Turkeys voting for Christmas

As a British expat, who has resided in Belgium for a little over a year now, the thought that’s taken up residence in the back of my mind for quite a while now is, ‘what will Brexit do?’

‘What will it do to my rights to remain in Europe?’
‘What will it do to my job prospects?’
‘What will it do to my way of life?’

In my heart I’m European, but on my passport I’m British.

Growing up in London, I was exposed to the melting pot of cultures, that makes it such a beautiful, wonderful city. A diverse city of differing but shared ideas of multicultural acceptance, but following the Brexit referendum in 2016, I saw that melting pot image harden. As seeds of hate planted through a campaign trail, born from fabrication and false promises, took root, watered by the demonisation of immigrants and the less fortunate to cover up the consequences of austerity, that had mined our public services, leaving them as husks of their former selves.

In March 2019, I braced myself for the worst, two years of back and forth bickering leading us off a cliff’s edge without a paddle, or so it seemed. However, with each deadline extension, I started to gain new hope. I thought for a moment that perhaps we would stay as part of this union, which is far from perfect, but holds true in its missions and values in the shared interest of peace, defenders of them many not the few.

Although, now, almost nine months later, from that initial leave date, I began my morning abruptly woken by a 4am news alert from my BBC News app. A declaration that hope was lost. A Conservative Party victory, that has now sealed our fate. Led by the demagogue figure of Boris Johnson, who will inevitably lead my home down the path of maximum destruction under the guise of freedom, and taking back control.

You may argue that in the name of democracy, that it is the will of the people and must be respected, and perhaps my thoughts and feelings exist in an echo chamber of like mindedness. If my social media feed is anything to go by, this is definitely true.

Looking out over the grey and rain filled streets of Brussels, I know that I live in and work in a bubble. However, my beginnings on a council owned housing estate in Hackney, have remained with me, as I climbed the ladder of society, now comfortably existing amongst the middle classes, and I fear what is coming.

We’ve all read or seen the news stories of the victims of austerity, thousands of societies most vulnerable being forced into dire situations, as their basic human rights and needs are not met, many cases costing them their lives. The elderly will suffer. The disabled will suffer. The poor will suffer. The NHS will most likely be privatised. All in the name of control and the will of the people, have we forgotten our humanity?

In times like this, where I’m forced into questioning the reasoning of reality, I’m reminded of Book Six, of Plato’s The Republic, where he recalls Socrates conversation with Adeimantus, highlighting the flaws of democracy – drawing comparison between society and a ship and asking if you were heading out out on a journey by sea, would you want anyone or someone educated in how to properly run the vessel – naturally Adeimatus responded in favour of the latter.

As although, kind in concept, the rise in reality star culture has made a mockery of the very word that is democracy, with improper or minimal education available to the voting masses, rational has been lost, as single issue politics takes flight fuelled by populist notions, of us vs them, without a second thought to consequences or repercussions.

As I watched the ticker flicking across the bottom of my television screen, interrupted by phone notifications from shocked friends and family, both in the UK and in my residing country, I watched as historically strong Labour and Liberal Democrat seats swung from red and yellow to blue. Constituencies with strong union pasts, and integrated migrant communities, seemingly voting against their best interests, like turkeys voting for Christmas or slugs for salt, to be ruled under a mandate won by hate and fear. To get Brexit done, whatever the price may be.

10 … 9 … 8 … 7 … Sh*t

In 10 days my home country is set to depart from the European Union. As a British expat living and working in Belgium, this is a period of grave uncertainty for me.

Like most expats, both British and mainland European, living and working within the EU28, I’m still unsure about what the 29th of March will mean for me or them.

Will I be able to stay in my newly found second city? Or will I have to pack my bags on March 29th and bid farewell to the place I’ve called home for the last 6 months? Will the deadline for departure be extended until June, so I can live on borrowed time and in denial for a little longer? Or will we actually leave at all?

In short the will we won’t me of the situation is driving me a bit barmy, I hate the uncertainty. Not just this uncertainty, but all uncertainty. A somewhat ironic notion, as I love spontaneity.

A realisation I made a month ago, during an impromptu visit from a former colleague and friend, where a bottle of red wine on a Friday night resulted in a weekend trip to Amsterdam, the following day, because “Flixbus tickets are only €10!”

Following the 3 hours coach journey, we arrived in the Netherlands and I was washed over with a sense of calm. I often feel this way when I visit different cities and countries, despite the fact I often don’t speak/know the language, I’m usually alone, and my entire life in that moment is dependent on my mobile phone and EU data roaming.

As an anxiety sufferer who has struggled with my identity and finding clarity of thought throughout my life, arriving in an unknown place without understanding should probably feel me with dread, but it doesn’t. I didn’t realise this, until I saw that expected dread in another person.

I began to question why someone with my past life and current experiences, that could make up enough content for at least three series of a tabloid talk shows, was so calm with uprooting myself and placing myself in an unknown place without understanding.

After a day of thought the answer was simple: I inject cultivated chaos into my life which allows control over uncertainty, because I have chosen to place it there, and it is not something that is being done to me without my consent. If my world is going to be uncertain, I want to be the one to make it so. I want to find method in the madness and order in the chaos.

Unfortunately for me, and many people like me this isn’t always possible. Currently my external and internal being is uncertain, and I hate it.

I have a tri-factor of mental illnesses, which I attempt to subdue with a small yellow pill each night, but this doesn’t equate to the certainty that I’m not going to wake up screaming soaked in sweat because I had a flashback, because the chemicals of my subconscious decided to put on a private show of my nightmares and my memories … again.

These flashbacks of course stemming from the memories of uncertain things, which went against my individual autonomy and resulted in such a impactful mental blow it manifested as PTSD.

As someone whose internal being is so often against them, I often look to my external surroundings to find grounding in my life, but in this suspended moment that looks to be impossible.

My country is a shambles heading over a cliff’s edge into uncharted waters without a paddle or even a boat for that matter, and I find myself feeling hopeless and scrambling for something to hold onto in order to protect myself as my world descends further into madness. I don’t know what March 29th will bring, but I hope I can survive it.


If you’re experiencing similar mental health related thoughts or feelings to those expressed in this post, it’s okay to reach out for help. You can find information about what mental health crisis services are available, how they can help and their times of operation here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/useful-contacts/