This one’s very political. Its main purpose is to vent my anger by ridiculing the politicians belonging to the two major British political parties – the Conservative or Tory Party, and the Labour Party. For the avoidance of doubt, I consider them all to be a total bunch of oxygen thieves and useless cunts. Clear enough?
It’s about the UK leaving the European Union. My personal opinion is that it’s an incredibly stupid thing to do without a workable plan, and that when we get into the nasty cruel big wide world on our own, we’re going to get screwed without lube. (Read the US Trade Representative’s aims for a trade deal to see how.)
Other viewpoints are of course available.
If you don’t like my take on it, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that part.
One thing I’m sure we will agree on, whatever our differences of opinion, is that the ‘negotiations’ have been royally and totally fucked up by the almost unbelievable incompetence of the UK Government. The uncertainty, the confusion, the U-turns, the awesomely stupid public utterances were world-class in their awfulness. Nobody (except the disaster and vulture capitalists) has got what they want; we are all losers.
This story uses British English, and you’ll need a fair bit of local knowledge to understand some of the digs. If in doubt, please assume that I’m comparing the UK politicians VERY unfavourably to a complete and utter cockwomble. There’s a British political sketchwriter named John Crace, who actually first coined the terms ‘Maybot’ and ‘Failing Grayling’, who has repeatedly said that the four pot plants on Theresa May’s office windowsill would do a far better job of running the country. Others favour Larry the Downing Street cat for the job. One thing is crystal clear; we in the UK have been very badly let down by our politicians, with very few honourable exceptions. It’s been a total clusterfuck.
Anyway, here’s my story.
Charles Miller had it all. A well-paid and challenging job he enjoyed, a very comfortable lifestyle in an idyllic English village with a loving wife and daughter. Then some over-confident posh twat called an ‘advisory’ referendum about membership of the European Union, and cocked it all up for him. CAUTION – heavy on UK politics!
I had a demanding but immensely satisfying job in Central London, with a salary and life style to match. Then the Brexit referendum happened, and my life suddenly got a whole lot more complicated, for two unrelated reasons.
Brexit was the most exasperating. Okay, full disclosure. I voted to Remain in the EU in the referendum, holding my nose a little as I did so. There are a number of things I don’t especially like about the EU – the over-costly Common Agricultural Policy which in the UK favours already-rich landowners, the ridiculous situation where the European Parliament moves between its two homes in Strasbourg and Brussels, the influence of professional lobbyists – but there are many more things that I do like. My feeling is that the grown-up thing to do is to help the EU reform from within, not block, whine, delay and upset. Sadly, the extremists have the upper hand at the moment.
We Brits don’t see the EU in the same way as the other 27 countries do; we forget that Nazi Germany’s armies were occupying France, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg only six years before the European Coal and Steel Community was set up by the 1951 Treaty of Paris. The rest of Europe sees the EU as a great force for peace and tranquility, a guarantee of no more wars between European nations. It’s a pragmatic exercise in rule of law, common standards and regulations, all facilitating mutually-advantageous cross-border co-operation in every field. European business people know how vital certainty and long-term economic planning is; the EU provides that. Our European friends are used to compromise and pooling of resources to ensure that in the long run everybody benefits. Sadly, the UK has become unable to see beyond the short term, and is unhealthily obsessed with instant gratification and quick profits. Which is why so many of our public services – water, energy, waste, transport – are now owned by overseas firms. Likewise our industry – with the sale of Morgan to an Italian fund, there are now NO British-owned car companies.
The UK for some reason sees the trading advantages of the Common Market as more important than the common standards, and yet despite knowing this, the referendum result was that those who voted decided 52/48 to abandon all that economic activity for some nebulous vision of sunlit uplands flowing with milk, honey and unicorns for all. They also voted to throw away forty years of alignment of regulations – from freedom of movement of people to common testing and licensing of a whole range of products such as pharmaceuticals, aircraft servicing, car parts and food standards – which made it so easy for our companies to trade with Europe, and our standard of living to increase. Even now, three years on from the announcement of the referendum, most people simply have not the slightest fucking idea how intertwined our economies have become, and how complicated it is going to be to untangle everything. Apologies for the bad language, it’s because I’m angry.
I could go on for hours about the causes of the vote, the Tory austerity programme, the continued lack of a national industrial or skills strategy, the failure by successive UK governments to put in place the same rules that the other EU members had adopted, the effective abandonment of the rest of the country by the Parliament at Westminster. Okay, so 17.4 million voters expressed a grievance, and that had to be recognised.
I accept that. Fully and whole-heartedly. For a long time, a very substantial number of my fellow citizens have been ignored, badly let down, neglected, even abused by the Westminster politicians. There is, and has been for at least thirty years, ever since Thatcher started hollowing out our traditional industries without putting anything else in their place, a basic and increasing imbalance between the haves and have-nots.
What I don’t accept is the blaming of all our ills on the EU by the right-wing press and dog-whistle politicians. The fault lies entirely at the door of the Westminster Parliament. Where did the national income from North Sea Oil go? Our biggest ever national windfall? To tax cuts for the already wealthy, not to investment in the future. Norway has a sovereign wealth fund from their North Sea bonanza, we have fuck all left from all those billions. £850 billion, from what I’ve read. Thatcher’s children spent most of it on inflating the housing market, pricing home ownership out of the reach of so many, encouraging the influx of dirty money from overseas and domestic tax havens. And we wonder why the UK is so London-centric?
I could rant on for hours about the stupidity of having a referendum on such a substantial decision only decided by a simple majority, the lunacy of turning an advisory vote into “the will of the people”. The unfairness of not allowing many of those with the most to lose the right to vote in the referendum. The criminal negligence of submitting the Article 50 leaving notice without even the barest of bare bones of a plan about how we were going to disentangle forty years of Common Market closeness. Oh, and the foreign interference, the illegal funding, the Russian troll factories, the unbelievably vicious dog-whistle politics in the right-wing tax-exile-owned newspapers and on social media. The dubious payments. The blatant lies.
But I won’t. It doesn’t help my blood pressure. It’s over, and I can’t do anything more about it. I’ve protected myself and those I could help, and now I’ve got to look to my future. Those who were stupid and gullible enough to believe that posh establishment ex-public school multi-millionaires were leading the revolution against the elite on behalf of the have-nots? Fuck them. I’ve given up caring. Many of those who voted for Brexit will suffer the most. They’ll get what they voted for. Fuck them. Just like ‘Boris’ Johnson said, ‘Fuck Business’.
I’m incredibly angry, and my anger isn’t going away anytime soon. But I’m out of here very shortly. I’m going to be a spectator from now on, watching from the sidelines. It’s a terrible thing to be forced to admit, but at the moment I’m genuinely ashamed of the country of my birth. The people are going to get what they voted for, and they aren’t going to be happy when all those populist promises don’t actually happen. Brexit has already cost the UK economy £80 billion over the past two years; more than a trillion pounds of capital has already fled overseas. The £350 million extra a week to fund the National Health Service, that was emblazoned on the side of the Brexit bus? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. By the time the Tories have sold off the profitable bits of the NHS to their Atlantic Bridge mates, it will be a very different animal.
Oh. Yup. The other reason for my life getting so hectic was the death of my marriage and loss of my family. I suppose that it had all kicked off at least six months before I found out, maybe a little longer.
Work had been very demanding all year, way more than usual. Being the Financial Director of the UK subsidiary of a major European business was a challenge anyway, which was why it was so well paid, but in the year before Brexit? Everything went completely bonkers. With a government which didn’t know its arse from its elbow, trying to square a circle with a triangle in the middle, almost everything I’d ever done in the way of long-term planning and forecasting was now up in the air. Add to that a fantasist in the White House picking fights by Twitter because it seemed a good idea at the time, and who knew what the future held? Trade wars? Cold wars? Hot wars? Nuclear exchange wars?
I’d managed to book a whole fortnight of family holiday in the first two weeks of August 2018, and actually stick to it. We went to the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia, on the Adriatic, and stayed in a great hotel. ‘We’ was myself, Charles Miller, my wife Annabelle, our fifteen-year-old daughter Sophie, and her best friend Hayley. I flew back on my own; Hayley’s divorced father Steve had taken a villa in Turkey for another two weeks, and Annabelle was taking the two girls from Split to Antalya to join him before flying back to Stansted herself a couple of days later. It had been a pretty stress-free holiday; the girls had been mostly self-contained and Annabelle and I had enjoyed some much-needed quiet time together. Other than a few words with Sophie about the perils of wearing such a skimpy bikini in a part of the world where men often take exposed flesh as an invitation, it had all been incredibly peaceful and relaxing. It was quite a blow to have to leave the three girls in the hotel and head for the airport to return to the UK.
Annabelle texted me that afternoon while I was mowing what remained of the lawn after the drought, to say they had got to the villa safely and Steve was taking them out for something to eat. As I was on my own, I went in to work on the Sunday, to find my in-tray and in-box both full to overflowing, despite the best efforts of my P.A. while I had been out of the office. After a couple of hours I got my head around what was genuinely important and what was merely labelled urgent. Annabelle phoned me on my mobile just after six – I was still in my office – and asked if I minded if she stayed on a couple of days more, as Sophie and Hayley had both picked up a tummy bug. Naturally, I encouraged her to do that, and asked if she needed her flight re-arranging from this end; she said that she’d get Steve to do it for her.
In a way, it was a relief NOT to have to get home at a reasonable hour that week. The government issued a whole load of technical papers about Brexit in August and September. The August ones were utter codswallop. Crikey, the one about the Irish Border even suggested that firms should ask the Irish government any questions they might have! It was almost surreal, only the sure knowledge that the lunatics had indeed taken over the asylum, so it wasn’t my mind playing up, kept me sane. Trying to make sense of the ‘guidance’ was like swimming in treacle. At least it was so consistently bad that I could be certain that I wasn’t just misunderstanding it. My colleagues were just as frustrated and angry. By Friday, my holiday was a distant memory.
Annabelle’s Ryanair flight landed at Stansted late that evening; she phoned me as soon as they left the aircraft, and I drove over in her Range Rover to collect her. Okay, so we don’t actually NEED the four wheel drive very often (though it had actually been used in anger at the end of February with the Beast from the East snowstorm), but everyone else in the village has one, or some other kind of ‘Chelsea Tractor’, and Annabelle wasn’t going to be left out.
She looked well, her suntan even deeper. She reassured me that Sophie was now fine; it had only been a 24-hour bug, and they’d enjoyed sightseeing and using the private pool at the villa. Lazing by a pool is not my thing, but the girls seem to enjoy it. She put her dirty washing in the machine and then invited me to join her in the shower. Without Sophie in the house, that seemed a fine idea. I used my tongue to try to locate her upper body bikini top tan line. Never did find it, but it was a whole lot of fun.
We had a late brunch on Saturday morning; if we hadn’t been expecting the Ocado grocery delivery, we might not have got out of bed at all. It was almost back to the sexual relationship we’d had when we were first going out, before Sophie arrived and put the kybosh on spontaneous nookie.
I didn’t go into the office on Bank Holiday Monday; the weather was much cooler than it had been for the previous three months, and with the recent break in the drought, the garden demanded our attention. Annabelle and I make a good team; she has an eye for colour and texture, and I don’t mind wielding a spade or loppers. We filled up the compost heap with herbaceous growth that had gone over, and then I topped it off with the grass cuttings to get some heat into the process. Most of our neighbours have people in to do their gardens, and subscribe to the Council’s garden waste collection service, but I still get satisfaction from doing it myself – I suppose that it’s therapy after a long week in the office. Sophie got home the next weekend, just in time to go back to school on the Tuesday. She’d had a great time, and her tan was certainly to be envied. I assumed that she too had been sunbathing topless, but I wasn’t going to embarrass the kid by asking or joking about it. I pretended to sulk when we compared forearms; she had a far better tan than I’d ever achieved.
I got in some ‘normal’ work that week, and nipped over to Amsterdam for a meeting on the Thursday. My European colleagues were pessimistic about the prospects for Brexit trade agreements, but actually far more concerned about the possibility of trade wars between China and the USA. As they said, the UK had committed an act of self-harm voting for Brexit, but as it was clearly going to happen, they needed to get on with the more important things in life and leave the distraction behind. They did have the decency to express sorrow on a personal basis, but they also showed a sense of relief that the EU could now make progress without British interference. So much for the leavers slogan ‘they need us more than we need them’. My mood was not helped by passing the construction site of the new European Medicines Agency building, an EU regulatory agency that had been based in London until the vote, along with nearly a thousand well-paid jobs and a quarter of a billion pounds contribution to the UK economy.
Annabelle collected me from Stansted that evening and we ate out at a pub on the way home. I apologised for the long day; she shrugged and said that she was getting used to them. I told her that I hoped it wouldn’t last for ever; she made no response. I was too knackered to try to bring her mood round; she was already in bed and asleep when I went up. Sophie was once again spending the night at Hayley’s; I realised that I’d hardly spoken to my daughter for four days.
I seriously considered asking my doctor for tranquilisers the next week. The extreme nutters, the so-called ‘European Research Group’ of hard no-deal Tory Brexiters held a couple of press conferences to utter a load of completely un-evidenced tosh. The first one involved ‘Professor’ Patrick Minford and his crazy insistence that opening our trade to all comers would cause an economic boom despite meaning the end of British industry and agriculture ... Instead of resorting to prescription drugs, I went out for a rare lunchtime drink with a couple of colleagues, working on the premise that if we didn’t laugh about their lunacy, we’d cry. I repeated my opinion that I wouldn’t trust this bunch to run a whelk stall, let alone organise a piss-up in a brewery.
One of the guys repeated the story about the Brexit Secretary, David Davis. He’d been a member of the Territorial Army Special Air Service, which while still an elite unit at that time lacked experience and training. During a weekend training exercise, Davis had been told to set up an ambush, and to ensure that all the enemy party got shot, he’d lined up his men on BOTH sides of the track, right opposite each other in the line of fire. That was a big no-no, even using blank ammunition. No wonder his negotiating tactic with the EU (on the very few occasions when he’d bothered to show up) had been along the lines of ‘if you don’t give us everything we want, we’re going to shoot ourselves in the head’. There was a classic photo of the first meeting with the EU negotiator, where the EU side had files of papers in front of them, the UK nothing but the bare table. It symbolised the ‘flying by the seat of our pants’ mentality and utter lack of professionalism of the UK side.
The September release of government technical papers was even scarier. I had a couple of conference calls with my counterparts, and they weren’t any more confident than I was. A couple of my most senior staff were Europeans, and they were seeing the writing on the wall. They knew people who had been sending money back to their families; the pound now bought one-eighth fewer Euros as their salaries were effectively devalued by twelve percent since the referendum. Suddenly working in the UK wasn’t so financially attractive. With the murder of a Polish man in Harlow, they were also looking over their shoulders a little more.
I wandered in to the HR Director’s office one morning and dragged him out to lunch; he reported that we were already losing quite a few of our skilled staff. The EU citizens were mostly considering returning home, and a few of the UK ones had decided to risk moving their families to Europe before they lost that chance of free movement. It was all the blasted uncertainty – nobody had the slightest idea if there would be a deal or not. The ‘we shall ride on unicorns to the sunlit uplands’ cultists were still even more deluded than the ‘they need us more than we need them’ brigade, and Donald Trump’s posturing with the WTO was making that fallback position very wobbly. The financial markets REALLY did not like the sabre-rattling of the trade war and tariff disputes, and business confidence was dropping like a stone. I had an old mate from University who was working for Honda in Swindon, and he was in utter despair about the total lack of understanding of just-in-time logistics and the number of times components crossed the Channel. He told me of the 350 lorries a DAY required to keep the plant running, and the likely customs paperwork if a Customs Union was not agreed.
I’m not sure quite how I avoided a peptic ulcer and total baldness last Autumn. The moment any common sense seemed to be looming on the horizon, another total fuckwit like Michael ‘weasel’ Gove or Jeremy ‘rhyming slang’ Hunt would pronounce on TV that ‘we’ could change any agreement once we’d left – did these numpties not realise that the very people we were negotiating with could also see their interviews? Talk about bad faith and untrustworthiness.
I had stopped listening to the ‘Today’ programme on Radio 4 on my way to work; the interviewers’ acceptance without challenge of almost anything their interviewee said had already earned it the nickname ‘Toady’. The late great Brian Redhead must be rotating in his grave with the knowledge of where his flagship programme has gone. I used to like John Humphries as a presenter; he should have retired before he became quite so self-centred and obnoxious; my very favourite moment on ‘Today’ was a couple of years back, when a much livelier colleague of Humphries’, James Naughtie, had accidentally called the then Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, ‘Mr Cunt’ live on air. Ever since then, whenever Hunt was being interviewed, I had waited with bated breath for one of the other presenters to lose the internal battle and to blurt out their thoughts again. You could almost hear the editor willing them not to!
I started listening to LBC instead – well, some of it. The Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg phone-in programmes were almost laughable, as Racist Ron from Romford ranted on about the EU letting all these ‘ethnics’ into the country. Almost laughable. It was incredibly sad how far my countrymen had sunk in such a short time. James O’Brien, on the other hand, was a rare breath of fresh air, instantly jumping on stupidity, bigotry and lies. Sadly, so very many of his fellow journalists let the lies, half-truths and basic ignorance go unchallenged.
It was all getting too serious, yet incredibly entertaining IF you happened to be an outsider who wasn’t going to be adversely affected. I missed the relatively harmless good old days of the eight months when Paul Nuttall was the leader of the UK Independence Party. Back when we foolishly assumed that mainstream politicians were a cut above the lunatic fringe.
Alderman Professor Lord General Sir Air Vice Marshal Paul Andrew Nuttall, OBE, BSc, VC, PhD, KT. A name to conjure with. The worthy recipient of his countrymen’s highest respect. The man who had, aged 6, masterminded the recapture of the Falklands from those dreadful dagoes, then played professional football for Tranmere Rovers while gaining a double first in particle physics and brain surgery from Oxford and Cambridge at the same time. The true but unsung hero of the Hillsborough disaster, it was such a shame when he had to stand down as leader. Who would have thought that not having bothered to read your own party’s General Election Manifesto before appearing on the televised debate could have been so career-ending? A bit like getting your girlfriend to look up the references for your MA dissertation, and not thinking of maybe checking the ones from conspiracy theory websites? When he stood for the Stoke by-election, and had that unfortunate little misunderstanding about the true meaning of the statement ‘I live in Stoke’, the internet went Nuttall-crazy. Photographs emerged showing him fighting Zulus and earning the VC at Rorke’s Drift, embroidered on the Bayeaux Tapestry, performing at the original Live Aid concert with Bob Geldof, and greeting second man on the Moon Neil Armstrong when the Eagle landed at Tranquility Base. Wonderful days.
The trouble was, like the Emperor’s New Clothes, ALL our politicians were now being exposed as fantasists, ready to say anything if they thought it would gain them another vote, concealing any thoughts which might risk tainting the sanctity of their followers and fellow travellers. I was beginning to think that none of them had ever had an original thought; they all seemed to accept without question whatever their advisors told them. Theresa May seemed enthralled by the lunatic Nick Timothy, Jeremy Corbyn by the equally deranged Seamus Milne.
Leadership? This lot wouldn’t know the true meaning if you locked them in a padded cell and made them write it out a million times. Leadership is having a plan, assessing the facts and making a decision based on reality and the needs of the vast majority of the people who depend upon you. Being prepared to face and utter unpalatable truths. Being able to review progress and stop the whole process dead if it’s going wrong. Weighing up the evidence. Calling out the liars, charlatans and snake oil pedlers. Telling your followers that they were making a mistake.
Back on Planet Brexit, next came the Salzburg EU summit; another blooming slow-motion car crash. Utterly predictable. Christ! Which bit of ‘we will protect the Single Market‘ did the Maybot not understand? The pound took yet another hit, and a few more businesses finally put their heads up above the parapet and stated that Brexit was a bad idea. Even Next, whose fuckwit head ‘Lord’ Wolfson had been so keen on Brexit, announced that they were having to set up a EU company to run their EU stores, that there were likely to be supply problems, and cost increases. How the hell was that a better deal than what we had already?
The Labour Party Conference was dispiriting, but met my (already very low) expectations. They too were running scared of a small cabal; they wanted to please the 40% of their voters who wanted out, and were going to piss off the 60% who had wanted to stay. Theresa May made a complete fool of herself at the Strasbourg EU summit, and the pound dipped yet again. The Conservative Conference in Birmingham proved that the nutters had taken over the asylum; when the Foreign Secretary compares the EU to the USSR you know that he’s wilfully throwing away any last goodwill that you have left.
I was forced to stop discussing the news with Annabelle. The received wisdom among most of her Daily Mail-reading friends was that everything would be okay, that the EU had a history of leaving negotiations until the last minute, and then going all smiles. I was pretty sure that she was 100% wrong, but neither of us could prove what was going to happen in the future, and there were several frosty occasions when I was less than tactful with what I said to her.
I managed to avoid her going on to full fishwife mode; she’s been getting moodier as the years have gone on, and we’ve had a couple of real humdinger shouting matches recently, when Sophie hasn’t been around to earwig. I admit it, that’s why I was so determined to have the summer holiday we’d booked, and was happy for her to take another week, because quite often in the past a problem has come up at work that has affected something we were planning to do – normally a treat or a family outing. I’m not minimising the amount of disruption and disappointment that Annabelle has had to put up with over the last few years, but it comes with the territory at my salary level.
The deal as I see it is that they own me for a few years, and if I survive until I’m fifty, then we’re set up for life, a very comfortable retirement on an index-linked pension. If the job kills me, then my wife becomes a very wealthy widow. Annabelle had signed up to that, had reaped the benefits for several years – she wouldn’t be driving around in a nearly-new £45,000 Range Rover without my job – but now seemed to be concentrating on the drawbacks. I felt that a distance was growing between us; my working day was mostly finishing after six and it was always at least eight before I got home. Most evenings I found myself eating alone in the kitchen. I began to envy Hayley’s dad Steve, with his nine-to-five job at a Chelmsford firm of conveyancing solicitors. He was making a decent living with none of the pressure.
By the beginning of November I’d almost lost the will to live. There was an interview with the new Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, in which he admitted that he hadn’t realised quite how important the Port of Dover was to the economy! I had to apologise to my secretary for the bad language I used when I saw that; even after all I’d heard, it still rattled my cage that someone who was such a fervent cult Brexiter hadn’t done such basic homework. I went to see my boss, the CEO.
“Jim, I think this is all going to go very pear shaped. They haven’t got ANYTHING right so far, and with this track record, there’s no way they will come to an agreement. We need to assume that it’s all going to fall off a cliff edge. I’d like to step up our no-deal planning.”
He nodded sagely as he concurred with my assessment. Our concerns were fully justified over the next few weeks as stupidity, incompetence, jaw-dropping complacency, ignorance, factional in-fighting and plain pig-headed-ness strove for dominance in what now passed as a ‘Government’. Disaster followed catastrophe and I’d never felt so ashamed of being British.
My relationship with Annabelle was up and down. Mostly down, if I’m honest. She kept mentioning things she’d read in the ‘Torygraph’ about how the EU was ganging up on us, and not getting my point that WE had decided to leave the club, and therefore the remaining members were actually more concerned about the survival of their club than they were about the one who was leaving. We had a few more arguments on the subject before I learned to tune her out. Sophie was as usual practically oblivious to anything other than reality TV, fashion, social media and food.
My blood pressure still rises as I think about that time. A few years ago, there’d been a satirical TV series with Peter Capaldi entitled “The Thick Of It“ about fictional politicians and their foul-mouthed spin doctor; it had been intended to be way over the top, but I heard one of the writers on the radio complaining that if they’d proposed including some of the things that had now actually happened in their scripts, they’d have been laughed out of the production company’s office. Even the quiet and understated cynicism of “Yes, Minister“ had never dreamed that a politician could be quite so self-obsessed and pig-ignorant. The Malcolm Tucker word “omnishambles” became part of everyday speech.
Oh, it wasn’t just Brexit. Jeremy Cunt even managed to get his own wife’s nationality wrong on live TV while out in the Far East, he couldn’t remember whether she was Chinese or Japanese! How to win friends and influence people, just at the time when the UK needed to build all the bridges that it could.
Mmm – bridges – that fuckwit Alexander de Pfeffel ‘Boris’ Johnson came up with two more fantasy schemes to sort out the possible delays at Dover – build road bridges to France and Ireland, across two of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Given that even more details were emerging about the £30 million plus of public money that he’d given to his mates for a private ‘garden bridge’ across the Thames that hadn’t even received planning permission, he was definitely the man to put in charge. Not. Just like his proposals for ‘Boris Airport’ on the Thames Estuary, in a place chock-a-block with migrating birds just waiting to be sucked into jet engines. Or his £60 million cable car across the Thames to carry four regular commuters. Yup, that’s FOUR. Out of maybe a million people commuting in and out of the inner London Boroughs every day. Wow. Just fucking wow. What incredible value for money.
Eton and Oxford have a whole lot to answer for. They clearly don’t provide a genuine education. Or, as one of my esteemed colleagues has suggested, it’s always possible that his mindset is a result of syphilis. It’s certainly true that if anyone was in the running for a sexually transmitted disease, Johnson and his roving-eye would be worth putting ten bob on each way. His second ex-wife is a fervent Brexiteer, she can’t have been very bright to even consider taking him on with his history of fucking and forgetting. QED.
Our financial Year End is 31st December; the run up to Christmas is always a bad time. 2018 was going to be our last full year in the EU, and therefore it was especially important that our Accounts and Financial Report contained sufficient detail to enable like-for-like comparisons to be made in future.
It was essential that I personally verified and understood every single digit and letter in our Financial Report, so that I could unreservedly recommend it to the Board and the Group Board. To do that, I worked ridiculous hours. Totally crazy. In the office before six in the morning, often not home until gone ten. And THAT was with using the Stansted Airport Express.
Annabelle was not a happy bunny that I was leaving home before she was awake and getting back just in time to go to bed. I did try to explain again, several times, that the reason we enjoyed such a great lifestyle was that the company paid me an obscene amount of money, enough to have first call on my time, and that at the moment it meant she had to temporarily take second place. She seemed to think I was senior enough to name my own working hours, still not getting the fact that for my salary level, I had to accept that the company owned me.
I was sad about that continued lack of understanding and my inability to get through to her. We’d had a long discussion on that very topic before I accepted the job. It was a real jump up, but it meant more travel and more responsibility. It would mean that I could without doubt retire at 50 on a full pension, and that we could then travel the world or do whatever we had dreamed about doing before we got too old. That was the deal that she’d agreed to at the time, but at the moment I was having to pay the piper.
Annabelle had always been very supportive in the past; without her beside me I’d never have had the self-confidence to even apply for some of the jobs on the ladder to where I was now. I just hoped it was a temporary blip in our eighteen years together, born of the long hours and stress of my job. I knew if I wasn’t careful I would burn out; one of our friends had survived three heart attacks before he was 40, and I didn’t want to end up like that. I felt pretty lonely; some evenings there wasn’t even a plate of food ready to be zapped in the microwave, and a cheese sandwich before bed is never a great idea. All too often, Annabelle was already in bed when I got home, and I missed the days when she’d wait up for me and rustle up some supper for both of us, as we chatted comfortably before heading for bed. Now I felt like a vampire – I don’t think I’d been outside in daylight on a weekday since the clocks changed!
In the wider world outside work and home, the thing they still called ‘The Government’ lurched on from chaos to confusion, disaster to catastrophe; ‘Her Majesty’s Opposition’ was no better. Preparations finally began for a no-deal crash out from the EU; all were years late and woefully inadequate. Raab resigned as Brexit minister because he couldn’t support the deal he’d been in charge of negotiating, some unknown muppet named Barclay replaced him. Bugger me, yet another bloody incompetent who didn’t know the first sodding thing about European geography, let alone trade. Where the fuck did they get these idiots from?
My country was falling apart around my ears, and I couldn’t seem to do anything to save it. I wasted a couple of hours writing to my MP; she was one of the worst of the nutters, but had at least been rather muted since she’d been caught working for another country and lying about it; she’d been very publicly sacked from the Government after the BBC helicopter had followed her car from Heathrow, and had been the last person in the country to know that she was for the high jump when she got to Number 10. She probably didn’t give a toss; she was still being paid, claiming all her expenses, and networking for her foreign paymasters behind the scenes.
My own personal world fell apart on New Year’s Eve, well, New Year’s Day if I’m being really pedantic. Happy 2019 to me.
It came as one hell of a shock at the time, but with hindsight, it wasn’t all that surprising, I suppose. I’d just been too busy doing my job to the best of my ability to take note of what was going on at home.
I discovered that Annabelle was intending to leave me. And that my daughter not only knew all about it, but was enthusiastically supporting her.
Christmas had been pretty good; I’d finally completed all my work for Year End a couple of days before, and I’d actually come home on time and with nothing more to do three days on the trot. Sophie had been in and out with Hayley; Hayley and Steve came over for Boxing Day. I’d cooked the full Christmas Dinner (thank you again online ordering at Ocado) and it had all gone well.
For New Year, we’d been invited to a party by some other neighbours, and were having a pretty good time. I danced with most of our friends, as did Annabelle. We kissed and hugged as New Year struck. Despite my intense trepidation about how 2019 was going to go business-wise, I knew I had my family and we’d face the future together, whatever it brought.
That comfortable feeling lasted a massive eight minutes. We all went out into their garden to watch the New Year fireworks – and a lot of people round about had spent an awful lot of money on trying to outdo their neighbours – and I ended up standing in the dark behind Sophie and her best friend Hayley. They were squeaking at each new explosion of sound and colour and I was enjoying their childish delight right up until I heard my daughter’s indiscretion.
“Just think, Hay! This time next year we’ll be in the Caribbean! Do you think they do fireworks there?”
“Of course they do! You must remember looking at the website when Dad made the booking; I’m positive there were photos of fireworks in the gallery. It’s an all-inclusive resort, we won’t have to pay for anything. Food, drink, scuba diving, jet skis, Christmas and New Year all in.”
“Wall to wall sunshine and tropical waters! I can’t wait. My Dad’s an old stick-in-the-mud, he doesn’t believe in foreign holidays at Christmas. I think he actually likes being cold and miserable. He’d never have booked a villa with a pool and hot tub. Mum’s had more than enough of him, she wants to live life before she dies. I’m just so glad that she’s chosen your Dad to do it with, ‘cos that way we can stay besties.”
“Yeah, we’ll be the two hottest sisters in town!”
“Sweet sixteen and ready to be kissed!”