Rachel John­son’s DI­ARY

The New European - - Agenda -

There are ba­si­cally two clash­ing nar­ra­tives around no-deal Brexit. The first (es­poused by folk like Ed Hu­sain, Owen Pater­son, Rory Suther­land and a bloke called Boris John­son) is that chaos is a price worth well pay­ing for get­ting big-swing­ing-dick­hood back – or, as my bro wrote this week: “In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, the pub­lic seem to think that in so far as there may be short-term chal­lenges, they are worth meet­ing now, in or­der to gain the ben­e­fits of Brexit, in free trade and self-govern­ment.”

In the Spec­ta­tor, Suther­land ad­vances the ar­gu­ment that the rea­son short-term chaos isn’t cut­ting through as a Re­main counter-ar­gu­ment is be­cause iden­tity is, in it­self, a form of wealth that econ­o­mists can’t value. “In a democ­racy the govern­ment should do what peo­ple want, not what eco­nomic the­ory says is good for them,” he writes.

You can’t put a price on sovereignty, we are told – in an­swer to which I tell my bro, and any­one else who will lis­ten: “Ac­tu­ally, I’ve al­ways been quite happy to pay to be bossed around by the Ger­mans for as long as pos­si­ble”.

The no-deal­ers make out that it’s a ques­tion of mak­ing do with prawn cock­tail rather than cheese and onion crisps for a lim­ited pe­riod and even the soft­est snowflake would cope with that.

But even there I dis­agree. In my view it is the tiny things that will turn into the fi­nal nails in Brexit’s cof­fin.

‘Short-term chal­lenges’ are far more chal­leng­ing to a per­son who com­pletely loses their shit if there’s no hot milk for their Amer­i­cano (ie me). The idea that this coun­try will keep calm and carry on when Kent is a lorry park and they can’t take their pets on hols in France is ut­terly bark­ing.

Think of all the emergency calls made by Bri­tish mem­bers of the pub­lic in a real cri­sis. As North York­shire Po­lice tweeted last month: “We’ve re­ceived a 999 call from a woman to re­port that she has or­dered two por­tions of fish and chips but that the chip shop will only give her a sausage.”

And re­mem­ber how con­sumers col­lec­tively went shouty crack­ers af­ter Mars put a mini-bounty on day one of its Cel­e­bra­tions advent cal­en­dar, rather than the “more pop­u­lar treats” – ie Twix or Mal­te­sers. Short term chal­lenges are the ones that will break us. I’m afraid this nar­ra­tive is far more per­sua­sive than the heroic as­sump­tion that the Bri­tish peo­ple will re­dis­cover their Blitz spirit for the greater glory of get­ting their coun­try back.

I am al­ways trig­gered at the quar­terly ar­rival of the in­voice from our pest-con­trol chap in Som­er­set. My hus­band has be­come rather pally with our lo­cal rat catcher there. He has met him a few times and they chat about bait and traps on the phone, whereas I don’t know him. I also re­gard pest­con­trol – and any­thing to do with wood and fires – as one my hus­band’s very few sole pre­serves. And yet the bill is al­ways ad­dressed to me, as if any­thing do­mes­tic must be the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the wife. I feel un­seemly ir­ri­ta­tion ev­ery time.

As a sym­bolic ges­ture. when the bill ar­rives I cer­e­mo­ni­ously place it on my hus­band’s desk in his study. (I don’t have a study but that’s a whinge for an­other day!) OK. it’s not throw­ing my­self un­der the hooves of the king’s horse but it still makes me feel I have at least reg­is­tered a fee­ble protest against the con­tin­u­ing lash of the pa­tri­archy.

Speak­ing of which, the hideously-named ‘Fes­tive Pe­riod’ is be­hind us. Last Sun­day was Jan­uary 6, as you know – but did you also know that in Ire­land this is called ‘Women’s Lit­tle Christ­mas?’ No, me nei­ther. Some­one sent me a lit­tle brief note about this high day and hol­i­day. “Ir­ish fam­i­lies were large, and men weren’t ex­pected to help with house­work (plus ça change... see above). On the feast of the

Epiphany, men would stay home to take over the chores and chil­drea­r­ing…” The wom­en­folk would gather at a pub or have – wait for this – a meal cooked for them by the rest of the fam­ily. Women of Ire­land had one meal they didn’t have to shop, pre­pare, cook, serve and clear up as their spe­cial an­nual treat. I am so lost for words that I leave you with the news that Women’s Lit­tle Christ­mas is still cel­e­brated (if that’s the right word) by some.

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