we can ignore the result of this referendum – that’s not what I’m suggesting.  I believe it would be downright dangerous to do so. 

The result has surprised a great many people (not least the Leave campaign) and it shows that people need a voice.  I don’t argue with that.  I fear that not triggering article 50 and taking us out of the EU will cause anger and unrest, but we appear to have those right now anyway. 

I forgot to address the “unelected, undemocratic” issue.  I will try to do it briefly.  Not my forte, clearly! :D

I also believe, for what it’s worth, that it is worth considering this. 

There is a very strong argument that fact that legislation can be proposed either by experts in a field, who work for the European Commission (like my Dad), or other EU bodies, or any citizen of the EU (like you or me) as is the case in the system we now have with the EU, is altogether a more democratic system than one in which legislation can only be proposed by a Member of Parliament who, while he WAS elected by the people, inevitably has his eye on being elected once again next time.  And is therefore not going to propose any legislation which may be unpopular in his constituency.

So you get that?  A massive point for Leave is that laws are proposed by the unelected European Commission.  They can also be proposed by YOU.  As you sit reading this – YOU.  Not a notional you, YOU!

Not some MP you almost certainly didn’t vote for (because you only voted for one out of the 651-odd of the buggers, after all) – YOU!

Sounds pretty fucking democratic to me, my loves.