Tuesday, June 28, 2016

leaving England

... in the very early morning: I'm now back in New Mexico.  It was a quintessential mid-summer's morning: thin golden sunlight; a little dew; plenty of roses in my parents' garden.  And yet - the England that I left isn't the England in which I arrived.  It's a country stifled by its own xenophobia, anxiety, nostalgia, narrow idealism, and deplorable, pathetic, lamentable naivete.   This isn't true, of course, of almost all my friends (indeed, probably all my friends) - but this is at least part of the compound that makes me deeply, deeply sad that, barring miracles, I won't go back to a place that I love and find it much, much smaller and sadder.  Nostalgia isn't just the prerogative of those older people for whom now - if one's to believe social media - no one much is prepared, any longer, to stand up on the Tube.  It belongs to those of us who cheered all the ways in which the Britain of June 2016 is emphatically not the Britain of - say - 1967, when we were clambering out of post-war greyness, and when Charles de Gaulle was delivering his emphatic "non."  I'm still finding last week's result hard to process in its emotional ramifications, let alone its political ones.

Monday, June 27, 2016

tennis windows and musical ephemera

At this time of the year, the shop windows in Wimbledon Village burst into yellow and white, and green/purple/white (the tennis championship colors) decorations.  Unfortunately, my camera battery gave out after I'd captured just one or two - too busy using it earlier in the BL, mostly to take pictures of rag-picking machinery, but also, in hunting down the "Shoddy Polka" and the "Shoddy Ball" and the "Shoddy Galop," taking pictures of some other magnificent pieces of sheet-music ephemera.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

fun fair (aka carnival?)

When I was small - let's say, between the ages of 7 and 11 - I loved the annual visit of the fun fair to Wimbledon Common, sometime in mid-June.  Now it seems to be held on two consecutive weekends.  So, for Old Times' Sake, I went back for the first time in decades.  It still smelt the same - crushed grass, oily generators, and candy floss.  The music was identical - My Girl Lollipop - or generically similar (YMCA).  There seemed to be more rides and fewer stalls where you threw things at yellow plastic ducks, and no stalls at all where you rolled ping pong balls down chutes, or threw them into goldfish bowls (with prize being a live goldfish in a precarious, slightly leaky plastic bag), or lined them up in the sights of an air rifle.

But the general sense of raunchiness was still there, on the dodgems, on the Waltzer.  Gone was my favorite ride, which had imitation motorbikes on an undulating, fast-rotating track; gone was the big roundabout with the painted ponies.  But I still envied the cool-looking, tight-jeaned, casually balancing and spinning guys who man the rides - that was a job, when I was 10, that I hugely wanted for myself ...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

a very English party, attended by the 48%

To Godalming, for my cousin Peter's 60th birthday party.  What could be more English that those strawberries and cream, the red checkered wicker basket liners?  And yes, those are a couple of cats on top of the cake - it runs in the family.  You'll see that it's sunny ...

... but it wasn't sunny all of the time: nothing says an English Garden Party like a damp tent, steam/smoke from the barbecue, and the smell of wet grass (my cousin Jon in the foreground).
The talk, nonetheless, was very much of Brexit, our horror at Brexit, the difficulties for anyone with jobs that involve engagement with Europe, the position of one of my second cousins' Spanish partner, our sense of shame/embarrassment (yes, that's very British, too), as well as anger.  And we want to know where we can obtain "We are the 48%" badges.  Something, too, that floated through the air were the many rumors of friends-of-friends who voted Out as a protest vote, never dreaming that the Leave campaign would win: it would be fascinating to know whether this is a real widespread phenomenon, or a (sub)urban myth. 

To conclude: the birthday boy ... Happy Birthday (on Thursday), Peter!

Friday, June 24, 2016

the day after

This says it all: a remain flier, crumpled, and in a drain;

flags from a Remain party that people who live opposite my parents had yesterday (yes, I can see that's a Norwegian flag);

the dismal sight of the newspapers at LHR when I flew in this morning, after a long, long night of on-line watching;

the poster at a local church (always good with its posters), bringing the referendum and Wimbledon Tennis together;

and, well, Englishness.

I'm still processing the whole thing, because there are so many moving parts behind the Brexit vote.  It's brought out very, very plainly the two-nation character of this country - or the several-nation, given that Scotland may well vote for independence down the road: this was in very large part a Trumpish revolt against what's perceived as ruling-class arrogance and Experts (but then - factor in the paradox of both David Cameron and Boris Johnson being Old Etonians).  There's the globalized wonder and delight that is contemporary London, versus, broadly speaking, the rest of England, apart from university towns and their hinterlands (and no, NYT, Newcastle on Tyne is not "a university town" - that's a bit like calling Detroit a "college town.")  The voting stats show very clearly that the lower people's level of educational achievement, the less likely they were to vote Remain.  And the older they are, the more likely to vote Brexit.  To be sure, there's a good deal of nostalgia for familiarity there.  My parents are good (and educated) examples, I fear: they want to be able to buy vegetables in pounds and ounces again, not in kilograms (and my mother needed to be put straight that the EEC hadn't been responsible for making us adopt decimal currency).  My father voiced his disdain for having decisions that impact the UK "imposed" by numerous (foreign) bureaucrats in Brussels.  So the slogan of "Take Back (Democratic) Control" has a lot of resonance.  But then - there's a nasty, small minded, angry nationalistic component to all this - easy enough to see that this comes from de-industrialization, and lack of local opportunities (as well as resentment against, say, Eastern European vegetable harvesters) - with no realization, seemingly, of EU subsidies that cushion some of this economic woe.  And it's this component that is going, I fear, to feed fires within Europe (as well as the US).

And so much more.  I'm exhausted, but more thoughts will follow - because there are, as I say, so many other pieces in motion.  And yes, it's all emotional in a very visceral way - my own relationship to my own country, to Englishness and European-ness, has just received a big bad jolt.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A hopeful dawn ...

- well, hopeful-ish, when I left the house this morning ...  Greetings from DFW, waiting to get the flight to LHR - charging up all electrical devices, and hoping that the promised wi-fi on board may work (it doesn't, all that often) and that I won't have to wait until landing to see what's happening in the UK.  I'm reading all the Live Reports and trying to second-guess what they all mean (other than that a number of you may be very very wet today) ... 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

a failed Remain mission - and a scary tale of air travel

I'm still in New Mexico.  This was not the plan.  By now, I should be just boarding at DFW, ready to catch a plane to England, ready to go to the polling station.  But.  If Remain loses by one vote, here's the story.  The Warrior Woman sculpture at Santa Fe airport - inappropriate, indeed.

I booked to fly to DFW - for the flight to LHR - from Santa Fe Airport, because, frankly, it was about $350 cheaper than through Albuquerque - and at over $2,000 for a flight back to the UK this summer, that mattered.  And - Santa Fe is this sweet little one-gate airport.  And it's local, obviously.  And I'd allowed for lots of in-between time at DFW in case of delays (or for adult refreshments in the airline lounge ...).  So ... the incoming plane was an hour late (functioning a/c in a sweet little one gate airport would be nice, but I'm fussy, like the rest of the increasingly antsy passengers).  We board. We take off.  We learn from the flight attendant that this was a substitute plane for one that had "had a problem with a handle."  It soon becomes clear - as we circle and circle in a stormy sky somewhere between Santa Fe and Albuquerque - that this plane has a rather more serious problem - one of its wing flaps is stuck.  Pilot tells us he might go back to Santa Fe; we might go to Albuquerque.  I ask if we can put this to the vote (bear in mind this is a small, 30 passengers on board plane), which gets a nervous laugh.  Pilot, though, doesn't think he can get us to Albuquerque - so we turn round and fly, very low, up the Rio Grande valley back to Santa Fe (at which point we start to notice the plane that's accompanying us, like a guide dog - and all the fire trucks racing towards the airport to welcome our emergency landing).  We land safely (or, I guess, I wouldn't be writing this).

And now, sweet little one-gate airport?  The two ticket desk operators have gone home - but they're scrambled back to deal with us.  No chance of flying out tonight - even if there was some miraculous working plane - TSA have gone home, too.  Then we're told we can't re-book yet, because AA has us all as having departed - flown - used our tickets.  That takes a while to sort out.  

And the upshot is?  I'm flying tomorrow - on a flight (from Albuquerque, in the first instance) that gets into LHR around 6.30 a.m. on Friday.  Not only do I not get to vote - but all the drama will be more or less over, I guess, by the time I land.  I feel devastated that all my Carefully Planned Plans have gone haywire.

And I will never, if humanly possible, use Santa Fe airport again.  It's not their fault, of course, that the wing flap refused to flap - but there is absolutely no back up system if things go wrong.  So, basically, if Remain needs that one vote - blame -  well, blame someone or something, in this tale.