Auf wiedersehen, pet

Hasta luego, old friends. Ciao bella, à la prochaine, vidimo se slejedeći put… later, dudes.

Aye, it’s Brexit day, but I wouldn’t go as far as cheerio, cheerio, cheerio. Nonetheless, it’s a momentous date in our history, this dismal last day of January. The day we officially wave off our European compañeros for a life on our ownio.  Today’s leaden, stormy Scottish skies seem apt for a nation largely filled with gloom at being cast adrift on a wave of Brexiteering Britishness. For those of us determined to keep the cross-Channel relationship alive, the ballot boxes have dealt us a bloody hard blow.

How sad it’s come to this. How sad that we couldn’t find a way to ‘fess up about the things we found troubling about the great European adventure and get them sorted without resorting to such a messy divorce. Sadder still that so many people felt they couldn’t even be heard. Bizarre that in these times of emotional oversharing, we failed to get to the heart of what was really bothering so many of our kin. Perhaps if people on these very shores had felt more able to voice their fears and anxieties without being shouted down by moral high-grounders we could have avoided this pretty pass. But no, nein, non, net, não, naw – we love the sound of our own strident voices, but we just don’t listen and learn.

Listening can be uncomfortable stuff. It can mean hearing things that upset your equilibrium or your own moral code. It can cause deep offence. It can be heart-wrenching, blood-boiling, eye-rolling or jaw-dropping, but without listening there’s no understanding. And for me, that’s the rub. Understanding is everything. Taking time to find out what people really think and feel (and why) offers scope for discussion and change. Sound, fury and sticking fingers in ears has cost us dear. Alors, écoute moi, mon amis…

Despite the late Brexit hour, and the inevitability of a bumpy ride for GB over the coming months and years, it’s never too late to start listening. That said, it’s a surprisingly difficult skill to get the hang of, and I should know, I’m just as guilty of yada-yada-yada as the next self-important Scot. But I’m determined to keep schtum and open my lugs, even if I don’t always like what I hear.

Meantime, I continue to give thanks for all that Europe has offered. There’s fish, chips, pizza, paella and Italian ice-cream. We’ve looked on in awe at total football, Vincent Van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Rafa Nadal and Nadia Comaneci. We’ve swooned over Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. What about those mountains and beaches, leaning towers and lofty cathedrals? Don’t forget Beethoven, Kraftwerk, Edith Piaf and even Plastic Bertrand. Architecture, fashion, cinema, vintage Citroën and a certain je ne sais quoi, Europe’s certainly got style. What’s more, it’s all on our doorstep, and that’s where it will stay.

We might be estranged from the European Union itself, but we’re still family with our continental cousins. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s not goodnight Vienna, it’s hasta la vista, baby.