April Fool’s week has been an interesting one for dedicated expats living in Europe. Firstly, we had all the fun, games and drama surrounding THAT letter written by the Prime Minister, delivered by a grinning, bearded Cheshire Cat of a diplomat clutching a smart, new briefcase, to poor Mr Tusk representing the European Commission. Am I the only one wondering why Teresa May didn't simply send an email, or that all time Spanish favourite, the Blessed Fax instead? No, we had to have quill and ink and probably a seal, possibly written on vellum. I know the Brits are into tradition in a big way, but this was all really rather silly, wasn't it? All these festivities were accompanied by the banshee calls of Brexiters shrilly proclaiming their usual cries of jubilation, “We won, get over it!” No, I think not.
We then had all that Gibraltar nonsense and the threat made by an elderly ex-leader of the Tory Party, suggesting the possibility of war with Spain. Really? Now that makes huge sense considering that both the UK and Spain are joint, loyal members of NATO, and usually the best of friends. Still, the fact that he was rather quickly demoted to ‘ex-leader of the Tory Party' should tell us all rather a lot about his dubious diplomatic skills, as well as his mental stability. May I kindly suggest that he would be far better off sucking wine gums in a home for the elderly rather than trotting around TV studios spreading his message of hate about our friends and neighbours? Maybe the House of Lords, which is the UK's most expensive retirement home, is the more appropriate place for him after all?
I mustn't forget the mind-blowing revelation of the British plan to blow up the Channel Tunnel with a nuclear bomb, if the neighbours don't play nicely, which also popped up in the UK press this week. Nice one guys, but maybe it could cause a bit of a problem for the good people living in Dover who, I suspect, would not be too keen on the idea, since it could blow a significant part of the south coast to pieces. After all, nuclear bombs do tend to create a bit of a mess, which could be awkward since the UK relies on the French for quite a lot of electricity nowadays. The fact that it was ever even considered as a disruption tactic many years ago should tell us a great deal about the British anti-European psyche. Fortunately, both the Spanish and French have a good sense of humour and none of this abuse appears to have been taken too seriously. “Calm down, dears”, was the predictable response from the Spanish - sensible people.
The crowning glory in the British press this week was that brain numbing headline in the Sun proudly proclaiming "Up Yours Senors!" (which should really be Señors, but maybe I am being a tad pedantic) that encapsulated the Sun's thoughtful message to Spain and the European Union, together with the less well-considered sub heading of "Our Message to the Meddling Leaders of Spain and the EU". Unfortunately, the message was rather lost alongside advertisements for holidays in the sun, (let’s all have holidays in Blackpool and not Benidorm nowadays, folks) but the thought was there, however inarticulately expressed.
On a more serious note, I am more or less old enough to remember the protestation of France's then President Charles de Gaulle who was horrified about the possibility of the United Kingdom joining the European project. "Non, non, non" was his entirely reasonable response to Britain's applications to join. Of course, he was right; he knew only too well then, which many thinking expats have known for many years, that Britain was never suited to joining the EU in the first place. The British island mentality, with its mistaken nostalgia for a past, and not particularly glorious, Empire still haunts the British psyche today. "Be careful what you wish for" is an expression that I have been continually reminded of since the referendum, and which seemed even more relevant this week.
I don't think I have ever been quite so ashamed to be British as I have been this week, and I look longingly at those who are blessed to have Irish, Spanish, German or Swedish passports. Looking back, many of the issues that are currently surfacing have been simmering for many years. On a more positive note, despite the dire warnings of fervent Brexiters who are willing the EU to collapse, I firmly believe that the EU will become even more united and stronger without the UK in the years ahead; I certainly hope so.
Meanwhile, I have been tempted to join a number of organisations on Facebook this week. Although I agree with one called 'Campaign for a Fair Deal', I am forced to admit that this view remains beyond my understanding, or my willingness to submit to. Personally, I am still grieving and not yet ready for any kind of deal outside Europe, let alone a fair one. Still, I'll keep taking the pills and maybe one day I'll get over it. Meanwhile, if there any good Europeans out there, who would like to adopt quite a few disillusioned Brits, please let me know.