A rare political post from a usually apolitical, optimistic writer
As I type this post with a heavy heart, I’m bleary eyed after staying awake till 3.30am, repeatedly hitting “refresh” on the BBC News Referendum Results page in the hope that somehow if only I did it enough times, the split in votes would change to favour the “Remain” camp.
Waking before 6am to discover that no, this hadn’t all been a bad dream, I then had the useful distraction of having to set off for Westonbirt School, where I’d been invited as an independent witness for a Guinness Book of World Records attempt at the World’s Biggest Reading Lesson. The other independent witness was Hereward Corbett, proprietor of the nearby Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury.
Just When Some Magic Would Have Come in Handy
It was a surreal moment when I entered the beautiful building to discover that the event had a Harry Potter theme, and staff and pupils alike had dressed for the occasion.
I thought that sitting at the back of the beautiful Great Hall, listening to readings from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be a welcome distraction from the devastating political news. I remembered showing round a prospective pupil, years ago, who said to me, in all innocence, “Gosh, this is just like Hogwarts! Have you got any wizards here?”
However, I was wrong. Instead it reminded me of a similar occasion nearly twenty years ago, not long after I started working at Westonbirt: the General Election in May 1997.
A Political Education
Some of the sixth formers were voting for the first time, and the school had run a mock election in school to raise the pupils’ political awareness. Given that this is an elite fee-paying school, it was no surprise that in the girls’ vote, the Conservatives won a sweeping victory. Given the politics of the typical teacher, it was no surprise that in the staff room there was jubilation at the election of a left-wing government led by that young, fresh-faced and camera-friendly charmer, Tony Blair.
Oh, if only we knew then what we know now, how different that morning might have been, in the school staff room and all over the country.
A Coping Mechanism…
The unexpected and timely parallel then reminded me of one of the mantras of my late first husband, with which he used to placate me whenever I was upset or worried about anything:
“Nothing is ever as good as you think it will be, and nothing is ever as bad as you think it will be.”
I have repeated those wise words to myself many times since his death back in 2000, and I’m hoping they’ll hold true for our country now as we prepare to sever our ties with the EU.
…And Some Consolation
And finally, here’s something for anyone who has found nothing else to smile about today: Harry Potter themed cakes, courtesy of the excellent Westonbirt School catering staff. I’m just hoping we don’t hear any British politicians any time soon channelling Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake.”