Tuesday 28 June 2016

Words and Silence // Reflections on the Referendum

"I've begun to realise that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own."
- Chaim Potok, The Chosen -

Words have always come naturally to me... They flow easily off my tongue, out of my pen or scribbled on a scrap of paper. They are my friends... They help me to understand the world, to process my struggles, to preach truth to my heart. They are my best form of expression, and I suspect they always will be.

But words have failed me of late.

I have struggled internally, externally... In every sense... As I have watched events unfold on the national stage this week.

I want to have words... To give voice to my fears, my disappointments, my struggles, in a way that is robust and has authority.

But I don't have them. 

I just feel a little bit broken and sad. Sad for what might have been.

You see, we are a multicultural family. In our home, three European languages are spoken fluidly and fluently. Culture is embraced, diversity celebrated, unification cherished. Our home would probably not be a multilingual home if it wasn't for the EU... That's because without the EU, my German teacher would probably have never ended up in a little English school, telling stories of the nine languages she spoke and inspiring us to follow suit. Of the nine languages, 8 of them were European, and most learnt in the native country... One of the perks that freedom of movement brought. No visas necessary... The ability to move and work across a number of countries. I would not have pursued a languages degree without her.

Freedom of movement made it easy for me to go out to Austria and spend eight months working in a Kindergarten. I could have got a student working visa for those eight months.... Except I didn't stay eight months in the end, I stayed eleven... The extra three months possible without needing to extend visas or place applications. I felt welcomed and at home, not a stranger needing permission to stay. Those last three months were what cemented my language, and bore the dream of one day bringing my own children up bilingual.

These past few days I have felt much more self conscious of my German language. As I have walked the streets with my children, their chatter, my chatter.... German words flowing out... I have felt aware. Aware of myself in a way I have not felt before. Do people wonder if I'm allowed to be here? Do they wonder if I'm going to head back to Germany where they assume I belong?

You see, here in our little house, leaving the EU feels a bit more personal.

So I have needed to pause. Take stock. Draw away from my initial reactions on social media and get my head around this seismic shift that has left me feeling uncertain and sad for my children's futures.

Of course, I'm worried about the economic implications, I'm worried for the funding that will disappear for some of the most deprived areas of our nation, I'm worried for all the things that "Project Fear" predicted, and which are now increasingly looking like "Project Reality"... I'm devastated at the news of racist attacks seemingly on the increase... I'm anxious about the political future of our country with party leadership which seems to be imploding. But I'm also sad for the smaller things... The missed opportunities...

You see, it's now quite possible that my children will not have the same freedom to go and work abroad with the same ease that I had. Despite their three languages, my children will perhaps now be viewed differently by their European counterparts... Brits are perhaps more to be carefully handled than treated as friends...

I have many friends who voted leave... And though I disagree with them, I respect their right to vote for that which they believe is best for our country. My sadness about the events of Thursday and Friday is not an attack on anyone else's viewpoint...

It is just a mourning. Of what I have known and loved, of what will now not be... Of the opportunities my children will miss... And of the relationships with many dear friends on the continent who are disappointed that we have abandoned them to sort out a system which isn't perfect, but which is seeking to make our continent a better place.

God is sovereign. I am thankful for that... I am thankful that I can hand all my fear and uncertainties over to him and know that my identity is totally secure in him. He holds the whole world in his hands.

But deep down, I can't help thinking that we've made a dreadful mistake. 

These words...they don't convey what I want them to... They are confused and weak and a little lost.

And so I step out of the silence, and take my confused, broken words to THE Word... The one who speaks his perfect words over a broken world.

And pray earnestly, Lord, help me trust you...


  1. I can hear your sadness as I read this Claire and it is good to get a little snapshot into why you wished to remain a part of the EU. Like you I'm just turning to our Lord at the moment and asking for peace and guidance. He will prevail. Mich xx

  2. I do understand your feelings and your thoughts x

  3. Proudly speak your languages. These horrible incidences are being fuelled by media attention. Love, respect and friendship WILL over come it ♡

  4. Daniel McNamara29 June 2016 at 07:01


  5. I share your outlook on embracing cultures and languages and am completely stunned at the outcome of the referendum. It goes against everything I believe and everything I teach my children. Nearly one week on and I still can't believe it.

  6. You weren't alone. The PM or politicians didn't either. Strange that! X

  7. We were in shock too. Also didn't see it coming! So sad :-(

  8. I totally with you on this. My first emotion when waking up to the news was immense sadness. I'm devastated at the repercussions we've seen already and fearful of what's to come. xx

  9. Unfortunately the racists now think that they have the support of half of the population, so are acting 'brave'. Hopefully this can be turned into an opportunity to show them that they don't - the first challenge of many over the next few years.

  10. Well you already know from our talks at the weekend, that I feel as lost, sad and fearful as you. It just feels a bit like a bad dream! I just feel so sad for the repercussions that we're already seeing and that will continue to unfold for years to come. Who knows what friendships, amazing inventions, medical advances and love stories won't happen now as a result.
    It's a scary feeling to just... not know! We don't know anything. We don't know what the future holds for us as a nation and for our children, and that's terrifying. And personally I can't understand why anyone could vote for such uncertainty on a massive scale. x

  11. We were in total shock too! Also didn't see it coming. Very sad 😢

  12. Naomi Louise Hurrell6 July 2016 at 14:28

    Claire, you always speak true. We are a little heartbroken here, too. God is Sovereign, but we can still make mistakes and it seems like the UK may have made a big one. Thinking of you and yours and your multicultural home which inspires me to want to be a parent like you one day x


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