English Borders / It Brex

  1. English Borders

We know Scottish Borders, – it’s the county next to England, it shares its border with it,

and that’s what it’s named after. Yet there is no county called English Borders. As if there is no common border, as if Scotland is not next to England. And that’s impossible! Obviously, a border always has two sides. But one side doesn’t seem to talk about it.
They used to, in way: old maps show that where I am now in north-west Cumbria, was once part of the ‘Scottish Marches’, – but they were so-named as an area of battle, not in an affectionate way, not as place to meet in the middle, half-way.

An unspoken border, in half. Ignoring a frontier could be a good thing but what if it’s at the cost of ignoring one’s neighbour? Is the idea that the bigger country doesn’t need to refer to the smaller one?
There’s unequal stuff and unfair history around borders between quite a few countries, putting constellations out of sync, I think. I remember as a child I found it unfair that Denmark was too small compared with Germany. Denmark should have had more land (it’s not fair otherwise!), because once upon a time I believed that all our countries are of the same size. That’s what equality meant for me, totally idealistically, I assumed everything really was equal. But reality wasn’t that straightforward to start with.

Being where we are then, at least size shouldn’t matter, we need a seismic change! There should be diplomacy, recognition and friendliness that would acknowledge the border on both sides of itself, so to make it a common border, a meeting point, a connecting line of a union. A union must be respected, mutually, otherwise there can be no union.
A union, what’s that now? – United Kingdom, Trade Union, European Union? Respect?

Within them tales of two halves in different ways. Splits in Britain between and within the countries in its union. Since uni- !?- fication, Germany has a similar situation with east and west Germany. It’s probably not going off in the same way at the moment – although it could get worse – because there isn’t Brexit in the way.
Is Brexit the most extreme form of ‘The Divided Self’ (R.D. Laing) in a nation, not just an individual?

2. It Brex (Brexit): Eng – land

A story of two halves – here once again. So now it’s Britain that’s in the ‘middle of it: and all its parts: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England – that’s 4 times 2, at least: so many bits and splinters. “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”, as the Irish poet W.B. Yeats rightly said. But on top of that the centre is now stuck with itself: unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland, it can’t break away, – it’s stuck, but only one half of it might think it is stuck: in the picture below this is the ‘land’.

‘Eng – land’ is depicting its internal division it has had since the referendum. One half of

the country, the ‘Eng’ has gone over the cliff edge and is on the sea, the other half ‘land’ is still on land – though ‘Eng’ now assumes ‘land’ has gone with it, though the land has an infinite line after the last letter that connects the country to other entities.
‘Eng’ and ‘land’ have a dash between them – and extended hyphen. They are now in an uneasy symbioses: the ‘land’ can be dragged further down into the sea by the ‘Eng’, and it’s that first half of the country that has the capital letter (because it is the half that is in power / empowered. The ‘land’ cannot divorce itself from the ‘Eng’, and is left at its mercy.
The little island in the sea, and the big lake on the land show movement and mutual influence between the two. But the island in the sea is smaller than the lake in the land: the lake has more impact, and also the water is eroding the land by the coast – so it’s the ‘land’ in danger, whereas the ‘Eng’ is making the dangerous moves.
What’s next? I don’t know, that’s why my sketch is inconclusive. It’s a way of showing the danger, a sketch for thought.

And here’s the poem I wrote after receiving this new thing called “Settled Status”.

Quo Vadis?

I’ve now got Indefinite
Leave to Remain!
What are you
leave or remain?
I mean what do you think
Leaver or remainer
what’s left, what remains?

How odd is this
shifting sand of an island
that we live in
how old is our community
when did we reach out?
And when did we refuse
refugees, or become them
if ever we could
really do so
have enough experience
to say so?

How do you define
a settled status?
How settled could you
ever be and how
unsettled have I become?
How do we settle
the division between us
what’s left, what remains?

What do we leave behind
and how do we remain focussed
Foreigners and Friends
the Settled, the Unsettled, and
the as yet Undecided
Friends and Foreigners without frontiers
it’s about us
where are we now?
With a harder border in our midst, crusting
creasing, screaming.                                                      Ursula Troche, 8.2019

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