A cup of tea and my world changed

Since the vote announcement The Connexion’s Gillian Harvey has lived the stages of disbelief, anger and resignation following the vote

27 June 2016

When I opened my eyes on the morning of June 24 and saw my husband standing there with a cup of tea, I knew something was up. First of all, that literally never happens. Second of all, he’d actually made it the correct strength. 

Even with the perfect cup of builders’ brew, however, I found it hard to digest the news that ‘Leave’ had won. I’d convinced myself not to worry too much about the impact of a ‘leave’ vote, because — like many — I simply couldn’t envisage it happening. As it was, I woke up in a different world that day. 

After the initial shock, I felt the same sort of impotent rage that many other ‘remainers’ probably felt — a kind of fear mixed with disbelief. Then I made the mistake of going online: it was the fault of the old, apparently, or the ignorant. Or the toffs, who have enough money anyway. Them and the racists. Of course. 

I must admit I wanted someone to blame too: finding that — contrary to what I believed — most of my former countrymen don’t quite think in the same way as I do was a bitter pill to swallow. 

Then the backlash started. Apparently, people didn’t really think their vote would count. Or didn’t really know what they were voting for. Or didn’t realise that it was going to affect the exchange rate just before holiday season. Cries demanding a second referendum were tweeted loudly across cyberspace. 

In my opinion, if the vote really is misrepresentative of people’s true desires, the fault lies with the politicians from both sides who treated the public with disdain and rather than arming them with the facts (the most Googled term after the polling stations closed was ‘what is the EU?’), they peppered voters with nuggets of fear and promised a golden utopia where wealth abounded, the EU parasite was dealt with and we could go back to simply blaming the weather for all our problems. 

And here’s the irony. The one time they needed tap into their traditional British reticence, campaigners on both sides decided instead to make like Donald Trump and whip the public into a petrified frenzy. 

That’s probably why my initial reaction was fear, and why I looked at every passer-by when I walked into town the day the result was announced with an expression that said: “‘I’m very sorry for being British, but honestly, I didn’t vote to leave and I really, really do want to live here.” (I can do wondrous things with my eyebrows). 

Instead, so far, I have been greeted by calm acceptance and sympathy. French acquaintances have expressed concern on my behalf. 

The worst reaction has been simply disbelief, which made me realise that, in all this, I’d forgotten that we are rational humans living among other rational humans, and the explosive rage and cowering terror belongs online or on live TV debates. 

And now, short of putting ourselves through another referendum (really?), we have two choices. 

We can go the whole hog. Vote Boris Johnson into Number 10 and pledge our support for Donald Trump’s presidency. Then we can make like Blackadder and feign madness, stick pencils up our noses and utter only the word ‘wibble’. 

Or, we can pull up our union underpants and do what we do best. Utter cries of ‘hey-ho,’ and ‘whoops-a-daisy’, roll our eyes and go back to talking about the weather, while hoping that we can get through the mire of bureaucracy without making too much fuss. 

After all, we may be British, but we can’t apologise to everyone. 

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