This week I was in the Netherlands and Belgium for my work. With a couple of hours to kill in a rather misty and chill Brussels, I took the retro-futuristic Metro to see the Grande Place and buy truffles for the nearest and dearest. The standard tourist stuff. No time to look at the fine museums or pop into the 'Parlementarium', which is surely what Eurosceptics imagine hell must look like.
There I was, at the heart of what we have come to see as 'Europe' (although its real heart may lie further east these days), thinking of the journey home and the prospect of arriving back in the truly depressing midst of the EU referendum debate, with the looming prospect of Britain's self-isolation from 'the continent'. The old myth of separateness and parochialism is alive and well in this ever-more interconnected world -- a colossal failure of the collective imagination, whatever one thinks of individual EU policies, or even of the apparatus as a whole.
Judy Sutherland has been publishing some lovely, positive Europhile poems over at The Stare's Nest. I recommend you check them out. Below are a few lines of doggerel written on that rainy afternoon in Brussels. They can't match the positivity of the poems Judy Sutherland has posted, I'm afraid.
Letter from Brussels
I call a narrow land my home –
it does not thank me for my hymns.
For want of answers it says NO
and doesn't care what it doesn't know.
Whatever phoney war this might
turn out to be, the last of fight's
gone out of me. The double-dealing
chatter smoothly on, the feeling
offered's like some sticky hand
you brace yourself to shake. Bland
messiahs packed in spittled suits,
poisoners of the grass-roots.
And here is better? Why not stay?
Today these flatlands, clipped from baize
and duller cloths, are rich enough
for killing over petty stuff –
who speaks how or prays just so,
who may stay and who must go.
Here too, the papers all report
opinions instead of thought.
At least, perhaps, there may be space
to share – a hope we learn to face.
Rarely do we get to choose
the juice in which we will be stewed.