It must have been the New Year of 2015 into 2016 - yes, I confirm what seems scarcely credible by looking up Lemmy on Wikipedia, remembering that I chose to wear my Motorhead t-shit as we travelled up following the singer's death - and we were out in the countryside for a few days. We had just got together, me and Woodstock. I am often awkward in company - was more so at the time - and big gatherings of people are difficult for me. We spent much of the trip cuddled up on one of two armchairs speaking English and Czech as others played card games and drank. We smoked a lot of dope and had the occasional rum. The Brexit referendum had not occurred yet. Instead, having been working on a digital rights project that was more ambitious than it was either coherent or technically proficient, I was in the middle of the Post-Snowden mood I had had since the summer of 2013 (actually, it was a post-9/11 mood given second wind but you know what I mean). I don't know how often I used to inflict all of this on Woodstock - I did so more when I got working on Call Them Soldiers and, after that, Marginálie - but I wonder if I was still working at an ostensibly Montessori school at the time and had my mind on other things and so it is possible that not so much. Quite likely, this year, when we would watch the Christmas speeches of The Queen, the president of Slovakia, and the president of the Czech Republic (broadly, the good, the good, and the ugly), I got on to some of this stuff not for the first time, but for the first time in depth.
It is possible that it was after watching the queen's speech that I got on to how England may progress in time. I had been doing Czechoslovakian history with the kids, I suppose and, when I got into it, I really got into it. At any rate I got into how people forget that Britain is a monarchy and perhaps how we may discover that it owes much of its stability to the queen over the last six decades. I certainly remember joking about how England could go back a number of centuries overnight. I warmed to my theme and laid it out. I can't hope to remember it all now, but certainly it involved difficulties travelling, me being unable to get manuscripts across the border, being able to see my parents, etc. I joked about the succession. I say I joked. It seems reasonable to assume that I was half serious.
I remembered this tonight looking over the latest story about how flights between Spain and Britain may be severely limited by a hard Brexit. the context? I am about to go back this year. Twice. Both times for the same wedding, which I am, honestly, unenthusiastic about. Honestly, it feels like one of the last times. Paradoxically, I feel less at home in the Czech Republic right now than I have for some time, but over this last five years, I have felt decreasingly British. this last few days after two years of watching in horror as Britain makes some terrible decisions, motivated, it seems, by a lot of hatred and entitlement, where I have walked around cursing British traditions (to have to dedicate two weekends to celebrate the latest demonstrative monogamists, both of them drinking to excess and listening to terrible music), seems the most irritating thing I can imagine. In a year, in addition, where I will not have had a holiday with my girlfriend for two years, to give over what will realistically be my only occasions to get abroad, in order to spend time doing the things I least enjoy on this planet is galling in the extreme. As is often the case with Britain, I feel like in doing what is expected of me, I am betraying myself completely. It feels like a farewell to Britain.
How do I feel about it all? That I somehow saw this coming. And that I wasn't joking. All the signs were already in place. That Britain has indeed decided to close itself off to the world. That everything will be changed.
I tell myself I will be able to make something of that trip at least in the sense that I will take the measure of the place. Twice. Just before, and just after it leaves the European Union. I could make it, in a way, into a kind of Goodbye To All That for the age of the collapse of Neoliberalism, an evil creed the country did so much to create and maintain. I feel sad about it. Really, I do. The Brits, having so little insight into themselves, don't see it. Certainly those I know do not. But they have done so so much damage. To themselves. And to others.
That conversation seems so long ago now. Because it is. It's no longer, any of it, a joke; if ever it was that.
By the time any of this has even began to play out - before we have got as far as even what their favourite, Churchill, termed 'the end of the beginning' of whatever this is - everything will have changed. None of them over there I have spoken to guess that at all.
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