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#PeoplesVoteMarch

On Saturday 23 March 2019, I joined the People’s Vote march – and made history.

I met a schoolfriend at 11:30, another Manx transplant paying British taxes and living as an “other” in a city of 9 million people, 37% of whom are born outside of the UK. Our parents messaged us throughout the course of the afternoon offering support and admiration that we were joining the thousands of people giving up their weekend to make their voice heard and presence felt on the streets of Westminster. Our mums told us to take care, which turned out not to be necessary. I had never felt so bouyed and welcomed in London as I did today.

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Spotting the most creative placards was a fun game while we stop-started along the road to Green Park. The team behind the People’s Vote campaign, who organised the event, handed out daffodil coloured t-shirts and Union Jack flags (the latter of which I passed on, being Manx-born). There were babies as young as a few months old, and people well into their eighties. Every single person was upbeat, friendly, and dare I even say hopeful.

It’s impossible to know the scale of the crowds today without the aid of a drone or helicopter. The BBC have captured this footage, which I caught a glimpse of on Twitter somewhere around St. James’s Park despite the phone networks being down for most of the afternoon.

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We were very close to the front of the march and passed Downing Street at 14:15 before the flow of people came to a standstil. Protest groups and ad agencies had utilised electronic billboards showing tweets from politicians throughout the last few years, demonstrating their change of stance on the ‘B’ word that to date has cost us over £40bn.

In years to come, historians will write approvingly of the British people’s passionate, peaceful and successful fight against Brexit. They will say that as our institutions buckled under the strain, Britain found its voice. And you will be able to say to your children and grandchildren: “I was there. I stood up for my country, I faced down the extremists, I protected your future.” So come today. Join us. Let’s get our country back. – Lord Adonis, writing for The Guardian on 23 March 2019

I can’t say for certain that I know how I’d vote if a General Election was called. At this point, I might even say I have lost hope in the current political system to deliver an effective government that could represent the myriad communities that make up our great nation. Perhaps electoral reform is the only way we can realistically hope for change.

I am British. I am an EU citizen. Today, I am proud to call myself a Londoner.

News

Bad Date Diaries #5: Boxpark

There’s a running joke amongst my friends that I won’t date a guy who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

When Frank popped up as a match on the “exclusive” dating app I had been tentatively using for a couple of months, I immediately googled him to check he was legit, since he didn’t have such an obvious public profile. He didn’t have a verified twitter account, for example. Elusive, mysterious – possibly a mass-murderer.

Despite a lack of surname, his education (Harvard Business School), current job (something to do with macrobiotic sports drinks) and first name were all I needed to find a full profile on an alumni website in a couple of clicks. His details checked out, so I figured he was safe.

We meet on Shoreditch High Street. He doesn’t recognise me immediately.

“Hey, um, Frank?” I wave awkwardly across the pavement. He blinks, eyes unfocused.

“Heeeeeeeey.”

We air kiss and I note that I don’t fancy him. I can sense the feeling is mutual within seconds, but I’ve schlepped all the way out here and don’t have any of my friends on hand as a “get out”. Rookie error.

“So you work for Uber? That must be pretty cool,” I say, brightly. “What brings you to London?”

“Ahm, work. I’m working here for a couple of days. Flew in last night, go back to San Francisco on Friday.”

“Oh, right.”

I’m fairly certain his profile suggested he was a permanent fixture in London, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have agreed to meet him midweek.

“What do you do.”

He sounds so bored, it isn’t even a question.

“I work in the music industry—“

Frank suddenly starts coughing.

“Are you alright?” I’m not sure if I look concerned or alarmed.

“I have to move table, why does everyone in this city smoke. It’s disgusting.” His tone is accusatory, and he glares at me.

“Oh, okay. Sure, we can move, err—“

I look helplessly around the terrace, which is atmospherically, authentically smoky for East London. He’s still choking, dramatically placing his hand over his mouth and hating me with the power of a thousand atomic bombs for suggesting such a poisonous locale.

“Shall we go and get some food?” I venture, looking for an escape from his aggressive banality.

“I only eat soy-based meals, do any of these vendors sell vegan food.”

I stare at him.

“It’s Boxpark, so… yes, probably.”

“Great. I’ll need to replenish my photons after all of this second-hand smoke.”

“Right-o. This place does halloumi, is that vegan?”

“I love your British humour,” he replies with a blank expression, and I wonder if he’s taking the piss or just completely humourless.

We walk over to the hatch and order Greek food, the lingering aroma of burning meat punctuated by awkward silences.

“I’ll get these,” he says, holding a gold-coloured credit card out to the cashier.

“Sorry, mate, we don’t take Amex.”

Frank frowns slightly, the first time I’ve seen his face move all evening.

“Ah, that’s… I don’t have any others. What sort of restaurant doesn’t take credit card.”

He has a habit of making statements instead of asking questions, I note. After a horribly tense pause, I take out my debit card and press it against the card reader.

“You’ll have to make it up to your girlfriend, mate,” the cashier offers, unhelpfully.

I feel my face contract and try to hide a grimace behind my scarf, which stinks of cigarette smoke.

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll pay her back another way.” He smiles, and I want to puke on my kofta.

I excuse myself to go to the toilet, reach the exit, and keep walking.