Thursday 23rd June 2016 – somewhere in south-west London.
There, I’ve done it! After forty-eight years of being eligible to vote in the British electoral system without ever having voting for anybody or anything, this morning I nipped along to my local bowls and sporting club, queued up and voted in the EU Referendum.
I didn’t sleep well overnight with the enormity of it all – in fact I retired shortly after 7.30pm last night. And woke again at 11.20pm … got up … visited all the newspaper websites … and then went back to bed. And slept fitfully.
This morning I was up and at ‘em at about 5.15am, during the financial programme on Radio Five Live – had my shave, shower and got dressed. Made a fried egg on toast, consumed with a large glass of orange juice. Wrote a couple of emails, did my thing.
I had been planning to walk to the polling station (it was only about 600 yards) but one look out of my window showed that torrential rain was falling and was likely to do so for some time.
At 6.50am I therefore ran to my car, jumped in, set the sat-nav (yes, it was only 600 yards but I wasn’t 100% sure of my bearings) and sat in one of the car parking bays beside the restaurant out in the main road for five minutes until the clock actually reached 7.00am.
It gave me just a little more time to think about the epic nature of what I was about to do – and the implications.
Julius Caesar 55BC. The Vikings. The Venerable Bede. King Alfred. The Battle of Hastings. William The Conqueror. Henry V and Agincourt. The Black Prince. Henry VII. Henry VIII and his six wives. Elizabeth I. The Spanish Armada. The Reformation. The English Civil War. Cromwell. The execution of King Charles I. Nell Gwynne. Samuel Pepys. William and Mary. Marlborough’s victories. Robert Clive and India. The War of American Independence. The Napoleonic Wars. William Pitt The Younger. The Repeal of the Corn Laws. Rorke’s Drift. Archie MacLaren scoring 424 for Lancashire against Somerset in 1895. Lloyd George’s People’s Budget of 1909. The First World War. The Second World War. England’s victory in the 1966 World Cup at Wembley. Fulham reaching the FA Cup Final in 1975 …
When one looks back over the place in history occupied by
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,–
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
[William Shakespeare – King Richard II, Act 2 scene 1]
It is impossible to take lightly such an important issue as this – i.e. whether or not the UK should remain in the EU or leave it.
All joking and mocking aside, at the end of the day we voters should take into account not just our own immediate self-interests [will my house value go down, will I be taxed more, will I have a job?] and instead think of the wider future and indeed the future prospects of those we know and love and will follows us.
Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, for starters …
That’s why I found my heart racing as I stood, bedraggled, in the line to the bowls clubhouse, waiting for my turn.
At the end of the day, I had to do not what was best for me, but what was best for my country. I had to do what my gut told me to do.
That’s why I then put a great fat ‘X’ against ‘Leave’ on my ballot paper and skipped joyfully – all my doubts and worried lifted in that heady moment – back to my car and thence to the newspapers, double expresso coffee and bacon sandwich that was waiting for me at the café around the corner.
If ‘Leave’ should win, we can keep our fingers crossed that the Scots will not break their promise to hold a second independence referendum (though, of course, with the Scots you can never quite be certain).
And then we will be shot of them for ever. Hopefully.