Remainers don’t like borders, I get that. But I had always assumed this was a preference confined to geopolitics. I had assumed that when these people got home they barricaded themselves in their houses and let no one over the threshold they didn’t completely trust like the rest of us.
But perhaps they are not such hypocrites after all. For as the builder boyfriend found out when he was on a job the other day, it seems the eccentric dislike of borders permeates some people’s everyday lives.
‘Please leave the gap in the fence,’ was the instruction given to him by a well-to-do Londoner who had secured his services to put a new fence in her garden.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I don’t understand. I’ve got one more panel to put in.’
‘No, no, you mustn’t put the last panel in because Angelo and Leilani like to go through into next door’s garden and play on the tree swing.’
The builder b’s amusement can only be imagined, but he is tactful when dealing with clients. ‘I see,’ he said, ‘but is it not the case that the neighbour whose children they have been playing with is moving out at the end of the month as the house has been sold?’
‘Ye’es,’ said the lady, opening a kitchen cupboard and showing him a selection of around 25 different herbal teas from which he was to make his choice. ‘Do you have any instant coffee?’ he asked, and she looked blank: ‘Instant?’ ‘You know, freeze-dried, in a jar?’ Whereupon she had to go out to the shop to buy this strange item beloved by Brexit-voting oiks and the conversation resumed when she returned.
‘So,’ he said, ‘with your nice neighbour — and what a nice chap he is, by the way, I was talking to him over the fence — with him leaving and the house being sold, I’m just confused as to whether you would want the gap left in because, well, the new people could be anybody.’
‘Oh, I’m sure they will be very nice,’ said the lady, as if no other option was at all feasible. What a relaxing way to be, I suppose. And how laudable, to expect the best of humanity. But as she busied herself trying to make a cup of instant coffee, reading the instructions on the jar, the BB thought he’d better persist with trying to warn her.
‘They might have a dog,’ he advised.
‘Oh, I shouldn’t think they’ll have a dog,’ she said, applying the same logic to this conundrum as she had to the matter of whether the new neighbours would be nice, by which I mean she confidently assumed that if she didn’t want a dog next door, then there obviously wouldn’t be one.
‘They might not have children,’ said the BB.
‘Oh, I’m sure they will have children,’ she said, stirring the black liquid with a screwed- up nose and laughing a little at the BB’s quaintness.
Finally, he said: ‘Well, have you considered that, er, these new people who are moving in, they, er, might not want… your children in their garden?’
This made her stop stirring, and she dropped the spoon better to concentrate, as if it were a matter of some peculiarity she now pondered. But after a few seconds she confidently declared: ‘Of course they’ll want them there!’
It was no good arguing with her. You see, in this lady’s mind, freedom of movement for her children to use the tree swing next door was non-negotiable. The idea of a soft border, or indeed no border, was something she saw as entirely positive and therefore she could not conceive of anyone else having a differing view.
Because she wanted the gap, she naturally assumed everyone else would want the gap. They don’t mind the gap, these big-hearted, broad-minded Remainers. That’s their problem.
‘If I were moving in there, and I found her kids in my garden, I’d cut the damn tree swing off the tree and throw it into her garden for her to hang on her own tree and then I’d hammer a ruddy great fence panel in on my side to keep them out,’ I told the BB that night over dinner, and he nodded.
He loves a good border. He couldn’t wait to make the fences stronger in our garden. He takes huge delight in strengthening boundaries at every available opportunity. His horses’ field looks like Fort Knox. He put game cameras in the trees. Every now and then, depending on how paranoid he feels about the state of mankind, he sticks a handwritten sign on the gate warning trespassers to keep out. It makes him look like a deranged hillbilly.
Sometimes, I feel as if that deranged hillbilly is the only thing between me and all the gaps.