Brexit: Into the Fog

Disclaimer: I am not a UK citizen, did not have a vote in the EU Referendum, and am not white British by ethnicity. I currently live in Iceland, but as I am married to an Englishman and consider London one of my many homes around the world, the UK is a big part of my life. I consider the United Kingdom my country, too.

If these things disqualify me in your mind from giving an opinion on this week´s developments, feel free to piss off to another corner of the Internet. May I suggest this page full of cat .gifs.

I woke up Friday morning late. 10 am, GMT.

We had gone out to the end of the lake on kayaks and canoes to jump from a bridge into the freezing waters below, and not returned until midnight. The fog on the water was a dreamscape; we floated on a mirror toward it in the late sunset near the local hill and eventually disappeared into it. One couldn´t see more than about 30 feet in the fog, and it gave our tiny kayak the impression of being lost in a dew-lit morning. No shores. No birds. No wind. Gray water reflecting the gray all around us. Beautiful, but a little bit scary at the same time.

We went to sleep when only the first four of the declarations had been made. Sunderland was declared Leave just as we turned in for the night.

At the risk of sounding hackneyed, the metaphor of the fog on the lake was not lost on me the next morning. I sat wrapped in a towel on the 1970s sofa in our shared living room, having not bothered to get dressed before checking the EU Referendum results. We had been fairly sure that the vote would be In. Quick check, then into the shower.

I sat in my towel for more than an hour, unable to unglue my butt from the sofa.

“Russell?” I said, a little alarm in my voice when the BBC´s ´UK Votes Out EU, Cameron to Resign’ headline came up on the window I´d left open from the night before. “They voted out.”

Into the fog, then.

I´ve been a spectator to the paroxysms that have taken over my newsfeeds. Social. Political. Economic. At least a few of the predictions from before the vote have solidified.  Our money will go 10% shorter in Iceland, at least the part of it parked in Sterling. We had been telling people that we came to Iceland because Russ could, in theory, have a job here and stay under current rules. I´m sure everyone´s seen a lot of fights on Facebook and Twitter, the #NotMyVote reaction, the #LeaveWins gloating, and the confusion of the global market. A selection of my favourites from the ‘airwaves:’

If we vote Brexit tomorrow I’m staying in the USA and going underground. If the US votes Trump then I’ll go to Canada and drown myself in maple syrup ‪#‎voteremain

Guys, just to be clear, we’re not desperate to stay so keep your marriage proposals. It’s your economy you just fucked, not us x

51.9% of you, can go fuck yourselves.

I’m so upset for all of my European friends who feel let down and heartbroken by the Brexit, especially those with a strong connection to Britain. Most young people in the UK, including myself, share these feelings with you.
Now we’re stuck with a decision that most of the people who voted to leave will only have 20 more years on this planet to live with. However, We cannot and will not give up hope. Love must prevail over bigotry, racism and ignorance.

Too many feelings for words, really. I feel adrift in the world, in a country that doesn’t want me, pleading for changes I never get.
I really wanted to build a life here, I really did. But I don’t recognise this place.

Welcome to the Idiocracy

It seems my friends on here have similar viewpoints to me. There must be alternate news feeds I am not seeing, full of posts about how proud everyone is that the economy is crashing and how everyone can go back to where they came from now. I am genuinely gutted about the news this morning. As long as half the population (not including Manchester, London or Scotland who apparently voted the other way) are pleased with what they have done. I hope they are proud that we are the laughing stock of the world.

I’ve lived in Hackney (as you know, a very multicultural borough) for over six years and today for the first time, I heard the word p*ki shouted at someone in the street. This may or may not have anything to do with the recent referendum but I fear this is the sort of ‘legitimised’ racism that these examples attest to and I totally understand how upset and desperate you feel.

(I anonymised these quotes from people I do genuinely know since I´m not sure if they wanted to be on my blog with their names on them. If you see your words up there and want to have them attributed or want to be included, contact me!)

That last one up there is the most worrisome thing about the EU Referendum result. Steady reports of idiots empowered by the apparent opinions of their country´s voters have been trickling in on social media, and although I do not accept wholesale that the reports are all sparkly bastions of Truth, it sure as shit is possible some racists will feel emboldened. Try as they might to protest that it´s all about economics, the Leave campaign deliberately stoked xenophobic tendencies in those it wooed. Even if it hadn´t, there would still have been underlying tension.

Immigration has long been a third rail in the UK. I´m no stranger to the ways that people felt long before this referendum about those who have taken advantage of the (now former?) freedom of movement to get jobs in the UK. My blinding whitness shielded me from a lot of criticism when I was a migrant myself in the UK 2013-2015, but it also made it so that those few people who were wont to go on and on about the job stealing culture ruiners we apparently are slammed on the brakes with a blushing, backtracking, ‘Oh, well I didn´t mean you….’ when I pointed out my immigration status.

This was followed by misunderstandings about how marriage does not grant automatic citizenship, right to family life, or leave to remain once we got married in 2014. I wrote in 2014 about my envy of British citizenship:

6. Can’t Beat EU Membership 

Oh, yes. Good ol’ Figel Narage and his UKIP kin are vehemently opposed to EU membership. But let’s be honest, the chances of the UK leaving are akin to those of Scotland voting ‘Aye’ on its referendum later this year.Which is to say, pretty slim. The benefits of being in the EU are farther-reaching than most who grew up with them can imagine.

Not being a card-carrying member sucks. UK citizens can travel the world with greater ease than I because of their EU membership. They can work in any number of foreign countries on the continent, or retire to them once it’s time. They can study without barriers, and should they happen to fall in love with someone who has a membership card to this great political experiment, the doors are open.

Despite the misgivings, the EU is often led by the UK. There is no one leader of the EU, but no one can deny that the UK has serious bargaining power. I’d love to be on the cutting edge of international politics, problematic and bizarre though it often is.

That post needs some adjusting now.

I couldn´t form an opinion on the couch on Friday, in my towel. I couldn´t form one later, while we scrubbed toilets on the campsite. I still had not found a way to reconcile my thoughts eight hours of mopping and wiping up later. Even now, several hundred words that started as an incoherent journal entry later, I am not sure what I think about Brexit. But I am fairly certain about how I feel.

I feel disappointed.

On a personal level, I felt the loss of what I had hoped for some time would be the future for my nascent binational family. Me and Russ might not fit in well back´’home’ in the US or the UK, but we could always move to an EU country and stay there. It might actually have been easier for us than if we wanted to move to our ‘own’ countries with a foreign spouse. It might still be possible to live in Europe, but I selfishly wanted it to be easier than it will now be.

Lately, I´ve been toying with the idea that my generation´s political and social inheritance will be one of profound sadness, above all. The Brexit vote shows a massive, clear, and undeniable split between the voter´s ages. On average, Remain was young. On average, Leave was older. But this is not a petulant post about how screwed over by previous generations we are as Milennials, nor a post about how everyone should kowtow to the immense knowledge and wisdom of our elders that wiped 24 years of EU contributions (£200 billion) off the UK stock market in a day.

I wouldn´t characterise the Brexit as a tragedy, as so many have. Tragedy is too close to home, coming from the USA where gun violence is treated like a natural disaster (out of our hands, tragic but as impossible to prevent as a hurricane or earthquake). Nigel Farage appears to have forgotten that his ‘Independence Day’ did not, in fact, come without a shot fired. Sadness is nonetheless the theme of Brexit for me, as it is the theme of so much social and political machination for me.

The sadness that I sense in the reactions of my peers to the news this week is not new to me. It feels oddly similar to the sadness I feel about Barack Obama´s Presidency. Akin sadness to what I feel about the endless two wars that started half my lifetime ago in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadness that I feel about gun control and the huge check on my happiness that LGBT marriage was legalised in the US last summer in the form of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. The sadness I feel looking back on The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. The sadness of a lifetime of inaction and blustering on Climate Change, the single greatest threat to humans since nuclear weapons (which are still around and waiting, too).

I am part of a generation raised on the sacchrine distillation of the last days of the Cold War, our youths sandwiched between the fall of the Berlin Wall and September 11th. Told, through oft-repeated readings of the story of Rosa Parks and the deliberate condensing of complicated 20th century history into Narrative that change can be wrought by individuals. That change is real. That we are ready for it. That change will come. Often, as with The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, it felt like things might actually be changing. Then we are back to where we were, or worse.

That is one speck of hope I have in the confusion and disappointment I feel about the Brexit. I have voted for what I thought was a change, and gotten more of the same. I have participated in more direct forms of democracy, and gotten more of the same. I have fought for years on issues close to my heart to see them pass or fail, and received the great gray sameness of the grinding gears of the same as before. This apparent pendulum swing in the direction of nativism and bonafide right-wing politics in two of ‘my countries’ in the forms of Brexit and the Trump candidacy will not make 2016 a year that lives in any particular infamy. Change happens, but slowly and haphazardly. Unless we´re talking about the Great Barrier Reef or the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Therefore I have some hope that for all their current victory, Leave voters will feel some of the same sameness I feel when looking along the long lines of disappointments. The 10% drop in currency stablised and the recession in the UK assured, things will go back to grinding along as they have for ages. The people who thought they were voting for change and even an ‘Independence Day’ by voting Leave (if all of them understood fully what they were doing, since at least a few appear not to have known what, exactly, the EU is) will not get what they thought they were voting for, except in the knowledge that Leave won a hard-fought and divisive campaign. The fog is now settling on the UK, and if it even manages to come out of this referendum intact the fog of uncertainty will hang over the country for years.

Brexit is not a revolution. It´s not a democratic triumph. It´s not a tragedy just yet. It´s a massive disappointment.

The Last of London

The first view of the Thames I ever had, in April 2013

The first view of the Thames I ever had, in April 2013

Today was the last day in London for us. For now.

It’s here, this transition. The last days at work are done. The send-off drinks with friends and coworkers.

Colorado tap takeover to leave with!

Colorado tap takeover to leave with!

We woke up at 11:00 Sunday in our room. Our first married room. It was all as it had always been. The buntings from the wedding on the walls, the artwork made in strings I hammered out in April, the clothes and bedding and deep sense of us in the space we shared for 13 months. By 14:00, it wasn’t our room anymore. It was a strangers’ room, in a strangers’ house.

We spent today wrestling with references that we can’t get, for a job we thought we had, in a country we’ve never been to before. Once that grew tiresome we went to the pub.

The Tattershall Castle is moved!

The Tattershall Castle is moved!

One of our favourites was suddenly just gone in front of the London Eye. We managed to find the first pub I ever went to in London, and I got my last Gamma Ray from Beaverton. It’s my favourite English beer, even though it’s an American-Style Pale Ale.

IMG_6330 IMG_6327We ended up at the Pride of Spitalfields, an amazing East London pub. It was time to say see-you-later to Lenny, the pub cat. 

After 495 days, it’s time to move on from London. I came here with a pixie cut. I didn’t have my MA when I arrived. I wasn’t a trained bartender. I wasn’t engaged or married.

I’m leaving a married woman, with shoulder-length hair that I can braid. A bartender and craft beer specialist with three new piercings and four letters after my new name.

It’s time to go.

Ancient Stones

The ride to Stonehenge is mildly terrifying. It’s a two-lane English country road with a speed limit of 50 mph. The bus barely fits onto the road, and it bounces around.

It somehow felt fitting. Made the experience feel more like travel.

It is an obviously special place. The hills are so perfectly England. The ancientness of the place and the openness of the surrounding fields are verdant even at the end of December. I had hoped for snow. I always hope for snow in England. I never seem to get it.

But the experience of Stonehenge is made infinitely better by walking the road to the stones. A number of loud and buzzing busses ferry the less walking-inclined between the visitors’ centre and the stones, but the transition would be too fast. Too easy. Too…loud. The road makes everything quiet (except the periodic buzzing busses). It makes a connection with the earth around the ancient monument. On the way back, we even ran into a DruidSadhu who was making his way up to the circle for what surely must be a nightly ritual.

The stones are mostly Welsh. They were brought over an immense distance (240 miles) at great human cost. It almost certainly took as long to build the circle as to build some of the other great monuments to human building…cathedrals, temples, giant terraced farms. Humans have a great desire to be remembered, to make a mark on the world and to have it be permanent. Stonehenge is one of the very few places that we actually succeeded.

The stones have been there for at least 3500 years. And they will probably stand a lot longer than that. It was so humbling to stand where thousands of others over thousands of years have, and to see that huge undertaking with my ephemeral and highly-nearsighted eyes. What will come in the next 3500 years of humans? Will we even stay on Earth? Will we go to other places, set up other monuments?

In 3500 years, someone else might be able to see those stones and wonder just as we did. And of course, the connection to the past is strong at Stonehenge. You might just stand on the circle a person was buried in by accident. Sorry, ancient ancestor.

Aubrey Holes surround Stonehenge, and are some of the first cremation burials in England

Aubrey Holes surround Stonehenge, and are some of the first cremation burials in England

I wanted to be a part of it. I have a habit of touching various bodies of water around the world, and sprinkling the water over my head and face. It’s an acknowledgement of place. It’s force of habit from a childhood spent in anglican churches. It’s my little sign of respect for the huge distances I am lucky enough to be able to travel.

My travel ritual

My travel ritual

I went to put some of the dirt from the henge on my face. Russell helped me to make it more obvious.

Earth on the FACE

Earth on the FACE

Since we were there only two days before the winter solstice, it felt right somehow.

Almost aligned! Two days before the winter solstice.

Almost aligned! Two days before the winter solstice.

Stonehenge is one of the few places on Earth, of the many I’ve visited, that has a general energy about it. Something that charges me up and makes me excited to go on, excited that humans are the amazing and resilient species we happen to be. The only other one so far to feel this special is Machu Picchu. Something about it feels like I am a part of the great story, if only for a moment.

And the city of Salisbury, moved from the medieval town on top of a nearby Hill Fort, Old Sarum. 

Old Sarum, the hill fort from ancient times and original city.

Old Sarum, the hill fort from ancient times and original city.

It’s incredible! Such a beautiful, and such an English, town. We were able to stay in a beautiful house from the 15th century, with a tiny door and wonky timber roofing. It has been perfectly updated and has one of the best showers I’ve taken in Europe. High pressure. Hot water. Absolutely perfect.

Our medieval room.

Our medieval room.

The city itself was never bombed during the war, which makes it seem so much older and somehow more authentic. In London, many of the old-looking buildings are reproductions. They tried their hardest to rebuild in the exact ways that the medieval buildings looked after the Great Fire (s…there were more than one), the war, the plague, the…roman abandonment. But the straight lines and safe engineering, in clean lines and organised stone, belies the modern. This house was beautifully distorted, making it seem so much more human and historic.

Medieval gate to the cathedral, made with stones moved from Old Sarum

Medieval gate to the cathedral, made with stones moved from Old Sarum

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

We haven’t yet gotten a real honeymoon. It’s just not on the cards at the moment, with work and transitioning to teaching abroad again, and money issues. But this overnight getaway felt so romantic and special. A perfect mini-moon with the ancient stones!

Have you ever been to Stonehenge? What are some of the places that you felt special energy on your travels? 

A Very Autumn Outfit, and A PieCake

Today’s the day of my bridal shower. So many of the things that happen for weddings in the States are not a part of it in England, but we are taking the traditions we like and ditching the others. I’m so excited to spend time in Central London, and we’ve incorporated English tradition in having afternoon tea.

I wanted to dress up. The weather is complete crap outside, but my outfit is warm and autumn-ready.

Consignment, E-Mart, Spitalfields Market, and Nordstrom Rack

Consignment, E-Mart, Spitalfields Market, and Nordstrom Rack

I haven’t made a post about clothes in a very long time. This was the last one, I believe. In May. A lot has happened since then. I will marry my sweetheart in 18 days time. I’m a fiancée now. I gained and lost and redistributed my weight. I sleep a lot less these days. Oh yeah, and I’m a Master of Arts.

My job at the bar doesn’t lend itself kindly to being fashionable. I live in my work shirts, cotton tees, and skirts that I don’t care about getting cellar gunk or used ketchup on. I wear the same shoes almost every day, and I’m working on growing my hair out.

A nice silhouette, really

A nice silhouette, really

This is how I wear my hair every single day now. Especially when It’s raining, it’s just the best thing. I can keep it up and let it dry without heat, and once it finally dries ten days later (humidity? what’s that?) I have pretty natural curls. If I ever get to let it down.

I recently (as in about two months ago) got some new cartilage piercings on my left ear. I got them the day after I took the Cicerone’s first level exam, and a week after my MA dissertation was due. They are right near each other, just like those two events. And no, I’m not removing my piercings for my wedding.

I like my outfit a little bit too much.

I like my outfit a little bit too much.

I want to get back into posting daily, about clothes and consignment and travel. There may be a new adventure on the horizon, even beyond the adventure that will be starting a marriage. I’m excited to find new places and my list will just keep growing.

Outfit

  • Turtleneck: Nordstrom Rack, Broomfield, Colorado (2008) 
  • Tights: Nordstrom Rack, Boulder, Colorado (2013) 
  • Skirt: Consignment at Traid in London (2014) 
  • Necklace: Spitalfields Market, London (2013) 
  • Earrings: This Etsy Shop (2012) and various piercings shops around the world including Cold Steel in London 
  • Boots: Consignment at Common Threads, Boulder, Colorado (2011) 

I also made a Pumpkin PieCake today! It’s not a pie, and it’s not a cake. It’s delicious. And it’s pumpkin. Finally. The outside crust is more like a cake, but the inner texture is much more like a pie. I’m thinking of making this again for Thanksgiving.

Recipe at the bottom of the post.

PieCake!

PieCake!

Perfect Slice.

Perfect Slice.

Dat texture

Dat texture

Recipe for Pumpkin PieCake

Ingredients 

  • 1 half a smallish roasted pumpkin (roast on VERY low temperature for about four-five hours) 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or flour + baking soda) 
  • 2 eggs
  • Pumpkin pie spice, or at the very least nutmeg 
  • 3 Tablespoons of whole milk 
  • A dash of water (if needed) 
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil 
  1. Preheat the oven to around 200C (~400F). Scoop the pumpkin out of the skin and mash it well with a fork. You want a near-puree texture. Add the milk and continue stirring until the mixture is mostly smooth. 
  2. Add the sugar and spices. Continue stirring. 
  3. Add the eggs and stir in. Add the oil at this time, too (I forgot and it didn’t really matter, but it’s probably better done here).
  4. Add the flour, making sure that the dough does not become bally or chunky. A smooth batter is what you’re going for. 
  5. Grease a circular sandwich tin or baking pan with olive oil. Pour the batter into the pan and distribute it evenly. 
  6. Make certain you have a ‘catch tray’ in the oven below the cake pan, in case my imprecise recipe causes boil-over. Put the PieCake into the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, or until it is fragrant and toasted on top.