Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Aftermath of Brexit - Which way do we go from here?


Like many of my peers, I woke up yesterday to the EU referendum results and a good stab of shock. My next reaction was that 51.8% of the 72% of registered voters (who then only make up roughly 70% of the population) was definitely not enough for a conclusive vote. 17.4million votes out of a population of 64.1million could surely never be enough?

I almost turned over and went back to sleep (#phdlife) but instead I got up, put the kettle on and checked Facebook.

All of a sudden it was very, very clear that this was probably not the case. Unless you had your head stuck in the proverbial sand yesterday, I'm sure you can imagine the conversation I tuned into. Panic, finger-pointing, uproar. After I suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that the votes should have been weighted according to the years voters would live with the consequences, one Leave voter told me I was being childish, that I was a loser and then (as the conversation progressed to issues such as university funding, instability and the idea that age does not equal knowledge) that I and my friends and family were c**ts. (Ok fine, so one of my friends had posted a Jeremy Kyle meme calling him a twat. But still.)

Luckily, most of my Facebook friends were staunch Remain voters like myself. I spent the rest of the day enveloped in the voices of the 75%. The evening was spent with friends, drinking prosecco and dancing to break-up songs.

Yesterday, David Cameron resigned, the EU basically told us to bugger off asap and the global markets suffered a giant blow. Things suddenly began to look very, very serious. Many Leave voters even started to regret their votes which they had simply seen as a protest vote. If anything, we can at least learn something from the referendum - our votes count.

Amongst this, the hatred and vitriol that had formerly been reserved for politicians and immigrants was suddenly aimed at both sides of the vote. I may not be a politician but I agree with the idea that such division is exactly what got us here in the first place and that blaming an age group, social class or ethnicity for our problems is simply exacerbating the issue. People felt alienated and ignored and grabbed a chance to vote for something different.

Sadly, that something wasn't what the majority of Britain's youth wanted. And now we face the backlash from the international community on a greater scale than the older generations who predominantly voted to Leave.

In particular, I am deeply saddened by the responses I have seen from my European friends on social media, both living here and abroad. They feel rejected. They feel confused. They feel outraged. They feel unwanted and like they no longer belong on this confused little island. Britain may still be in the EU but it is currently a very isolated place.

I have seen many cries for Britain to now be given a bad deal in the negotiations with the EU. We voted for this, we should deal with the consequences, they say.

Now not to stay that this is in any way like the prejudice experienced by minorities but for the first time in my life as a straight, white, lower-middle-class, university-educated female - I feel the injustice of being rejected on the basis of my social group. I have of course experienced sexism on many levels too but I have never experienced what it is like to be such fair game for angry, hurt people. And to have so little to argue back with. I am part of a country that voted to leave the EU. I am part of a country whose decision has affected not just us, but the entire global economy. I am part of a country whose future is now deeply uncertain.

I accept and understand why people are reacting towards the Brits as they are. I am deeply sorry for the message Britain has sent out.

But in attempt to redeem myself and my peers, I want to say this:

17.4million out of 64.1million.

(And then within that 17.4million, not everyone was voting because they're xenophobic and racist.)

The other millions, the young who voted to Remain, the young who were denied a voice - they/we are the ones who will have to live the longest with these consequences. And we are the ones who still desperately want to remain friends with you, Europe.

When I see your calls for us to suffer the consequences of our decision, for our blind stumbling into the abyss to be punished, I feel such a deep sadness. I feel as alienated as you do, not just from my fellow countrymen but also by you with these dismissive and sometimes hate-filled comments. And I desperately want to run to you and to apologise to you and show you that you are wanted and needed and loved.

I tried. We tried. I voted Remain. So did so many of us. Us who have adored learning your languages and studied or worked abroad with you and tried to immerse ourselves in your culture and respected and loved our differences as well as our similarities.

Please don't shut your door to us when we have been so heartbroken to see the international one close. We still love you.

"We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us."
Jo Cox 1974 -2016

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Snapshots from Milan Design Week 2016

Ok, ok - so Fuori Salone (or Design Week) was all the way back in April. But what is this blog if not a great big collection of delayed and outdated posts? Consider it an anthology of nostalgia (much like my Instagram feed actually, which often draws jealous and confused comments from friends who haven't realised I'm actually stuck in rainy England just like them and buried under a pile of papers and data analysis - hence the tardy posting).

But even if I'd posted about it immediately after the event, Design Week would have been over anyway, right? So really, we're two months closer to the next Design Week which technically makes this post slightly more relevant than it would have been back in April...

Ok, enough with the excuses. Here's what we got up to this year:

1. We became lumberjacks

Most years, Fuori Salone has a lot of repeat stuff. But I've never been able to become a lumberjack for the day which was one of the things on offer at the Sensorial Carpentry exhibition. Plaid shirts, beards and aprons were on offer (two of which Michele already had) and guests were encouraged to really interact with the wood in a, um, sensory way...

2. We chose the wallpaper for our future home
Another thing about Design Week - it's usually full of rather wacky things you probably wouldn't ever have in your home unless you happened to be involved in the art world. But I did rather fall in love with the fig wallpaper by Wallpepper who have an excellent range of wallpapers on their website. We also spotted a range of other bits to go in the house such as motorised toilet roll dispensers, beautiful bowls (apparently made from silver spider webs) and a glass cabinet full of gorgeous-looking bottles with no apparent extra purpose.
3. We saw the future (and some other bits that were just plain weird)
Fuori Salone is essentially a city-wide art and design festival. Some exhibitions aren't particularly innovative, some are - and some are a bit too much. This year we saw ideas for future city planning, robot kitchens that control EVERYTHING and leather jackets made out of human skin. Yep. Really.

We also saw a functioning cuckoo clock necklace, some great ideas for saving space in offices whilst keeping them fun and sociable and sustainable woodwork. So it wasn't all too nuts.

And then there was some super pretty retro furniture which helped take our mind off the human skin leather jackets. (Human skin leather jackets?!)
4. We chilled out. In a big way.
There's a lot to see and do at Design Week. It also tends to coincide with that first delicious burst of summer in Milan. Our winter bodies are still trying to acclimatise to the sudden Mediterranean heat that's enveloping the city so rushing around and trying to squeeze everything in can feel like a slow and painful suffocation.

This year we took it a bit slower (thank goodness). We sat in reading corners and lazed about on rooftops and slowly walked through exhibits in empty rooms.
This is such a great idea, I'm definitely doing this with all my coffee table books
And this was a chromatic journey through a series of crematorium incinerators, funeral parlours and prison cells. Charming.
But this pool (which is pretty much my dream pool by the way) was on the other side so it was all cool.
5. We ate a lot. Some of it was free.
One of my top tips for visiting Milan Design Week is keep a beady eye out for the freebies and the cheap stuff. It's not uncommon to find lots of free prosecco wafting about (this tends to be going around in the afternoons and early evening though and we were there primarily in the mornings, boo). The prosecco is also often accompanied by platters of fresh strawberries so stay vigilant!

We managed to pick up some free candy floss and free sweet potato ice cream (which had an odd texture to say the least!) and saved a lunchtime for the pizza place just opposite Lambrate station. It's so so cheap there and so so good. Pizza bianca with zucchini flowers, oh my goodness come back to me.
6. We pretended to be in an artsy, vintage, European movie
Dimorestudio is one of my first memories of Fuori Salone, a few years back. I challenge you to visit their website and not fall in love with their cinematic style. It is absolutely stunning and all-encompassing to experience. We visited fairly early in the morning because the apartment exhibition can get very, very crowded at peak times. If I could only visit one exhibit, this would be it, every single time. They also have excellent taste in music which positively booms through the hallways.
One day, I will live in this place.
6. We became students again
Ok, ok so I'm still a student (and will be until 2019 at the very least, depending on how my PhD write up goes, oh my goodness) but the three of us returned to campus life together for the first time in a while. 

Sorry Exeter, the Università degli Studi di Milano beats you hands down for architecture and style.
Were we drunk at this point? I can't really remember. I just remember sunshine and music and feeling kind of hazy.

Also #lovethisgirl

So there you have it, Milan Design Week/Fuori Salone 2016 in a nutshell.

In previous years, I've delved into it in much more depth (you can see some more, rather extensive posts here - also good for general pics of Milan if you're thinking of planning a trip, which you absolutely should) but this year we only visited a few little bits.

It runs every year for a week in April and I really recommend that you go. It's a fantastic way to see the city and can be combined with general sightseeing for a busy and bustling week that truly sees the city burst into life (and come on, free prosecco, how could you not?)

I'll be booking next year's trip shortly...