The short version is that the Brexit process left me feeling so much like a stranger in my own country that I decided to become one, and left. The long version, which follows, is slightly more convoluted, but not fundamentally different.
A little over two months have passed since I closed down my successful business as a freelance journalist and facilitator, sold the lovely house in Colinton that had been our family home for 30 years, consigned our possessions to storage, sale or disposal, and moved with my wife into the tiny flat in Montpellier that we had bought as a pied-a-terre and holiday retreat five years ago.
The truth of the matter is that we always hoped some day to retire to south-west France…just not yet. We are only in our early 60s. My business, having survived the years of economic adversity, had lately been going like the clappers. I was writing as well as I ever have, so far as I could tell; and enjoying it too. Our first grandchild was enchanting us in Scotland, and a second was on the way.
But our plans, like so many things of wider importance, were thrown into disarray by the imbecility of Brexit. We simply did not know what the British government would negotiate on free movement, or residency, or reciprocal healthcare and pension rights, because government itself showed no sign of knowing what it wanted to negotiate. A hard Brexit is still not impossible. Therefore, it made sense to start getting dug in here in France as soon as possible.
Squaring up to these inconvenient practicalities has been made easier by the conviction that Brexit Britain will be a bloody horrible place: insular, boorish, incurious, illiberal, kleptocratic, narrow-minded, baleful, broke, and draping its America-lite reality with fantasies of empire and Blitz. A place where every day is the Last Night of the Proms. Put out more flags? Goodbye to all that.
Britain stubbornly defines itself, and sadder still everyone else, by harking back three-quarters of a century. Just look at the history bays in the bookshop (or at any issue of the Daily Mail). Set aside the yards of royal trivia, and most of the rest is about 1939-45. The French may airbrush their wartime history but, like the rest of continental Europe, they are pretty scrupulous about distinguishing in conversation between Nazis, who were then, and Germans, who are now: and they are more interested in the latter than the former. In Britain, it is thought witty to deny the distinction.
Pointers to what lies ahead were also manifest in the dismal referendum campaign of 2016. Neither side excelled in truth or logic, but it hardly mattered, because the moment immigration entered the discussion all rationality departed. It may creep back in years to come as skill shortages cripple public services and make staple industries unviable, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Like many people, I once harboured hopes that Scotland might find its own route to safeguarding the decent civic values that it habitually proclaims. But it is not to be: at least not yet.
And actually, those feelings of alienation first surfaced at that other referendum, in 2014. I would not have believed that a strategy bent so remorsely on demoralisation, on telling people in Scotland that they weren't up to nationhood, could succeed, even with the connivance of a once-trusted Labour party. For this time-served observer of Scottish affairs, it just didn't compute.
France computes. It is not perfect: for perfection, try Switzerland, and good luck. But after years of visiting regularly it has come to feel increasingly like home, even as Britain felt decreasingly so. I am getting to understand its culture in a way I can no longer fathom my own. The best way to explain it is that the French seem to care about many of the same things I do, and Britain no longer does.
They care how things look and taste and sound. They do not regard aesthetics as effeminate, nor ignorance as heroic. They are just as happy discussing art or politics or philosophy as they are discussing sport, which they enjoy very much but do not confuse with news. They admire celebrity, but expect it to reflect some degree of achievement.
They can have a good time without getting blootered and spoiling everyone else's good time. Their manners are not adjusted to the social standing of the recipient. They do not strew litter wherever they go (dogshit, alas, is another matter), they treat their children as apprentice adults and expect them to behave accordingly, and they address the elderly with respect.
They refuse to accept that national life exists only in the capital city, they work to live not the other way around, they want more from foreign policy than the privilege of writing 'ditto' on US state department press releases, and they believe that tradition should inform not pre-empt change. They have noticed that the second world war ended some months ago, and are happy to move on.
So far at least, and in defiance of the all-too familiar stereotypes, they have also been friendly and welcoming to us. They are curious about Brexit – bemused would be a better word – but not resentful, nor unduly concerned. Their concept of, and commitment to, Europe is undiminished by Britain dropping out of the picture. Which is how I feel too.