Read in haste; repent…

This is an international island. Its roots, tentacles and influence trail all over the planet and the history of its trade and diplomatic missions over hundreds of years is generally one of success. Slowly and steadily this nation built bridges with other countries, made enduring relationships and, by dint of calm acceptance of short-term failures as well as successes, mostly (though not always) maintained these to the material benefit of all concerned.

Britain, to paraphrase Kipling, has often met with Triumph and Disaster and, as he advised, treated those two imposters both the same.

Using bawdy humour, irony, self-deprecation, pig-headed stubbornness and, let’s face it, prodigious quantities of alcohol, we progressed steadily and inexorably to the goals that we set ourselves. Those goals being entirely based on exploiting trade relationships.

Every so often these fell foul of a hysterical monster called political ideology. Dealing with it was tricky, especially when collisions kicked diplomacy and trade out of the window and allowed war in as happened in 1914 and again in 1939.

I started to ruminate on the above once the results were in on Friday and the web was awash with content, some good, some bad, most of it overexcited nonsense.

Sanity and perspective being in short supply online, there was only one thing for it: I required my copy of Kingsley Amis’ book ‘Everyday Drinking’.

Throughout his life, Amis was anti-social and grumpy. He used drink in the same way that most us use air and as a reliable support to prevent himself from falling prey to melancholy. For those who drink to excess, his chapter on how to deal with a hangover is a helpful master class.

Later in the day, as the lies came tumbling down and my original premise that no-one had a clue what In or Out would look like was reality, I discerned despondency in the air. I looked for solace and remembered reading a note written by one of our Moscow-based diplomats in 1943.

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life.

[Paragraph removed to protect the sensitive and those who are easily-shocked by language. At your own risk you can find the full version here].

Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr, H.M. Ambassador”

If the blue-penciled paragraph offends you, having been warned as to the consequences, why pray did you read it? That is to make the same mistake as, for example, voting in favour, or against, something the implications of which are beyond your intellectual grasp and knowledge. Why would anyone do something as silly as that?