We fled Balham after the result, having been outed as the only Leave voters in Lambeth. The builder boyfriend and I packed our possessions into the Volvo and headed for the safety of a friends’ house in Hampshire.
‘Come on, quick, leave the bloody third pair of wellies, just bring the essentials,’ said the BB as he lifted the spaniel into the boot.
We took bedding and towels and baskets of tinned goods in case we decided it was too risky to return, and that the only option was to keep fleeing. Maybe we would just keep driving until we found a cottage for sale. We might put in an offer and camp until the sale went through, and I would take whatever I could get for the flat and sod the loss of equity.
Clearly, we could not stay a moment longer in the People’s Republic of South London, which is about to declare itself a European satellite state.
In Lambeth, where the tofu-munching, solar panel-toting, blueberry and quinoa smoothie-slurping liberal intelligentsia classes delivered an 80 per cent Remain vote, we were truly out on a limb. As far as we could ascertain, the entire Leave vote was us and a little old lady in a house two streets down who stuck a Leave sign in front of her net curtains. And she turned out to have way more balls than me.
The builder boyfriend sellotaped a Leave poster in my front window early in the campaign but after a few weeks I had to take it down. Every other day he would put it back up and I would take it back down again.
It must have pleased the tofu-munchers no end, and given them all sorts of opportunities to congratulate themselves on shaming me into submission with their sea of ‘I’m In’ signs.
In truth, I kept taking it down because of an encounter in my local park with three fellow dog walkers who told me I had been rumbled on Twitter by ‘local people’ who had noticed there was a dissenter in their midst.
‘I tried to stick up for you,’ said one of the women. ‘They were complaining about that piece you wrote making fun of the trendy café serving locally foraged food. They were saying you had form.’
‘Form?’ I said. ‘Form for what?’ Form for saying when coffee tastes like ditchwater? Form for saying when service is unspeakably rude? Form for saying there is a mad, trendy tendency in London that lives in a bubble so insulated they will not admit they are eating and drinking heated up lies in a café that cannot possibly be serving locally foraged produce because it is in Balham? Form for saying the emperor has no clothes?’
‘They said you lied in those dog poisoner pieces, you know, when you said that people were putting poison down to kill the foxes and it was killing dogs. Funny thing is my vet told me you were right about that. Four dogs are dead but the authorities won’t admit it. I tried to explain, but the people on Twitter wouldn’t listen.’
Then one of the other ladies, apparently unmoved by her friend’s revelations about my general reliability in detecting conspiracies and cover-ups, interrupted to tell me in no uncertain terms that unless I desisted with my mad scheme to vote Leave I would be clearly identified as part of an axis of evil consisting of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Isis. ‘We are on the side of the good people,’ she said. ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Green party and all the big business leaders.’ ‘Well, I must get on,’ I said, letting the dog pull me away.
There was no point arguing. And for that reason I decided to pull the Leave poster down when I got back home. When people tell you to side with the Green party and the CBI or be considered an outcast you know you are beyond rational debate.
The night before the result, the builder b went to the supermarket and found the place full of jubilant ‘good people’ with In badges buying up vast quantities of beer and wine and party food for the impending celebrations.
After the result, however, a terrible silence descended on the neighbourhood. The BB whooped for joy. I shushed him. We cowered in the flat, trying to watch the news without reacting too noisily. Then the silence became unbearable and we headed for Hampshire, buoyed up as we drove by the increasing number of Leave posters that lined our route out of the metropolis, and with no better plan than to aimlessly house-hunt. It is no more meandering than any other post-Brexit strategy.