There are pockets of brilliance across the UK. And we have much to be proud of and to be getting on with.
It's been a surreal period for many of us, regardless of how we may or may not have voted on 23rd June. As a nation, it seems there's not a lot that we can agree on right now.
Except perhaps for one thing: we're all uncertain.
So what is it that we fall back on in times of uncertainty? What is it that unites us and carries us through times like these?
The simple things that give us moments of pleasure?
Maybe it's a combination of all the above.
For me, that's definitely the case. I've been less focused on the rat-race, more appreciative of the laughter and unconstrained humour of my children, more aware of the value of true and non-judgmental friendships, more proud of the camaraderie of a multicultural team that pulls together regardless of events around us.
Suddenly 'home-made' means more and tastes better than I'd have told you it did early last week. And business partners demonstrating that they believe in you and sending unprompted testimonials or making impactful recommendations triggers a more emotional wave of gratitude than perhaps might have been the case in a less uncertain landscape.
In rare moments of reflection on my commute last week, I kept recalling the words of the well known British war poet, Rupert Brooke, from his iconic poem 'The Old Vicarage at Grantchester'. I'm not a huge fan of poetry and I haven't read this poem for many years. But these are words that somehow elbowed their way front of mind with no conscious direction on my part.
Wistful and anxious about what lay ahead, Brooke sat in a little cafe in Berlin, Germany in 1912, crafting his homesick thoughts into poems. Feeling displaced and disconnected, he falls back into nostalgic and idealistic recollections of better times and pens the iconic concluding lines:
'Say, is there beauty yet to find?
And certainty? And quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? ... Oh yet
Stands the church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?'
I have always read them as lines seeking a kind of reassurance; that somehow, in spite of all the turmoil and uncertainty, there are certain things that we cling to for comfort and re-balancing. For Brooke, it was the simple sounds of church bells and having honey for tea. They are almost childish questions, in light of all that he might have asked. But at the same time, they were the crystal clear fragments of what mattered to him most in a moment of crisis.
His poem depicts an England that can never die, because it is the England that we feel and that we conjure in our minds and keep close in our hearts. As Brooke says best:
'God! I will pack, and take a train
And get me to England once again!
For England's the one land, I know,
Where men with splendid hearts may go...'
It struck me as rather ironic that in the same week that the UK voted for Brexit, we should be celebrating 100 years since the gruesome and devastating battle of the Somme. An event which also shook the UK and our European neighbours to our very roots and fiercely tested our resolve as fellow nations.
Best known for his patriotic sonnet, 'The Soldier' ("If I should die, think only this of me..."), Brooke had lived at the Old Vicarage in Grantchester, near Cambridge, before heading out to Germany. He would die, just a few years later in 1915, from an infected mosquito bite, while on military duty.
I believe we'll all remember 23rd June 2016 for decades to come. We have been shaken to our roots - whether we expected to be leaving the EU or not. But what I hope we will reflect on most is not the political turmoil or the vitriol, intolerance or media frenzy. I hope it will be recognition that this was a moment where we all turned a crystal clear focus on what's really important, and what really matters, and what in fact, has always made our United Kingdom, and its relationships with its neighbours, truly great.
The linked article below is a brilliant demonstration of how communities across the UK (and now the world) are creating some extraordinary social and commercial initiatives of which we can all be very proud and excited about. These were the front runners of the now hugely popular coworking movements, with humble roots that have already grown to impressive heights. These are what make us all great. At their heart, they carry a salient reminder that collaboration and co-operation are far more powerful tools of change and sustainability, than isolation, intolerance and arrogance.
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