It’s an overwhelmingly sad day today. There have been many sad days recently – days when mass massacres, child molestation, war in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis dominated the headlines. This sad day does not of course eclipse those, but is hugely personal.
My beloved adopted country, the United Kingdom, has voted to leave the European Union by a tiny margin (51.9% to 48.1%).
I mentioned in my previous post that I moved to London from Australia. At the end of 2009, I desperately needed a change and London was my land of opportunity. I got off to a flying start and felt so very at home there, in a way I didn’t expect to feel. I met my British husband and we spent a few happy years living in London. I paid a huge amount of taxes which went toward supporting basic services for all, which I myself didn’t use. I enrolled to vote, kept all my money in the UK and bought British goods as often as I could. I loved that I could now also afford cheaper European wine, cheese and produce alongside great British fruit and beer. I loved the multiculturalism and tolerance. I met people and made friends from all walks of life, from many nations, ethnicities and religions. I supported local charities, volunteered with local community organisations and championed local businesses. I became a British citizen, even though I didn’t need to.
It was London that gave me the opportunity to satisfy my wanderlust. And no matter where I traveled to (and travel I did, to 24 countries and numerous other UK destination in my first 2 years there), I always felt like I was home when my plane hit the tarmac in London. When we left for India, I wept and missed the UK terribly. Today I wept for a different reason.
The result of this referendum is a huge blow to me and the happiness that I attach to my time in the UK. I now understand that my view of the UK was coloured by my wonderful experience of London and what I suspected when I traveled to other parts of the country – that insularity and misunderstanding of the “other” existed – is a worldview that the slight majority of British referendum voters subscribe to.
To put things in perspective, I am passionate about politics but have never been as upset over an Australian election or referendum. So that’s saying something. Today I am not only angry and ashamed at the shortsightedness and divisiveness of those who voted to leave the EU but also HEARTBROKEN at everything that I held dear about my adopted country. I can only hope that the country moves forward in unity and seeks to heal the divisions that have led to this result.
I took some photos this trip, mainly street photography. This is the first time I’ve taken my camera everywhere in London with me. When I lived there, it just wasn’t a priority and I had other interests. I wasn’t going to post these here as I didn’t think I had anything to say about them. But today, I felt compelled to make this bittersweet tribute to the city that helped me find myself, the city that gave me my wings, that gave so many others theirs.