Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A Brexit Diary

I am trying something new with this piece, it is very much a first draft. Any feedback welcome. Thank you. 

For audio click here

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2026
Brexit Day, Public Holiday, England and Wales (not Scotland or Northern Ireland)

If you had told me fifteen years ago that I would be standing on Trafalgar Square cheering the unveiling of a fifteen-foot statue of Nigel Farage, I would have laughed in your face. Well, guess where I was today. Yes, today is Brexit Day, a new annual Public Holiday inaugurated this year to mark the tenth anniversary of the people taking back control and making Britain Great again. How did that go for us again?
To mark the occasion, I was one of the thirty-five thousand lucky ones who received an invitation to the unveiling of a special memorial. We weren’t told what the memorial would be and central London has been under lockdown for the past two weeks, so no one had a clue what was being prepared for the celebrations.  
Of course, I didn’t want to go, but the invitation made it plain that non-compliance would lead to arrest and internment on grounds of unBritish behaviour; a day out in Trafalgar Square in the sunshine seem preferable to a stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Of course, I didn’t want to cheer either, but again the invite made it plain that all invitees were strongly encouraged to show their patriotic spirit.
There’s a photo that used to do the rounds on Facebook, (remember that) of a man not saluting Hitler when all those around him were. I’ve often wondered what happened to that man. It struck me as a futile gesture. No doubt he was arrested and shot and probably made out to be a spy or terrorist.  So, although he stood up for what he believed in, it didn’t do anyone any good, especially not him.  Wouldn't he have been better off saluting, thus staying alive and working in the resistance.
Anyway, I’m ashamed to say, I sang the national anthem with gusto, cheered when the frail figure of the queen came on stage and reserved my loudest screams for when Mr Farage pulled the chord and revealed the statue of himself.
But like Winston in Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, (on the banned list now of course), I’ve decided that enough is enough. I may not be able to show my dissent in public, but I can do it privately, and I can start with this diary. I will use this diary as my confessional, as my penance for when society forces me to do things which I don’t believe in.
I used to love London but I don’t get there much these days. So I decided to walk to Trafalgar Square from Liverpool Street ,partly for old time’s sake and partly because I hate using the Underground, the threat of power cuts and flooding just makes it damn scary. I went to Uni around there so even in its current state it brings back happy memories of the 20-year-old me, drinking, exploring, finding myself. I thought I was so grown up, I was just a little boy. I remember the bombings back then though. The Baltic Exchange and the Threadneedle Street attacks. I heard one of them on my way back from the shops and I lived eight miles away. Most of the buildings look bomb damaged these days too. The old NatWest tower is a shadow of its former self; it used to be the tallest building in the City of London, but now it’s an empty hollow shell; the wind clattering the blinds in the gaps where the windows once were. In the shadow of the crumbling tower, two kids were jumping up and down on an old Skoda singing that awful Send Them Home song, I longed to remind them they had all gone home, but you can’t trust kids. They’ll go rushing back to their dads and the next to you know the vigilantes are out looking for you.
As I came out of the City of London and headed towards Charing Cross the crowds began to grow. Men, women and children in their union jack hats, waistcoats, t-shirts.  People waved placards with Farage and the Queen and some people had some retro posters from the Out campaign. Land of Hope and Glory rang out from the speakers that lined the streets. Women and children ate ice creams while the men drank free Bomber Ale. I drank mine slowly but I longed for an Ice Cream.
I tried to avoid eye contact with the masses in case someone saw the doubts in my eyes. Do all of these people really believe in the lies we’re being fed? Do they all really believe Britain is Great again? Or are they all like me, too scared or too pragmatic to speak out? I hope it is the latter, I fear it is the former.

I’ll say one thing for Farage, he doesn’t like to hang about;they say it's security but he probably doesn’t want to spend too long away from the pub. The event was over in a flash, anthem, the Royal Brexit Day Address, Farage’s speech, a rendition of Rule Britannia and then we were asked kindly to disassemble, which I was only too pleased to do.

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