I had thought that seeking refuge in Sweden would release me, blessedly, from the political worry, pain, frustration and rage that I was experiencing almost every minute of my life in the new, post-Brexit UK. Far away from the sound of the guns, in a relatively sane national environment, and a loving domestic one, I could relax and contemplate the other things that used to be important to me: nature, music, painting, literature, architecture, cricket, families (I have two), friends, the mysteries of the universe, and my work. But no chance. The anxiety and anger are still with me, eating away at my peace of mind, disrupting my sleep, and even taking away my appetite for my favourite Janssons frestelse. The internet is much to blame for this, of course, bringing us news of the inanities going on in Britain instantaneously. Boris, Jacob, Nigel, Rupert, Govey, Matt, Priti and the rest of that gang of villains loom as large in my nightmares as I imagine they do in many home-based Britons’. And we no longer have the competing spectre of the Donald to push them aside. All the attention now is on our clever fools.
Do other political refugees, from eviler regimes, and much worse forms of persecution, carry this unhappiness for their home countries with them too? And how long does it last for them? I’d like to know how soon I can expect to shake mine off. I imagine this will depend on when I can become ‘Swedified’ enough to lose my former identity, and its memories. At my advanced age, however, with family back in England and the Empire (Australia), and my passion for cricket, which the Swedes refuse to take seriously, that may take a while.
For me the situation in Britain appears even sadder viewed from Svartsö (our island refuge). Distance is meant to add enchantment, but in my case it has done the opposite. When in England I could understand, to an extent, what was going on, although without of course approving of it; I was living in the same social and political environment, and so was affected by the same context that had made so many of my compatriots mad. That was a comfort, in a way. I also had a community of like-minded Britons around me – in my middle-class, professional suburb – with whom I could huddle together for warmth. Here in Sweden I have plenty of like-minded friends and family, but all of them from this very different culture, so that their sympathy appears patronising, even if they don’t mean it to be. It’s not based on shared experiences, any more than are my sympathies for the oppression of other races or women or gays, however genuine and heartfelt they may be.
This makes a difference, I find. Being away from the source of the problem also distances me from the defences that are encircling it. And from the ability to do anything, even in a small way, about it. Apart, that is, from publishing this very insignificant blog.