We turned up early – though not half as early as some – to help get things ready and to join a short choir rehearsal.
This was January 31st, Britain’s last day in the EU, and the occasion for North Yorkshire for Europe’s ‘Thank EU for being here’ party: a celebration for EU citizens who’ve made their homes here.
There were tables and chairs in place, enough for about 120 people. There was Richard up a stepladder wrestling to get the home made (thank you Phil) banner up. And there were the cameras and reporters. BBC Look North were already busy interviewing and ITV News at Ten was due too. But look! Isn’t that Nick Robinson from the Today programme? Yes. He stayed and listened to the choir rehearse, and did a few short interviews, which were transmitted on Saturday’s programme at about 8.15.
Then it was 7.30. People started arriving – slowly at first, then in a busy queue. A Polish nurse who’d been part of the team when Malcolm was in hospital came, with two Spanish friends. As we sat down, we found ourselves with, apart from them, Italian and Ukranian guests. I chatted to a French woman. We heard German, Dutch. We puzzled over quiz sheets. Where ever in Europe had all these pictures been taken? There was music from our very own The Raisers.
Supper was only partly European. There were pizzas. But besides them were vats of Indian vegetarian curries, breads and sweetmeats. Feeding us all took quite a while, but gave the chance for lots of talking and getting to know one another.
Speeches of course. You’ve got to have speeches: but they were short, and though full of regret, positive and forward-looking.
And the choir sang. No longer the Remain Voice Choir, we’ve become the Reunion Chorus. Some of our old favourites have been brought up to date (‘Brexit is a form of Madness’ – you may know it as ‘Bread of Heaven’); and others are new (‘Europeans all are we..’ – ‘Bobby Shaftoe’).
The hands of the clock kept turning. It was getting late. We stopped out chatter. At exactly 11.00 o’clock, we stood up for a minute’s silence: reflective, saddened, angry. And then the choir and everyone in the room joined in singing Ode to Joy. After which, many of us turned to our neighbour for a comforting hug as we wept for what we had lost.
The evening was over. But not our movement. We’ve made new friendships in Yorkshire and beyond. One day, we’re sure, Britain will be part of the EU once more.