Things continue to settle down to seeming-normalcy. There’s no longer the foregrounded sense of shock and danger. Time seems less fully gathered in one spot. Or perhaps this is because I’m finally sobering up from the semi-heavy drinking I’ve been doing since the crisis started. Predictably, lack of sleep coupled with much higher than normal alcohol consumption has left me with a cold, which is enough to get me to slow down at least.
On Saturday, I went to the March for Europe. I met friends and one of them immediately began talking about redundancies in his former work place. His wife is an EU Migrant. She is applying for permanent residency here, but has no enthusiasm for it.
We stood at the back of a queue of people and waited ages to step off. We assumed things were running late. Only much later, on an incline did we get a sense of the largeness of the march. It seemed small from where we were. It was impossible to get any perspective.
The march moved slowly, a pace that seemed exhausting. People cheered or chanted occasionally. Once in a while, a song rose up. 80’s pop songs about love figured prominently, but were always short. Nobody knew any of the words aside from the refrain. For a while, we marched next to somebody with a battery amp, playing the full Rick Astley song, which became ‘Never going to give EU up.’ Once a trumpet player suddenly started playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. This is the EU hymn. A cheer went up, but nobody knew any words, so we could only hum along.
The slowness of the march created a funereal air. I heard people talking about how marching was ‘important’. Angrier people talked how it was undemocratic to strip people of citizenship. The police are largely unseen, a stark contrast to the student marches of the coalition. It seems we don’t need policing. ‘Put things back how they were a fortnight ago’ is hardly a call to revolution.
As at all British protests, the signs were clever and pun-filled. ‘Yes to fromage; no to Farage’ ‘I will always love EU’ ‘Gove uck yourself’ ‘I want to be inside EU’. One sign was just a chart of the value of the pound over the last fortnight.
As we got to Downing Street, there was the only visible police presence. We turned to look at the street with bad feeling. One man yelled ‘wanker!’ and a chorus of boos went up. We trudged on to Parliament square, which was full of people. More marchers continued to pour in behind us. At the front was a projection screen and a speaker array. I could barely see the screen. The voices of speakers echoed around the square, but were unintelligible from where we were standing. Only an occasional phrase would come through. The space in front of us was packed with protesters. Behind us were even more people, many of whom were dancing to 80’s torch songs.
Near the end of the rally, they started playing Abba’s SOS. People on stage swayed with signs. People in front of us sang along. Then the rally was over.
Afterwards, we went to the park and had tea. It was a lovely sunny afternoon. I left and went to a barbecue. About half the people there were Americans. Most of the conversations were about Brexit or Trump. I wasn’t drinking because of a cold, but most people had been going for hours. A lot of discussion retreated to the safer, more familiar area of the future of the Labour Party. A temporary problem with a temporary solution. Something a lot easier to hold in mind.
Today, I went to the stone setting for my wife’s grandmother. It’s a year since she died. There was a short ceremony and we went to breakfast. Most of the family are a generation older at least. One relation confessed that they’d voted leave. They said it like they were asking for forgiveness – they probably were. It was a protest vote. They didn’t expect to win – don’t know why they’d voted that way. They said they need to have a period of self-reflection to understand why they voted as they had. It was my first time meeting anyone with ‘Bregret.’ I got a bit snippy. I don’t know how to react to this. They were horrified by the results. They were grossly misinformed of what their vote even meant.
If everyone who feels regret writes their MP, could that make a difference? This is democracy without information. How can it be meaningful to have a vote when no one knows what they’re voting for?
One well-attended march is not enough to stave off leaving. And the uncertainty is also bad. It is impossible to plan under these circumstances. There is a rumour of another march next weekend.
One sign at the march said, ‘Britain is not an island.’ Perhaps it’s a ship, drifting rudderless along the sea.