Against all odds, I almost got through an entire Brexit dinner with dignity, and without opening the valve in my head which allows hot steam to escape. Almost.
Our little Leave Means Leave campaign soiree at a restaurant in Birmingham was going swimmingly until a TV journalist drew up a chair and within seconds started berating one of the guests, a government minister, for not giving a cast iron assurance now that every foreigner living in Britain can stay once we leave the EU.
‘Oh go on! Can’t you just let everyone stay?’ he pleaded with the minister, who was trying to eat his sea bass. ‘I mean, these are real people, you know, real families.’ Naturally, as stupid Leave campaigners, we had all thought they were pretend families.
‘I’m afraid we really couldn’t just say that,’ said the minister, poking his seas bass with his fork.
‘Aw, go on!’ said the TV hack. ‘It would be such a nice gesture. Go on! Go on! Go on? Go on! Go on!’ And on it went, until I thought the minister would shake his head like Father Ted and say: ‘Really Mrs Doyle, I must insist. I don’t want a cup of tea.’
But he said: ‘The problem is, if we say all foreigners can stay, what happens if France says it’s sending back Joe Bloggs and his family from Provence, or Spain chucks out all the pensioners in the Costa Del Sol?’
‘But it’s just so unfair! A lot of them are professionals. They’ve made their life here!’ said the TV chap, looking as though he might burst into tears on behalf of French bankers with children at the Kensington Lycee.
I felt a deep sense of shame as I listened to him. I realised that I was not a nice, open minded, generous person but an embittered old cynic who wants to shut all the doors and batter large pieces of crooked wood over the windows, even if that keeps out tens of thousands of perfectly delightful people with children called Amelie and Laurent. Still, I felt the need to argue.
‘Can I ask you something?’ I said. He smiled. ‘Of course!’ I leaned in: ‘Where can I go?’
‘Where can I go, for a better life?’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’
‘I’m sick of languishing in Britain, being persecuted by the left.’
What I didn’t say, in order not to hamper the digestion of red wine jus, is that I’m sick of being lectured about carrying a plastic bag by people with three defunct solar panels on their roof; I’m sick of being berated for owning a diesel 4×4 by drivers of Volkswagens with silk daffodils on the dashboard; and I’m sick of not being able to shoot my dinner without being described as ‘ignorant’ or a ‘toff’ by bloated lefties who gorge themselves daily on the over processed flesh of animals killed badly by someone they are delighted not to know anything about.
‘So I want to migrate. What are my options? What country can I go to?’
He laughed, for quite a long time, and then he realised I was serious, and said: ‘Well, you can go anywhere in Europe. You could go to, I don’t know, Hungary.’
‘You’re not listening. I want a better life. Better than I have now.’
‘Well then, why not go to Paris! I lived in Paris once. It was lovely!’
‘I’ve lived in France too. It was lovely, you’re right. Problem is, it’s a clever game I want to play. I’m what you would call an economic migrant. I want to take my assets and skills from here to somewhere else, to convert them into more. And I want to live somewhere I can look out of my window and see vast plains, across which I can gallop my horses.’
Silence. ‘I’ll tell you where I want to go. I want to go to Montana, or Idaho, or the Dakotas, or possibly even Alaska. If not the States, then I want to go to Margaret River in Australia or somewhere boondocksy in New Zealand, or Canada. All those remote places would fit my outdoor lifestyle and offer me a better quality of existence than I have here. My pathetic finances would go further, I’d be happier. Freer. More able to be the person I wish to be. I’d be among kindred spirits who share my values. I’d be able to shoot a wolf before it killed me without Rod Liddle throwing himself in front of it waving a “Lycanthropists for Corbyn!” banner.’
‘But here’s the problem. I can’t go there, can I? Because I can’t get in. Because they have something called borders.’
He nodded, philosophically. ‘That’s true. Maybe if you asked…’
‘Yes, maybe I will write to Donald Trump and ask.’