The Waiting Game

When it has come to the EU Referendum, I have tried to keep my writing out of it as much as possible. As far as I was concerned, the referendum was something very serious that should not be taken lightly and plugging my books off the back of it would have been not only disrespectful to the cause that I was arguing for but also very dangerous given the content of my stories.

Now, however, with the vote over and decision finally made I feel like I can start talking about my work once again.

A few months ago, I started releasing some teaser short stories to give people a flavour of what to expect from The Bluebell Informant and my other DS Giles novels. And, in an attempt to make my novels as relevant as possible to the current political landscape, I decided to write The Waiting Game to include the EU Referendum. Needless to say, the final paragraphs were up for debate until very recently.

I hope the world I imagine is not lurking in the shadows of a distant future.

The Waiting Game

Rain had been falling steadily all day long. But, despite the soaked clothes and dripping heads, the people had turned out in their thousands to gather at small town and village halls, scout huts and community rooms…

Daniel Barker listened as the thunder rumbled overhead. The terrific sound echoed through his dark drawing room like a gunshot caught on the wind. The very pictures on his walls seemed to quiver in fear and anticipation whilst the roaring fire beneath the mantle piece flutter back and forth as the wind whipped down his chimney.

A flash of lightning soon followed, illuminating the dark room for just a moment. As Barker turned back towards the two armchairs by the fire, the bald headed man sat in the farthest chair was bathed in light. Gripped between his fingers, a whiskey glass rocked gently back and forth, swirling the brown liquid around the crystal edges. Then, in the blink of an eye, the room was plunged back into darkness and the bald headed man disappeared from sight.

It had felt like hours…

Hours of standing by the window, staring up at the dark, lifeless sky overhead. Even the stars had vanished behind the wave of unforgiving storm clouds – their brightness no longer shining down on the noble city below…

Barker allowed himself a small smile.

Had this been a film or a novel, he might have taken these harsh conditions as a sign of an impending disaster or the beginning of some evil times. The atmosphere was perfect for the beginning of some relentless struggle that would eventually lead to the downfall of anything good and pure…

But this wasn’t a film. Nor was it a novel.

This was real life.

And the date was 23rd June 2016.

The day Britain voted whether they should stay in or leave the European Union.

Time ticked on and the hours slowly plodded by. With each passing minute, Barker could feel his heart begin to pound ever harder in his chest. With each passing second he could feel himself stood on the precipice of a cliff, staring out towards a brave new world…

A world where Britain would be Great again…

A Britain that he would lead into a new Golden Age…

The quiet tapping on the door made him almost jump out of his skin. As he turned towards the door, his private secretary stepped into the drawing room and cautiously moved towards him. In his hands, he held a small piece of paper, which he held out for Barker to take and said:

‘The count is finished. I thought you would like to be the first to know…’

Barker accepted the paper tentatively. He nodded slowly to his secretary.

‘Thank you, James.’

James gave a small bow and quickly retreated back towards the door. As he retraced his steps towards the door, his eyes scanned the dark area by the fire as he looked for the bald headed man. It was only when he reached the door that he dared to rip his eyes away and, in a few seconds, scuttled out of the drawing room.

Barker stared down at the paper.

It was folded but not sealed. Even as he held it in his hands, he could see the paper flutter up and down as his fingers quivered with dread. He had imagined this moment so many times over the past few months but, now that it was here, he was hesitant to open it up and see what was written inside.

He must have stood there for a good long for, out of the darkness, a low, brooding voice – not unlike the thunder itself – growled:

‘Well? What does it say?’

Fingers trembling, Barker opened up the sheet of paper and, in the light of a nearby table lamp, he read the final results.

He read it. And then he read it again to be sure. And then he read it once more so that there could be no more doubt. And then he read it for one last time before: –

‘I’m waiting.’

Barker looked up at the darkness by the fireplace. The bald headed man’s head seemed to flicker with the flames of the fire, seeming to Barker almost like a Devil dancing up against the blackness.

He took a deep breath.

‘We won,’ he whispered, his heart leaping in that moment as though speaking those words had finally made it real. ‘The people have voted to leave.’

He screwed up the paper and tossed it on the floor, stamping his foot on the ground with glee as he turned towards the city beyond the window…

His city…

Laughing and beaming like a kid in a sweet shop, we rapped his hands together and applauded the faceless thousands out there who had made his joy possible.

‘The people have spoken,’ he roared, tapping the glass of the window feverishly. ‘We have them all.’

To his surprise, the darkness behind him stayed unnervingly quiet. In fact, it was only after Barker’s wave of enthusiasm had subsided and the room had fallen into a comparative silence that he began to hear the distinct murmur of a low chuckle emanating from the chairs by the fireplace.

As he turned back towards the room, he could see the figure of Tommy Haines climbing awkwardly out of his chair and slowly waddling towards him.

‘On the contrary, Mr Barker,’ he replied, almost jovially. ‘People are fickle. They will choose one thing today and quite the opposite tomorrow. We cannot leave anything to chance.’

He came to a stop in front of Barker and clapped him on the shoulder with his large, bulging hands. He half smiled and stared hard at Barker with his shark-like eyes.

‘We haven’t won anything yet, Mr Barker,’ he whispered through his toothy grin. ‘We’ve only just gotten started.’

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The Thoroughly Ridiculous EU Referendum Analogy

United Kingdom Airlines Flight 2306 is flying towards the English Channel on route to Brussels. On board are twenty people representing all types of British life.

During the flight, the pilot reports that the aircraft is currently descending and the plane starts to rock around violently. Although the pilot is confident that he can sort the problem, the passengers start to panic as time wears on with some deciding that the plane is doomed to crash.

They set about trying to sort out their solution.

Some decide that it would be better to jump than crash in the plane, but others point out that the fall will certainly kill them. But then one of the passengers, who just happened to be reading the tabloids that morning, announces that he had read that today is National Trampoline, Bouncy Castle and Piles of Pillows Day in the UK. In fact, according to his newspaper, 350 million Trampolines, Bouncy Castles and Pillow Piles are supposedly lining every field between London and Dover.

Many of the group decide it is worth chancing it, but one scientist (let’s call him Steven) points out that, even if these trampolines, bouncy castles and pillow piles are where they are supposed to be (because of a public holiday that he doesn’t believe actually exists), that still doesn’t guarantee that the fall won’t kill them.

So the passengers ask the pilot if they can use his radio. Meanwhile the scientist and a collection of assorted others, who aren’t that convinced by the trampoline idea, want to search the plane for either a solution to the planes problem or for parachutes. Unfortunately, the passengers are scared and panicking so the scientist is overruled.

Whilst on the radio, one passenger manages to get in touch with his friend (Donald) who works for a rival plane company as a plane engineer and doesn’t like the idea of British planes flying to Europe for some reason that he struggles to articulate but definitely isn’t racist. He declares that the plane is doomed and that the passengers’ best chance is to jump. He also says that he once heard a story about a guy jumping out of a plane and his parachute failing, but he still managed to survive because he landed in a pile of hay…

He goes on to mock the scientist for being disabled and suggests that the passengers build a wall between themselves and the one passenger of Mexican descent who happens to be on the flight.

The passengers think the wall idea is a little ridiculous and most outrightly reject the idea of ignoring the scientist based on his disability. But, because Donald is an expert, the pro-pillow-jumping passengers get ready to leap out confident that, even if they are wrong, they will still survive the fall.

A passenger, who likes to think of himself as uber-moral even if he does rub everyone else’s nose in it (let’s call him Bob Geldof), points out that the plane engineer’s reasons for not liking Europe didn’t quite makes sense and starts to question whether his intentions are purely honourable and in the passengers’ best interest. He is immediately shot down by another passenger (let’s call him Nick… no not Nick, something beginning with ‘N’… Nigel?… No, Norman, that’s it, Norman) who attacks him for being so outrageous as to suggest such a dreadful thing – because, as we all know, there is no such thing as racism in times of crisis or general debates…

But then, another passenger (let’s call him Maurice Micklewhite – he may have changed his name by this point though) starts to question whether it a good idea and wants to ask some more outsiders opinions. So the passengers get back on the radios and ask their friends and families. In so doing, they repeat the idea that there is National Trampoline, Bouncy Castle and Piles of Pillows Day in the UK and quote the plane engineer’s assertion that the plane is doomed. Fearful for the safety of their families, the relatives and friends agree that it is the best chance, despite the fact that one of them is driving between London and Dover and hasn’t (so far) seen a single bouncy castle, pillow pile or trampoline along the route.

Now the passengers are in a dilemma. They have been told it’s safe to jump but they still want to be democratic. They vote on what decision is best and, unsurprisingly, vote to jump out of the plane. They all jump out except one person – the pilot. Ten seconds after the passengers leave the plane, the pilot regains control of aircraft and lands safely in Brussels an hour later…

When he lands…

No wait. Actually, let’s make him a her… And let’s call her Nicola just to make sure that people don’t get the wrong idea and think I’m trying to say that all people with names beginning with ‘N’ are racist (a silly move considering my name begins with ‘N’ as well but there are some idiots out there who will try to argue that, I have no doubt). And also there’s a serious lack of women in this story so far – sorry about that.

So, Nicola it is.

ANYway…

Maybe Nicola discovers the cause of the malfunction – turbulence: potentially dangerous but not something that can’t be overcome. Maybe she also discovers that there are twenty-one parachutes on the plane along with life preservers, life rafts and those handy little whistles that you get for drawing attention to yourself. Maybe she also discovers that there is no such thing as a National Trampoline, Bouncy Castle and Piles of Pillows Day in the UK although there was one conveniently placed trampoline just outside Royal Tunbridge Wells that, whilst it caught one of the passengers when he landed, also managed to fling him in to a tree causing several broken bones and the nick-name ‘Tigger’ for the rest of his life.

But then, maybe it doesn’t matter what argument or evidence is found either way. Maybe (supposing the passengers find the parachutes) they still think it is a bad idea to use the them any way because the plane expert told them of one time when a parachute failed so now all the passengers are worried that their’s might fail too…

Ridiculous analogy, right?

The passengers panic and jump out of the plane.

Had they waited a few minutes, the pilot might have righted the plane and taken them all to safety. Even if that had worked, the scientist and his friends might have found those twenty-one parachutes and saved them all. Even if they hadn’t found the parachutes, there was still just as much chance that they would survive bailing out a little later than they did.

Once they bailed out there was no turning back.

And yet that was the first solution they leapt to…

There have been a lot of analogies flying around because of the EU and most of them are just as pointlessly, ridiculous as the one I’ve written here (although admittedly I had great fun doing it). The only difference is that at least my analogy comes fairly close to representing how people react in moments of crisis and panic – and we are definitely in a crisis one way or another.

So why don’t we quit with the statements like ‘it’s like hurtling on a train’ or ‘it’s like going into a bar and…’ and just deal with the facts?

And if you’re response is…

‘No, Nick, we need to deal with analogies otherwise people won’t understand our logic…’

Then maybe you need to ask yourself this:

‘What facts are you trying to manipulate by dealing in analogies?’

Because I just wrote an analogy – and I can tell you this for nothing, there was a fair amount of manipulation of facts in there!

Incidentally, if you want to hear more of Nick’s Ridiculous Real World Analogies, please leave your comments below to let me know to keep writing them – I had great fun doing it, but I imagine I’m going to piss a lot of people off…

Almost make’s it worth it :p

 

Home Truths for Brexit AND Remain Supporters Alike

Yesterday, I was deeply saddened by the news that Jo Cox MP had been brutally shot and stabbed to death. Not because I knew her as a person, not even because I knew much about her work as an MP (although in hindsight I wish I had taken more of an interest in her activities).

No, I was saddened because something awful had happened and, somehow, I felt responsible for it happening. I’m not saying there was anything I could have done – had I known this exact situation would happen there would still have been little I could have done to stop it. But I did feel responsible – responsible because only three days earlier I had posted something on Facebook, an article I randomly came across that highlighted my worst fears and where I believe Britain is currently heading…

And it was pretty much right on the money.

I couldn’t help wondering – had I pushed it in front of more people’s faces, shared it more on Facebook and generally not stopped going on about it, could that have done enough to stop this terrible murder from happening…

And the answer, to my lasting regret is – No.

It wouldn’t have made a difference. Wheels had been set in motion long before I posted that article. We had created a society where it was inevitable that this would happen and I was little more than a stone against the waves of fate…

I have never felt so powerless in all my life.

But I can change that.

And I will.

This post has been titled, ‘Home Truths for Brexit and Remain Supporters Alike’ – not because it is political. Obviously I do have a political agenda (who can honestly say they don’t?) but that is not the point. I am going to be brutal to both sides here because enough is enough.

And maybe, just maybe, I can make the difference I failed to make before…

So, here it is. The Home Truth.

Fact: Jo Cox was doing what she thought was right. She was a humanitarian who was actively backing the Remain Campaign in the EU referendum.

Fact: She was shot and stabbed whilst on the way to one of her constituency surgeries.

Witness Report: There are witnesses that report that the assailant shouted ‘Britain First’ as he murdered her.

Family Report: The family of alleged assailant have reported that the killer was not politically motivated but has a history of mental illness, although nothing that would explain any violent outbursts.

Fact: As yet, there are no official comments about what his motivations were for the murder and, I imagine, there will be none until after the referendum to avoid pushing voters one way or another based solely off this incident.

Since this terrible incident I have seen people flinging blame back and forth.

‘It’s Brexit’s fault…’

 

‘Remain campaign will exploit Jo Cox’s death…’

It doesn’t seem to matter to people that no one knows yet why he did it. It doesn’t seem to matter that most Remain campaigners haven’t even mentioned the referendum in relation to this terrible act…

It doesn’t seem to matter to people that a woman has died. That her children, aged 5 and 3, have lost their mother…

And it doesn’t seem to matter that every single one of us is to blame. 

For weeks now we have been slugging this issue back and forth. In or Out. Pro or against. We’ve had false information, misinformation, omitted information, lack of information – the works. And what’s worse is, it seems to bringing out the worst in people…

I myself got into a debate with someone recently because I read a racist comment and decided to make my position clear that I wasn’t interested in any racial slurs being banded around the referendum, only to have a Brexit supporter practically accuse me of being racist myself for pointing out that it actually was a racist comment….

In his words ‘racism gets banded around a lot these days…’

We all seem to have gone mad. I mean, since when was it racist to point out when someone was saying something racist? Just because I see a lot more racist comments than I’ve ever seen before, does that mean that the standards for what qualify as a racist comment are suddenly higher so that we can get away with saying more ridiculous things?

It’s absurd. Regardless of whether a referendum is running or not, a racist comment is a racist comment – it should not be judged based on whether you want in or out of EU…

Shouldn’t it?

This is the society we have created. It is now acceptable to make racist comments. It is now acceptable to lie about each other’s motives or information to get what we want. It is now acceptable to talk about the British Empire as though it was a good thing, ignoring all the centuries of brutality and oppression, because it makes a compelling case. People can say the most ridiculously terrible things and know that they have the protection of ‘I have a right to my say in the referendum’ and ‘if you say that what I’m saying is unacceptable then you are oppressing me’.

Our society is rapidly rotting at the core over this issue and, because everyone is too scared to be seen as oppressing someone else’s view, we are allowing people to think ill towards each other. We allow people to lie to us. We allow people to be cruel and heartless and immoral when we should be ganging together – not just in Britain, not just in the EU – In the World!

Think of it this way. The last time a sitting MP was murdered was by the IRA nearly forty years ago. By the IRA. During what the IRA thought of as a war…

Is that what we have come to now? Are we really fighting a civil war over this issue? What kind of monsters have we all become?

This morning a report emerged that said that Jo Cox’s (alleged) murderer was suffering from mental illnesses (or at least has been). Having worked with young adults with mental illnesses, I know how easily they respond to their environment. If they sense hatred and loathing, they reflect that in their own actions.

And we have a lot of hatred and loathing spilling around at the moment.

So take a minute and ask yourself…

Are you really surprised that this happened? Are we really being the best we can be? Do we really want to be defined by our intolerance of people with other views to ourselves…

Even as I am writing this, I can hear some of you now…

‘But Nick, like you said, no one is saying anything about his motives. No one is saying he was manipulated by anyone to carry out this terrible thing. So what makes you think it has anything to do with us squabbling over the referendum?’

And the answer is simple.

I don’t.

That’s the point.

I don’t know that this act of violence has anything to do with the referendum. It could just be one almighty coincidence. He might have been responding to Jo Cox’s anti-Britain First stance and it just so happens he chose now to strike. He might have been acting on his own…

But I do have a few questions in response…

How did a man suffering of mental illness, who had no prior extreme right-wing views (according to his family and friends), suddenly get it into his head to kill a politician known for her anti-right wing views a week before the EU referendum?

Why now?

And who gave him the gun?

You’re right. This is not about the referendum. That’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is because I have come to the inevitable conclusion that something in our society stinks. The EU referendum is not the cause of it, but it has helped to bring it bubbling to the surface.

The society we live in is corrupt and cold and self-absorbent and intolerant and vicious.

And I, for one, will not stand for it!