From time to time there are moments in life when I feel quite calm, completely clear-headed, even managing amongst it all to find a vital sense of humour, when everyone around me seems full of despair and panic. I think it’s a mood I inherited from my dad, who crops up from time to time on this blog, as regular readers will know. My Dad can be the most stubborn person on the planet, infuriatingly so at times (just talk to my Mum), but when something’s going wrong he’s the steadiest person in the world. You feel completely safe and you know that absolutely everything will be alright. I remember, quite young, as a child, I guess aged 10 or 11, when we were sailing Dad’s boat up the west coast to Scotland. Only my mother, father and I were on board. We had stopped at Lundy Island (which I long to visit again) when a huge and unexpected storm blew in from the Atlantic. There was no safe harbour in the prevailing wind and massive swell. Dad decided that the only safe course of action was to make sail, into the storm, and head north to Milford Haven. We had a gruelling trip, arriving after many hours of foul weather, rain, wind and seasickness. But the curious thing is that at no time, not even for a minute, did I feel scared. The calm presence of my father, his hand on the wheel, or navigating through the night by a dim flashlight on the chart table, was enough to make me realise that I was in safe hands. It was such a visceral and powerful emotion that I can remember that night vividly, thirty five years later. Everything will be alright. And I feel it now as strongly as I felt it then.
Much has been made in the last 48 hours that Britain is in meltdown; that we live in a violently divided nation where the people in one tribe don’t understand the other; that we are marooned on a racist, bigoted, narrow-minded island which has turned its back on progress, the rights of man, and – of course – on Europe.
I would like to say that I disagree, from the bottom of my heart. Maybe it’s because Charlie and I spend so much time deep in West Dorset – which voted wholeheartedly to leave the European Union – that I know my neighbours are not racist, they are not bigoted, they are not narrow-minded; they love progress, and rights, and they love the future. On a personal level, I think the amazing welcome that everyone in our tiny village, and in the valley, has given to me, and then to Charlie, is proof of that; especially the earth-shattering cheer in the tent on our wedding night, nearly a year ago now, which was a cheer full of love and welcome.
Neither do they hate Europe, even if they wished to leave the Union. Of course, let’s not forget that maybe a third of my Dorset neighbours voted to remain; and please let’s not forget also that about 40% of our great city of London, or the great country of Scotland, voted to leave. So the landscape is more complex than headlines sometimes allow. Everyone I’ve talked to gave thought to their decisions very carefully. People who have never voted, voted. This was serious, and it was treated with the seriousness it deserved. It’s true, no-one could have predicted the final result; few did. But that is the result, and I think we must have the humility to respect it – whatever our politics.
I have detected, on Instagram, it has to be said in particular, from people who I would have thought might have be calmer, a hysteria that is unprecedented as it is unexpected. If part of the reason of this vote was a cry of anguished rage from large swathes of our wonderful country (from the parts that have tended to be forgotten by politics for so many decades now, and which are in such urgent need of attention, care, and restoration), well, how sad it is to me that a shrill shriek of equal rage and disgust from the so-called elite is the only answer.
This evening I received an email from a colleague, a distinguished architect, urging me to add my signature to a petition for a second referendum. I’ve seen the same request dozens of times on twitter and instagram. Who do we think we have become, when one tribe demands that we must carry on voting until we get a result we are comfortable with – rather than listening, and reflecting, and working out how we can, over time, change our politics and our country for the better?
I am sure that whatever your emotion on Friday morning, the only worthwhile solution is to get on and build the new world we find ourselves in; with love, care, dignity and great attention to the finest qualities of our wonderful human spirit – which is capable of so much when times demand it.
If you wish to comment on this blog I would sincerely ask that your thoughts are kind, thoughtful and respectful of all. Peace.