June 25th 2016
It was a blue day yesterday.
With Sam living in Berlin and desperately wanting Britain to stay in the EU and the majority of bones in my body agreeing with him, I spent the final minutes of the referendum vote-counting in Boudoir nail parlour. I’d been given a manicure and pedicure as a birthday present and decided for the first time ever to take iPad and headphones with me. We’re seven hours ahead of the UK here. Over there it was 3.30am. I wanted to see and hear the action unfold. I’d been confident we’d remain, albeit by a narrow margin and wanted to know the outcome immediately.
I don’t normally do manicures. This is because I find it hard to be without the use of my hands for very long and am so uncoordinated that it is nigh on impossible for me to manoeuvre my drying nails so that the wet polish does not smudge. This means, I can’t drink the free drinks that came with my generous gift. I can’t answer my phone. I can’t turn the pages of one of those vacuous magazines that take five seconds to flick through and I can’t scratch my nose. I’m one of those people who can’t look at something at the side of the road while I’m driving because if I do, the steering wheel miraculously turns along with my head. So, if I have my nails done I need to sit still a statue, eyes down.
The situation made a perfect opportunity to sit down, plug in and watch BBC Live before the polish descended. I know how hopeless I am so picked a pale pink varnish for my finger-nails and then for no particular reason, other than that my dress yesterday was navy and white, chose a blue for my nails. Then it was eyes down. I have no idea what the two nail technicians must have thought (yes, you get nails and toes done simultaneously here) as I couldn’t help myself emit a series of groans, sighs and mild expletives from the moment Brexit had just 377,000 to go to secure a victory. My heart was sinking fast. I’d lived in France and the Netherlands for ten years of my life. I spoke some French, German and Dutch. I had friends living all over EU, most of whom were not British. I felt more European than British in many ways. I’d certainly spent more of my adult life on the continent than in England. As a mostly-expat I feel more ‘at home’ among internationals and those who recognize that their passport does not define who they are. Yet I am British and our exit from the EU made me feel like I was betraying my friends, being a hypocrite, a traitor.
I was alone in the salon. When the vote was final I could not bear to look at the screen. I glanced towards my fingers. Instead of the innocuous pale colour I’d chosen, they were bright primary blue! After the initial horror I saw the irony. All they needed were some circles of stars and I’d be able to wear my heart on my toes. I shrugged and told the nail girl that it was okay. I was happy to make a statement today.
As my mood sank into a dark hole I decided there was nothing for it but a spot of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke and this time could not contain my laughter. The show finished and my nails were done. I’d taken my mind off the country I was born in for a few minutes.
Four expats came into the salon and sat down.
“Oh God, what about Brexit?” was the first thing to be said. My mother thinks it will be like a divorce, messy. My accountant says we ‘are in interesting times’. My old friend says she wants to leave Britain now.
I’m not sure the future’s bright for our children though my toes certainly are. Like them, I’m rather bluer than I’d hoped.