Now we know why it’s a curse when people wish us to live in interesting times. This is what chaos feels like and it isn’t much fun. We are living with change and uncertainty. This is life in the centre of a storm.
There’s no moderation, no compromise, no even-mindedness. It all makes a difference, coarsens everything: MPs threatened with rape, bricks through their windows, graffiti on a Polish club’s doors. It coagulates into an unpleasant mass, greasy and pungent. There’s a lot of snarling, of conviction, of what I feel is… I would prefer to know what you think, I think. Oh, I probably wouldn’t, actually, don’t show me that sewer.
I realise I’ve been low since the result; tetchy, easily aggravated, my fuse short. The country is different since the referendum. Even if Brexit never happens in any meaningful way, we crossed a line. I watched the Tour de France on tv the other evening. We don’t want to be a part of that poetry and beauty, if we ever did, even though we win the Tour almost every year these days. So what to winning. Being British is winning at life. Britain has always been at least 52% against poetry and beauty, would’t you say. We won’t cross back over that line. We have lost.
Jeremy Corbyn and Andrea Leadsome are political leaders. The Times calls Corbyn a man of ‘nugatory intelligence’, and who has seen evidence of anything else? Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary. Nigel Farage heckles from the edge, like an ex-Prime Minister, like he has anything of value to say. People shout at people on the street, why are you still here, we voted for you to leave. I may spend too much time on Twitter, but the things people say about Jews and Israel make me tremble. They feel they are safe in their hatred, and, scarier still, they probably are. It’s like there’s someone in the house, on the phone, telling me get out. Maybe I should listen.
I’ve always lived in London. I grew up three stops and ten minutes from Baker Street, on the Metropolitan Line. I went to school in Camden. Even when I was at college in Kent I lived in Islington and commuted. London is in my heart and in my blood.
Five years ago I sold my home in Islington, where I’d been happy for twenty years, and moved to Belsize Park. I’ve lived here, the nicest place I’ve ever lived, since. I didn’t mean to stay, I was going to see the world, but my father died and my mother… hmm… my mother said she needed me to be close. She said it with a tear in her eye and a tremor in her voice, so I did. I don’t, here, wish to go into that mess, but it went as you’d imagine any unreasonable, manipulative demand would go. And I was given notice the other day.
I am 57 and even though my life has changed in huge, unpredictable and positive ways in the last few years, some things won’t improve. I doubt I’ll ever find another job designing books, which I love doing. I’m estranged from my family. I have friends, but not enough. And I don’t think I can afford to live in London any more, not even further out on the Metropolitan Line, and that goes as far as Amersham, deep in Buckinghamshire.
The wind has changed, like it did for Mary Poppins, and I think it’s going to blow me out of London, too. The referendum result didn’t make me decide to leave, but it was another penny on the scales. This no longer feels like home. I’m going to help Theresa May’s net migration figures.
I had an appointment on Monday with Israeli immigration. I’m still spinning from discovering all the ways they are generous to people wishing to move there. They provide language lessons and help you find work. They pay for your flight and ship your things. There are concessions and rebates for years. They hand you, I swear, a new SIM card when you arrive at Ben Gurion airport and there will be a taxi waiting to take you to your new home. There is a public holiday in celebration of immigrants. No one shouts why are you still here, we voted for you to leave.
They make the move easy as. If only they could do the same for my emotions. I have been a jangling bag of spanners since leaving that meeting. I’ve started the process. I’ve jumped into the water and the current is pulling me along and I don’t mind at all. Leaving London, leaving England, fills me with fear. Tel Aviv is a modern, thriving and vibrant city. I wonder, can I live there? Will I be able to call it Home?