The Moment My Country Left Me

Christopher Fowler
My mother once gave me her explanation of the Union Jack. 'It represents unity. We are four countries, not one, although we should be three.' She never told me which one she would take out, but I assumed it was Ireland. As a child I formed a very clear idea of what my country was. It was a maritime island, four nations standing for all that was decent and right. It was honest where others were corrupt, it had a commonwealth to protect and a royal family dedicated to duty. My grandparents had been Victorians and had an empire. My world was a post-war one where patriotism had been eroded away. It was a land of helmeted policemen who did not look like they were going to Iraq, of lollipop ladies and park-keepers, usherettes, charladies and uniformed milkmen. It was a mechanical world, of crafts more than arts, slower, quieter, a place of original thinking and fresh ideas. I was, I suppose, distantly proud of my country. It was symptomatic of England that the same sex marriage bill passed so easily because the fox hunting bill was being read at the same time. My innocence quickly crumbled. Empire ended, the Commonwealth broke away, the wealth gap grew instead of shrinking, the royal family was dissected by the media and damaged from within. The craftspeople disappeared and university students were kids who took media studies and then couldn't get jobs. For a while many of us thought that members of the Royal Family appearing on 'It's A Knockout!' was the humiliating nadir, but then Tony Blair lied about WMD to keep trade ties with America and I realised how morally bankrupt we had become. I didn't think it could get worse, but then Brexit happened. A vote pushed through by illegal means so that a handful of millionaires would personally gain from the separation. We cut ourselves off from a union worth one sixth of the global economy, leading to the grotesque sight of Ann Widdicombe and Nigel Farage chanting and waving little plastic Union Jack flags in front of EU assembly, as if it was all some kind of parlour game. A government bill was passed to bring back pounds and ounces, a defunct measurement system based on multiplications of fourteen and sixteen. Britain was revealed as a country where the influential 1% were
pathologically tied to childhood fantasies. That was the moment my country left me. My own attitude did not change. I remained a person of Europe and the world. There was one final humiliation; Joe Biden telling our grovelling cap-in-hand Prime Minister to fuck off to the back of the queue. The US wants to get big pharma into the NHS, but it's an issue that would lead to violence on the streets if transgressed. At that moment the US-UK trade deal finally dropped dead, proof that the 'special relationship' died when Britain first defied orders.
My personal shift of focus manifests itself in odd little ways. Politically, I mainly follow what happens in Europe and the Far East now,
and realise that in the global scheme of things the UK is about as important as Christmas Island. I am largely disconnected; I use a digital world bank,
are Nordic, my clothes are Spanish, my food is Thai, and I've seen just one
film this year. The rest have been European, Korean, South American. My tech is not so much American as a global brand that
refuses to pay its taxes. London remains my favourite city, but that's largely based on nostalgia.
It's ironic that I should end up writing about my home quite so much. As for my country, I feel less betrayed than disillusioned. Perhaps it's better to be clear-eyed than living in a fantasy land of blue passports, milkmen and charladies and place one's faith in the young, not dreams.  


Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 14:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That being the case, can we assume you now have an edited version of 'Land of Hope and Glory' in your mix ?

Rich (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 16:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The Brexit Party MEP's turning their backs on everyone in the European Parliament is one of the most shameful things I've ever seen. The attitude that in some way the British are better than everyone else is something that I just do not understand.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 16:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@admin I know you're using your sarky/snarky persona when you mention that the reason the same sex marriage law passed so easily was because of the fox hunting bill being read at the same time. Of course you must mean the Civil Partnership Act and the Hunting Act, both passed in 2004. But the key thing to remember is that gay unions were supported by a majority of the British public, and the fox hunting legislation by either a plurality or majority (depending on which poll you read --- but now show close to 90% against its repeal). And perhaps the most important consideration to keep in mind is that these attitudes changed markedly over the course of 10-20 years largely because of generational shift so, your thought about putting faith in the young may, in fact, bear similar fruit in the future.

Roger Allen (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 18:11

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

"the grotesque sight of Ann Widdicombe and Nigel Farage chanting and waving little plastic Union Jack flags"

I thought it was wonderfully funny. The sight of a pair who'd never heard Kipling's term for them - "jelly-bellied flag-flappers" - bringing his phrase to life almost made up for the circumstances.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 18:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If it's any comfort, admin, Mr. Biden has just said that Australia is the US's closest and most reliable ally. This after a hundred years of Canadian Prime Ministers saying that a prime minister's most important job is maintaining good relations with the US. I'll admit we did protect our eastern dairy industry & Michigan farmers resented it and we're still fighting the softwood lumber matter but really? Ask the people of Point Roberts. We can fly to the US but not drive the half hour to cross the border on land. Australia seems to be doing well these days.
Don't forget that those good old days never were.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 18:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

'He's great fun the first time you meet him. But the problem with being a comedy act is that you're then not taken seriously,' --- Jonathan Powell on Boris Johnson

'Donnez-moi un break,' --- Christopher Fowler on Boris Johnson

Joel (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 18:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

there are things about england that i have always felt were magical...all my favorite bands in the 80's were from england...i always have dreamed about living in a country village...or the most absurd, being either upper or lower class and having a torrid, illicit love affair with a man of the opposite class...sadly, none of my dreams look to come true...lolol

Joel (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 18:28

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

fyi, i live in the us...which may or may not be a surprise

Peter+T (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 19:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Wish Bojo would give us (the round about half the UK who deserve it) a break. And if he could throw in a financial system that supports folks who want to create something useful and stop talking rubbish whenever he opens his mouth, most recently on climate, I might even say thank you ... before inviting him to go back to the Foreign Office.

Roger Allen (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 21:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What have you got against foreigners and British prisoners in Iran, PeterT?

The problem with Johnson as a comedy act, Stu-I-Am is that it's a case of "Still the same old joker. Still the same old joke."

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 21:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Perhaps more worrisome than even its obvious economic impact, is that Brexit ripped the plaster from a wound in British society that had been festering for some time, largely because of socio-economic and geographical 'pathogens.' A situation not very different, in fact, from that of the US with the election of Trump. One of the critical post-Brexit issues apart from trade, is the need to greatly increase spending for domestic research and development and thereby hopefully foster innovation in the UK, which has become virtually moribund as evidenced by growth slowing to a crawl pre-pandemic.

The BBC's plans to move some of its key departments and staff outside London to make the corporation more reflective of the UK as a whole is one effort that may help partially close the 'wound'. Another might be --- along with dramatically increasing R&D spending --- dispersing more of these funds from their present concentration in the 'Golden Triangle' between Oxford, Cambridge and London, especially to smaller, regional firms. Clearly, closing the 'laceration' will take many more such 'sutures' from the government and moreover, the political will to make them available.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Thu, 23/09/2021 - 22:04

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Peter +T To your point about the PM and his mutterings about climate change, I was amused by his words to the UN General Assembly yesterday (22 Sept), presumably as the host of the upcoming UN climate conference in Glasgow in November: 'We still cling with parts of our minds to the infantile belief that the world was made for our gratification and pleasure.' For a moment there, I thought he was talking about himself.

John Howard (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 06:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Talking of the old days... It's even happened to Admin's blog page.. Every day I have to scroll through screeds of what feels like lecturing just get to the regular light hearted commentary that we all know and love.. Ah well.. it takes all sorts I suppose.

Peter+T (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 07:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Roger, Before it became the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, or FCDO, it was the Foreign Office, or simply FO.

Roger Allen (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 07:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I missed your subtlety, PeterT. I've no doubt de Pfeffel would have too.

Christopher Fowler Fri, 24/09/2021 - 07:56

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Dear Mr Howard, you're right, why have social comment? From now on I'm only publishing lighthearted pieces like the recent one about hair. Let's keep politics out of it and go with celebrity makeovers. Nice and safe.

Wolfgang (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 08:11

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I too pine for the old days John Howard. Like you, I keep on scrolling down to the interesting stuff. There's a glimmer of hope insofar as one or two of the previous regulars have recently ventured back through the tedious, turgid murk to make the occasional cheery comment but I think the glory days are gone. However, I intend giving it another few posts from admin to see how it goes seeing as I've been a consistent follower from 2008 or thereabouts.

As Geoffrey C was overheard saying on his way to Canterbury, all good things must come to an end.

Peter+T (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 09:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Roger, I've probably watched too many 1950s films, Charters and Caldicott and the like.

Stu-I-Am, Chatting with some of my neighbours, we are all thinking of a future of solar panels on the roof and wind turbines. We agreed that also requires a world that can be sustained by such energy sources; that is a much smaller population - a gentle hint to the infantile who's lost count of how many children he has.

Pauline wallin (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 10:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

This cocktail party has grown a bit gloomy. Any sausages on sticks goiing?

Jo W (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 10:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@ Pauline Wallin
Yes, you will find the sausages and cheese'n'pineapple on sticks in the grapefruit over there, pretending to be a Sputnik.

Peter+T (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 10:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

To put aside the gloom and raise the misogyny, Why is a charlady a Mrs Mopp, 'Can I do you now, Sir?", and not a lady who makes or distributes tea?

Pauline wallin (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 11:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Many thanks, Jo W.

Brooke (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 11:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Social commentary... I thought all B&M was social commentary-- silly me.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 13:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Must have misunderstood somehow, but I recall just about everyone urging CF to write what he likes. Guess that doesn't include his blog. And oh yes --- one important capability of the eyes is they can be averted.

'How sad and bad and mad it was -
But then, how it was sweet..." - Robert Browning.

Joan (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 13:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

One thing I have learned is you can't go back to simpler times or rosy memories of the past, as they never existed for others. As a white British emigre I had a wonderful childhood in Canada, but as we all know now, Aboriginal children fared much worse. When we were waving our paper Union Jacks in school these children were being treated very badly. The world is a more complex place now, but better and fairer in many ways.

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 14:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Of course, if you want to write about celebrity makeovers, that would be included in 'write whatever you want', but social comment is far more interesting. Unless you are including colour changing hair in the celebrity makeover category, in which case please continue.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 15:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Peter+ T Mary Jane Tisane is the tea lady (both kinds on offer...)

Brooke (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 16:18

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Peter T & Stu: Is that the cannabis infused Mary Jane or the regular one?

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 16:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Brooke Cannabis, of course! But only for medical use, you understand.

Brooke (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 16:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Re: BoJo. The New York Times echoes R. Allen today with "Boris Johnson Visits U.S., Making Jokes But Not Much News." He didn't make front page.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 19:08

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Social commentary made with tongue in cheek has always flourished here and with the public actions of leaders it will likely continue.

Ian Todd (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 19:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Peter+T Char woman is a reduction of chore woman and has nothing to do with the Hindi word chai -tea. It's being so cheerful that keeps me going.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 19:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@admin I have detected some gruntling (arch.) here about you straying from your normal discourse about 'the flowers that bloom in the Spring' ('Tra la'), so I thought I would suggest several blog topics to get you back on track. I encourage others to contribute similar uncontroversial (except to the most hardened cynic) subjects, in the interest of dissipating any future disquiet.

Tapas or Thai ? Commestibles that start with 'T'

WriterWear: My Favorite Attire and Why It Changes Depending on What I'm Writing

My Favourite Year

Weekends or weak ends ? What's more anxiety producing for a writer ?

My Second Favourite Year

What's cottagecore when it's at home ?

Books I Wish I had Written

Nasal Hair: Tweeze or Trim ?

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 21:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Walks I wish I hadn't taken
London's most frightening street
Sunny or rainy? Which is best for writing
Best places to view London
Animals in the city (other than rats)
My favourite sounds

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 21:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

London's most frightening street
Walks I wish I hadn't taken
Rain or sun? Which is best for writing
Best places to view London
Animals in the city (other than rats)

Why don't teachers use some of these topics for essays?

Helen+Martin (not verified) Fri, 24/09/2021 - 21:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry, thought I hadn't actually posted it.

Wolfgang (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 00:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I think there has been quite a misunderstanding by people in the comments above including the comment by Admin to Mr Howard.

Mr Howard, as I understood his comment, was NOT referring to Admin's posts. As I understood what he was referring to (and why I supported him) was in reference to some comments that are now appearing on the blog. When Mr Howard said "...scroll through screeds of what feels like lecturing just get to the regular light hearted commentary that we all know and love..." I have a pretty good idea what he is referring to and it is not the original post.

Let's hope Mr Howard doesn't join the group of good folk who appear to have recently faded away.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 01:37

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Wolfgang I think if you re-read Howard's comment you'll see where the 'confusion' might arise since he said 'It's even happened to Admin's blog page.' I think you'll also find comments tend to reflect the tenor of the post by CF. If it's lighthearted, so generally are they. More serious ? So are the comments. Along these lines, I suggest (to use your word) there's nothing 'cheery' about a post titled 'The Moment My Country Left Me.' And that's what's great about CF's laissez-faire approach to his blog comments: someone can contribute a pointed comment and another, whinge about it. Isn't democracy wonderful ? Of course, no one is under any obligation to read anything. There's also the opportunity to provide your own cheery comments.

Jan (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 01:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Do you reckon that we are living through a sort of 're run of the 1970s?
Theres panic buying, inflation + mucho discontent on all fronts? There's the makings of a winter of discontent.

I am not going back to engage in anymore ongoing discussions about Brexit where everyone has their own P.of V and it must be well boring for the many non Brits who read this blog.

Could I please just tell my story of Friday 24/9/21?

I went up on an ambulance from the community/cottage hospital where l work to the county hospital a journey that took far longer than normal because of the traffic jams - some quite severe -surrounding every petrol station. Went up with a patient who needed to see the professor who had carried out his recent surgery. On the way back we had an extra patient on board a very elderly lady who had a few pertinent remarks to make about the by now even more extensive traffic jams. This lady felt that a few of these panic purchasers would have had their views somewhat modified if they had lived through the years of WW2. In fact if we had had a P.A. System on board the ambulance I felt she could have made a very pertinent public address.

There are a number of problems here. One of the most obvious being the media takes a situation where difficulties have arisen out of shortsighted or stupid decisions made by government or commerce and exacerbates these issues by the nature of its reporting until folk start to actually panic and by their actions bring about the very situation of shortages and difficulties that without "panic buying" could likely have been avoided.

It's a crazy situation but no doubt goes a long way to fill 24 hour rolling news channels and sells a good few papers.

It's daft though.

If you think about pretty much all of the major events of the last few years and think about how many of them have been exacerbated by media input and interpretation well it puts you in mind of the tail wagging the dog. In a media dominated by the talking heads of government, academia and commercial experts does any other way of looking at stuff ever really get a look in? You can't change folk who will pretty much always act out of self interest but to play into this to manipulate this trait in people it rarely ends well.

Before anyone says of course it should be reported - press freedom, yes for sure I see that but something is a bit out of balance here. Dunno how you put it right though.

Helen's list were very good "London's most Frightening street" I could have probably made a more useful contribution there.

Wayne+Mook (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 04:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Disco tents they were brilliant in the 70's, come Jan keep it cheery, stiff upper lip and all that.

Actually my wife was born in 79 and was kept in a show box at first (due to the strikes and power cuts there were no spare working incubators in the hospital she was born in, at first they were not going to let her mum give birth there, but her husband was away and she was on her own), when they opened the lid she screamed and went quiet when the put it back on.

Also there is quite a lot of industrial action, there has been for many years but it does not get reported now on the news, Left wing bias eh? The new Unite leader and the first female leader Sharon Graham, has said she won't be going to the Labour conference as she wants to move away from politics (unlike prev leader Len McCluskey.) and work with the union members more especially with the "20" ongoing disputes, this is with Unite only. The Economist put the knife in, The Guardian seemed a bit non-plussed, the FT actually gave an OK assessment (the Labour party are unsure how she will treat the party.) In all this though a recent strike with Unite and Jacobs Douwe Egbert was not mentioned, the union backed an out come that led to discontent especially with older workers at the beginning of August, at the end of August a surprise winner in the union election, the winner who states she will fight more for workers and less involvement with the Labour party, am I the only person who sees a connection.

At least this time I didn't mention the bankers, oh turnips!


Linwood (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 04:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh, with apology, you Brits have it good! Speaking of the present situation in the thrid-world megaopoly and it's "leaders" - which is oxymoron - yes, the American public is at least part of that last word, for putting up with the 'leaders/elites/plotters/sitters and money changers in the government. Brexit is nothing compared to what's going on here. At least y'all aren't giving away bizillions of overprinted $'s to the rest of the world so that they can invade Europe and the US, eventually. They won't invade Canada, btw, as no one understands that place.

The dream, well the past dream, of we work hard to achieve, and the governments are somewhat honest (hindsight is 20/20) is dashed, not by progress or modern painting, but by greedy (for money and power and narcisisism) enabled individuals who join gangs of similar greedy individuals that we supposedly "elect" - funny now that we don't even need to vote, our vote will be cast by (controlled) machines, or by ballots from the dead. God bless the Queen - your grass IS greener. My hope is for the continuation of great British pipes, good tobacco, and B&M for as long as Iive.

Roger Allen (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 04:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The government told people not to panic, people panicked and the government was surprised.
Are they incapable of learning? This is a rhetorical question.

Peter+T (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 08:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The better means of reaching a destination: waiting for a bus or staying in bed with some MJ tea?

Brooke (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 11:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Helen. "Why don't teachers use some of these topics for essays?" Good question; in US answer is probably because they want to keep their low paying jobs. E.G. Sunday starts Library Association's Banned Books Week, which is actually a celebration of the right to read. Among top 10 are To Kill A Mockingbird (H. Lee) and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Does that help answer your query....

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 12:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Peter+T Guess it depends on the 'destination.' As for reaching Nirvana, my vehicle of choice would be a strong infusion of MJ tea.

Liz+Thompson (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 13:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Re The Moment my Country Left me. Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel. (That's a quote of course, might be Voltaire,but I wouldn't swear to it).
The lighter side of life.....what street would Arthur nominate as worst in London? And which one would John pick?
And if we run out of ideas on that one, try streets in your home town, with reasons.

John+Griffin (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 13:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Just to cheer you all up, 75% of my sixth form had no idea what global warming was, 80% did not know what the EU was, almost none have a clue about politics, all think £9 hr is a fair wage and zero hours contacts are OK. 100% have never read a crime, police procedural or similar, which is not surprising given that 50% don't read at all except text books. They know of no world except austerity and Tory government.
I try to interest them in reading and considering jnteresting ideas. It pays the mortgage, if a little dispiriting at times.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sat, 25/09/2021 - 13:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Jan The boffins say that there is a real possibility for the 'Back to the Future' scenario of the '70s when it comes to dreaded 'stagflation' --- with its high inflation (3.2% and expected rise to 4% by year's end), stagnant economic growth and a relatively high unemployment rate (4.6 % for the UK as a whole, although still lower than the 5.4% rate of the '70s). Granted the conditions are somewhat more benign this time around, but the threat is nevertheless real and is likely to persist into the third quarter of next year (all things being equal)
There's perhaps cold comfort in knowing that just about every country (and certainly the advanced economies) is facing the same threat. A large part of this is because of the abundance of 'cheap' money that central banks have made available in an effort to shock economies back to life. The pandemic is the primary culprit, but in Britain, of course, there are also the 'Brexit effect' and government missteps in the misery mix. Apart from domestic issues, the dislocation of a significant portion of the critical global supply chain because of the pandemic, is likewise affecting the UK.

As for the media 'exacerbating' the effect of all of this, under present circumstances --- with varying degrees of rhetorical 'heat' and fear-mongering --- I suggest that most are simply reinforcing what just about everyone can see for themselves: there are problems, many of which are likely to get worse. Whether it's higher prices and empty shelves at Tesco or those long lines you saw at the petrol stations. There really is no 'solution' other than perhaps getting information from a variety of trustworthy sources, rather than fewer questionable ones.

Maybe it's time to go even further back and vigorously reinstate the then virtually non-existent 'Keep Calm and Carry On' 'campaign' from 1939.