Friends in the south of England have suddenly started worrying seriously about Brexit, up here it has felt very real for quite some time. I am now an immigrant from Russia, come in search of a better life, which in mostways it is, and God it’s quieter here; at night the silence can still keep me awake. When Moscow falls this quiet people start to get scared.
I thought I was going home, but instead I find myself here, where home only used to be. The legendary empire of Humberside has fallen now and, like lichen, North Lincolnshire has reclaimed what was really always hers. Over the river South Yorkshire reclaims its lost children. But nobody cares anymore for the machinations of boundary adjusters, and anyway, Jerry Mander sounds a bit like one of those weird Polish names. Humberside only lives on in Smiths’ lyrics these days.
No, this is Ukipistan now, and all of the blame, and menace, and for me, much of the hope, is still elsewhere. Perhaps it’s a little further down the road. I could go and see but I am so tired already, and this has been going on for decades now.
Still everything is easier here; things are fine. There are no armed policemen asking to see your papers, no 40 kilogram chunks of ice plunging from the roofs of buildings, no taxi drivers shouting at you about Obama or Stalin. And the leaders here are harmless bumbling men who look like frogs, not cold eyed paranoiacs imprisoning people for Facebook posts.
I write this from Scunthorpe in the northern reaches of this mighty realm. Here the flat lands begin their long southern march out beyond the gleaming spires of Louth and Mablethorpe, on and on under that great, big, sky, all the way down to Norfolk, where the strange ones roam. Behind us the Humber river meets the Trent and the Ouse, though of course it just grunts and nods at them stiffly, in case anyone thinks it’s gay. Out on the great north western road to Goole, all is calm To the east the kindly north sea murmurs its tender comforts to the gentle folk of Cleethorpes.
Yes peace has come to Ukipistan and it is good. The fear is faint, for Swinefleet is a long way from Crimea and the echoes of war are faint on the dappled streets of Grimsby. They have finally forgotten that war exists here; all that’s just a video game now. Once there was an orange glow in the sky here too, and the smell of metal burning beneath a smoke filled sky. But government industrial polices and TATA steel have pretty much stopped that nightmare, and it no longer much plagues the towns of Scunthorpe, or Corby or Port Talbot. You have to go further east than Skegness to see that kind of thing these days. But why would you, when there are plenty of east European supermarkets on Frodingham road? All you have to do is walk past Britannia corner, where the cops tape off the crossroads against the weekend’s drunken revellers and the Kurdish taxi driver has to go out of his way to get you home. He watches you, and answers any questions so carefully that you start grasp what a shaven headed middle aged guy getting into his car on a Saturday night can mean for him.
In Ukipistan they are scared of far vaguer things than war. Things that are happening here, yes of course, though they remain strangely and determinedly invisible. Still the people here are wise, and they have learned of these things from televisions and newspapers and Kev’s mate’s Facebook friend, who had to wait behind 572 Bulgarians in Doncaster A and E that Tuesday night, when he broke his shin kicking a shopping trolley though a charity shop window. Here they drive their invalid carriages down the precinct, between the vape stores and the Phone accessory kiosks, past The Works and the pawnshop and they sit in the market café to speak of immigrants from Eastern Europe taking all of the work that they would do themselves if…well you know.
In the pathlab at Scunthorpe general hospital the pensioners wait in their dozens for blood tests, explaining the burden that Albanians could place on the NHS if we don’t get out now. I nod sagely, and start to think that the teenagers might not be such fools for living in headphones and staring at their phones all the time. I don’t really belong here anymore.
But here I am