Out, damned Spotty
As the country finds itself undergoing a period of reappraisal, Philip Howard finds that some things do come out in the wash
EVERY now and then life throws us a curve ball, which we comprehensively miss. Sometimes it is a biggy, such as death or divorce – or, in the case of the England football team, the next game. My own Armageddon was a couple of years back when my wonderful wife died at the age of 56. After the initial devastation there was a period of retrenchment, reappraisal and then re-examination of my life. Specifically, was I to be a victim, eschew the risk of ever being so badly mauled again, or should I, in the words of the Jerome Kern song, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again”.
It appears we are still in the woe and angst stage of the Brexit fallout. Though as someone who has never loved the European federal project but voted remain – at least my children are still speaking to me, which is not the case with quite a lot of my friends – I am now questioning my choice of pals. Immediately after the result I received a phone message from my friend Mr Jones. “Now, ’Oward, the meek ’av inherited the earth.”
My son came back from a month in The Metropolis with L’oiseau, his French girlfriend. He had been earning some corn working in the new boulangerie her parents have opened in the Fulham Road and was stunned by the sheer vitriol and aggression of racist abuse being hurled at them and their staff following the Brexit vote. I hope we have not released English Nationalism, one of our least attractive facets, out of the bottle as it will be very tricky to get it back in again.
I had sent a horrendously trite text to my children after the result, telling them to remember this moment and learn from it: you need to engage, listen and deal with people’s genuine concerns and not just dismiss them as bigotry. This was to counter all the political correctness and odium that they had been heaping upon me. Especially about migration, multiculturalism and dealing with Muslim fundamentalism. “Accept it, Dad, there is no alternative,” I was told. It appears there is. “Your generation have ruined us,” they shrieked back. I countered with a palpable point that had their generation bothered to get out of bed and vote instead of organising their next orgy on social media, then all would have been well. Game, set and match, Dad.
But what a mess we have got ourselves into. Our political masters are staggering around with knives sticking out of every orifice. It’s a bad job when Theresa May, who has always given me the heebie-jeebies, appears the only hope. I suppose it could be worse. We could have got Roy Hodgson. So it is reappraisal time. Let’s hope the Europeans do the same.
The other person I am aware of who is undergoing a profound life restructuring is the man who collects our holiday-cottage laundry from Shortridge. The Media Queen had been up for a few days walking the Roman Wall and had brought The Spotties, her two ungovernable dalmatians. No deer, sheep, pheasant or child under three is safe from the Spotties, or, indeed, my secretary, Caroline, who is phobic about dogs. Around lunchtime we noticed that only one Spotty appeared to be ravaging the begonias, so a cry went up. An hour later he had still failed to appear. Search parties were dispatched but I thought I had better inform Caroline that he was not safely incarcerated. I found her on the phone. I whispered that we had lost a Spotty but she raised her hand to shut me up and continued.
“So, you are the Shortridge delivery driver… Yes… and you picked up the laundry from Naworth an hour ago… Yes… and you are in Dumfries… And you have just opened the back of your van and a dalmatian has jumped out… Yes, I think that is our dalmatian…”
An hour later he returned, sitting bolt upright on the front seat next to a traumatised Scotsman who, I fear, was also reassessing his future career.
Only one Spotty appeared to be ravaging the begonias, so the cry went up