Well, I sent what I thought was the final version of my book off to the publishers this morning, together with the contract, signed via ‘Adobe eSign’. (That took some time to master.) Good, I thought; I can put the book out of my mind now, lie back in my deckchair in the sun, and concentrate on the sill, the aquavit and our Swedish friends, who are coming over soon. (In fact we have friends arriving all through the weekend. Not from Britain, sadly, due to you-know-what.)
But of course it never works out like that, does it? Almost as soon as I’d pressed the ‘send’ button I thought of things I’d left out. I should probably have waited longer before posting it off; but I was worried that, if I did, something might go wrong with my laptop, and the whole book would disappear. (I actually had a nightmare of that happening last night.) So at least there’s now a second copy in the hands of Bloomsbury Press. And their computer won’t blow up at the same time, surely?
The book is a series of mainly old essays on a variety of topics, but all bearing – loosely – on Britain’s informal – that is, not official or diplomatic – relations with the continent of Europe over the past 200 years. What I’ve missed out is something that only occurred to me after reading through the chapters again; which is how the situation of each side of the equation in these ‘informal’ ways has changed fundamentally over that period, and indeed in many ways has swapped over in relation to the other. So for example, while in the 19thcentury Britain was the most open and welcoming European country to refugees and other immigrants, now she is one of the most mean and restrictive; where she used to be pretty philistine (I have a chapter on that), now her ‘arts’ are in pretty good shape; where she was a shining light of (political) liberalism, she is now far behind many of her neighbours in that regard; where she once had the free-est press, she’s now reckoned to be near the bottom of the scale in terms of press freedom; where she used to be the most (relatively) democratic nation in Europe she is now the least so by most indices, and also one of the most Right-wing; and where she once prided herself on her public honesty and integrity by contrast with others, she is now acquiring the reputation of being one of the most corrupt countries in Europe. All that must have a bearing on the relations between the two ‘sides’; and must also, incidentally, undermine any notion of a stable British ‘national identity’, based on the virtually unchanging history to which many in the ‘Brexit’ debate, on both sides, have recourse.
I must get my final chapter back in order to flesh out this simple point. In the meantime, though, I have some sill and aquavit to consume.