So, as a rule, PK and I avoid the painful subject of politics. It's just too much like hard work. But a few weeks ago, here in the UK, we had a vote as to whether or not to stay in the European Union. Now, this was the second time I had personally been asked the Stay or Go question: the first time was in 1975, with the first EU referendum - which was also the first time I was old enough to take part in a national vote. Most people, back in those days, voted Remain and that was that.
Now, this is the bit I don't understand. In the early-to-mid-Seventies, the UK's economy was a mess: we were about to head down the world economic rankings (Italians cheerfully recall Il Sorpasso of a decade later) with no obvious way back up; people were leaving the country in droves; the whole place was, to be frank, a bit of a toilet. After fortysomething years of EU membership, on the other hand, we found ourselves in posession of the world's fifth largest economy (and this is with the arrival of China, India, Brazil and so on, the new pace-setters); people were coming here in droves, because Britain was actually quite an interesting place to live and work; and, overall, it was markedly less of a toilet than it was at the start of my adult life. Therefore - with four decades of EU membership behind us - is all this a coincidence? Or a consequence? I took it to be the latter and, like any good Londoner, voted Remain. Seems I was wrong.
After the Leave vote: the perpetrators (with the exception of Boris Johnson, now Foreign Secretary! Who next? Coco the Clown?) have fled the scene of the crime, leaving collective meltdown/political chaos/intergenerational strife/international scorn. With no sign of it ending. If I wasn't having to live through it, it would be quite entertaining. But I am having to live through it and, seriously, it's not fun at all.
And then: an image (see accompanying pic) which, however tangentially, says, this is where we are.
It's a bottle of Warre's 2010 port, stuck upside-down in an optics dispenser. I took the picture in a drinks tent at this year's Henley Royal Regatta - an annual sporting event for oarsmen and their hangers-on which reckons itself to be more socially exclusive than Royal Ascot and is certainly stuffier and more protocol-obsessed, by a margin. It's not without its charm.
But port in a dispenser? I can see that it makes a sort of sense - the drinks tents are mobbed from about eleven a.m. onwards, so you want to get the stuff out fast - but:
a) Who wants port on a hot July afternoon with shade at a premium and litres of other alcoholic drinks (an awful lot of Pimm's) gurgling around inside them?
b) What were the first glassfuls like, assuming there were any takers? Did anyone attempt to deal with the lees? The staff in the Henley tents are all sweet young student types, doing holiday jobs. They know as much about port as I do about Micronesia. Less.
c) How long does it take to pour a small glass of port, assuming anyone's mad enough to want it?
d) Who actually said, let's take one of the most traditional, intractable, institution-bound of British drinks, tip it upside-down like gutbucket rum and serve it to people for money and if there are adverse consequences, it's too late, we've made a decision, let's just move on? Did anybody think this thing through? Is anyone in charge, here?
I could go on, but I'd be depressing myself and boring everyone else. You can see where I'm heading, though: along with millions of others, I now feel as if I'm living in the sociopolitical equivalent of an inverted port bottle with the lees sloshing about and a pub optic stuck where the sun doesn't shine, all because some pillock thought that was a better way to do things. All right, that's it, I'm done.