Healing the wounds of Brexit, being an ‘aunt’ and my pandemic brain fog
hen I first moved to London the only thing that stood out was how tribal this city was, and yet people got along. The lines were very clear; for me, there was the media backdrop, the backdrop of the music industry and the political game. I’m sure there were other much cooler tribes, but these are the ones I hung out with in central London.
It was the London of the Olympics, the one with a Conservative mayor and a Labor government, but where we all came to an understanding. Each year we would meet at the Evening Standard prices, then we would celebrate at night under the tutelage of our tribal chiefs. As an activist and new aunt for a child who is now the most iconic Londoner I know, it was amazing. Coming from Bristol where there is diversity but no integration, I fell in love with London and its festive gatherings. But that all changed in 2016 when Brexit happened, the seemingly invisible lines we all crossed on a daily basis became walls and no-go zones. We all chose our comfort tribes by default – mine was a North London hybrid of the original Mumsnet founder and freelance types.
While waiting for the referendum results, I remember thinking that the UK would stay and we would all be back to normal soon. This was unfortunately not the case. The past few years have been filled with division in a city that is, and always has been, open to new people, businesses and ideas. London, like its underground, is complex but connected and for a while we lost those connections. It was due to the fact that too many people from my tribe refused to accept the results of a democratic vote. Unlike many remaining friends, I not only accepted the results, but also met those who voted for permission and found that they, like me, care about this city.
Over time, some of us found our way home, but just before the start of the pandemic. Before the closings, it was still difficult to find people with whom I had already dined in the same room. I remember meeting someone who is a dear friend cheering for DUP on another anti-Brexit march. “DUPs are anti-choice and do not support the equal marriage you are in. Why would you do this?” I asked him, confused. She didn’t have an answer at the time, but when I went for a walk with her a few weeks ago, things had changed.
The people she wanted to dine with in a cold garden were the same people she thought were the devil a year ago. This change in London, where people are ready to be reconciled, was evident again as I sat down with another friend in Soho this week. I have seen people who had not spoken for two elections and a referendum collide and be really happy to see each other. I’m from the “things can only get better” generation and I believe in that feeling. I believe after Covid we’ll be back for a pint with an old pal who last year we thought we’d never talk to again.
My brain fog is a real struggle. I can’t remember the name of a girl I had a seven-minute conversation with the other day. I also attended a dinner this week and totally lost track of what was going on. But I don’t know if this is due to a long Covid or if it’s because I spent the best part of the year alone. We humans are creatures of habit and when we lose the routines we know our bodies and brains change. As we get back to seeing people and doing things, I think the fog will clear up, but I also think more research is needed so as not to dismiss the experiences of many who may be in more pain than me.