About Ingeborg van Teeseling and Jacqueline de Gier

Ingeborg van Teeseling emigrated from Holland ten years ago and being warned by the Immigration Department against doing her job as a journalist, she became a historian instead. Jacqueline de Gier is a journalist and author with an allergy for pot-noodle journalism. She has written extensively on Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.

The personal cost of the Brexit – Part three

Approx Reading Time-11With Brexit referendum talk stirring up emotions, an encounter with an elderly racist gets Jacqueline thinking: What happened to the British?




June 12

Dear Ingeborg,

I seriously thought of pushing an old woman in a mobility scooter, from the entrance of the hospital onto the busy main road – under a London bus or better still, two or three Uber taxis – and shouting, “There, suck that one up, you old bat.” What’s the matter with me! I What possesses me to tell old people to “zip it!”? My (maternal) Italian grandmother – and you know that feisty woman – used to instruct me as a small girl, before going to Britain with my parents: “Best behaviour! The English are very polite.”

So what’s the matter with the British, or rather the English? Lets Cracker Jack straight to the point. We have all been focusing on the players and not the ball. Who on earth cries over trade tariffs!? I do not care much about the EU. Not many people do, not even those who will vote to remain. But who needs the referendum? In fact, who needs the EU for this toxic role-play? What is disturbing is the tone. It is just not very British.

The Mobility Scooter Queen of the Dark Thoughts trespassed the civility of a waiting room with her poisonous tongue, raging about Eastern Europeans and how backward and dirty they are. Look around you, lady: can you see who is taking care of you? She was sitting in the safe house of the National Health Service, the Holy Cow of the British. Not even the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Anglican Church, dare suggest that a visit to a church might do some good, especially for the elderly. They are often lonely in homes, forgotten by their own children. The hospital has become their safe haven, where they are cared for by an army of foreign doctors and nurses, without whom the Holy Cow would be crippled in the quicksand.

I reminded her of that. She did not hear. Nurses and doctors report this kind of verbal abuse all the time. They have sworn the Hippocratic oath: “Do no harm”. They cannot ram rod them with an Uber taxi.

The old woman insulted her Latvian carer, who was apologetic. Some other people waiting asked why she was so kind and understanding? The Latvian answered that you have to be “patient with old people.”

I asked the Latvian nurse what she made of it all… She raised her shoulders. She said that she used to care for her own elderly mother, so she was used to it. When she died, there was nothing worth staying for. She had never married. “The men in Latvia are a big problem.” She came to Britain because she hoped to make a new life: she had the diplomas and “much experience” and she had three job offers. She was saving to buy a little house, somewhere in an English village, “with a little garden”.

Stories like this drive me crazy. There is no space for them in the political scheme. They get filtered out. They are, as it were, the flies waiting for the swatters. But new fault lines are opening. These gangs of mobility scooters have a lot to say, and a lot to lose. If only Kirsty and Phil had been enlisted, then it would have remained civilised. The question: “Will you love it, or…will you list it?” could be transplanted from the programme on houses and renovations to the current situation. Kirsty, with her buxom bossiness, loved across the social and class divides, would knock down a few walls and make it “work” and Phil, the favourite son-in-law, would show some alternative “belters”. It would be banter and bunting. Harmony would prevail.

Also on The Big Smoke

June 13

Dear Jacqueline,

Your story reminds me of something Jim once told me. He used to watch comics a lot and ran into this episode of South Park. Some madman (I think it was supposed to be Donald Trump, or somebody equally crazy) sets about building a wall to keep the immigrants out. He also starts deporting all the migrants who are already in the country. And it works: they start leaving and no new migrants come in. Quickly, though, America falls apart. There is nobody to take care of old people and babies anymore, the rubbish starts piling up in the streets and restaurants have to close because there are no more waiters. Then the Trump-wannabee decides to turn his radical methods around and build a wall to keep the migrants in. I am not a big fan of South Park (what is it with the voices?!), but I thought that was both funny and insightful. It is also the mentality: we will let you in to clean our houses and take care of our difficult grandmothers, but you have to be grateful for that. Don’t you dare be a real person and ask for a political voice, or a normal house to live in (with or without a little garden) or the right to practice your religion. Never forget you are a servant and that is all. Yes, ma’am! What I find really funny in all of this, is that people have got such short memories. Today the Brits are celebrating the birthday of the Queen. Street parties everywhere and tears of gratitude. For somebody with very German ancestry and her Greek husband.

Rule Britannia!


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