As I start writing this Britain is still a member of the European Union, a member preparing to leave but a member no the less. I am listening to The World Tonight on Radio 4 and feeling quite hollow.
For reasons that I cannot explain I feel the need to stay up and be awake at the moment of leaving. I am here alone save two cats – I am still housing sitting in Uppsala. What does one do to mark something when one is alone? I have celebrated New Year on my own – I raised a glass of whisky, acknowledged friends and family with a nod towards things (the postcards, pictures, a vase and a candlestick about the kitchen) that remind me of them, and toasted an exciting year ahead. Tonight I feel far from home. I do not mean far from Britain – I am not one of those people who moves to another country and continues to speak of the land where I was born as ’home’ – I mean far from my home, my apartment in Enköping where I live and where there are treasured traces of people who are dear to me. Despite having lived here for over eight years my closest friends are stil in the UK (made possible not least by the internet, Skype and WhatsApp).
Perhaps I am feeling anxious. Anxious that as Britain develops in a new direction I might lose that closeness with my friends and family. Of course there are differences between Sweden and Britain but there are far more similarities. On a day to day level my UK friends and I live pretty similar lives at the moment. I wonder if this will continue, or whether increased ’divergence’ will create a rift between us. The more I get used to the employee-focused Swedish environment the less I will be able to grasp the realities of my friends in the creeping (stampeding?) British ’gig economy’. I will continue to be free to travel throughout Europe, trips to exhibitions in Germany, France, Belgium or Spain will be more attractive (for purely economic reasons) than those in Britain – my points of reference will begin to differ from those of my friends.
2 minutes to go. I am listening to the radio more than I am writing – I cannot listen to one thing and write another! Reports of regional celebrations, interviews with civil servants, predictions about what lies ahead.
12:00 Sweden, 11:00 United Kingdom, it’s done.
I am working tomorrow and should go to bed now but cannot quite bring myself to do it yet. Switching-off the computer, putting my teacup in the sink, cleaning my teeth, getting into bed and turning off the light are too concrete an end to a day, to an event, that I do not want to acknowledge. If I stay up, if I never go to sleep again, then I won’t wake up on the day when Britain is no longer European. It’s a childish notion and obviously foolish but it’s how I feel.