Some time ago, fed up of pop singers (except Billy Bragg), actors and other claptrap merchants in the mould of Tony Benn, I decided to stop watching Question Time
. I thought it would be tough. But no. It turned out that the absence hardly mattered. I recently picked up snatches of the programme in the passing and discovered that it now doesn't matter at all.
Unfortunately, this avoidance technique doesn't work with Brexit media coverage. Brexit movement is so glacial that the few seconds it takes to get out of the room or turn the radio off are enough to reveal all that the next 20 minutes of the piece is going to contain.
But there is a more serious problem. Brexit is not trivial like Question Time
. Such is the poisonous potential of all of its possible outcomes that it cannot be entirely ignored. As Anna Soubry observed, Brexit has turned over a stone and some very nasty things have crawled out. An eye needs to be kept on them in case we get turned into Venezuela, which is now achievable even without help from Jeremy Corbyn. What is needed is an opt-in/opt-out escape technique rather than blanket avoidance.
Fortunately, there is such a technique. Moreover, it is entirely non-partisan. It is suitable for all three sub-groups of Remain voters: the Stays, who just want to stay in the EU; the Right-Ons who want to be seen to be respecting democracy by switching to Leave; and the Preferment Group which comprises politicians seeking ministerial jobs. Leave voters fall into only two categories: the Leave With A Deal group and the Leave Without A Deal group. Besides these groupings there is an additional group called The Labour Party, but nobody knows what it wants.
Divided though these groups may appear, all have something in common besides mutual hatred and an urge to please a Swedish school pupil by means of virtue signalling. That is, none of them believe they are going to get what they want and, as a result, all have been driven into despair or even madness. Consequently, all would be suitable for the new, carbon neutral, opt-in/opt-out Brexit avoidance technique.
It is quite straightforward in concept. You simply find an alternative to Brexit that can drive you round the bend. Then, when Brexit gets to be unbearable, you expose yourself to your chosen alternative so that it drives you round the bend instead. After a dose of that, you can return to Brexit, top-up on the latest events, then return to your chosen alternative as necessary. And so on.
Although what might constitute a suitable alternative will vary between people, there are a number of possibilities with near universal application. Historians who talk in the present tense about long-ago events are an example. These are readily available on the higher-number Freeview channels, sometimes even on the BBC. This is usually enough to have most people fulminating within the few minutes it takes to turn a good story into unintelligible mush.
The historians' Brexit alternative has the additional advantage of having a hyper-drive which can be engaged in circumstances where a yet more powerful substitute irritation is required. This feature is activated by means of asking a historian why they do it. The usual response is that they do it because it will give you a better feel for their story. There is no greater irritation than being patronised by someone contemplating the operation of your mind in opposition to what you've already told them about its operation. Because of this, the hyper-drive should be used only in dire emergencies such as inadvertent exposure to Jacob Rees Mogg. Apart from anything else, users might find themselves in court on a charge of assault, or, as your defending counsel will call it, historian-specific scrotal lift therapy.
Another near universal Brexit alternative is loud music in cafes and in shops, and in the streets from grossly amplified buskers. This does not apply to background music which is defined as music that the listener can elect not to hear. Loud music is defined as foreground music. Foreground music is that which cannot be escaped.
Fortunately, finding such Brexit alternatives is not difficult. As a general rule, the more downmarket an establishment the more it is likely to have loud music. Thus, for example, if there is music in Cameron Toll shopping centre it is inaudible, but in the Overgate shopping centre in Dundee, the hair of all the shoppers is blown back as if by a hurricane of noise. Similarly with amplified busking. There are reports of cars being blown off the A9 outside Perth by the noise coming from amplified buskers several miles away in the city's main shopping street.
In rare cases where a stiffer counterweight to Brexit is required, you need only ask in a cafe for the music to be turned down. Whatever the response, it will only make it worse, for they will either turn it down by a barely detectable amount or refuse altogether. While researching for this piece, I tried this in a cafe. 'Would you mind awfully turning the music down a bit?' I asked, like a craft gin hipster. The man behind the counter looked stunned. 'But the other customers like it,' he said, extending an arm as if to illustrate them, even though there were none. I am pleased to report that this test incident confirmed the efficacy of the technique. Brexit never entered my mind for the next two hours.
Incidentally, this was written the day before news of the suspension of parliament broke. I am off to find some historians in order to ask them why they speak in the present tense.