More than 20 years ago, I left my fast life in London for a rather more relaxed one in Brighton and Hove. I never dreamt I could enjoy it more till all the business with the trains started up a few years back. The chaos at Southern Railway — which has seen commuters lose their livelihoods and property prices all along the London–Brighton line plunge, and culminated last summer in the resignation of the rail minister Claire Perry — has effectively put an end to the one thing I disliked about my seaside city. Namely, that it’s too close to That London. I never minded mates coming down to visit — all the better for showing off my beloved playground. The trouble came when they expected one to reciprocate. I tried pleading agoraphobia for a while, but then I was reported in the press as going all the way to Ibiza for a gay wedding, so that was out. Now, however, I merely have to say ‘I’d love to come to your first night/recital/private view — but, my dear, the trains!’ and no one presses you further. Of course, I wouldn’t have wished all this bother on anyone — but as it’s happening anyway, I might as well make the best of it. And I now have the perfect excuse to leave Sussex only via Gatwick, en route to Tel Aviv – which takes around the same amount of time as it can to get to London these days.
Everyone in London seems to be fuming all the time — although, to be fair, fuming has become the default setting of our time. Historically, it’s the sexually repressed, swivel-eyed Daily Mail reader who fumes hardest, but ever since last June 23, when the glorious chaotic dawn of Brexit was revealed, liberals have been fuming up a storm with all the parasexual frustration of fat-fingered One Direction fans tweeting hatred about the paternity of Cheryl’s baby. Tempering, tantruming and thweatening to thwceam till they’re sick, it’s hard not to feel that what’s making them the most angry isn’t the alleged racism of Brexiteers or the alleged financial ruin waiting just around the corner. No, the reason the Remnants hate us so much is because after lifetimes of flattering themselves that they’re progressive, adventurous and daring, they now stand revealed as a veritable mothers’ meeting of doom-mongering, curtain-twitching, tut-tutting stick-in-the-muds. The pathetic petulance which has come from the Remnants in the face of our victory stems from the fact that many of those who prided themselves on being rebels were, actually, just a differently styled part of the status quo-embracing establishment all along. And it is for robbing them of their illusions about themselves that we Brexiteers will not
I’m especially enjoying the havoc which Brexit has wrought on families and friends. Isn’t disagreeing with people, and forming new alliances, one of the most enjoyable parts of the big scary ride we call life? If you want to avoid conflict, go and live in a cupboard. A charming lady braves the rail chaos to lunch with me; not only pretty and clever, she has been thrown out of her north London book group for liking on Facebook a pro-Brexit Spectator piece by me! I gaze at her with something like adoration. She thinks it would make a brilliant play. Am I interested in co-writing? ‘Waiter, the champagne menu, please!’
When I’m not plotting my comeback and decimating book groups, I work at a MIND shop and I must say it’s about the best fun you can have without getting paid. Our donations run from bandbox-fresh designer gear to offerings so rank they have to be handled using surgical gloves. But the best ever, and one which I only have to think about to howl with glee, was the donation of a tooth in an envelope. The envelope had ‘Tooth’ written neatly on it. Those inverted commas get me every time.
Do you see yourself as a tragic figure or a comic one? To paraphrase Clemenceau, ‘Not to see oneself as a tragedy at 20 is proof of want of heart — not to see oneself as a comedy at 50 is proof of want of head.’ I’m 57 now, and I realised that I was a fully fledged joke one day in 2008, after my best friend’s mother’s funeral, when I got really drunk and ended up vomiting in broad daylight in the grounds of Brighton Pavilion while a Montessori group of organically grown kiddies were shepherded away from me by their disgusted teachers. As I lay flat out on the grass, the Pavilion danced a mad mazurka and my friend wiped the vomit from my funereal finery. ‘But I’m meant to be looking after you!’ I cried, before vomiting again. That day was when I first got an inkling that far from being a tragic figure — something a lot of us fall hard for in our teenage years — I was actually a comic one. I am a joke! As are a lot of people — especially those who think that they’re tragic figures. Accept this and you’ll be halfway to happiness.