Monday 23 September 2019

Avoiding the issue as the uncle blows out 95 candles on his birthday cake

David Medcalf - Medders at large

'Medders, now listen to me.'

'I'm listening.'

'We will have no mention today of the B word.'

'Ah, the B word. No mention. No mention of the B word what-so-ever at all.'

'You do know which B word it is that I am referring to?'

'Probably not ballet. I can't imagine Uncle Bob doing ballet. He'd look ludicrous in tights.'

'Please desist from being frivolous, Medders. This is important. A 95th birthday party is an occasion to look forward to. It must not descend into a bar-room brawl. So no mention of the B word.'

'You mean Brexit, don't you?'

'Yes, I do indeed mean Brexit.'

'But I've been doing my research. The misguided electors of Wiltshire voted in favour of Brexit, or at least 53 per cent of them did. Surely it would do no harm to point out to them the error of their ways?'

'They do not need you coming in to point out anything. We are here today to enjoy ourselves. We are here to make sure your uncle has a good day. We come in peace and harmony.'

'If the electors of Wiltshire wanted peace and harmony, then they should have voted to remain.'

'That is as may be but I must stress that this is emphatically not the day to be exploring, examining or even exterpolating any such issue. No matter how exasperating, execrable or excessive you find it, there will be no exception, exemption or extenuation - the B word is strictly off the agenda.'

'Message received. Message understood.'

Uncle Bob departed from Ireland, along with many of his generation, in 1946 with scarcely a backward glance. Over the years since, he acquired an English wife, an English accent and he developed an outlook generally more English than the English themselves. If he voted stay in the EU during the mis-begotten referendum, then I will eat my Donegal tweed hat, without mustard.

Now he was celebrating his 95th with afternoon tea and cake for friends in what Hermione ordained must be a Brexit free zone. It was a lovely occasion, with the great man blowing out a bonfire's worth of candles and making a brief speech thanking everyone for coming. His buddies were practically all fellow pensioners, happy to enjoy a good-natured natter after singing 'Happy Birthday'.

I swear to goodness that I was not the one first to mention the B word as I made new acquaintances among the party-goers in a corner of the room. I think, as best I can recall, that the topic under discussion over the Victoria sponge was cricket but, perhaps because the word back-stop is a cricketing term, somehow we found ourselves B wording like blazes. And all my preconceptions of these folk as Tory-voting, Daily Mail-reading, Shire-dwelling, Empire-hankering luddites was blown away.

The people in this corner were singing from my hymn sheet. They joined in fulminating against Boris as a buffoon in hock to Donald Trump at the head of a government which cares not a fig for the good of Ireland and deluded into thinking that Britain is so Great that it can forge favourable new trade deals with rest of the world. They felt that many of their peers had betrayed the younger generation with their dim-witted desire to reclaim their country from Brussels…

It was only on the bus back to the airport at the end of our day trip to the UK, that Hermione admitted she too had also been B-wording despite her very best of intentions. In the far corner from my Grey Hairs for Europe brigade, she encountered the OAP's Want Out tendency, every bit as passionate in their stance.

A couple, lovely in every other respect, gave her their views on the current political impasse without being prompted. Brexit could not come soon enough for this pair and if Boris Johnson fails to deliver without further delay, then they will turn to someone who will. Europe is the enemy in their eyes.

As we boarded the plane home, we concluded that we were leaving behind a nation hopelessly and maybe irreconcilably divided.

Wicklow People