I’ve come home to a country I don’t know

I’ve come home to a country I don’t know

I come back from holiday — nothing fancy, no yachts or villas, just camping in France — to a rich guy with mad hair who seems to think he is in charge, having been elected by nobody beyond a few thousand people in his own party. He plans to visit an old lady, also unelected (and who has a thing for corgis and jewelled head gear) to ask her to shut down parliament. I should mention I live in the UK, not some distant banana republic.

I come back from holiday hoarse from screaming ‘How much’? as a single scoop of South of France sorbet now costs the sterling equivalent of a small car, and wonder if this is what they mean about taking back control. Who are ‘they’? A handful of rich tax evaders, grabbing and grabbing and grabbing. Grabbing the UK by the parliamentary pussy, whether it consents or not.

I come back from holiday to news that 60,000 Dutch people would attend a beach party near Amsterdam to bemusedly watch the UK from across the water as it breaks up with Europe. The organiser, with some restraint, says, “It will be a nice goodbye to a good friend, who is going on an exciting adventure, but is perhaps not too bright.” Chlorinated chicken and unaffordable health care, here we come.

I come back from holiday bankrupt, because the currency that flows through my bank account now appears to be worth less than the Zimbabwean dollar. Thanks, Brexit, for converting croissants into luxury items, and making a previously affordable Euro jaunt, involving camper vans and tents, into something more akin to the glossy pages of Conde Nast Traveller.

As though we’d been sipping Krug anchored off the Maldives, instead of cans of Orangina on a French beach.

I come back from holiday in time to say goodbye to various European friends returning permanently to Ireland, Spain, France and beyond, sickened by the regression of Brexit Britain to Little England. Sick of the uncertainty, the xenophobia, the blustering nonsense, the toxic rhetoric, they have elected to become Brefugees.

Hashtag me too, but with two teenage children whose lives are embedded here, I am stuck in the place where I lived happily until one summer morning in 2016. Stuck for now. With a plummeting pound, the dismantling of democracy, and right-wing thickos banging on about taking back control, Cool Britannia has been replaced by something unspeakably naff. And wholly alien.

I come back from holiday with a thumping headache before the ferry ever reaches Dover. It is almost midnight on a Sunday and the traffic queues stretch for hours, a prelude to Brexit, when Kent will become a giant car park jammed with lorries.

Taking back control has never looked smaller, stupider, angrier. I come back from holiday wishing, quite violently, that I was not coming back from holiday, but couldremain in Europe, with the rest of the Europeans. The rest of us.

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