I love Europe.
I’ve lived and worked in many parts of it and always counted myself blessed to savour the rich tapestry of it; eating a Sacher torte on the veranda of a rather elegant café in Vienna while sipping on a viciously chilled dessert wine, meeting the only woman taxi driver in Milan who was all tooled up in case my idea of a ride didn’t agree with hers but knew the only restaurant there that opened ridiculously late, a German who was convinced about the power of stones and gave me a special yellow one he’d picked up in Tanzania as a parting gift, a Spaniard waiter who with a wink at me flattered my wife outrageously to the point where she blushed with pleasure and the Montparnasse stripper in a dark but intimate dive who spotting us as honeymooners in Paris, insisted we both have a suck at either of her nipples.
We couldn’t keep our hands off each other anyway, but a certain Parisian naughtiness appealed big time to an ex-convent school girl and a young and a still wanting man determined to have the best week of his life. For her, but for him too.
That’s Europe, that’s its texture and there are no safe spaces once you get out of the seemingly compliant metropolises, or should that be metropoli? You are on your own and because I love it, I don’t want it standardised, buggerised and fuckerised by some lard-arsed bureaucratic monolith accountable to nobody. It’s so much richer than that. I’ve lived in various bits of it, learnt their languages and mannerisms, and loved it. I poked a toe into it but always in the end did the big swan dive into it. Every time, they adopted me as the clueless foreigner and were kind to me, and I loved them for that generosity.
I know the other stuff about it too, all the sordid and bad bits that nobody wants to look at, never mind acknowledge. I have learnt to armour up a soft heart but inside it all is a tender one which always watches and records.
I know I should be writing sober political analysis in the light of the Brexit vote, but after a night watching the will of the people manifest itself, despite a well-funded campaign that didn’t seem to have a moral floor when it came to anyone who wanted out of European political union, I think I’ll do a more considered piece further on down the line.
Once upon a time, a bunch of English-speaking settlers got pissed off being ruled by a distant unaccountable power over the sea they hadn’t elected and simply wanted to do their own thing, against the advice of all the play it safe experts. They were faced with the opposition’s version of Project Fear, yet still rose up and took to arms. They’d nothing on their side but hope. In a very 21st century sense, the Brexit campaigners went up against the might of something that looked a lot like the majesty of a king, but the commoners refused to kiss his pinky ring.
In a way, this is the old world talking to the new world. There was a sense that this was the last best chance for the unwashed common man to object to something that seemed massive and unstoppable. Perhaps it’s our last best gasp, but we still have the bollocks, we still have that fire in our belly.