“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life…de dum…de dum…”

We Brits are meant to be good at keeping our peckers up and smiling through adversity. But lately I’ve been having trouble finding my pecker, let alone keeping it up. Everything seems so gloomy and pointless. And it all came to a head yesterday, Thursday December 12th, 2019, the day of the General Election. We did some gentle shopping in Holbeach, then called in at the Sutton St James Village Hall where the Polling Station is always to be found. Maisie and I then dutifully marked our ballot papers and had a nice long chat with the two charming ladies who were checking names and forms. I think they were a bit bored: I wouldn’t have said the place was exactly overcrowded with eager voters. We got back to the car, just as the rain began to start. And it rained steadily all the way home. The wind picked up and the dogs seemed very reluctant to be taken for an afternoon walk. So I let them play in the barn. The rain got worse and I could see the puddles out in the fields growing by the hour. Parts of the garden looked a bit like Venice. By the end of Election Day I emptied 13mm from the rain gauge.

Our chickens are still laying so we had boiled eggs and homemade bread for supper: simple, but very nice, as the eggs this year have had wonderful yellow yokes and are bursting with flavour. Maisie’s bread is always lovely. After supper we both did something we rarely do: we looked at the internet news on our phones, since the BBC was not allowed to report on the General Election until after the Polls closed at ten o’clock. There were pictures of endless queues and of youngsters lining-up to vote in various universities across England. Everyone seemed to think that the ‘Youthquake’ – involving three million newly-registered young voters – was going to transform the election from a Tory landslide into something else (nobody seemed quite certain what).

At ten o’clock, the BBC announced the result of the exit poll – usually a fairly accurate predictor of the eventual result – and the Tories under Boris Johnson were going to win with a majority of about 50. We were both amazed, if not actually stunned. I grabbed another glass of cheap port and tried to read a book. Then I went upstairs to bed – and the radio. Despite my best intentions, I didn’t stay awake and listen: the port took over and I snored my way to a fairly deep sleep. When she came up half an hour later, Maisie tried to get me to stop snoring (a sharp shout in my ear usually does the trick), but this time she failed. By now the earliest results were starting to come in and Maisie realised that the Exit Polls had probably been correct. Very kindly she decided not to wake me up. So she listened to the gloomy tidings alone.

At three AM I woke up, only to hear that the Tories were winning what looked like a major landslide and that Labour and the Lib Dems were having something of a car-crash. I started to feel a dreadful pall of black depression creeping up on me. And then something very strange happened. Maybe it was a latent sense of survival. Or perhaps my publishers were sending out subliminal messages to me: don’t go all gloomy or you’ll never finish your new book. Remember, the deadline is the end of June and you’ve still got fifty thousand words to do…

But whatever it was, the pall of gloom started to dissipate. I almost felt a sense of relief. At least we knew what was going to happen. And maybe now that he’d won such a major landslide, Boris could tell the extreme-right members of the Tory Party to leave him alone; perhaps the new Brexit deal wouldn’t be as suicidally hard as we had expected? It was a thought. Who knows, what if Boris didn’t try to paddle or punt the British Isles across the Atlantic to cuddle-up to that nice mister Trump? I didn’t really believe in any of these thoughts, but suddenly they seemed possible. And if the trade and political severance of Brexit wasn’t too hard, one day we might be able to return – when, that is, my generation dies off and the saner younger generation gains control. Again, it was a thought.

So that’s how it is. I detest what has happened in the Election, but the years of uncertainty were starting to get me down. I also loathed the growing hatred, racism and intolerance that Brexit seemed to foster. I don’t think for one minute that the lurch to the extremes of right and left will cease, but maybe it’ll slow down as the febrile, testosterone-fuelled atmosphere of hatred starts to abate. It would be so nice to think about things other than a sort of politics that somehow ignores what really matters. Climate change and global warming, the rise of religious fundamentalism and the disintegration of nuclear weapons agreements should be occupying politicians’ thoughts. Not Brexit. And as for me? I want to write books and meet the lovely people who read them – and you can’t enjoy things like that if you’re feeling all knotted-up inside. I may be wrong, but I think my pecker might be starting to ascend…

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