Double Vision with Charlie Adley
I’ve only driven a few miles towards my mum’s from Heathrow Airport when a white van cuts up on the inside of my rental car, driving in a lane that doesn’t exist. As he squeezes past me at speed I swerve to the right and toot my horn, scared he might scratch Hertz’s shiny new motor, allowing them to charge me a wad.
In a split second, as if awaiting the chance to show what an angry man he is, his bare arm comes shooting out of the driver’s window, performing a trio of high speed, evidently well-practiced hand gestures.
We start off with the classic English V-sign, followed by a shaking fist, while the Grand Finale is that sarcastic classic, the up and down ringed-wrist motion.
He voted Leave.
I don’t even need to see him to know that, but the traffic lights 100 yards away turn red so we end up level. The same age as me, with less hair and stomach, he’s avoiding eye contact now, but I know him.
Not his name, nor anything personal about him, but I know that both he and I were born at the birth of Brexit.
There’s much that I love and admire about England and the English, yet I choose to live in the West of Ireland, partly because I’m besotted with it, but also because here I’m free from an awful feeling that used to pervade my life.
I was born a mere twelve years after the sun finally set on the British Empire. As a young boy, my atlas at school showed a third of the world as Ours, making it hard not perceive us English as something special; something better.
I grew up with people suffering a national resentment: they’d missed out on being Great; things used to be better; they’d been born too late.
Out of this sense of loss evolved a loathsome latent violence, an aggression lurking just below the surface, whereby one ill-advised word starts an argument, two drinks a fight.
It was this feeling of being robbed of glory that spawned Brexit. The Leave voters who believe they are better off alone come from the same seam of English thought that made me leave England 25 years ago.
To read Charlie’s column in full, please see this week’s Galway City Tribune.