Hey! It’s me. Laila. The author of this blog. The girl in the photo. The editor and the scribe. The immigrant’s daughter.
The classical musician, indebted to Venice, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Germany and Warsaw. The bassoonist, career forever changed by Paris 1913, and the pianist, who can never thank Poland enough. The vegan, cast out by British, French and Italian cuisine but welcome in Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen. The awkward teenager raised on Portuguese boys, Italian fashion and German rock music.
It’s me, the Mixed Other, a background too large and diverse and wide-ranging for mere checkboxes and countries. I cannot even be contained by a continent; my heritage instead spanning an interwoven web, like railway tracks crisscrossing through fields and mountains. My veins running partially with the blood of Wales, France, Spain, Scotland and Italy. No trace of my DNA comes back to England, but here I am anyway: supposedly safe in a reluctant home where I feel increasingly unwanted and sidelined and afraid and confused.
People talk about the England of old: when Britain was Great. Blighty. The picture is some sort of Bisto-Hovis mash-up of kindly Grandad figures repotting in sheds; a childhood of Just William and Enid Blyton frivolity; The Archers; a decent roast dinner and Antiques Roadshow every Sunday; teenage years spent in stuffy education studying the three R’s and attending balls whilst a stern schoolmaster wafts a cane around. I don’t know who that applies to, but it’s nobody I know or have ever met, and I’ve spent my entire life in this country.
That’s not an England I’ve ever even seen to exist outside of “Last Of The Summer Wine”, a show I’ve never watched, and would never have even known about if it weren’t for those bloody comedy countdown type shows and that one clip of some old men in a bath. As far as I can tell, this picture of England is a fictionalised, embarrassing England that never really existed: the kind of thing that causes you to roll your eyes at and ask your Mum to change the channel. Why are people so nostalgic for something so awkward, inaccurate and irrelevant?
More importantly, who gives a shit? The things I listed above make me cringe. Organised, force-fed religion turned into twinkly TV; dated, racist books; weird men, beloved of society whilst fingering kids; The Sun; lashings of ginger beer; being really preoccupied with the weather; celebration china with the Queen’s face on. Yes it does rain, yes tea is nice, yes pints are really expensive now. Can we please widen our discussions? A lot of the crap people cling to about “Great Britain” is antiquated, erroneous, white-washed, stilted, damaging and quite frankly, boring as hell.
I don’t want a stiff upper lip or crippling manners or awkward politeness or to keep calm and carry on. I want to be alert and empathetic, I want to feel things, I want to be in touch with my emotions. I want to ask for help when I need it. I want to laugh out loud when I’m amused, to cry when I’m sad, to swear if something bad happens and then deal with the problem like a rational, productive adult. Why are people so proud of being able to queue?
My childhood was Moomins and Babar the Elephant. My Sundays were croissants and TinTin, summer holidays to Paris and Tenerife. Yes, there was Dickens and Turner and Elgar, but there was Kafka and Dali and Debussy too. There are many things I love about Britain; Blur, Luella Bartley, pantomimes, Michael Rosen, the underground, Alan Moore’s entire career, Led Zeppelin, Eastenders, Jimmy in Quadrophenia, those weird holiday programmes from the late 90s, Benjamin Zephaniah, The Specials, Philip Ridley, every bassoon solo Elgar shoved in his orchestral works (thanks mate). But these things take their place alongside the rest of my heroes from around the world. My life is not some British vacuum; it’s vast and huge and multi-faceted – like all the best bits of this country are. We need dialogue, and conversations, and pluralities, and diversity.
London is my birthright; my background; my canvas. My cast and crew, and my daily bread. The UK represents my career and education, my modus operandi. I’m indebted to this country and proud of the person I’ve become here. But Europe is my larger home. Europe is my extended family; my adventure; my heritage; my interrailing summer, the rite of passage for all self-respecting teens. I want Europe to be my basic right and my hand to play and my OTP. One day I’ll have kids and I want them to to have a claim to Europe; an emboldened relationship and not a bitter, divorced negotiation. Full visitation rights and a pat on the back, instead of every third weekend with a Visa background check. If my Dad had been turned away at the border thanks to some paperwork, or an invisible barrier, or a giant fucking wall, then he and my Mum would never have been two young medical students falling for each other and I literally wouldn’t exist.
I’ve spent so much time reading the arguments for and against, looking at the stats and looking at the figures and fact-checking, verifying. Separating the quotes into the true’s, the maybe’s and the so-false-BoJo-got-fired-in-’99 (seriously). Leaving is irreversible: all 27 countries have to agree to us returning tail between legs after we’ve ceremoniously fucked off. Why would they?? It’s overwhelming to read about, I get it. I’m tired too. But if I put facts and figures and propaganda and overtly racist bullshit to one side, and if I sit down and just ask myself honestly, how do I feel? – then this is it. This is how I feel and what I think and what I see. I’m in. I’m so in. I’d vote a hundred times in if I could. Remain.
15 thoughts on “To Remain.”
Love it! I am not British, American and watching with great confusion on BBC, especially if ‘Leave’ wins, it’s unsure if all those things the ‘Out’ people want will happen, such as controls on migration and immigration.
Thank you so much for this, Laila. I’m from Germany, currently staying in London for some months and my feelings about Europe largely resemble yours. I feel like the debate mostly focused on the economy and immigration issues and cut out the social and cultural advantages entirely. I guess I owe Europe quite a lot, starting with travelling, continuing with student exchanges and finally resulting in my time here. I’m not allowed to vote today, so all I can do is just sit and watch. I just hope so much that the number of EU members won’t have changed by tomorrow.
I also truly hope Britain remains. It is important for Europe to stand together and get it right. Not by leaving, but by convincing others of what’s good to be done. France sucks too right now, not listening to the people’s voice and will. We need to teach our governments to follow us and we need to stop following them when they are not going the way Europe should go. This is not what our founders wanted; Liberty, freedom of speech and living in peace, in a community where we could rely on each other.
I hope we all find the path again. Soon.
Like you, I have different countries attached to my family, England being one of them. I loved your post, but I am too “shy” to discuss the theme, though I am really interested and curious about the results. They will impact everybody, and me personally a lot, whether it is “in” or “out”!
The ideology of “Nationalism” is a tricky proposition at best. From a financial perspective, the world doesn’t benefit from the existing complexities. That’s all a myth spun from the few, that benefit the most. Freedom isn’t at stake either, considering all the Euro members already have that. It can’t be ethnicity, the diversity already exists. What we’re talking about is dragging a memory of the past into the future, as though it would solve something in present day? I applaud your attitude and thank you for sharing such a delightful perspective with the entire world😎
I feel sorry that I can’t vote but I just hope with all my heart that every result we get just brings the best for everyone.
Your post is amazing and what a way to know you more. In the other hand, I don’t understand why people says to bring the old great Britain back when those are past times and you can’t bring back something you moved forward from and if they don’t like their country… we all make a country so is their own making at the end of the day. (Dunno if I make any sense lol)
Anyway, again I wish I could vote, even that I’m not European, I work for a company that has a branch there and colleagues from Europe, I’m concern about my economic future too.
Nice write up
ENVIUS THOUGHTS in https://nvsr.wordpress.com. Thanks in afvance.
Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes! Reading this after the day we’ve all had is both bittersweet but re-affirming in that sense that my choice to vote Remain will stay with me forever, knowing that I was in such lovely company because everything you said was true. Also, Moomins were my childhood too! <3 – Tasha
I’m presuming you posted this before the vote – what are your thoughts now that the UK has decided to leave?
I’m disgusted, ashamed, shocked and repulsed to be here in England. I’ll put a proper post up soon. X
I know it’s all happened and we somehow decided to throw everything away. but this is so relevant as to why it’s such a shit decision. Your views are the views of countless (well.. counted) young voters who believe so emphatically that we’re better together, globalised and forward thinking, rather than nostalgia-driven for some cringe-worthy casually racist blighty that makes all of us roll our eyes and those with mixed heritage wholly uncomfortable.
I loved the Moomins. I love Debussy’s romanticism and the ability to holiday in beautiful cities with wonderful heritage on the continent. I’m so ashamed to be British at the moment :(
Me too Fii. :( xxx
this is such a good post and i’m now so sad about the results. also feeling like a crap brit/european/person since i didn’t vote.. i just find it difficult organizing to vote when in a different country and tend to vote in the uk when i’m there and in finland when i’m there. i should make mote of an effort, though! xx