Yesterday promised and then delivered bright warm sunshine and I awoke facing nothing more than an in-tray full of correspondence, perhaps a phone-call or two to make and then maybe a trip to the health club at some point in the late afternoon.
Then two telephone calls caused things to change.
The first was from my pal Peter, who makes a point of taking daily exercise for the standard reasons you might expect at his age – maintaining his health and keeping his weight under control having entered his seventh decade. He announced that he was planning to walk over to my manor, was I up to anything and – if not – he might pop in and maybe we could go for a pub lunch?
Responding to his question as indicated in my first paragraph above, I went about my business until he arrived shortly after 12.30pm. He was on typical form – ebullient, enthusiastic, sociable and caring, the kind of guy you’d imagine would be completely inoffensive and universally popular.
However, I remember being a little taken aback about three decades ago when having lunch with a mutual acquaintance who’d known him since boyhood and (hitherto I had thought) was one of his closest friends. Peter’s name came up in conversation, I made some passing remark about their strong friendship and was shocked when a response came back with less than a clear endorsement and more an “Up to a point, Lord Copper” (reference Mr Salter, the foreign news editor in Eveleyn Waugh’s novel Scoop) one:
“Crickey no, I cannot stand his relentless God-squadding and positivity …”
Anyway, although yesterday was essentially about ‘catching-up’, it gradually became apparent to me that Peter, who has a reputation as a lay-counsellor to anyone who has an illness or bereavement problem, had a need of his own to ‘unload’ about the death of a long-time work colleague last week. I found myself in listening mode as he talked of their friendship and the strangeness over the weekend of buying produce in a supermarket for an upcoming dinner party to which the deceased and his wife had been invited … and then suddenly realising that they wouldn’t be attending (well, at least he wouldn’t).
I’d never previously regarded Peter as being remotely political, either in a Party politics sense, or indeed at all – well, save that he and his wife give generously to religious and poverty charities. However, he was resolutely in favour of Brexit, from the ‘sovereignty, security and aversion to the unelected and unaccountable EU secretariat’ angle.
Taking this on board, and adding Peter to the list of declared Remainers and Brexit-ers I know, it seems to me that the EU Referendum is going to become a very interesting event indeed, not least because it presents a unique set of circumstances and a dangerous one for political strategists and pollsters in that their time-honoured theories of electorate-manipulation may be inadequate to the task.
At the moment the Establishment’s ‘Remain’ campaign is cranking up into full operation. I haven’t received mine yet, but any time soon the Government’s £9 million pound (‘Brexit would be madness’) pamphlet is going to be dropping though our letter-boxes. The IMF effectively pronounced similar with great ceremony yesterday. President Obama turns up next week with his six-pennyworth to the effect that the USA wants the UK to remain in the EU and no doubt the number and intensity of such urgings will increase exponentially as the weeks go by to polling day (23rd June).
Although the Brexit campaigners seem both in some disarray (they all want to come out, but for a wide range of different reasons) and also to be unfocused because currently there are two different organisations vying to be the ‘lead’ one for taxpayer funding purposes, albeit a decision on this will be made by the Electoral Commission shortly.
Having said that, my hunch is that the Brexit-ers still have a decent chance of winning the Referendum – or they will have if my suspicion, i.e. that there’s a significant percentage of potential voters who are not going to decide where to put their ‘X’ on the basis of logic and/or the height of the piles of endorsements (or indeed evidence) on either side or the argument, proves correct.
This group has the attitude that they don’t care what the politicians, businessmen, soothsayers, political wonks and pundits, economists or ‘others who should know’ think or say. Instead their basic driver is that the EU Referendum is an opportunity for ‘the little people’ to demonstrate their contempt for the Establishment and people in authority generally. Which they intend to use.
We shall see.
Later, long after I had returned home, the second phone call of the day came from one of my brothers, announcing that one of my father’s few remaining contemporary friends had passed away in his mid-nineties.
I was genuinely sad at this news. Firstly, for my father, who has now reached an age where people of his own vintage are frighteningly few on the ground. But also because of my own personal relationship with the deceased, whom I had known for sixty years as an outstanding character, full of life and laughter. It is scarcely stretching it to state that he was so close to our family that he was virtually regarded as an honorary member of it, never mind his own.