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Brexit in retrospect

I suppose I should write about Brexit. But so much already has been written I don’t know how much I can add.

In fourth year of medical school, I was sitting in the lecture theatre in Cork University Hospital (CUH) one day. It would be fair to add that I was doing nothing and minding my own business, as I was only materially present and paying really cursory attention. There was a book sale that night, a chance to make a few bob off of the canon of weighty anatomy, physiology and biochemistry textbooks that had been bought 12 months previously, and potentially even more off the ‘biochemistry made ridiculously simple in five minutes for complete gobshites’ type novellas we bought the night before the exam. With the proceeds of the book sale, pints would be had while watching Liverpool play a Champions League match. Perhaps the more memorable students from the years below you’d clocked at said book sale would be entertained by your sophisticated fourth-med patter and win a bit of their money back in drinks bought for them.

When the pathology spiel ended, I noticed a couple of missed calls from a friend who had skipped the lecture. Presuming he was just looking for the notes, I didn’t make much of it but by the time I was at Dennehy’s Cross, it was ringing again.

“Two planes are after hitting the twin towers in New York.”

“Shag off.”

“I’m serious, there’s 50,000 dead.”

“Go away, would you.”

I had assumed my man had somehow procured access to one of the several contraband substances that were floating around Cork at the time and thought not too much more of it. It seemed the unifying diagnosis of missing the lecture and relating such a ridiculous image. I continued on my way into town for the haircut that was surely going to prove irresistible to the bevy of book-buying ladies. By the time I got to Washington Street, it was clear something was up with the world. There was a massive crowd gathered outside Burgerland looking in at the telly and I was fairly sure it was another six months to Cheltenham. The breaking news ribbon screamed at the great loss of life as smoke billowed from the iconic buildings. I’m sure you will all remember where you were when you saw it. I went to the Long Valley and ordered one of the big doorstep sandwiches and a pint. A small crowd of students, drunks and Southmallistas had gathered but other than the occasional sad clunk of a pint being drunk deep and put down, most everyone was silent. Apart from one man.

“Ah Jesus Christ. Ah for f***’s sake, what the f*** did they do that for? Janey mac. That’s it now, the Americans will blow up half the f***ing world. World war f***ing three. F***’s sake. And I due to retire next year.”

You could see how it might have been annoying but it wasn’t, because really all he was doing was playing our inner monologue out loud (apart from the retirement bit). It did actually feel like the end of the world was coming. I abandoned haircut plan A and got a number two crop all over. It seemed right.

I was on the committee of the medical society who had organised the book sale. We decided to go ahead with it and the party afterwards. A lot of people felt it was off-colour to do so, and maybe it was, but with a grasp of logic I have scarcely shown before or since I asked my friends how the state of the world would be made less perilous or miserable if we cancelled. And if we were all getting blown up in a nuclear holocaust, why wouldn’t we indulge in Bacchanalian excess while we could? Not many other people went. This worked to our advantage, as there was still the same number of drink vouchers to go round, so we pretty much drank for free all night. The centrepiece of the evening was a raffle for a PlayStation and the shortened odds with the tiny crowd meant one of us had a great chance of winning, and win we did. And better still, the fella who rang me to tell me about it, whom I thought must be stoned or something, met the woman who is now his wife.

As much as it seemed the world had shifted on its axis that night, when you looked back on it a year later it seemed not that much had changed at all. However, when viewed through a prism 15 years later, time gives you the perspective that in fact it did change everything, just more subtly and in ways more complex than how you had imagined sitting on the high stool in the Long Valley all those years ago.

Thus will it be with Brexit.

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