‘Of course, there will be no air quality now,’ said a friend, shaking her head over my support for Brexit.
‘Air quality,’ she said. ‘Or green belt. Or Sites of Special Scientific Interest, preserving the countryside and wildlife… All those really good EU regulations have all gone now.’
‘What on earth are you talking about?’ I started to feel exasperated, inwardly thinking, ‘Uh-oh, here goes another friendship…’
‘All those EU regulations safeguarding everything. All gone. No more air-quality rules. No more SSSIs.’
‘So you’re saying Brexiteers have ruined the air now, are you? That’s where we are up to with the scaremongering? No more air now we’re out of the EU.’
‘Well, I’m just saying…’
We were riding our horses through the woods so this was all going to get very tricky if I objected further. The last time I stormed off while on a hack with a group of girlfriends, after a silly row broke out, I had to turn a reluctant pony round to face away from her pony friends and try to make her canter off.
At first, she wouldn’t turn, as horses, being herd animals, don’t like to leave the group, but once I did get her facing the other way, Gracie surprised me and bolted flat out for home, presumably taking the pragmatic decision to be delighted that her work had been cut short.
I had to cling on for dear life, as shooting off the side and landing flat on my face in the mud would have been the most unwelcome end to an attempt to flounce off as one can possibly imagine.
I managed it, just. And by all accounts, it ended up as one hell of a good flounce, possibly an all-time best, even by my standards.
Mid-Brexit row, therefore, I weighed up where we now were, for flouncing on horseback potential. We hadn’t come very far. I reckoned if I pulled Gracie round now — with a ‘Well! I’m not going to stand for any more of this! Come on, Gracie! We’re going!’ — she would happily settle for a lightning-fast bolt homewards.
My friend, who witnessed the last horse-back flounce, pre-empted me. ‘Alright, alright. Calm down. Let’s just draw a line under it.’
‘Oh my god! The scaremongering!’ I moaned. ‘I’ve had it up to here with it!’
‘Fine. We won’t talk about it,’ said my friend, who is a science teacher and ought to know her stuff when it comes to SSSIs and all that malarkey.‘I’m just saying, they’ll probably build all over the green belt now. And big business will take over the world…’
‘Stop it! I can’t take any more! There’s nothing you can say that will make me regret backing Brexit. Even if you tell me they’re going to build a million houses on every last inch of the green belt, and turn all the air into carbon monoxide, I still want to be able to elect the people who make the laws that govern me!’
‘Fine. We won’t talk about it. Although you could elect them if you bothered, but no one does…’
‘Not the MEPs! They don’t make the laws! The commissioners make the laws and they’re unelected… Oh my god, I’m turning back…’
‘Fine, let’s just not talk about it at all. My son just got a job and he’s bought two new suits…’
I assumed she was going to say, ‘…that were made out of toxic, poisonous wool because all the safety laws have been scrapped so he ended up in A&E…’ but she didn’t.
She really was changing the subject, thank goodness. No more ‘Brexiteers ate my air quality!’
Just in time, because I cannot afford to lose another friend to this referendum. I’m going through them at a rate of knots. Neighbours, fellow dog walkers, lefty friends in the media, they’re all making clear I am no longer their sort of person since I outed myself as a Leave voter.
And for the eagle-eyed among you, that accounts for why the ex-builder boyfriend has become the builder boyfriend again. I thought I would slip that one in last week and hope no one noticed. I removed the ‘ex’ surreptitiously, hoping the transition would be seamless and I wouldn’t have to explain myself. But I’d have to get up earlier in the morning to get anything past you.
All I can say is, this is a time when you need someone unconditionally on your side. Someone to come home to in the evening who will lift your morale with amusing rants about putting posh lefties in their place when they tell him off for flying the Union flag above his builders’ yard.
Someone with whom you can shout at the television. Someone who affirms ‘it will all be fine’ when all around you are wobbling.