Ah, here we are again. Halloween. Of course most people will tell you that it’s an American thing that’s invaded us like McDonalds and Starbucks, and yes the plethora of plastic skulls and spooky sweets being discounted in the supermarkets as I type this are evidence of another invasion from our former Colonies 3000 miles to the West.
But Witchcraft of an older sort is also in the news at the moment. “The Names of Witches in Scotland” is a book discovered in the Wellcome Library and the tome has now been placed online. The book was compiled in 1658 – a time of great turmoil in the country. The second Stuart King, Charles I, had been executed less than a decade before, and the Restoration was two scant years away with the headless King’s very much alive son Charles II about to return in triumph.
The countries of England and Scotland were divided between those of Royalist and Republican persuasion. You were in one camp or the other. No halfway house, no consensus. One of the interesting strands that comes out of the Witchcraft book is that many of those 5000-odd accused were not on the margins of society, but often those at the very centre – healers when physicians and their fees were beyond the means of most. Wise women, midwives, those who laid out the dead, saw to the living and supplied tinctures for warts and sore throats and period pain.
Reading the accounts many of these people fell foul of petty suspicions and jealousies fueled by the uncertainty of the times. Now we can look back safe in the knowledge that within a generation the countries would be united by the Act of Union in 1707 and then would start on a journey that would see a small island nation on the edge of Europe embark on a 200 year long quest eventually resulting in the creation of the largest empire the world has ever seen.
Of course we’ve moved on now haven’t we? Perhaps not. 350 years down the track and we live in a nation divided. You’re either for Brexit or a Remoaner – split pretty much evenly across whatever demographic you want to choose. People blame the old for being selfish, the young for not getting out of bed on June 23rd, the little-Englanders and the white-van man. “Suck it Up!” “Get on with it!” “It’s Democracy!”. Blah, blah, blah….all very helpful.
A recent poll in England commissioned for ITN makes interesting reading. The area the poll took soundings from was the TV region of the North East – Tyne Tees. A staunch “leave” area on the 23rd of June and yet 16% of those polled who voted “leave” then would vote “remain” now. Of course there’ll be arguments about the accuracy of the poll but those who conduct such things would be confident that even allowing the widest margin for error this figure is significant and if replicated across the country would overwhelmingly reverse the result of the referendum.
Whatever, we are where we are, Brexit means Brexit (whatever the fuck THAT means) and like it or lump it we’re being told to get on with it. Of course those who are unhappy with the result will continue to campaign to change the situation and those who want to leave will continue to try and press ahead, fearful that delay will see wholesale desertions to the Remain camp and the decision come March to not trigger Article 50 after all.
Wherever your allegiance lies – and I have friends and family in both camps – I would hope we are all appalled to hear that German TV Magazine shows are advising their citizens to not speak in German in public when visiting the UK. Similarly, hearing foreign nationals tell stories of being racially abused for the first time after living in the UK for decades is disturbing and unforgivable.
Perhaps Lily Allen was a bit overtaken by the moment when she took it upon herself to apologise on behalf of the nation for the goings-on in the Calais Jungle but did she really deserve to be told by a Taxi driver to “find an immigrant to drive you you stupid tart”? I think not. Nor do I believe that the Ugandan-born Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown deserved to be told by another cabbie that he was “not taking foreigners today”.
I did have to smile at the Sun – well you’d cry otherwise – at the quote “Calls have been made for the BBC to sack Gary Lineker” for his comments on placements of child refugees from Calais to re-homing centres in the UK.
Yeah, “calls” made ONLY by them, the idiots.
But maybe it’s the “idiots” we have to thank for helping us find a way forward.
Because it’s the “idiots” who are turning immigrants into the 21st century equivalent of witches and perhaps now, four months after the referendum, it’s time for the sane camp-followers from both sides to come together and condemn their behaviour.
And once we unite on that one issue we can begin to move forward and unite on the other issues and settle our differences.
I hope my American friends who have their own tricky decision to make next week will allow me to borrow their wonderful phrase and say that here in the UK, we too can be One Nation Under God……………..
……………………..Or of course your deity of choice