Well, that’s been an interesting couple of weeks. An end to the European dream as set out by Winston Churchill in 1948, among others. The cold shivers of the first blast of the Economic winter waiting just around the corner. The simian-like racists with their freshly-issued permits to abuse. The loss of life opportunity for a whole generation of young people. A new low in the perpetually downward spiral of the body politic. And I still have this bloody annoying cancer.

“I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Woody Allen once said. You could replace “death” with “Brexit” as far as I’m concerned. I’m looking at both right now, and death isn’t as far behind in the popularity polls as you might have been led to believe ;-).

When I’m drunk or upset I can only think in Galway-ese. It was weeks of internal dialogue along the lines: Well they’re all just a bunch a’ messers and chancers actin’ the bollix and you’d want to go flaking them with a hurley, so you would. They madden me somethin’ powerful, so they do. Will ya get down out of that, Nigel, ya feckin’ little amadáin ya. Now! will ya only look and see what he’s after doin’, the ugly little shite. He’s after shaftin’ the lot of us. Well, I hope he feckin’ dies roaring, God forgive me.

On top of that, I had the bad luck to click on a book called “Into Extra Time” which “comprises the powerful reflections of a Jesuit priest which he wrote during the final months of his life following a diagnosis of cancer”. God bless the poor dead man, and all that, but the feckin’ Amazon engine has me plagued and close to distraction with a barrage of recommended books by God-botherers. All trying to tell me how much comfort I can find. “Is it after givin’ me relief and solace ye’re after?” thinks I, “well, ye can all feck off for a start and take that pile of wasted trees with ye.” If it’s extra time, it’s like extra time in a dreary dull 0-0 game that you just know will go to penalties, and you couldn’t give a fish’s tit for either team.

Sorry. No, it’s fine. I’m alright now. But it’s no wonder I’m skipping along the watchtower with Bob and Jimi looking for some kind of way out of here. There’s too much confusion and I can’t get no relief.

Metaphorically, it’s turning into the year without a summer. Literally, the Year Without A Summer was an actual thing. It happened to be exactly 200 years ago, in 1816. It was down to volcanic eruptions in SE Asia that created dust clouds over the world and caused a volcanic winter. These days, I suppose we make our own volcanoes. Anyway, it caused food shortages and general privation everywhere, including England. It led to such things as the Littleport Riots in May 1816.

It coincided with the end of the Napoleonic Wars (Waterloo was in 1815), and soldiers were coming home from the wars. The English Corn Laws had just been passed by a Tory government to impose huge tariffs on imported grain, in order to keep prices high in favour of well-off farmers (mostly Conservative landowners). The effect was to dramatically raise the cost of food, and it led to a protest movement against the “bread-taxing oligarchy.” To offset the damage, ‘Poor Laws’ were passed that would supplement wages and alleviate the lot of the poor. But these just kept wages low as farmers knew that their labourers’ wages would be topped-up by the system.

Plenty of John Bull flag-waving patriotism went on display, as once again the labouring poor were asked to pick up the bill for wars and greed. Lots of “tax credits” to hide the reality of a “zero hours”, low-pay culture where you worked for a pittance and got treated like dog shit. When it was repealed in 1845, it was partly because of the Irish Famine. Mostly, it was because the rich industrialists got fed up paying higher factory wages so that rich landowners could enjoy higher profits.

To go back to the riot for a moment, it happened close-by in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. A group of people had a “few scoops” in the Globe Inn (alas, it was demolished in 1962) and they then set off to relieve the local wealthy of some of their worldly possessions. Braved-on by this, they gathered up a few fowling guns and pitch-forks in a waggon and horses, and began a march to Ely. Needless to say, the Dragoons, Cavalry and gentlemen militia were soon dispatched against them. The culprits were rounded up, and trials were held in June. Some were transported to Australia, but five were condemned to death. There was then a delay for a week because they had to hire the black-draped Gallows cart and horses all the way from Cambridge – no one local was willing to supply. On Friday 28 June 1816, the five were hanged and buried in Ely. Their memorial plaque says “May their awful fate be a warning to others”. Indeed. Step carefully, you plebs and oiks.

If this happened in Ireland, we’d have a rousing ballad to commemorate them, and we’d still burn with the indignation of their killing. A few days now after the 200th anniversary of their deaths, a little traditional camaraderie goes out to them from me. Poor is poor, no matter what your national flag.

Ah, Memorials, Commemorations and all that. I went to a classical music event in Madingley last Sunday week that was surprisingly good. One song-cycle took the words from Orwell’s 1984: “In his waking thoughts he called it the Golden Country.” I went back to the book for a quick re-read. The Party slogan just seems to have special resonance for these times: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” The mutability of the past is bad enough, but I keep looking at Media mind-twists on the present and constantly asking: who falls for this shit?

Winston Smith escaped the grey drudgery of his IngSoc existence by dreaming of the Golden Country. In truth, it sounds like a rather ordinary place. An old, rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot-track wandering across it and a molehill here and there. The UK was asked to vote last week for a return to the past, to some long-gone image of a Golden Country.

I wonder how George Orwell would have voted in the referendum? Who knows, but his Internationalism was well-proven and there is that famous essay from 1945 in which he distinguished between nationalism (=bad) and patriotism (=less bad). Nationalism makes people disregard common sense and ignore facts. Patriotism is “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.” Not a great demonstration of logical thinking either, but at least a bit less bad. Still, at least you can impress your chums by saying that Gove is a misguided Patriot (doesn’t that just sound like a missile out of control?) whereas you have no time for those nasty Nationalists abusing people in the street.

So, here we are two hundred years on from 1816. Climate forces still background our experiences, and we play out the charade of history before it. We still have the under-privileged getting shafted by the Elite, and ever more elaborate tapestries of lies are woven to distract our eyes from it.  Hegel just about nailed it when he said that “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” We the Golden Country!