Chapter 23 Brexit and Arrival

Tuesday 8th August 2017

The Homecoming (1859) Ferdinand Georg Walsmüller

The Homecoming (1859) Ferdinand Georg Walsmüller

As midnight passes I realise that there are just a few hours left of my longest sea voyage. I’m a little sad in a way. There is a part of me that could stay out here for ever. I think back on all my tales and realise there is one story I really should have told. It’s the story of why I’ve done all this, and now, maybe because of the earlier mayday incident or because of the coffee, I choose to tell it in the little time remaining.

When we left the UK, I recall looking back at Lizard point, just before it disappeared below the horizon, and hearing in my head the line from a Joni Mitchell song:

“It’s too old and cold and settled in it’s ways here.”

Thinking on this, I know that I may well have left the UK anyway, even if we had voted to remain. I will never know. Before the referendum there were two key issues that put me firmly in the remain camp. The first is the role the EU has played in establishing peace across Europe since the second world war. The second is free movement, that agreement gives me the right to live and work in any of the 28 countries of the Union.

When people ask me why I’m going, I often answer glibly that I’m getting out while I still can. The situation is much more complicated than that, but I haven’t been able to find the words. Now as I think over Brexit and all it means, the phrase “Divorce Bill” comes to mind and with the caffeine coursing through my veins I think of a story that might just explain.

For years I have lived happily with my father, my stepmother and my step siblings in a large detached house down a leafy lane. It was loud and boisterous, and, of course, there were arguments but, I thought we were happy. Now my father has separated from my stepmother and is suing for divorce.

My grandpa dominates a three bedroom ex council flat on a run down estate with his ‘pro-British’, anti-immigration views. Yesterday my father and I moved in. When dad told me about the move my heart sank. Seeing this he said:

“It will get better, I will get a better job and we’ll move on to somewhere nicer.”

It won’t though, dad has been hit hard by globalisation and jobs like his, that were once two a penny, are hard to come by and, what is more, the wages are nothing like they used to be. He has been made redundant more than once and this has fed his bitter side, the side that doesn’t see any hope except for a return to the past, the side that’s suing for divorce. There is another side to him, the over-optimistic side, the side that believes in the truth of science and globalisation, the side that loves my step mom.

My dad’s bitter side, which has been encouraged by his own father spitting bile about ‘paying out for those bloody stepchildren’, seems to have the upper hand, stoically believing that we will be alright with grandpa. We won’t though. From my perspective, dad seems to be heading for a mental breakdown that has been a long time coming, as, his bitter experience tries to come to terms with his over-optimistic nature, leaving him with his two unreconciled and seemingly completely irreconcilable sides, both of which are wrong about so many things. With his father’s own bitterness feeding the flames, it will only get worse. It is something that I don’t think I can deal with, not and keep my own sanity.

As we near Porto I start to prepare the boat, studying potential navigational hazards and getting the lines ready. With an hour to go I wake the crew. When the still sleepy Max comes up, she helps keep watch on the busy coastal strip through which Kite is now sailing. We head well east of some anchored cargo ships and spot the red and green lights marking the entrance to the Douro river.

I left the flat after dad went to work this morning, while grandpa was out at the bookies. I packed my rucksack and my sports bag and jumped on the bus to my old home. Now I’m getting off the bus and taking the short walk up that leafy lane, thinking that I love my dad and praying that somehow he gets the help he needs, but hoping with all my heart that my step family will have me back.

Once inside the sea walls it feels strange, as for the first time in nearly four days, the boat is not moving up and down with an Atlantic swell. While Max helms I quickly get the fenders out. We head up the channel and spot the marina across the river. We cross slowly and finding the pontoon, reverse Kite on. After nearly four days at sea, first Max, and then I, step ashore.

The door opens and my step mother sweeps me into her arms, my brothers and sisters come running from all directions and join in the hugs. She lifts her head up, looks at me and says “I only hope that the authorities let you stay” so do I, I think, tears welling in my eyes, so do I.