Thursday, June 23, 2016

Strange Days

Black clouds breathe in our ears all day,  squirting great hot drops on us just as we think we are in the clear.  They are squirting at 3am when I wake up and squirting four hours later when I drive through puddles to the Methodist Church to vote.  I am unaccountably upset by it all, coming home to England after eight years in Canada to find that everyone has gone mad, and when I put my cross in 'remain' I find that I am crying. As I walk out I announce to no-one in particular that I have exercised my democratic right not to be an idiot, and I don't stay around long enough to see if anyone has heard.

Later, going to work, the trains are slow. We crawl through Cambridgeshire waterlogged and heavy, cursing silently as the windows snap shut too late to stop the great drops from soaking onto bad-tempered newspapers.  In, out? Where is the weather coming from? You wouldn't know it was summer. I wish I'd never come back from the Canaries, but we've got a week in September, too and do you know, before he met me, my boyfriend had never even been on a plane, and he's 42.

Before I go to work, a Welshman with an unruly moustache cuts a thing off my leg in Harley Street. His nurse is from Lachine, just outside Montreal, so we speak our strange French to each other, the nurse and I, and the doctor sings "I'm Henry The Eighth, I am" while he circumnavigates the thing to carve it off and cauterizes it. I smell of pork and burnt hair, and leave with a slice of the thing in a jar for my husband. "You keep him off that for a week or so", says the doctor, nodding at stitches that I can't see. The nurse gives me a spare dressing. "Ben, là, docteur!", she says. Annie Lennox is outside, and she is as beautiful as you would think she is.

The clouds follow me down Wimpole Street. I talk to a friend who is on a balcony in Cannes and am standing on one leg laughing when the drops start up again.  The cab driver's got an "Out" sticker, so I don't look at her; at the office, we open and close the windows all afternoon because what's worse, the rain, the heat, or the drilling?  We can't decide, but we are glad we have all voted just to make sure we stay European because that, we all agree, is what we are.

My husband misses his flight back to Canada, where he is completing on our house. He has sold it because we have moved to Britain, which is where I am from, and on the whole he thinks this is a good idea because I am happiest here and he likes our friends and my family,  and it's green, and the weather is better for gardens, and it's prettier and on the whole, the people seem nice and open. And after 49 years he's fed up with Quebec (even though he's from there).

I wanted to come home because I was fed up with Quebec.  I hated the separatists and the language police; people shouting at women wearing the hijab on busses; casual daily racism, even at work;  the insularity and the lack of interest in the outside world; of not wanting to be Canadian, when being Canadian is a magnificent thing to be. But a version of this is exactly what I have come home to. It is strange and sad.

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