I once had the honour of working with the British actor and satirist Peter Cook.
I was an advertising copywriter in London then and I was recording a radio spot for Network SouthEast, a part of the then still publicly owned British Rail.
Client and actor were, as it was to turn out, both coming to the end of the line.
And taking a coffee and chain smoking that morning together in Soho our conversation turned from the specifics of script and direction to a more general discussion of the many merits of radio as an advertising medium.
And from the practical to the surreal: “Do you think that it would be possible” he asked “to record a dog food advert in a frequency that only dogs could hear?”
It would be another twenty years, of course, before the expression ‘dog whistle politics’ would enter popular use but then the man who once famously described himself as ‘born to be on holiday’ was certainly nothing if not visionary.
Last night watching Guardian Live, another brave and useful step into online video content from the often derided newspaper group by the way, our conversation came back to me. The brexit campaign has been as Gary Younge put it: “like watching a dog running after a car”.
You know that even in the unlikely event of the dog ever catching the car its victory is pointless. Dogs can’t drive.
We are told, in the popular phrase of the moment, ‘we are where we are’ but in truth i’ve yet to hear anyone describe to me even vaguely where that is in reference to anywhere I know. Let alone to show me a map or an app with a pin on it.
There seems little doubt that we’re at the start of something not at the end of it. And that brexit will stand as the inciting incident of a chain of unpredictable events that will shape the rest of my life. And a significant part of the lives of my children.
We are at the moment that the bullet was fired in Sarajevo in 1914 perhaps. Or the day that the Berlin Wall came down maybe.The end of the gold standard? The Suez crisis? Who knows. All of them and none of them too most likely.
On Friday Britain woke to the cold hard truth that not only did their leaders now have no plan but that they never had one. The Vote Leave press conference that morning had all the celebratory air of a hostage video.
Boris eulogised the man he fought to succeed but never dreamed he could topple.
A Prime Minister who only an hour or so earlier, it is said, had rhetorically demanded of his aides: “Why should I have to do all the hard shit?”
David Cameron, statesman to the last.
If anything Gove looked even more terrified. ‘What’s done cannot be undone’ right enough but Lady MacBeth never mentioned this over the Bran Flakes.
Britain woke also to the dawning realisation that brexit is not the silver bullet that those who voted for it had hoped. And indeed were promised.
By Sunday the extra 350 million sterling that could now be spent every week on the country’s National Heath Service had vanished. It had been ‘a mistake’ apparently.
A mistake now also vanished from the Vote Leave website leaving only a message of thanks in its place. They might as well have posted: ‘So Long Suckers’.
Nor is it likely that immigration will fall in the immediate future. If at all.
Yesterday’s EU summit underlined once more that Britain’s future access to the European single market will be conditional on it accepting continuing freedom of movement for European citizens.
And that any possible trade deal outside of European Economic Area membership will not be negotiated until after the conclusion of the Article 50 separation.
“Hard shit” indeed. But someone will have to do it.Though even as I write news breaks that it will not be Boris. And I find that it gives me mixed feelings.
There’s a part of me that would pay hard earned euros to see the man who was fired from his job as European Correspondent of The Times for fabricating his reports on the European Commission ride into battle with the subjects of his lies.
You really couldn’t make it up.
Unless that is you’re the sort of man, and it is invariably a man, who, and pardon me for repeating this again so soon, has always assumed that his birthright of class trumps everyone else’s efforts, abilities or merits.
In a country whose social and political structures totter shakily on little else.
In the end, of course, Britain will have to learn to live with Europe and vice versa.
It’s said that the French could live with a compromise on freedom of movement, for example, in exchange for the end of ‘passports’ for the City of London’s banks.
Or that the Germans might swallow a similar sort of deal the other way around so Britain can keep the City intact but only if it accepts freedom of movement.
Whatever happens Britain will be a poorer place for it. And not just economically. As its more lumpen yeomen lose the last of their inhibitions to threaten Polish children and intimidate native Muslims. Well they’ve not got the football to enjoy.
And then there’s the Scots. At least Good Queen Nicola moved swiftly to reassure “those EU citizens who have done us the honour of making Scotland their home” that they would “continue to be welcome.” Little wonder Martin Schulz is said to be a fan.
We like migrants you see. We’re migrants ourselves. And, like Germany, we could be doing with some more people. Wherever they come from. Whatever god they worship. And whatever the colour of their skin.
And the Irelands.
And the very real possibility that history might yet record the man I’ve described before as ‘the last Prime Minister of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ as the man who both united the Irish and freed the Scots.
But we’ll come back to that another day. I promise. For now if you’re feeling the need to whistle to keep your spirits up there’s really only one tune that’ll do:
Don’t you love farce? My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want Sorry, my dear
But where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns