Wednesday, 18 May 2016
People don’t seem to wear watches so much these days – relying instead on their smart phones to tell them what time it is, where they are, who their friends are and no doubt before long when to breathe in and out. But back in the day, my day, every boy’s birthday wish was for a simple wristwatch. So when I got my first Timex I was over the moon. Be careful what you wish for, they say, because from that day on I could never again use the excuse that I didn’t know what time it was. Playing out, roaming far and wide, extending our ridiculously early bedtime was easily done in those long summer days... until that accursed timepiece attached itself to my wrist forever. I still wear one today.
One day, wanting to stay out late, a friend and I both put back our watches an hour and we tried, independently and equally unsuccessfully, to convince our furious parents that said watches had stopped and had to be rewound. Our mothers didn’t believe a word of it because unlike us they had been there before and knew the drill. We’ve all done it. We’ve fucked up and covered up, or else we have used what we think are harmless lies to avoid something. The invented work event to duck out of a family occasion. The invented family occasion to sidestep a work event; it works just so long as PR don’t make a note of Aunty Madge’s multiple funerals.
Out of kindness we tell the kids that the dog went off to live on a farm; the truth can be brutal and unnecessary. So if we are generous we have to give the increasingly fiery-panted David Cameron the benefit of the doubt and assume that his barefaced lies, confections and fabrications are because he genuinely believes that we would all be better off staying in the European Union. The alternative view is unpleasant. The nice Mr Cameron sugaring the bitter pill, or the cynical lying sell-out, feathering the nests of big business?
But there is lying to avoid unpleasantness and to sell an otherwise benign proposition and there is the barrage of increasingly desperate and shrill pronouncements about the insanity and ugliness of the Leave lobby. Yesterday’s unedifying spectacle was an old man, still consumed by his thwarted ambition to sit at the head of government, labelling a lead Leave campaigner as mentally unstable. He managed to avoid the phrase ‘fruitcake, loony and closet racist’ but only barely; a constant theme of the Remainders has been to try and brand their opposition as unhinged.
They're all mad!
With a few exceptions, however, the passion for leaving has been stated with humour and optimism and a sense of national destiny that is compelling. Almost all of the rejectionist talk has been on the Remain side, usually aimed at discrediting the motives of Leave. Now that the personal attacks are on the rise it is to be hoped that Boris and co keep their language temperate and their debate impersonal; leave the spitting hatred to the Remainians, to whom it seems to come naturally. If you do still wear a watch these days you will be more aware than most that the clock is ticking and every second counts.