Image from Belfast Telegraph.
Click for more: ‘Unless there is a change of heart among our British friends, Brexit will become a reality, with all its negative consequences, in March next year. We on the continent haven’t had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you.’
Latest post (10th May 2018): Three folk tales from the manuscripts of Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826), retold by Rob Mimpriss, reflecting on nationalism, racism, the freedom of Wales and the peace of Europe.
Image by Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo
A mouse joined the march from the deep dark wood; his friends joined the march, and the march was good…
14th June 2018: While the Scottish paper, The National, reflects on the fifteen minutes of Parliamentary time that effectively brought twenty years of home rule in Scotland to an end, a friend reminds me of the mass walk-out by Irish MPs in 1917, less than six years before the establishment of the Irish Free State.
Meanwhile, in Wales, whose Labour government did not resist the depatriation of powers, an edition of Question Time is broadcast from Caernarfon with just one Welsh panelist. A colleague informs me that audience members have been asked not to raise questions relating to Wales.
The state of public morality in the UK: someone on a ‘cross-party’ political discussion forum reports that he is ‘bored’ of hearing about those who died in the fire at Grenfell Tower.
‘The thing about Brexit is it’s like the poll tax. It doesn’t matter whether you are for it or against it. It just can’t be done without bringing the whole house down.’ An anonymous government minister, as reported by Andrew Adonis.
12th June 2018: Rachel Sylvester reports in The Times today that an unnamed Conservative MP cannot support amendments to the Brexit Bill today because death threats from Brexiteers have made him afraid for his family. In addition, she reports, a former minister has described the UK as enduring ‘a reign of terror.’
A public debate has been organised in Penparcau, Aberystwyth, with the title ‘Wedi Brexit a fydd Cymru?’ or ‘After Brexit will there be a Wales?’ That Brexit is seen as a threat to the endurance of two thousand years of Welsh history and Welsh thought, and that many Brexiteers would gloat and jeer at the prospect, indicates the level of evil that the Brexit vote has wrought.
Someone in a political debate group commented that the Brexiteers had ‘won,’ and ‘Remoaniacs’ ought to accept the fact. I quoted Michael Gove’s remark, that what the Brexiteers had won was ‘a civil war without muskets,’ and I suggested comparisons (as I have done before) between the execution of Charles I, and demands for the execution of Remainers that we have heard in our time, between Oliver Cromwell’s colonisation of Ireland, which fuelled violence that persisted into the 1990s, and the Brexiteers’ disdain for the border problem today.
I pointed out that the Cromwellian faction so squandered public support for their victory that in the end they were forced to accept the rule of Charles II. My opponent accused me of resorting to Project Fear. I suggested that Brexiteers who had called for the execution of Remainers might be better accused of such intimidation. It does not appear that the Brexiteers were or are swayed by argument.
A friend remarked — and I think she is right — that while pro-EU groups contain informative postings, political discussion, humour, chat, moral support, and polite, methodical disagreement, pro-Brexit groups contain nothing but angry people shouting angry slogans, with no personal content, no interconnection of any kind. I have a feeling that damnation for a Brexiteer would be confinement in an airy and comfortable stable with a good-natured, affectionate and entirely imperturbable cow.
The once-fashionable author of the ‘Rutshire’ novels, the erotic novelist, Jilly Cooper, claims that gay men sleep with other gay men because they are afraid of women. I would like to add that I read Christopher Isherwood, not for the subtlety of his characterisation, nor for the beauty and clarity of his prose, but because I am afraid of reading Jilly Cooper.
4th June 2018: In seeking our withdrawal from the single market, the UK pursues a policy which it knows will decimate the Welsh economy. Its EU Withdrawal Bill undermines Welsh democracy for the foreseeable future, and attacks a devolution settlement that has more popular support in Wales than Brexit itself does. As plans to electrify the south coast line are shafted at the behest of Theresa May personally, and as the UK government contemptuously dashes plans for the Swansea tidal lagoon, the question whether we can afford independence is replaced by the question whether we can afford to remain subject to a British state that, as Gwynfor Evans puts it, has become powerful enough to destroy us by dint of ignoring us.
In the 1950s, the experimental psychologist, Leon Festinger, sent his postgraduate students to infiltrate and observe a small cult that was operating in the area at the time. The cult leader was in telepathic communication with a race of aliens whose flying saucer was on the way to earth, and would destroy and remake its surface on 21st December 1954. The cult leader and her followers would be made leaders in the new world order that the aliens would institute.
As the date drew near, and the cult grew, the leader offered her followers various early meetings in remote locations with the aliens; but always, due to technical difficulties, government interference, or lack of faith on the part of the cult, they failed to appear. Despite this, cult members’ expectation of their apotheosis grew palpable, and they stripped their clothes of belt buckles, zips, and anything else containing metal that would interfere with the flying saucer’s drives. Once again, the aliens failed to appear, and 21st December passed without incident.
After a brief period of bewilderment and despair, the cult came to realise that their faith as a group had saved the entire earth from destruction, and the failure of their predictions became proof that their teachings were true. When Leon Festinger called on them, they hailed him as an alien travelling in disguise. His book about the cult, When Prophecy Fails, remains a seminal study of the way the mind invents pretexts for rejecting truth, and is relevant in the light of Michel Barnier’s warning that the UK must face facts about the inevitable economic and political consequences of leaving the European Union.
If there truly is a God of love, why did I have to spend today in Milton Keynes?
Dr Andrew Murrison, Conservative MP for South-West Wiltshire, denying that he is Dr Andrew Murrison, Conservative MP for South-West Wiltshire, when Anti-Brexit campaigner Steven Bray of SODEM approaches him to ask how Brexit will benefit ordinary voters.
19th May: Accounts of the royal wedding today remind me of James Frazer’s account of the monarchy among (as I recall) the Ashanti people of North West Africa in his seminal work of anthropology, The Golden Bough (1890). Their king, who represents the land, and the health of the land, is elected once a year, housed in a palace, freely given everything he seeks except his freedom, and is publicly whipped to death at the end of his term, to fertilise the land and ensure good crops.
I am not convinced that this is a better defence of monarchy than the fact that UK’s royal family work hard.
19th May: ‘Brit ydi Betty — hei, go dda rŵan, cyfatebiaeth cytseiniad — Brit ydi Betty. Ia, Brit o’r Brits. Coronation Street, Jiwbilî, Y Cwîn, Alf Garnett, Falklands. Union Jack, Princess Di — y cwbwl. Gadael llonydd iddi hi ydw i. Dwi mewn occupied territory yn y fan hyn.’
Angharad Tomos, Yma o Hyd.
My knowledge of history is sparse, and others might suggest more nuanced parallels. But for me, the decision made by Labour, Tory, UKIP and LibDem members of the Welsh Parliament, to surrender wide-ranging powers to England following Brexit, smacks of the Estonian puppet parliament’s surrender to Estonia’s annexation, loss of land, and cultural sterilisation by the USSR in 1940.
The flyer that just dropped through my door, inviting me to ‘discover retirement living to the full in Benllech’, is written, appropriately enough, in English only.
That Israel’s winning entry in the Eurovision Song Contest should be accused of cultural appropriation seems poignant, given that Israel could never be accused of having appropriated anything else.
A repentant Brexiteer after twelve hours on Twitter confirms my observations of three years on Facebook: Remain voters are kind, friendly and supported by facts. Leave voters are angry, spiteful, and have no facts to speak of.
There is a teaching within Judaism that the Messiah will act when human need is greatest, and human deserving is greatest. Jeremy Corbyn reportedly regards the Messiah as altogether too rash.
Quoting Rt Hon Tom Brake on Twitter: ‘Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP has just confirmed that in his forty-eight years as an MP, and decades as a minister in different governments, he has never known a government to implement deliberately a policy which it knows will do great damage to the British people.’
‘Our leverage is gone, our leadership lost and our parliament weakened. This is a Labour-Tory stitch-up like no other.’ Leanne Wood addressing the Senedd on the Labour government’s decision to hold powers devolved to Wales for up to seven years after Brexit.
@WomenObeyUKIP. ‘Genocide’ used as verb.
20th April: The German journalist, Sebastian Haffner, remarked that the effect of the Nazi race laws was to give legal existence to concepts that had no other existence, to force race and purity of blood into being with nothing but their own brutality: it became important to be pure German, to be Aryan, because one’s life depended on it. The insight has other parallels in our time, but a year or so after Theresa May set out to unite us as a British nation which, like the Aryan race, has no existence except for the obedience it demands; a year or so after she set out to abolish our European identities, and weaken our Scottish and Welsh identities; a year or so after she set out to crush the Welsh and Scottish nationalists who seek, as she claimed, to divide us, I find it almost impossible to pay attention to the needs of my own country — the undermining of its political and cultural identity, its twenty-year domination by a single party, the growing crisis brought about by the suicide of one its ministers — because of the constant anger and fear that her policies arouse in me.
On 13th April on the London Underground, a woman sustained head injuries after being attacked by two female passengers for speaking her native Spanish. Her assailants are believed to be English-language activists, who believe that English – a minority Low German dialect with barely one billion speakers – should be given legal protection to prevent its natural decline. Since physical assaults on Spanish speakers are potentially illegal, and can forfeit the sympathies of educated Welsh speakers, Rob Mimpriss considers what non-violent means English nationalists can use to protect their threatened culture.
My local Asda displays men’s toiletries, not beside the women’s toiletries, but beside the household cleaning products.
9th April: If the British ignore a petition which has garnered thirty thousand signatures in a country of only three million in just a few days, and which already represents a whole one per cent of the population, then they openly acknowledge that Welsh democracy is meaningless, and that even such a groundswell of protest, if it comes from Wales, can be ignored. If, on the other hand, they bow to this petition, then they confess that Wales is not a principality, and that the crown prince of England — if there should be such a thing — has no title to Wales. In either case, the recent fashionable lie that the UK is an equal partnership of willing participants, and that Wales is not a colony of England, is exposed.
If a man gives me a casual back-hand blow, I am advised to turn my face to the side, to challenge him with the other cheek that can only be struck with the fist. The constant humiliation of an equal must be perpetuated either by ignorance, which is now fading in Wales, or by the threat of violence. Wales’s growing awareness of itself must lead to oppression or to liberation. The very sourness and weariness of Rod Liddle’s remarks acknowledges that the old relationship is no longer possible.
I quote the former MP Adam Price on Twitter: ‘If we must name this bridge after a prince let it be Owain, surviving son of the last real Prince of Wales (pre-Glyndŵr) who, arrested at age eight, spent his entire adult life in a wooden cage in Bristol Castle so the Welsh would know their place. If only we knew our own history.’
7th April: An anti-Brexit activist informs me that among the questions that YouGov is asking of its correspondents today is whether the news over the next twelve months should contain tips on how to survive the recession.
By private agreement between the Swedish government and the Swedish royal family, the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark, currently named after the water it crosses, is renamed the Charles X bridge, in honour of the Swedish king who invaded Denmark in 1658, and razed its capital, Copenhagen, to the ground. The people of Denmark naturally protest, demanding that the bridge retain its geographical name, or be named after some joint Scandinavian achievement, or after some Swedish figure less insensitive to Danish history.
It later transpires that while the decision to rename the bridge was made entirely in Sweden, the Danish government was ‘informed’ of the change, but decided not to bother complaining. The Danish ambassador to Sweden tells his people that they should ‘respect’ King Charles X, and castigates them for being evil nats. The reason this has not happened, and the debacle over the Severn Bridge is happening as I write, is that Wales still belongs to England, and therefore deserves no better.
By agreement between the Republic of France and the European Union, the Channel Tunnel is renamed in honour of Charles de Gaulle. The people of England understandably object, and a sharp increase in spontaneous human combustion is observed among Daily Mail readers. It transpires that Theresa May was notified of the change while Home Secretary, but didn’t get around to doing anything about it.
The disagreement over the Channel Tunnel is settled to the satisfaction of both sides, at which point the Welsh timidly pipe up, and ask if they get a say in what the Severn Bridge is called. Both sides round on them in a fury, to condemn them as a threat to the stability of Europe, and as small-minded, paranoid, divisive and evil nats.
‘The View from Germany: Brits are in denial about their diminishing global importance.’ Click to read an article by Ruth Berschens of the leading German business paper, Handelsblatt, on the UK’s failed attempts to fracture the European Union, or to create a new trade association with its former colonies, and on the consequences of its future prosperity and influence, and its political unity.
The reason my website has so many backlinks from Russian pornography sites is that deep down, their clients are searching for verity that only my art can provide.
A man is accused of a capital offence, brought to trial, and found guilty. While he is awaiting his execution, it transpires that the star witness against him lied, and indeed, was paid for lying.
It is decided that the execution should still go ahead, partly because the prosecution would probably have got a conviction anyway, and partly because it would be unfair on the jury to overturn their verdict. The condemned man is assured of a good deal on the rope required for his hanging, and is vilified for not supporting an execution that works for everybody.
After the rally against Brexit which I attended in Leeds last weekend, I stopped to chat to one of the policemen, and to thank him and his colleagues for policing the event. He smiled warmly, and said I was more than welcome, and it had been a pleasure.
In the Tesco Metro where I stopped to buy a late lunch, an Asian woman was chatting, loudly but good-naturedly, with a Yorkshire accent, to her children. The man behind me in the queue muttered something about fucking Pakis.
Facebook’s invitation that I ‘write a temporary bio’ is intended as a sobering reminder of the evanescence of human life, and the futility of artistic endeavour.
The problem here is not so much that Lincolnshire, or any other English province, might be offered the same powers that the Celtic nations are offered, although in most cases such comparisons are intended to belittle and sting. The problem is that any power that an English province refuses can, with a facile pretence at fair-mindedness, be refused a Celtic nation also.
27th March: #BrexitMeansNazism. And an activist friend in London informs me that as MPs meet to discuss the significance of the fact that the Leave campaign cheated, an anti-Brexit protester outside is attacked by young men giving Nazi salutes, and violently assaulted.
‘Sous prétexte d'information équilibrée, la BBC observe un black-out remarquable sur les manifestations pro européennes au Royaume-Uni.’ [Under the pretext of balanced reportage, the BBC observes a remarkable blackout on pro-European demonstrations in the United Kingdom.]
Philippe Bernard, British/Irish correspondent for Le Monde via Twitter.
The Leeds Ibis Budget Hotel. For exclusive offers and travel tips, please give your email and fingerprints to reception.
24th March: Among the thousands of demonstrators who took part in the march against Brexit in Leeds today, I saw just two counter-protesters. One flapped his union jack as we walked past, and muttered something patriotic and rousing, and the other held up a sign as we gathered before the stage, handwritten on part of a cardboard box that a vacuum cleaner had come in.
He heckled the speakers, which we didn’t much mind, but as speaker after speaker came forward, and gave speeches he didn’t understand, but disagreed with anyway, he became more and more physically threatening. During one such confrontation, someone quietly fixed a ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ sticker on the back of his jacket. The last I saw of him, it was still there.
The Leeds Ibis Budget Hotel. Your belt and shoelaces may be confiscated upon arrival.
22nd March: Yesterday, members of the Senedd in Cardiff and the Parliament of Scotland vote to assume unilateral control of devolved powers currently wielded in Brussels after Brexit, to ensure that Westminster does not attempt to undermine Welsh or Scottish democracy.
‘This Williamson... this — how do you say — Gavin Williamson. He is not strong man. He is like man who sleep with other man, because afraid vagina will eat him, or like woman who sing in feminist punk band, because she has not found man. He is from England, no? Very small, very damp, again like vagina... So, this Williamson, I say we ignore him. But if he die in crucifixion accident, or during night-time visit to abandoned sausage factory, send condolences to widow. Dmitri, you know what to do.’
‘Look at the Irish situation with the British. The humiliation of Native Americans, how their language was denigrated. In Africa, of course, we were forbidden to speak our mother tongues. Japan imposed its language on the Koreans. So wherever you look at modern colonialism, the acquisition of the language of the coloniser was based on the death of the languages of the colonised. So [language] is a war zone.’
The Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, on colonialism, on writing in one’s national tongue, and how repressive regimes seek to crush the imagination that says there is a better world than the world they rule, in interview with The Nation.
An Englishwoman in Wales claims to be keeping the Welsh language ‘at bay’, and compares Wales with South Africa. This is an instance of the constant racism against the Welsh, for which the only solution is decolonisation. Needless to say, her tweets show pro-Brexit sympathies.
A friend of mine, an anti-Brexit campaigner and socialist in England, remarked on Facebook that it is inconsistent with Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism that he opppose freedom of movement for European workers, and oppose laws designed for their joint protection. I agreed, and added that even though he accedes to the 52% who wish Britain to leave the EU, he ignores the majority in Scotland and Wales who seek greater autonomy within the UK. Within an hour, my English friend had blocked me, apparently for agreeing with her comment. As a Welshman.
I am sensible of the loss. I value my English friends. They give me opportunities to practise my patient sighing.
‘When the British were members of the EU, they wanted opt-outs. Now they are leaving, and they are demanding opt-ins.’ Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, on Brexit.
In a recent report described in Nature, scientists reduced the speed of light to 38mph in a cloud of ultra-cold sodium atoms. But nothing will slow down Brexit, says Theresa.
In my small single room in a cheap hotel near the railway station, the single-serving sachet of instant coffee bears the toothmarks of a previous guest.
‘The Mafia make offers you can’t refuse. The British make offers you can’t understand.’ A quip allegedly heard in Brussels.
A study conducted in 2016 into the psychology of the Brexit referendum contains good and bad news for Brexit supporters. The good news is that on average they rated higher on conscientiousness and lower on neuroticism in the Five-Factor Model than those who voted Leave, while the bad news is that they were less swayed by evidence and logic than Remainers, and more driven by emotion and instinct. Members of both camps showed a tendency to over-estimate their good judgement, though older people, who mostly voted for Brexit, were more likely to do so than the young, who mostly did not.
The kinder Brexit supporters with whom I engage insist that there will be no economic damage, that social divisions will not increase, that the closure of Maplin, Toys R Us, Prezzo, East and Mothercare is unrelated to Brexit, and that business leaders who say otherwise don’t understand their own affairs. They insist that at best the fears of voters like me are unfounded and unnecessary, or at worst that they are seditious, and that all academic, commercial and governmental forecasts, whether conducted before or after the referendum, in the UK, in Europe, or further afield, are wrong. I see no way to bridge this gulf. They are doomed never to understand what they have done, I never to understand why they have done it.
There is a theory that the quantum vacuum is unstable, allowing the nucleation of a bubble of space that would expand at the speed of light, in which the fundamental laws of physics would be different.
If such a vacuum engulfed the earth, then atomic matter would break down, and the entire planet dissolve in a fizz of subatomic particles. But even this would not stop Brexit, says Theresa.
In the UK, the government withdraws funding from Cornish-language projects, and fails even to mention the existence of Irish in its report on protected dialects to the Council of Europe. In Wales, the announcement of Cymraeg 2050 is met with a torrent of cross-border racism, as bilingual policy is held up as a cause of everything from road accidents to child abuse.
In Spain, the government seeks to undermine the official status of the Catalan language in a seeming act of collective punishment, which effectively admits that the Catalan people desires independence. For ultimately, nationalism is not vilified because it is violent, or because it is authoritarian, or even because it threatens a delicate international peace. It is abused because it defends the right of someone else’s culture to exist.
Image manipulation by a friend. Theresa May brings her qualities of determination, vision and delicacy of touch to the difficult task of EU negotiation.
It seems that one of the barriers to the restoration of normal governance in Northern Ireland is the DUP’s bitter opposition to any possible Irish Language Act.
Perhaps on this occasion, the Irish Language Act should come from the British government. It would be both a way out of the deadlock, a fulfilment of the obligation to provide such an act as part of the St. Andrew’s Agreement of 2006, and a small yet welcome act of contrition for beating children who dared speak their national language in school.
Boris Johnson describes the EU as a teleological project of which John Stuart Mill would have disapproved. I suppose Boris has been rifling through his undergraduate lecture notes again. I got rid of mine, to make room for books.
The original series of Flash Gordon, starring Buster Keaton in the title role, is touchingly reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. Flash Gordon needs a brain, Dale Arden needs a spine, and Dr Zarkov needs a pair of trousers.
So hard Brexiteers, and indeed hard Remainers, fear ending up in an emasculated vassal state to a more powerful, more prosperous eastern neighbour.
Welcome to Wales.
#BrexitMeansRacism: And here, Prof Tanja Bueltmann, an historian working at Northumbria University, shows us the hate mail she has received in the wake of Brexit.
14th January: The rally outside the Senedd in support of Brexit yesterday, organised by the People’s Charter with speakers from UKIP, was less than spectacular. A dozen or so people turned up.
This was the rally whose participants were specifically asked to leave their swastikas at home.
Cry, and the world cries with you. Laugh, and you laugh alone.
The National reports that a customer who complained to M&S about the lack of Scottish branding on their Scottish whisky was told, ‘You’ve had your referendum. You’re part of England now.’
Personally, I quite like having English friends. It gives me opportunities to practise my patient sighing.
There are no extrinsic rewards in short fiction. I should learn to express myself through the medium of interpretive cat videos.
It’s not that my friends don’t want to be cultured, and improve themselves. And they know that my work is of an improving nature. But the more immediate gratification comes from all-female naked rugby games, and Japanese seaweed pornography.
3rd January: Since implementing direct rule, the government of Madrid has imposed Spanish as the language of government in Barcelona, in place of Catalan, reports El Nacional.
Ayn Rand was an ambitious writer of big ideas. Regrettably, they were not good ones.
I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital Told by Leading Welsh Writers, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I am a member by election of the Welsh Academy.
I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.