In those days, everyone was “Troops out”. He just seemed more “Troops out” than a lot of people. Picture: University of Ulster
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My Irish lover thought sex the ultimate sin. I like that in a man

Our casual affair became more serious when we went to meetings in a back room of a pub on Holloway Road.

I must say that I find most contemporary dating advice completely mystifying. Dating is something Americans do, as far as I’m concerned. English people get drunk and have inappropriate sex. Ditto, engagement. What the hell is it? Are women public toilets that are either vacant or engaged? Clearly I have not a clue.

When I hear people say that their relationships are going nowhere, I do wonder what the final destination is. It’s probably having the sort of deranged problems that people write to Pamela Stephenson Connolly about in the Guardian: “I can’t orgasm with my husband, whom I have never found attractive in any way WHATSOEVER.”

Everyone should relax about “relationships” that don’t go anywhere – that are not goal-orientated. Yet even such casual arrangements can become fraught with unforeseen complications. I should know.

I had one such arrangement when I first lived in London, with an Irish fellow I’d see once a week. Let’s call him John, as that was his name. We met in a pub, of course. It was all very passionate, as he thought that sex was the ultimate sin, some sort of desecration that caused him paroxysms of guilt. I like that in a man.

The Sinn Fein paper An Phoblacht was lying round his flat. In those days, everyone was “Troops out”. He just seemed more “Troops out” than a lot of people.

Our casual affair became more serious when we went to meetings in a back room of a pub on Holloway Road.

“Keep your mouth shut,” he said. I sat there terrified, nursing a drink, while he went in a huddle. It was apparent that my English accent was never to be heard.

We continued seeing each other weekly and I would always get up before him and leave. Who knew what his job was? He had probably told me. I probably hadn’t listened.

One morning, he had to get up to go out very early. “Wake up. I can’t leave you here alone,” he said.

I pretended to be sleepy and refused to move. He was very annoyed.

As I heard the door slam, I leaped out of bed and searched the flat. Every bit of it. And there it all was. Several different passports. Other forms of ID and diaries, each written in different handwriting. Whole identities bundled away in plastic bags. Some of it had his picture on. Some didn’t.

I put everything back and left. As I pondered all of his other lives and what he did with them, I realised that it would not be wise to end it there.

So I met him the following week for a drink as usual.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ve met someone else. We can’t go on like this any more, John.” I was telling the truth. For we both knew as I said it that John was not even his actual name.

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The austerity war

Photo: Getty
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Like it or hate it, it doesn't matter: Brexit is happening, and we've got to make a success of it

It's time to stop complaining and start campaigning, says Stella Creasy.

A shortage of Marmite, arguments over exporting jam and angry Belgians. And that’s just this month.  As the Canadian trade deal stalls, and the government decides which cottage industry its will pick next as saviour for the nation, the British people are still no clearer getting an answer to what Brexit actually means. And they are also no clearer as to how they can have a say in how that question is answered.

To date there have been three stages to Brexit. The first was ideological: an ever-rising euroscepticism, rooted in a feeling that the costs the compromises working with others require were not comparable to the benefits. It oozed out, almost unnoticed, from its dormant home deep in the Labour left and the Tory right, stoked by Ukip to devastating effect.

The second stage was the campaign of that referendum itself: a focus on immigration over-riding a wider debate about free trade, and underpinned by the tempting and vague claim that, in an unstable, unfair world, control could be taken back. With any deal dependent on the agreement of twenty eight other countries, it has already proved a hollow victory.

For the last few months, these consequences of these two stages have dominated discussion, generating heat, but not light about what happens next. Neither has anything helped to bring back together those who feel their lives are increasingly at the mercy of a political and economic elite and those who fear Britain is retreating from being a world leader to a back water.

Little wonder the analogy most commonly and easily reached for by commentators has been that of a divorce. They speculate our coming separation from our EU partners is going to be messy, combative and rancorous. Trash talk from some - including those in charge of negotiating -  further feeds this perception. That’s why it is time for all sides to push onto Brexit part three: the practical stage. How and when is it actually going to happen?

A more constructive framework to use than marriage is one of a changing business, rather than a changing relationship. Whatever the solid economic benefits of EU membership, the British people decided the social and democratic costs had become too great. So now we must adapt.

Brexit should be as much about innovating in what we make and create as it is about seeking to renew our trading deals with the world. New products must be sought alongside new markets. This doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or cutting jobs, but it does mean being prepared to learn new skills and invest in helping those in industries that are struggling to make this leap to move on. The UK has an incredible and varied set of services and products to offer the world, but will need to focus on what we do well and uniquely here to thrive. This is easier said than done, but can also offer hope. Specialising and skilling up also means we can resist those who want us to jettison hard-won environmental and social protections as an alternative. 

Most accept such a transition will take time. But what is contested is that it will require openness. However, handing the public a done deal - however well mediated - will do little to address the division within our country. Ensuring the best deal in a way that can garner the public support it needs to work requires strong feedback channels. That is why transparency about the government's plans for Brexit is so important. Of course, a balance needs to be struck with the need to protect negotiating positions, but scrutiny by parliament- and by extension the public- will be vital. With so many differing factors at stake and choices to be made, MPs have to be able and willing to bring their constituents into the discussion not just about what Brexit actually entails, but also what kind of country Britain will be during and after the result - and their role in making it happen. 

Those who want to claim the engagement of parliament and the public undermines the referendum result are still in stages one and two of this debate, looking for someone to blame for past injustices, not building a better future for all. Our Marmite may be safe for the moment, but Brexit can’t remain a love it or hate it phenomenon. It’s time for everyone to get practical.