Tuesday, 28 June 2016


I voted to remain in the EU last Thursday.  I've always loved being part of Europe and in many ways have felt more European than British. 

Nonetheless, I thought we would leave.  The Leave campaign was strong, Rupert Murdoch's papers, especially The Sun, supported leaving (it seems that in this country nowadays The Sun determines all our election results) and Leave had the catchy slogans ('Let's take our country back' was a particularly powerful one) and the biggest posters.  Some were huge: in the weeks leading up to the election the fields of East Sussex were dotted with vast red banners, all shouting 'Vote Leave.'  As time wore on I felt increasingly alienated from my neighbours. 

Last Thursday my husband Phill & I walked up to the polling office in our village's Memorial Hall.  There was a long queue and lots of people smiling and looking happy.  I don't know exactly how my village voted, I only know the result for Wealden district was 54.5% to leave.  I believe a lot of those happy, smiling faces were looking forward to voting out. 

The queue moved slowly into the hall and there above the door was a sign telling us that the place was built in the memory of those who gave their lives fighting in the two World Wars.  I felt like crying.  It was horrible to think that everyone who was there to vote Leave was doing so in spite of the horrors of two European wars. 

On Friday morning Phill got up at five to go fishing for the weekend.  I woke up too.  Phill looked at his i-pad and asked me, 'Do you want to know the result?  It's Leave, 51.8%' 

After that I couldn't sleep.  Phill and I kept hugging one another.  Even though we'd expected it we still couldn't believe it had actually happened, that the people of this country had really done something so stupid.  I got up and we listened to Radio 4.  There were still a few votes to come in but the results were conclusive.  Phill left, though we were both in shock.  I told him to drive carefully, I was so worried he wouldn't be able to concentrate. 

After he left I kept walking from room to room.  I turned on my phone and talked to friends on Facebook, almost all of whom were stunned and horrified.  Only one person crowed that we'd socked it to Cameron.  I don't think he understood what he'd done.  I don't know whether he understands now, I dread speaking to him about it.     

Later I phoned my mother, who voted Remain.  Her first words were, 'Depressing isn't it.'  At least she and I were on the same side and can talk about it.  My dad voted Leave.  I still haven't spoken to him.  I don't know what I'll say when we do speak. 

Brexit has changed the way I perceive this country.  I'm not sure I want to live here any longer.  When I walk into the village I look at other people with mistrust and wonder who among them voted for this mess.  When I speak to people for the first time since it happened I speak in code and when they ask me how I am I say, 'Oh, you know.'  If they looked perplexed I know they voted to leave. 

In my creative writing class yesterday one of my students, who was born in Barbados but has lived here since 1967, told me that on Saturday she heard a little boy ask his grandmother why we'd had a referendum.  The woman said, 'To keep foreigners out.'  The little boy pointed to my student and said, 'Is that one?' and the woman said, 'Yes.'  My student said that when she first came here she had a few problems, but she hadn't had any abuse in years.  She was fighting back tears as she told me. 

When I got home yesterday afternoon Phill said he'd just spoken to someone whose friend, who's black and born in this country, was on the Tube at the weekend when someone told her she should go back home.  I understand that not everyone who voted Leave was motivated by racism, but Nigel Farage and the Leave campaign made it acceptable for people to voice their prejudices and it's frightening to see how quickly Britain has changed as a result. 

David Cameron says the result showed the will of the people, but it only showed that of just over half the people who voted.  The Government could call the whole thing off, as we all now know the referendum was only advisory, but it doesn't seem to have the courage to do so. 

I haven't said anything new here and I haven't even said it very well.  Many people I know feel the same way and many on the Leave side think we Remainers should shut up and accept the result, but at times like these we have to nail our colours to the mast.  Mine are blue and yellow. 

There's a march this Saturday and another next Saturday.  I hope to go to both.   I've also written to my MP, asking her to vote against Brexit in Parliament.  I don't know what else to do.  The Leave voters may honestly believe they've taken their country back, but in doing so they've robbed me of mine. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Spring Poets' Walk


The world's spinning, the seasons are turning and even on this bitter March morning the birds are singing their springy hearts out.  They know that the next Poets' (note the plural apostrophe) Walk will take place on 5th April, between the usual times of 10.30 and1.30. 

This time we'll be Angels of History: we'll be thinking, writing and possibly even walking backwards, though I'm not sure what the birds will make of that. 

The workshop will be free and open to adults of all abilities.  You can book a place by calling 01342 823583 or by sending an email to conservators@ashdownforest.org. 

Monday, 4 January 2016

Poet's Walk


Photograph by Helen Bardsley

The next Ashdown Forest Poet's Walk will take place tomorrow (5th January) between 10.30 and 1.30.  You can book a (free) place by contacting conservators@ashdownforest.org or phoning 01342 823583.  Remember to bring a raincoat!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Mulled Poems 2015

Juliet Murray, First Snows, Old Lodge Valley, Ashdown Forest

Ashdown Forest's Mulled Wine and Poems evening will be on Thursday 3rd December, from 6 till 8pm.  Admission's free and we've a handful (or pen pot-ful) of poets who'll be reading their work, so if you're on or near the rough, tough heath in the heart of Sussex on 3rd December, please come along.   

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Mayfield Fringe Festival

 Box by Lawrence Wilson, photograph by Lawrence Wilson also.

Mayfield's Fringe Festival has begun again.  This year's events include a re-enactment of a duel that never happened between the poets Ezra Pound and Lascelles Abercrombie.  Apparently, Pound challenged Abercrombie to a duel in 1912, after Abercrombie called for a return to the poetry of Wordsworth.  Now, one hundred and a bit years later we'll see who wins the battle between Modernism and Romanticism.

Our other literary shenanigans include a poetry reading with Robin Houghton, Patricia McCarthy and Jill Monroe on Sunday evening, and a story competition for young writers.

Storytelling is a prominent feature of this year's Fringe with a performance of The Wild Girl of Mayfield, a story by local storytellers Johnny Marsh, Pat Robson and Sam Santo, on Sunday afternoon.  There'll be more tales too at In the Pink, an evening of food, stories and poems at the Pink Cabbage Company Cafe on Friday night.

Visual art lovers will be nourished by the work of Reem and Andy Acason at the Lower Steps Gallery and by the Boxes of Delight that are on display in shop windows around the village and which will be auctioned on Saturday night.



Painting by Reem Acason, photograph by Caroline Pooley
 
Finally, anyone who likes a hearty chat over a glass of something cheering will be welcome to join Discussions in Pubs in The Rose & Crown on Thursday evening, where the role of the EU will be up for discursive grabs.  

For full details of all the events, take a look at the Fringe website. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Ashdown Forest Poet's Walk, 21st April




April is upon us and the primroses are plumply blooming.  Next Tuesday, 21st April, there'll be another Poet's Walk, starting at 10.30 and finishing at 1.30.  Once again we'll be writing, walking, drinking tea and coffee and eating biscuits.  This time we'll be thinking too about forest memories and forest memory.
Everyone's welcome and you can book a place by contacting Ashdown Forest Centre on 01324 823583 or by sending an email to conservators@ashdownforest.org. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Ashdown Forest Poet's Walk



 One of E H Shepard's illustrations for Winnie the Pooh, of course.

The next Poet's Walk workshop will be from 10.30 - 1.30, next Tuesday.  Once again we'll be writing, walking, drinking tea and coffee, eating biscuits, talking about writing, walking and the Forest and generally making merry in the heart of the Sussex Weald. 
Everyone's welcome, whether you write regularly or haven't picked up a pen since you left school.  You can book a place by contacting Ashdown Forest Centre on 01324 823583 or by sending an email to conservators@ashdownforest.org.