A Brexit blog a’ brewin’

As the title suggests, I have had a Brexit blog a’ brewin’ for a few days now. There’s obviously a lot of Brexit about right now but what particularly triggered me this time was a comment piece from Charles Moore in the Telegraph on Saturday.

Background:

  • The Telegraph is the most conservative/Conservative paper in the country. While The Daily Mail serves as the current mouthpiece of the Conservative Party, it has dallied with Fascism with fulsome support for Oswald Mosley and has recently wavered in its unwavering support for the Brexiest of Brexits under a new editor, the Torygraph has stood firm, as it has for well over a century, as the voice of the shires, the England that regrets the loss of empire.
  • Charles Moore is the ex-editor of The Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Spectator (essentially The Telegraph in magazine format).
  • Charles Moore went to Eton and Cambridge.
  • I pretty much only read The Guardian, I get The Telegraph on Saturdays as it has a great crossword, then I generally burn the rest. It burns better than the Guardian as it has less high-quality ink.
  • The cute pic of my kids and dog is entirely gratuitous.

So the background was necessary in order to explain why I was reading the Telegraph in the first place and why Moore’s column was so barmy. I can’t remember the title but the thrust of the article was that “The Establishment” were trying to drive us into a betrayal of Brexit. You could not possibly be more establishment than Charles Moore if your name was Elizabeth and you had a thing about referring to your singular self with a plural pronoun (sorry, being a pedant, i.e. calling yourself “we”). His schtick was that there was some sort of elitist cabal conspiring against him and his fellow sons of the soil. At long last Moore and his kind could feel the hand of freedom reaching out to save them from the downtrodden wretchedness that had been their fate since the day they had been born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

The extent of this misery amongst these pariahs could be seen by more and more of their numbers that sprung up to tell similar tales of despair. We’ve had that towering giant of intellectual heft Jacob Rees-Mogg tell us of the worthlessness of May’s deal that he hadn’t had time to read. And of course, we had Boris, when have we not had dear Boris? There he was, pointing towards the (200-year old, faux medieval) Parliament buildings and denouncing May’s deal as a betrayal of the 1000-year democracy that these houses represented. Quick historical deep dive – 1018 was not a massively democratic year. Then, not unlike today, a Cnut was in charge.

Full disclosure: I am hardly “not of the establishment” either. I, too, went to the kind of establishment that these boys attended. In the finely graded manner of these things, my school was a notch below, but it was one of those. What’s more, the Johnsons are old family friends of ours. Which is why I am particularly enjoying the psycho-drama of the Johnson family. It would be such sweet poetry of Boris saw his life’s dream of becoming Prime Minister snatched away from him by the littlest of his siblings, the estimable Jo. The sister, Rachel, has joined the Lib Dems because she is such a Remainer…and their Dad has written a soon-to-be-made-into-TV novel about the shysters who led us into Brexit. That would be your lad, Stanley.

But the thing is that this lot, none of whom would exactly be picked to play El Che in a Guevara biopic, are proper revolutionaries. People point at Jeremy Corbyn in a scruffy suit and say “Look at that Marxist” but it’s the ones that are comfortable in a tailcoat that you want to be careful of, they are the ones who are currently proposing to really upturn the apple cart. They have never really been able to articulate what “their” Brexit would actually look like but the kind of break off they advocate would completely disrupt the British economy and throw a spanner in the existing make up of international diplomacy. Lenin could not have asked for more.

Sidebar: I have a “70s alternative” Playlist on. Just as I wrote the above, The Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK came on… Serendipity!

An excellent comedian Andy Zaltzman described what we were facing as a Symptonless Blitz. As in, we’d be facing the same sort of shortages that we faced during the Blitz with limited food and medical supplies but without the symptom of a load of German planes bombing us. This time we are bringing the bombs upon ourselves.

Grumble, grumble, grumble

Sidebar2: On my “70s alternative” Playlist I now have Plastic Bertrand playing, a Belgian punk rocker. The Belgian punk rocker. That’s Brussels mind control for you, right there. more… Serendipity!

As I was saying, grumble, grumble, grumble, they’re all a bunch of nincompoops. But go on, then, what would I do, you ask.

Well actually, I agree with Teresa May, it’s no deal, her deal, or no Brexit. I think that’s now quite clear.

Her deal is a classic bit of diplomatic fudge that will be unresolved forever. And maybe that is the most sensible solution to this shit storm. Assign a legion of civil servants to debate the niceties of Brexit in perpetuum, playing out in the shape of a pan-European Bleak House. It might be sensible because we have to think about how we actually get to no Brexit (two points for anyone who spotted that I skipped “no deal”)?

It would have to be in a referendum. Politics as a concept we understand would not survive a no-Brexit scenario engineered by politicians. It could be very divisive. I wonder whether it would be possible to frame a referendum campaign around a message that essentially said ” we have had a look at this from every conceivable angle over the past two years. We haven’t talked about anything else since then. It might not be great but as Churchill said about democracy, remaining in the EU is the worst choice except for all the others.

There are, of course, plenty of very positive reasons for staying closely attached to our neighbouring countries that have such great stuff – I really don’t want things like an Alp, a mangalica pig, a taverna, a marcha madrileña, a steaming pile of Belgian frites and mayonnaise, to be less accessible, to be harder to reach. These things are as much part of my make up as a Penine, a cumberland sausage, a pub, a night out in Brighton or a Cornish pasty. Actually a Cornish pasty is absolutely not part of my make up, I think they are foul.

Sidebar3: On my “70s alternative” Playlist, Squeeze – Cool for Cats, as I typed “pub”, they sang “pub”. …even more Serendipity!

If we were to have another referendum, it would be critical to make the point that a lot has changed since 2016. The most obvious external change is the appearance of Trump and Trump-like nationalists across the world. I’d predict that once Brexit kicks in, it won’t be long before we elect someone in the mould of Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi, Erdogan. Obviously as a representation of nationalism, they’d be a British version of this phenomenon but it’s hardly a massive stretch of the imagination to envisage a Prime Minister coming out with some sort of Make Britain Great Again slogan. Though he would probably put it along the lines of “Arise Britannia once more unto the breach” or some other Shakespeare/Latin mash-up twaddle and Rees-Mogg would put it on a top hat rather than a baseball cap!

Patriots??? Let’s look at one of their kind – Arron Banks. He’s the kind of patriot who defrauds the national treasury by having his businesses located in murky offshore arrangements to hide his income from the taxman. He’s the kind of patriot who gets offered free gold and diamond mines by Russian oligarchs in exchange for who knows what. Though I don’t think Russian oligarchs give away diamond and gold mines out of the kindness of their hearts.

It is a god awful mess, I certainly don’t have any clear idea of how we get out of it from here.

I did love this take on Lewis Carroll on the subject:

T’was Brexit, and the slithy Gove
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,
All flimsy were the Faragists,
And the Rees-Moggs outgrabe.

Beware the squirming Gove, my son –
The lying tongue, the claws that catch,
Beware the frumious Boris bird –
Out for whatever it can snatch!

Who now will face it down, my son –
The Brexit-Beast with eyes of flame?
Oh who will seize a vorpal sword,
And cleave the monstrous thing in twain?

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Respite

IMG_2258We have a new plan in place where Ava-Jane goes away for a night once every two weeks. Earlier in the year, social services had noticed that we were struggling a bit so suggested that we needed a bit of respite… So, that’s respite from Ava-Jane… from Ava-Jane! I have to admit that I find that hard to take. I imagine that a lot of parents reading this will be thinking “I wish I could have some respite from my children!” But in the case of Ava-Jane, I can’t help a little part of me feeling that I have failed.

How could we possibly need respite from the squidge?

[some time later]

So this blog post was going to be about what a marvellous child AJ is and how could we possibly not be able to cope with such an angel… but that was then, about an hour ago when I started making notes for this post. This is now, after supper and putting her to bed. And what a massive pain in the arse the little angel has been! We got a take-away curry and the only thing she would eat were the poppadoms. With AJ it’s not a case of her trying something and deciding she does not like it. If she has decided that she doesn’t want something, she’ll push it away, chuck it on the floor or, if you get it past her lips, spit it out. But she was fine for chocolate ice cream, oh yes. AJ gets a bit of a pass on the regulation from Pink Floyd’s the Wall “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” (ooh, the Wall, I will put that on now – that’s not a Shuffle Play album. Overblown concept albums really suffer in the days of Spotify and playlists). Also chocolate ice cream is the ideal vehicle for making sure that AJ has her meds. That and straight sugar! Otto is appearing in Mary Poppins, so we have sessions of singing “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” as we administer AJ’s various pills, capsules and liquids.

Then she started kicking up a massive fuss about something. For AJ it is very difficult to express what any given problem might be. She could be yelling because that last big spasm really knocked her out or it could be that she needs a massive poo. But we got there in the end and we got the “Bed, book, milk, Dada” ritual. I am doing a lot more of this as this is the longest stretch we have had without live-in support of some kind or another for years. The excellent Jess come for a few hours a day a couple of days a week but otherwise we are fending for ourselves. It’s lovely but we really aren’t getting out much!

So I suppose people will have been reading the above, thinking “Of course you bloody need a bit respite, take all you can get.” Which is, of course, true. And it’s not just us that needs it, AJ needs time away from us. She is nine years old and outside the school environment, she does not spend any time with children her age. She goes to a great place in Aylesbury that’s run by a lovely charity and is able to spend a bit of time with other kids. Quite what they get up to, I don’t know but AJ seems to report back happily.

And AJ is growing up whether I like it or not. We still have the after-bath cuddle where I sit her on my knee and wrap her up in the towel and cover every inch of her so only her nose is sticking out. She is very particular that every bit, every last toe is properly covered. But that’s kind of not what you do with a ten-year old, not least because it’s getting increasingly difficult, even with the biggest towel, to completely cover her – she is growing quite lanky. But she likes it and I certainly like it. That’s one of the advantages we have, we’ll be getting “those” cuddles for a lot longer than most parents.

So the respite is all part of the difficult process of watching AJ grow up and watching her needs evolve from what were essentially the needs of any infant to her becoming an adolescent with disabilities, which need to be managed within the wider society and not just in the comfort of our own home.

We also had AJ’s parents’ evening this week. I thought it was going to be one of the big ones where we meet with a panel of teachers, medics and therapists but this was just with Caroline, her teacher and Jo, one of the heads. And it was more like a “normal” parents’ evening, where we were discussing AJ’s schooling properly. Caroline is a very, very special person of great wisdom whose respect for the children with severe learning difficulties that she teachers is wonderful. She palpably adores AJ but takes absolutely no nonsense from her and has completely got her measure.

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She thinks that AJ’s range of vocabulary has expanded enormously recently but verbal communication is still based round two-word utterances. She is good at French (!!), interested in having a go at maths (counting, sorting) and sees no point in reading whatsoever. Apparently she has got issues focussing on the task at hand – the trouble with AJ is that it is hard to put your finger on why that might be. Is it the Down’s Syndrome? Is it the brain damage? Or more likely, is it because she is a Baxter? I have been tapping away at this while Otto “does” his homework – a painful process for all involved! I have been trying to find some time to do some educational stuff with AJ and we tried to have a push at reading at half term and I can confirm that getting her to stop mucking around and concentrate on what she is supposed to be doing is massively frustrating. And in the absence of my mother, I suppose I had better be the one to say “and just like their father too.”

So we’ll try to make the most of the respite and take it for the benefit it is. It should give Fo and I an evening that we can do something together or something with Otto.

I wanted to share this poem written by Henny Beaumont, someone I met on Facebook. She wrote a very powerful graphic memoir of bringing up a daughter with DS who had similar heart issues to AJ. Hole in the Heart – Bringing up Beth Amazon link

This poem is about filling in a personal independence plan and ascribing numbers to describe a person’s abilities.

The line “I am angrily grateful for the help I receive” seemed to sum up very well how I feel about the respite support we are receiving.

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