Is it the end of the world - or a new dawn?

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

Is it the end of the world - or a new dawn?

Enda Kenny giving his post-Brexit speech: I always panic when the powers that be tell me to calm down and don't panic, says Patricia

I KNOW that this can have tragic implications and is certainly not something to be flippant about, but it seems that we’ve lost our sunny outlook on life.

We seem to have lost contact with the sun as well, but that’s neither here nor there. The whole nation, according to health pollsters, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and nobody knows what’s happened to our mojo. The scariest thing of all is that the experts are just ignoring our collective glumness. So perhaps it is just the weather.

But the weather wasn’t any better a mere 12 months ago when we were pronounced the ‘most optimistic people’ in Europe – on the results of a poll, naturally. Now most of us are in therapy. Mindfulness, obviously, didn’t do much for us, and the new gods of materialism and humanism were no great consolation either. On the other hand, we could have been lying to the pollsters last year – indulging in a bit of Celtic escapism.

Anyhow – and this has nothing at all to do with the general health of the nation – I’ve become a bit anxious myself. For the past two days, I’ve found myself suffering from Brexit anxiety. I hope it isn’t catching because I’d hate to add to the gloom.

Last week, to be honest, I couldn’t give a toss about Brexit. When I woke up on Friday morning to hear that Britain was leaving the EU, I was surprised, but not in the least concerned, even when himself started fretting about cattle prices and asking mournfully “who will take our animals now?” and “what will happen to the Single Payment” if the EU collapses?” The funny thing is that he had been an Euro sceptic himself ever since they started spying on farmers from the satellite.

But I remained blithely untouched by the crisis. It must be because I still retain some of my worst journalistic tendencies such as thinking that good news is never quite as riveting as news that is shocking and scary. Except that I wasn’t scared either!

Next day, however, the anxiety started to kick in. It began when Enda came out and advised us all to remain calm, and not to panic. I didn’t see any panic.

All I could see was a bit of glee over the predicament in which Britain had found itself and an less than neighbourly desire to exploit the situation if we could. Even so, the last thing I wanted to hear was ‘don’t panic’. I didn’t want to be left behind or trodden underfoot when the stampede got underway. In any case when someone tells me to stay calm, the adrenalin goes into overdrive and my instincts tell me to run for my life. “You’re right,” I told himself two days after Brexit. “We’re going to have to fasten our seat belts and batten down the hatches and maybe even sell up.”

“You’re very excitable.’ Tisn’t that bad,” he replied, having regained his own composure in the face of downright hysteria.

The last time I felt anything like this was during the Cold War when the Russians and the Americans were itching to nuke the earth and I discovered one day that Limerick City Council had built an underground bunker so that civil administration would not be impeded by the nuclear fall-out and that the top brass would be safe.

I got a touch of it again when one-time Minister Joe Jacobs sent us all a packet of iodine tablets to help stave off the effects of radiation. I think it was the laughter that cured me then. Laughter is always the best medicine.

I could have laughed off the Brexit anxiety too, I suppose, if Enda hadn’t told us again not to worry, that the Government had a contingency plan. “What?” I gasped. Surely this isn’t our problem. But nobody has a contingency plan unless they’re expecting the ship to run aground and splinter on the rocks. Something must be very amiss when they have to reach for the contingency plan. Then, just as I’m gearing myself up for the contingency, along comes that other anxiety provocateur, David McWilliams - who can read the cards and the tea-cups apparently – announced that there was no contingency plan. The Government, he claimed, had never even contemplated a Brexit and had no plan B. Well neither had I, and now I’ve developed an anxiety disorder the likes of which I’m sure no therapist worth his salt would even think of indulging. But that’s not to say that it’s not real.

It was bad enough without a respected RTE correspondent -on the very centenary of the Somme – saying on national TV that Brexit was huge. Make no mistake about it, he said, “it’s up there with the shooting of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo”. Most people were concentrated at that very moment on the advance of the boys in green over in France, but I was stunned. Suddenly the trenches were opening up in my imagination and I was wondering if I should get in a supply of tinned food, just in case.

But all that was nothing that a stiff brandy wouldn’t cure, until Sinn Fein came out and called for a Border poll and suddenly the prospect of an impromptu United Ireland was on the cards as well. That’s when I actually broke out in a rash.

I hope now that I’m not in any way trivialising the real pain of a nation in counselling, but those of us who can’t go anyplace without worrying if we’ve locked the door, unplugged the iron or turned off the tap, could really have done without Brexit.