Tyskie, Pastries and Siestas: I Had the Most European Day I Could Before We Leave the EU
You can take Britain out of Europe, but you can't take the European out of Britain.
We went to sleep on Thursday night as Europeans and awoke something else. Something new, something scary, something with no tangible leadership now or for the foreseeable future. Over the course of this weekend, things have gone from bad to worse to completely medieval. Not only has Brexit torn the Conservative government in two, but the Labour Party has gone full Atomic Kitten and changed its entire line-up, and it now looks like Scotland might refortify Hadrian's Wall as soon as it gets the chance.
We have no idea what this means for the future of British politics – at this stage, a return to politics for Robert Kilroy Silk doesn't seem off the cards – but it's also hard to see where this leaves us. On Thursday, I was both European and British – at once both an island and a continent, a singular body with invisible tendrils that spread from the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to the azure blues of the Mediterranean Sea. A fistful of sausage and mash in one hand, a single Toblerone in the other. But now, on a bed of broken promises, my Europeanness has been stripped from me.
And so I find myself struck by panic: how long before Europe disappears from our lives completely? Who knows how far this will go? How long before they start shutting down the IKEAs, burning the KALLAX shelves in a pyre under the M32? How long before supermarkets are stripped of Dolmio jars and England is pulled out of the Euros? How long before somebody breaks into my parents' car and snaps their copy of Julio Iglesias' greatest hits clean in two? How long?
I can't wait around to find out. If my time as a European is running out, I have to make the most of it. If they want to take Europe away from me, they'll have to do it by force. I'm still mobile, and for a limited time only, have access to a wealth of continental delights available in the still cosmopolitan city of London. It was time to live my last day as a European.
To begin my final day as a European, I got up really fucking early. Why? Because this is the German way. If Deutschland is known for one thing, beyond techno and war, it's its unbeatable work ethic. Seriously, go to Germany and get up at 6AM, and you'll see the autobahns already brimming over with an eager and dedicated workforce, full of a stoic giddiness at the prospect of another industrious day.
Stepping out onto the Tube platform, the lazy brutes of the British workforce barely evident, I felt distinctly German, distinctly European. Existing in this golden early morning hour – the hour normally reserved for cocaine binges and surprise trips to Disneyland – I was confident of my status. You can't take this away from me, Boris. Even without the EU I'm still going to be here, European in spirit, full of international pride and that horrible sicky headache you get when you wake up at such an unnatural hour.
Having made it to the office and hit that god-level work ethic for a couple of hours, I realised it was time for food. Time to taste the sweet croutons of the continent before they dissolved into the soup of fear for good. Luckily, the flavours of the world were still at my disposal – for now, at least. Farage's cronies hadn't yet boot-stomped everything but Carling and Newcastle Brown in my local corner-shop, so I piled in and treated myself to can of Poland's finest, Tyskie.
Tin in hand, I crossed a couple of borders from Poland, finding myself in the popular French restaurant Pret a Manger. As the flush of pastry and freshly-roasted beans hit my face, I felt a single tear threatening to eke its way out my bloody British ducts. To think: this was goodbye. I rushed up to the counter, slapped a single euro coin down, ordered a pain au chocolat and ran out without looking back.
Taking things al fresco, I headed to a muddy bench, took a seat and drank my Tyskie under the gauze of some light drizzle. The weather might have been mercilessly reminding me I was stranded in Britain, but my heart sang "When in Rome!"
The taste of chocolate and Polish lager mingling in my throat, next on my mind was fashion. Specifically, Italian fashion. To think I'd spent so long not wearing Moschino, not wearing Prada, not wearing Kappa, only for them to be snatched from British shelves by Michael Gove, a man who – let's be frank – wouldn't know a Zanotti loafer if it slapped him across his perfectly pink face.
I made my way to probably reputable high-street retailer Sergio Rossi and feasted my eyes on the best in Italian silk three-pieces, linen sport jackets and Samsonite suitcases. I was struck by how shit we are all going to look now we've decided to renounce Europe. As I pulled the tight blue, slightly shiny, slightly polyester-feeling silk over my shoulders, I felt invincible. Two parts Roberto Cavalli, one part Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen.
Another hugely important gift from Europe we have now lost out on is, of course, sex. Obviously British people can have sex without Europe – we've done it before with loads of people, honest – but it's safe to say there's nothing sexy about sex in Britain. Our sex tends to last about 47 seconds and either happens outside nightclubs, in Vauxhall astras, in darkened bedrooms or somewhere between the Corrie double bill. Not so in Europe. Take Amsterdam: over there it's all sex shops, and dildos, and ping-pong balls, and sex workers who have anti-bacterial gel for afterwards, and windmills, and live rim-jobs, and the most Dutch sex position of all: the Dutch rudder – not to be confused with a Dutch oven, which is farts instead of hand jobs.
Full of continental testosterone I rushed to a sex shop in a last ditch attempt to connect with whatever remained of my inner diepe keel. Breathing in those latex fumes and admiring the girth of all those EU-regulated vibrators, it was as if I could feel my own libido ebbing away. That made me feel a bit weird so I left
I'd spent the whole day mourning Europe alone. Eating, dressing and moping my way around in circles like the starry flag I will miss so much. Then it struck me: I was running out of time, but it wasn't too late to bid a final farewell to my continental comrades. I headed to tourist hotspot and massive clock Big Ben, where I noticed a cluster of bright-eyed young teenagers taking selfies in front of Parliament – no doubt enjoying once last glance at Britain's icons before Border Force turned up and deported them all. Noticing they were speaking French, or possibly German, or possibly Latvian, I headed over to say au revoir.
"Will you miss us," I asked one of them, "now that Britain is leaving the EU?"
He smiled: "I think... it could be good."
"Oh, you're pro-Brexit?"
"Yes, it could be good for your economy."
I hadn't been expecting that. Stuck fast in the liberal nu-media echo chamber of my Twitter timeline and Facebook feed, I'd forgotten that, for some, this wasn't bad news at all. For every broken Remain campaigner there is a 14-year-old French kid who's weirdly psyched we're leaving. Keen not to to let Gove tear us apart, I decided to bring us together the only way I knew how.
"Can we take a selfie?"
"That could be good."
By now I'd worked myself pretty hard, running around the capital. My head was a blur of Tyskies and dildos, and given that I'd started the day a German, I was still recovering from such an early start. At this point I felt blessed to check my Euro-to-do list and read the word "siesta".
If you haven't heard of a siesta before, it's what Spanish people have instead of the Cash in the Attic.
As I lay under a tree, drifting in and out of sleep, my thoughts spun from Romania to Greece, from Austria to Denmark, from clogs to berets to cheap fags. I dreamt of taking Iain Duncan-Smith on an inter-rail holiday to show him everything I'd learnt to love about Europe. Me and Iain cycling around Copenhagen, me and Iain trying on Hublot watches, me and Iain watching Spanglish in an Airbnb in Gdańsk. Maybe I could have changed his mind, if he'd just replied to my emails. On waking, I realised the nightmare was here, and it was ongoing. Keen not to waste any more time, I rushed to my next and final stop.
I left for Jamie's Italian, seeking solace in some proper, pukka traditional Italian food. I wandered in, drew up a stool and ordered a bottle of Italy's finest. The barman was quick to inform me that Stella Artois was in fact from Belgium, but offered a Birra Moretti instead. As I slugged down my final European treat of the day, I reflected on everything we had lost, and in return the world we had created.
I thought about poor old Jamie, who would now presumably be forced to change his restaurant to Jamie's Full English, but then realised: no. That's not true. We can fight this. You can take Britain out of Europe but you can't take the European out of Britain. The battle for Europe will continue now in our hearts, and it is up to us to keep our relationship with our friends on the other side of the Channel open. As I looked around Jamie's and saw city-boys, students and families all tucking into slightly stingy portions of ravioli and overpriced olives, it was clear: much like the fear that typified the campaign to leave, Europe – in many ways – is an idea. And you can't kill an idea.
For if you cut me, my blood runs blue, with little yellow stars in it.
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