Catching

Britain is tiring. In January I oversleep my alarm for work several times. My bones freeze and thaw in the spaces between bedding and shower, shower and dressing, kitchen and car, car and hospital. I cannot catch enough sleep. I cannot catch my alarm.

In Europe I am still tired from Britain. I hit snooze again. And again. And again. I arrive at Lisbon airport 20 minutes before boarding. Security queues are short. Passport control is electronic. I only just catch my flight.

I eat. I drink. I sleep. We land. The airport the same as ten years ago – a short asphalt runway. A big Portuguese plane. Last time landing took three attempts. This time we catch the runway first time. We enter the new terminal building on foot – it’s 100 yards from the old one which remains as I remember.

A softly spoken Danish lady catches me as I’m about to leave in a taxi: ‘do you want to share the fare to the port?’ We travel to Mindelo. We catch the boat to Porto Novo there.

We talk in the way that only complete strangers can. Her ex-husband’s depression, my own anxiety, her son’s travels, our opinions on the welfare state. When we come into port I feel as if we are old friends.

Nonetheless, I am caught here as in Lisbon in the net of Brexit. What do I think will happen? What will it mean? How do we feel? I tell her my three perspectives: Family and friends, Nursing, and Lisbon.

For family it was simple. My father remembered voting to enter the EEA, as it was then called. We were fine before and we’ll be fine after, he thought. He would have voted leave. At the same time, he knows that by the time Brexit has any impact he will be ashes and dust. He asked my sister and I how to vote. We said remain. He voted remain. If only all parents and grandparents had been so magnanimous.

For friends it was complicated. A small group of privileged Londoners felt London should stay in (because it voted in), and the Northern areas that voted to leave should leave. Some Northerners voted leave as a protest, sick of being left unsupported and unemployed. We should not kick people when they’re down, or make people suffer unfairly for a single decision, a single cross in pencil on a ballot paper. Other friends were generally reasonable.

For Nursing Brexit is crisis. Spanish nurses are returning and young Commonwealth nurses are not arriving. There are no staff. Those staff left are tired. Is this why I overlay so many mornings now?

In Lisbon the people I meet talk about the circus. On the ferry the Danish lady says the same. Incompetent politicians bickering. Throwing and catching insults. I say that, at the moment, the drama on BBC Parliament is better than anything at the National Theatre. A circus of of own apathy while those responsible for our life chances and futures argue with less sophistication than pre-school children. Lord of the Flies. If only we had a parliament-sized Venus Fly Trap to catch them with.

I find a hotel. I eat. I sleep. I wake early – in time to catch a hotel breakfast, but not in time to catch the bus to Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. I walk back to the port to ask about transport. A young security officer walks me to everything I need: pharmacy for sun cream, bank for cash, taxis for negotiation. Eventually I leave him but he calls behind me ‘you forgot this’. As I turn I see him launch my water bottle. At home I would flinch, cross-eyed, fearing it would catch my head. Here I stand tall, open my hands, catch the bottle perfectly.

I think this is not the first time I have been able to catch in Africa. I definitely can’t catch anything in the UK.

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