I looked at my phone in disbelief, looked at it again, decided that 6am was too early to contemplate what Great Britain had just done. It’s a dream right? It wasn’t. It isn’t. Life goes on. Those strange bedfellows Farage, Boris and Gove can’t stop me riding my bike (yet…). So I rode from London to Brighton with the Bicycle Moaning Collective and let the pedal strokes and banter with my mates order my thoughts.
I started angry. Navigating London rush hour traffic was tiresome, difficult, dangerous. Like life from now on. It wasn’t fair. London had voted overwhelmingly (60:40) to stay in the EU and as the paymaster of the UK is going to have work even harder to subsidise a people so out of step with its collective belief. The Young voted overwhelmingly to stay (70:30) and it’s their future that’s been hijacked. That made me angry. And sad.
Clapham Common to Tooting Bec by bike was jaw grindingly slow. Much gnashing of teeth. As my anger simmered on Cycle Super Highway 7 I thought of the heavily EU subsidised areas of the UK that had just shot themselves in the foot, cut their noses off to spite their faces and because…because? I couldn’t answer the question because it just didn’t make sense. It could only be that they had brought into the negative, small minded, intolerant, scaremongering dangerously preached by the Out campaign. A negative nasty message had won out. That doesn’t make a positive message in anyone’s language.
The going wasn’t getting any better, Brighton ever distant, we’d not even dissected the M25 in 2 hours. I was becoming disillusioned. My suspicion is that the Outers had taken a leaf out George W Bush’s Iraq War approach to planning: Shock & Awe and wing-it. Then helpless, not in control of my destiny, feeling cheated by democracy. Yes, I had a vote, I’d used it, expressed it and lost. Like democracy the blue tarmac was letting me down, falsely promising a smooth ride but interrupted, cut up and blocked by buses, pedestrians, traffic lights.
The roads opened up, the traffic was getting faster as we got closer to the edge of town, we were on dual carriageway, with roundabouts to navigate and fast moving traffic coming at us from right to left. It was scary. I’m scared that we history is repeating itself, are we in the 1930s again? Where acceptance and of racial scaremongering and intolerance was capable of gripping hold of a nation and causing mass evil. We hadn’t just turned the clock back that far, had we?
When you reach How Lane, a climb that says goodbye and shakes the City out of your legs and High Road descent that ducks under the M25 and the ride is on, the country side lit by a setting sun beckons. Why the long face? Maybe today was our era’s defining political back lash, the people striking out at the establishment and giving them a bloody nose that they hadn’t anticipated, that just might’ve knocked the political class of their pedestal and now what next? Had Out foreseen Scotland voting overwhelming to remain in the EU and now threatening to leave the United Kingdom? Was their vision of Out really England alone? The UK now looks like a fragile House of Cards.
Politics in freefall, like me on my bike on Coopers Hill. Feeling like a kid again at 60kmph. Youth had lost out today – but maybe this is the catalysts for mobilisation and engagement of the young and open minded. They won’t make the same mistake again of not making the effort to get to the polling station if they don’t want their parents’ to f#ck them up again.
As the minutes ticked by, the headwind had still not given up, I was tiring, yearning for the end. There wasn’t much talk in the peloton. The ‘enraged of London’ chat had subsided. Our own journeys were all that mattered now. With the freedom of a post-work Friday night ride in a setting sun, lighting up the South Downs in a golden glow. I didn’t feel so angry, frustrated, worried.
Maybe it’s about time we backed away from the World stage, for too long we’ve hung on to our imperialistic past (viewed through rose-tinted glasses), harboured ideas above our station and believed our own hype that we’re a ‘special’ nation deserving of a place at the table of the Global Elite. James Bond isn’t reality. As former partners laugh at our impotence and we can no longer afford to take on the self-appointed role of policeman to the World, life might be simpler, safer.
It could be exciting. The last global disruption to our lives was the Financial Crisis in 2008, at the time that seemed cataclysmic but largely due to the Central Banks creating benign economies through interventionist monetary policy resulting in a low interest rate environment. Even the bitter pill of austerity has been easier to swallow as we’ve all been able to keep paying our mortgages. Crisis what crisis? Move on nothing to see. But this time who knows what is going to happen?
Who knows? Who cares? I’m too busy struggling up Ditchling Beacon, no record time tonight. It’s taking everything just got to get to the top and then enjoy the long fast descent down into Brighton. Enjoy myself. Besides we can just leave it to the politicians that created the mess to sort it out. We’ve not left yet. There’s a lot of stuff that has to happen for it to happen. Our soon to be former EU partners might yet muck things up by following the UK with their own referendum and precipitating the collapse or re-design of the EU project
Ultimately I arrived in Brighton convinced that the journey has actually just begun and that no one knows where it will end. I suspect that the architects of Out may not get the result that they imagined or desired. Their promise of short term pain for long term gain may actually translate into short term political instability leading to a transfer of political momentum to a younger, more flexible, more global, more tolerant, more engaged electorate thus turning full cycle, negativity to positivity. I’m In.
Footnote: On the rider tonight – a few Brits, some Aussie’s, Irish of course, Namibians, 1 Slovak and a Greek. I hope that doesn’t stop.