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A Very British Catastrophe

21 December, 2018 (10:06) | Dead Water | By: Ian Burdon

I haven’t written here much of late, partly because I don’t have much to say and partly because what I do have to say is still percolating. In particular I haven’t written much about the lunacy that is Brexit, I’ve just watched in dumb horror as our political classes take us down, basking in the adulatory cheers of Mr. Putin.

Yesterday I read this article by Aditya Chakrabortty in the Graun and it resonated. Back in July I wrote about a brief trip to the US and travelling on trains.

From a train window you see the back of everything, not the gussied-up frontage but the service entrance. The back is where everything is hidden, dumped and abandoned so no one can see it, except everyone can see it from the carriages speeding by. From the train it’s as though the city has inadvertently tucked its skirt into its underwear and is walking around showing its ass to the world.

This came back to me earlier this month when I sat on a West Coast mainline train from Edinburgh to Birmingham watching the arse-end of the heartlands go by after, say, Crewe. Between the attempts at modernisation and the alternating beauty and dereliction of the inland waterways, the arterial infrastructure of industrial decline, I thought I understood something about Brexit. I understood that, were I living there, I would have cause to wonder what the EU had done for me too.

It’s all very well for me to mock that sentiment following the Life of Brian patter, or to point to how intertwined our society has become with that of our continental neighbours; it’s all very well to say that most of our dereliction has been brought about by ourselves, and post March 29 2019 we’ll get a visceral awakening to the reality of Joni’s Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. None of that addresses the underlying emotional force of, or reasons for, the sentiment. Chakrabortty’s article highlights that.

I have form for being gloomy about this stuff, but nothing has lightened the gloom for me over the years. Some of what I wrote nearly two decades ago looks somewhat gauche now, of course, but I still agree with my 42 year-old self’s view that:

If we could reduce all of the variables in modern British society into
symbolic form and express their inter-relationships by integral calculus, the
limits of the function would be bounded by the lowest common denominator and the highest common bullshit factor.

The question that nags, though, is what am I going to do about it as I approach the end of my sixth decade. I have a couple of ideas, and if anything comes of them you’ll read about them here.


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