Upon Brexit Day

Great Britain

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Brexit day.

Let the bells peal out across this sceptr’d isle, William Blake’s Jerusalem 2.0., to mark the end of a grand experiment. To harmonise, to freely move and work together. For in 1973 did every national newspaper proclaim their close affiliation to a grand union of nations 28 in total, to trade and move as one.

Yeah, well, we know how that turned out.

But after a referendum to discover the will of the people that was revealed to be a deal-brokering stunt from a weakling failed PM, the era stumbled to a whimpering end and fell into a ditch.

So today, not St Crispian’s but an ugly contraction of ‘Britain’ and ‘Exit’, is for my neighbour who voted Leave because because she ‘doesn’t like the corner shop being run by Turks’ (Turkey is not in the EU). It’s for the lady in the charity shop who told me she voted Leave because it’s what Jesus wanted. It’s for Cornwall and Wales and parts of the North, poor places that accepted vast amounts of money from the EU to repair their infrastructure and shot themselves so badly that the MP for Penzance offered to ‘have a word with EU officials and ask for special exemption’. It’s for anyone who thinks Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will shower them with cash.

The English are nice. We’re not great but nice, not hot but lukewarm, not angry but disappointed, not eloquent but opinionated. The Spanish call us the ‘Por Favors’ because we ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ them to death. The French used to call us ‘Les Rosbifs’ and now call us ‘Les Fuckoffs’ because we can’t open our mouths without swearing. The EU are entitled to call us anything they like after suffering through the humiliating farrago of Nigel Quisling and Mad Madam Mim waving plastic union jacks and singing at the European Parliament until they were told to stop being childish by the grown-ups. The Farage and Widdicombe end-of-the-pier act has come to a merciful end.

Those who don’t feel represented by the pantomime performance of a ranting racist and an elderly woman who is clearly mentally ill, ie the young, those of mixed or different race, the independent thinkers and the free-spirited, have found that their say means less than nothing in today’s new mediocrity. ‘Populism is sweeping the world,’ cried Farage to the press, blind to the realisation that ‘populism’ is a new whitewash term for the destruction of intellect, the equivalent of ‘intelligent design’, and that it will sweep him away in turn.

Not far away from them, in the nation’s suburban middle ranks, there’s a huge swathe of disenchanted, disenfranchised people who just wanted a little attention paid to their needs. They fulfilled their role in the farce merely by being decent, sensible, unimaginative islanders.  At the core of this drab world is a disfiguring blankness that leaves them all wondering ‘Why are there so many foreigners around now?’ as they awake in mystification from their political slumber.

But change is already happening around them, leaving them on a shrinking plot of damp soil that will soon be cut off from the mainland. And like some great renaissance painting, the photo below catches that moment brilliantly.

‘Mr Brexit’ – The Artwork

Farage is being presented with an amateurish painting of himself by Jim ‘Nick Nick’ Davison, the forgotten racist wife-beating homophobic pub comic, in the back room of an unfashionable pub. The details fascinate, from the strange drink on the glass table to the unused fake fireplace, the sad potted plant, the carelessly unpacked holdall, the unveiled cloth, the repro bust, the Victorian china dog and the handful of hacks revealed, Manet-like, in the mirror. I’m inevitably reminded of a Tony Hancock exchange from ‘The Wild Man of the Woods’.

HANCOCK: This is ten-inch-deep banner headline stuff. Where are the gentlemen of the press?

KENNETH WILLIAMS: I’m from the East Cheam Advertiser. But we also take in part of Sutton.

There they stand, the reviled racist comic in a borrowed ancient suit with too-long legs and the failed racist politician with the suspiciously non-English tan who never made it to being an MP but only reached the Westminster equivalent of a Community Police Officer, in a room that’s a half-remembered copy of a 1950s colonial office, with its fake Indian rug and mock-Olde World mantelpiece, a carbon of a carbon which when exposed to the light will simply fade from view, leaving behind a faint grey stain of mediocrity.

And while the millions who have had their freedom curtailed wait for that to happen, the EU money is being withdrawn from Britain’s poorest Leave-voting counties, even as Boris Johnson today surprised them all by announcing cuts to services, no more handouts and further austerity.

When Rupert Brooke asked, ‘Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?’ the reply wasn’t supposed to be: ‘We’re out of honey. Have a chlorinated chicken burger.’

The English are nice. We compromise. Democracy is a system in which nobody gets what they want.

27 comments on “Upon Brexit Day”

  1. Peter Dixon says:

    Hear, Hear.

    How anyone thinks we’re sailing safely into uncharted waters with this bunch of bozos in charge is beyond me.

    At least they won’t be able to blame their ineptitude on Europe anymore.

  2. brooke says:


  3. Bonnie Ferguson says:

    Today will be memorable for both UK and US. UK exits EU, while US Senate will vote today to cover-up the crimes committed by the occupant of the White House. The US Senate is unleashing on US the destruction of the Constitution. The paths are different, but both countries are brought to this day by the same strategies of racism, nativism and lies propagated by con men.This is now the special relationship.

  4. Eric Brown says:

    Well said, Christopher. I could weep. At least I live in Scotland, where if we gain independence there might, one day, be hope of regaining the EU.

  5. SimonB says:

    To borrow from Marvin, “I think you ought to know, I’m feeling very depressed”.

  6. Ruzz says:

    Thank you. I despair. I didn’t know I felt so strongly about this country – and now I feel a deep sense of shame about what we seem to be. And to all the young, whose futures we have so casually constrained, I can’t meet you in the eye.

  7. Brian Evans says:

    Eric-my partner and I are thinking of moving to Scotland for the reason you mention.

  8. Nick says:

    Well said sir.

  9. Roger says:

    “Farage is being presented with an amateurish painting of himself by Jim ‘Nick Nick’ Davison, the forgotten racist wife-beating homophobic pub comic, in the back room of an unfashionable pub. ”

    A Wetherspoons’ pub, no doubt.

  10. Ian Luck says:

    Very well said. I always wondered what Britain, c.1946 was like. I guess I’ll find out shortly. I wonder how long it takes before the moaning about ‘How expensive the wine and Aubergines are’ starts? Frankly, it was a bad enough week with Nicholas Parsons dying – and this heap of foetid dingo’s kidneys is the icing on the cake. Your neighbour who is afeared of the Turks, must have been pleased at Strewelpelter’s plan to invite more Africans over to work. Well, you can explain to her that they’re not Turks. And I have never had any problem with ‘foreigners’. Only stupid white people. Who have what they wanted. I hope they enjoy it.

  11. Bronwen Rowlands says:

    Chris: Such eloquence! Thank you.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    I sit here watching the American parliament thrashing itself to death and Britain going through Brexit and I don’t know where to look. Scotland appears to be the only recourse. It’s heartbreaking. Some Albertans have been talking about leaving Canada over their desire to keep shipping oil as long as they can get away with it and calling it Wexit. The world is going mad.

  13. Martin Tolley says:

    Well that’s that then. Mrs T and I have just read this aloud to one another, as 11.00pm passed, with tears in our eyes (laughter and sadness) and extra large bumpers of malt in our hands. We heard fireworks from the nearby town, but fortunately no church bells a ringing. We think an annual wake may be called for.

  14. Debra Matheney says:

    These are very sad days for our countries. The Senate is turning its back on (giving the finger to) law and order and giving Trump a free pass to behave any way he wants. 75% of Americans wanted witnesses but the spineless Republicans said no. Britain may think freedom from the EU will bring satisfaction, but I fear it will unleash unknown costs. I love both Britain and my country and mourn our losses. Having a hard time seeing any upside to any of this.
    It’s nearly cocktail time, but what do I drink to? Thank god for books, cats, my life partner, Jane Austen and flowers, not necessarily in that order. Wexit? The world is mad.

  15. John Howard says:

    As eloquent as ever. Thanks for vocalising how I feel.
    I just worry that the mass doesn’t seem to be ‘nice’ any more. You’re nice, i’m nice, the commenters here are nice but somewhere over the last 30/40 years things have slipped soo slowly that the only now is it obvious that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

  16. Jo W says:

    That’s it then. From today I will no longer be proud to be British.
    My name is Jo, born in London and a person of the world.

  17. admin says:

    Thank you Jo – look forward to seeing you again soon!

  18. Rich says:

    I am thankful that I live in a part of Wales that voted to remain. Baffled by those areas of Wales who benefitted from the EU, turning their backs on it. The referendum is one of the worst things to ever happen in this country. Also it was totally unnecessary. It’s tainted everything with an underlying nastiness and encouraged people express this by “speaking their minds”.

  19. Ian Luck says:

    Oh, and Mr ‘French surname and German wife’ Farrago, sorry Farrage – your work is done. Now fuck off. Nobody needs to see, or hear from you ever again. Go. NOW. Jildhi!

  20. Ian Luck says:

    Oh, and Mr ‘French surname and German wife’ Farrago, sorry Farrage – your work is done. Now fuck off. Nobody needs to see, or hear from you ever again. Go. NOW.

  21. Ian Luck says:

    I have just woken up. I meant to write the word: Imshi! which means ‘Be off with you’. My brain thought otherwise, and I wrote ‘Jildhi’, which means: ‘Looks the part’, but is nonsensical in where I put it. So, for ‘Jildhi’, read ‘Imshi!’ I think that all bigots should be ordered around using suitable foreign words.

  22. Jan says:

    When you think on it really there was no need to ever leave these shores to glimpse a very different world……

    Reading carefully through the article and the comments above it’s pretty obvious that there’s at least two very different worlds here. For a start when it matters to people whether pubs are “fashionable” or not instead of just serving a decent drink and being comfortable it’s obvious to me I have stumbled into very different territory!

  23. Helen Martin says:

    Thank you, Jan. I rather think a fashionable pub would be like a fashionable restaurant – crowded and over-priced.
    Please, what is a chlorinated chicken? Are they dipped in bleach? defeathered in chlorinated water? (that’s all of our water) or what?

  24. Jan says:

    I reckon they take them swimming! No I dunno really Helen but there been a lot of talk about after our exit from EU it’s going to be a big import from the US.

  25. Ian Luck says:

    I expect chlorinated chicken will sell as well as that radiation treated food several years ago. Shelves full of unwanted, unsold rubbish. I watch a youtube channel called (deep breath):
    ‘steve1989MREInfo’, who reviews military ration packs, or MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat). It’s an endlessly fascinating, and sometimes stomach churning watch, as host, steve1989, opens, catalogues, and eats, food from these packs – the oldest was, I believe, some American Civil War hard tack – and up to date stuff. Now, here’s the thing that always puzzles steve1989, who’s a young guy who looks a bit like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, but with the Zen-like demeanour of the late, great Bob Ross, is that American rations are all like snacks you could get in a gas station, full of chemicals, artificial sweeteners and bright colours; whilst a French pack he tries has Ostrich in cranberry sauce, a Norwegian one has Reindeer stew, a Spanish one had a tin of squid in oil and ink, and ones from some of the former Eastern Bloc countries contain fruit soup, Kissel, and astonishingly good stews and patés. That must tell you about the eating habits of different countries. Having spent years getting food companies to remove the chemicals from their food, would a trade deal with America get them all back again? And don’t think that I haven’t thought about their GM veg, or meat full of growth hormones and antibiotics, either.

  26. Helen Martin says:

    Make it a condition of any deal that the additives must be omitted and we’ll all benefit.

  27. Wayne Mook says:

    Why did the chicken cross the swimming pool? To get chlorinated.

    Basically the carcass is washed in chlorine and other chemicals to kill off things like salmonella, usually to make up for poor welfare standards and unhygienic surroundings.

    Democracy – I’ll argue that the main reason for it is the easier transition of power and more people have a say in this transition, this leads less war and this is something I want, as Churchill said, ‘It’s the best of a bad lot.’ The divisions in the country will take a long time to heal but in the past these splits led to civil war.

    There is a lot still to be proud of in the UK, the actions we have taken will mean more trade around the world which will lead to more immigration from these places, people and trade go hand in hand. In Manchester restaurants from around the world have been growing in number.


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