Mid-week in middle England: it’s the weekly dancing class. Angela and I are in a school hall learning to Tango.
To be more truthful, we are taking our first, very tentative steps. Hanging on every word from the wonderful Zoe, we try to copy her steps. We end up with our legs in a tangle, Angela leaning at an impossible angle. “It’s OK” I say “there are other couples falling over too.”
So, this is where you end up after three terms in class. Just when you are beginning to think you’re getting the hang of this Ballroom and Latin routine. The Tango doesn’t make sense. It’s not anything like those other dances we learn. And, suddenly, as if by magic, those other dances become our new best friends. We want to be back in their company.
In a few hours’ time we are in the air, on route for Mid-West USA. And that’s another thing that just doesn’t make sense: certainly not for a host of people I’ve talked to in the past few weeks. The Mid-West, indeed, the US more generally, simply isn’t going to turn out just another expression of some kind of shared culture we in the English speaking world like to think we know and understand. Not even an extension of the familiar. You watch Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton slug it out on TV and feel the distance. Listening later to their supporters, you hear views that scream division. Back in the UK, it’s the Party Conference season and, yes, our politicians and their respective supporter bases have been running fast for the outfield, both to the left and the right, but voices in the centre can still be heard. Not so, over there.
To get to Minneapolis, you go via Paris. At least, we did.
Paris, France, Europe: it takes a while to get into the swing of what they’re saying on the public announcements at the airport, it always does, but we find our way. We answer officials’ questions in French not English. We dust it off, it’s not brilliant, but we have a go. Familiar Europe: despite the linguistic hurdles.
For Britain, trade, tourism, values, culture; all are going to turn out much more familiar than we had realised, once Article 50 is triggered.
What about America?
Brexit Britain believes it’s going to Tango with “our friends across the pond” (funny way to describe the vast and inhospitable ocean that separates our lands.) Will we end up with our legs in a tangle? Up close, but off balance, leaning at an impossible angle? I could be wrong, but back at the dancing class, it seems couples with an air of easy familiarity about their togetherness are the ones that get into the flow faster. They master the steps, join it up, lean into the music and make something look graceful.
But they don’t get to bypass the drills. We all have to go over those routines, section by section, again and again until we’ve got them straight.
They dance over there, too. No doubt they have dancing classes over there as well. What Brexit Britain needs from this relationship with the US, is enough mutual commitment to get up and give it another go when we get our legs in a tangle! I can’t be sure we’ll find it, but we live in hope.