Brexit Saved Me by Joy Manné

It’s an English party, on the remote island where we winter, and most of the guests are retired, like us. Our hostess greets us at the front door. In the living room, with its Persian carpets and paintings by talented imitators of Monet, our host encourages us to take a glass of wine. ‘So sorry you’ve been ill. I was ill too, you know. It lasted ten days. Flu.’

‘Laryngitis. I can’t remember the last time--.’

‘I’m never ill either. Champagne?’

He steers us to their long terrace.

It’s standing time; mulling time; drifting from group to group time; talking about the weather time; performing oneself time; sizing up and deciding who it’s worth spending longer with when we sit down to dine. As always the men and women keep apart until they have drunk enough. An exclusive group of men sit on toffee-colour cane arm-chairs at the further end of the terrace. One has even been an ambassador. The less important men gather in groups scattered along the terrace away from the VIP’s. What do retired men talk about? The women’s groups gossip. I continue to watch clouds. No one notices old women.

It was as much as I could do to go, but my husband insisted. I can’t mull. I choose a black wickerwork chair sheltered by a leafy tree at the table in the furthest corner of the long terrace, sit, and watch clouds reflecting in its smoky-glass top. Small talk confuses me. Performance tires me. I like to be myself with people who like to be themselves. Like my husband.

A man emerges from the living room. He assesses who it is worth investing his time in. I am amused until he saunters towards me, oozing charm and purpose.

I glance at him with the obligatory amiability required at a party and then look away. He is not put off. He takes hold of the back of the nearest chair and turns it to face me, claiming me as his territory. Why? I’m too old to be sexually interesting to a man whose eyes leer through his sunglasses. His name is Tony, he tells me.

In all the detective series my husband and I watch at the end of an evening in place of sleeping pills, the person you can never trust is called Tony.

‘I’m staying with ...’ He names a couple. Introduction and pedigree by association? I haven’t experienced that before.

I shake my head. I do not know them.

‘Do you live on the island?’

‘Part of the year,’ I say, mulling whether to proffer a pedigree? Tell him I’m married. Amuse myself and see how far he’ll go? It’s such a long time since anyone flirted with me.

My mind throws up a list of topics. Which of them will be sufficiently repellent to drive him away?

I tell him I’m passionately in favour of Brexit.

He rises to join other friends.


  1. I like the spare style, the clipped dialogue. I like that it tends towards irresolution, that it leaves you wondering, with questions, and a faint sort of longing.


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