After a mild Christmas, we could be forgiven for being complacent. We were even told that 2018 was hotter than average for ever. We were dreaming of Brighton converted into Miami. But now has come the beast from the east. The winds blowing from the Russian steppes straight to us deserve that tag. The weather has gone frosty. The temperature up in Scotland has hit minus 10! It is barely above freezing in London. We are promised a bit of relief if the clouds clear. But this weather may last weeks. Where is global warming when you need it?
Parliament opens this week: That may generate some heat! Here at last is the climax. Next Monday, Theresa May will put her Brexit deal to vote. It is a close call. If she wins even by one vote it will be a miracle worth waiting for. She would not have won last December in the febrile atmosphere. Now after the Christmas break a saner mood may prevail. The deal is, frankly, no big deal but that is the best Ms May has. Any idea that UK could renegotiate has been dashed by the European Union leaders themselves.
There have been all sorts of wild plans. One is that the UK will just drop its application to leave. No Brexit. Another thought is that if Ms May loses, we should hold a second referendum. But then if that goes bad as well, do we have yet another referendum?
In case she loses the vote, the UK goes out with no deal. This is the nightmare scenario. Our daily supplies of fruits and vegetables and medicines (and chocolates!) daily arriving by truckloads from the Continent will not pass through with a nod as they do now. We will be out of the customs union and thus become a third party. Every export and import item will need to be checked at point of entry. There will be delays and long queues of lorries at Dover port stretching for miles. The government has been issuing warnings bit by bit. No one has yet panicked. It has not yet sunk in.
If it does come to food shortages and needing visas to travel to France and no Mars bars, then we will think of ways out. I expect many NRIs suddenly feeling nostalgic for home and getting on a one-way flight back to sunny India and wait out the crisis before things return to normal. So prepare for guests arriving.
The struggle continues in the meanwhile. Local councils have been hard up for money for quite a while. Local public libraries have been the easy things to shut down. Two minutes from where we live they shut down the Carnegie Library which was set up thanks to the charity of Andrew Carnegie in the 19th century. Our local parents are fighting hard. They will be cheered by the example of the Feminist Library set up in 1975 in Southwark, our neighbouring borough. It is a fabulous collection of women’s literature, “herstories” and archives gathered over the years. But 800 friends of the Feminist Library fought back when the founders were about to despair. They raised £35,000 to pay the higher rent for a new accommodation they were offered. So the women have shown the way once again.
And then, for all our South Asian friends — does it look likely that the UK may end with a Prime Minister of Asian descent? There has been renewed interest in home secretary Sajid Javid, whose father came to the UK with only one pound in his pocket. However, he worked day and night to ensure that his family had a secure future. Javid’s fans compare him favourably with the other contenders such as Boris Johnson, saying that he has a much more representative background of the UK today. Despite being bullied in school by racists, he was able to become the youngest vice-president at Chase at 25 — and soon had a fortune of £20 million. All the contenders for the PM’s post are waiting to see what happens with Theresa May and Brexit.
On a happy note think of the couple in Northern Ireland. Patrick Connolly, a 54-year-old businessman said he was nagged by his wife Frances into buying a lottery ticket. Which he did. When he heard the results, he checked his numbers. Then he checked them again. When he realised, he told her they had won, £115 million! They said they stared at each other for ten minutes. Then Frances made them cups of tea to take in the news. The most they had ever won before was £2.60. Their three daughters and grandchildren as well as friends are all going to share in the good fortune. With that much money, they want to spread happiness around. They intend to help the St. Francis Football Club in Hartlepool where they lived for 25 years. Apart from that the only thing she wants is a bungalow where she does not have to climb stairs. Fair enough. How many bungalows does £115 million buy?