Float Like A Wiener, Sting Like A Scorpion

With uncharacteristic buoyancy, the third week of May in the number one city began began with uncharacteristic buoyancy.

First up, the Kinder returned to fulltime education with explicit instructions to spend the next two weeks attending school, four weeks watching films and making pointless school trips, followed by two months of summer holiday.

Then we had the ongoing saga of the weather. This year there has been no May – the month – and instead, just to please the population of rogue snails out back, we are having two Aprils: rain, wind, some sunshine, a couple of days of bonkers temperatures, followed by more cold weather sent from the UK in retaliation for the Northern Ireland Protocol. This has resulted in much reported complaining about headaches, nausea and dizziness, and the weather hasn’t helped either.

And if this wasn’t enough thrills, we also have had the reopening of restaurant and pubs after a six-month hiatus, much to the relief of cash & carry supremo, Metro, craft beer sellers and the future existence of schnitzel. Right of entry to a place to eat or drink will require an official negative Covid test or proof of vaccination, although in reprisal to the recent treatment of some EU citizens in the future Indian sub-continent state of Great British England, any UK citizens in Vienna will also have to prove:

  1. – The ability to correctly pronounce “G’spritzer”.
  2. – The ability to order another beer simply by raising one’s index finger.
  3. – The ability to shout “Zahlen!” (the bill) across a crowded room without a crushing sense of self-consciousness whilst at the same time resisting the temptation to use the word, please.

Ah, Brexit, the Gift (I take the German word meaning poison) that keeps on giving. Before the arrival in March of my snappily titled Artikel 50 EUV card (my ten year visa), delivered by a specially commissioned Fiaker pulled by four Lipizzaner, I had already much decided that it was time to intellectually furlough any resistance. Although, I hadn’t been an active campaigner in any sense in the ensuing discussion about future rights, like the vast majority of UK citizens in continental Europe, I have nonetheless expended my own personal version of uncertainty and angst. Yes I am still sad (I try not to get angry any more) about Britain’s withdrawal, yes I am still vexed about the need to suddenly immerse myself in a system which was for twenty years as relevant as an Argos catalogue (I am talking about the immigration office), and yes when I find out which members of my immediate family voted for Brexit, I will seek to expunge myself from the family tree and rewrite my testament.

But as with any bereavement, death or a shift in the geo-political landscape which attacks the very core of identity and inclusivity, sooner or later comes acceptance (a bit). Aside from draping myself in the flag of St George and arriving in London on horseback (think of it like a reverse crusade) I cannot change the decision and, in any case, the debate, we are told, has moved on. Britain has left the EU, a trade deal – if you can call it that – has been negotiated, although it looks about as wobbly as the political future of Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, and the people of Britain continue to believe the duplicity of a prime minster who apparently resembles a “binbag full of custard” when having sex (thank you, ex-paramour, Jennifer Arcuri).

However, the problem with Brexit, certainly from where I am sitting just north of the Balkans, is that it is one of those situations where a simple submission to the inevitable just does not feel like a fitting denouement. Trying to win the argument about in or out now seems pointless and I would not, for the foreseeable, disagree. But Brexit continues to be a psychological schism, a vexation requiring a response, rather than simple resignation. And, as in other areas of life, I sometimes find it irresistible to establish just how far people really want to experiment with such “provocation”.

How to explain? Well, generally, my mantra is “bother no one” (reciprocation is expected, however, which makes me such a bundle of happiness to live with). Indeed, I am not spiteful or vindictive by nature and only make an exemption for the odious collection of hominids residing next door. But poke me with a stick just once too often (I am a scorpion by birth so blame astrology) then my arachnid instincts will no longer be able to contain the venom in my segmented metaphorical stinger. Indeed, my natal chart confirms this: “You seldom get angry but when you do, you are furious and unforgiving”. (If only there was a big thumb emoji which hadn’t been sullied by a previous resident of Downing Street to show agreement with this last sentence.)

For example, when out and about in my car, I consider myself a mostly benign presence. I don’t speed, I don’t drive aggressively, and I certainly don’t give shit to other motorists. But if you drive a few centimeters from my bumper, expecting me to speed up or move out of your way, then you better have the reflexes of Lewis Hamilton and be wearing a seatbelt because we are going to find out how quickly you can hit your brakes.

Or how about those people who like to use your smartphone on public transport as if they are the last US Marine out of Vietnam before the fall of Saigon? Spitting vociferously into their tiny televisions on a video call as if the zips have just overrun the perimeter? Look, it’s okay. Really okay. But if you want some noise, then let’s have some noise:

“Bravo 6, this is Bravo 6, be advised we have a shouter in the wire down here, I repeat, a shouter on the 16A heading to Alaudagasse! For the record, it’s my call, dump everything you got, I’ll say again, expend all remaining and fry this NVA* muthafucker!”

And, consequently, it is pretty much the same way as I feel about Brexit. Pushed into a situation I never wanted but now relishing to see how much those Brexiteers really want it. Exceptional global Britain? Well, come on then, let’s find out how exceptional. But more importantly, it got me thinking about the “once in a generation” narrative which always seems to surround referendums about national identity. In other words, how long did it take for the losing side to accept the decision by the British people in 1975 to remain in the EEC? The short answer is longer than you might think and not by the people you would first imagine. But to get there we need to dive into the history books and set the scene for part 2. Until then I have a date with destiny: sadly, no vaccines yet for Brexit deniers so it’s a Covid test at my local chemist and then, after 202 days, a proper pint of Helles!

*Noisy Viennese Arschloch

© 2021 RJ Barratt