When we pull in to Hartlepool there are no cabs to meet the London train. The main street is like the film set of a ghost town, deserted, windswept with abandoned shop fronts. This once thriving port and the Teesside steelworks that glowed molten against the night sky have been laid waste by decades of industrial decline and savage spending cuts .
On Referendum night there’s a rain storm and chaos on the rail networks so my train out of London Bridge is standing room only. City workers, sleekly crumpled, some a little drunk. A young bond trader behind is lecturing his mute companion on the dead cert of Remain. “It’s in the bag,” he keeps repeating. Hubris hangs heavy in the scent of aftershave and alcohol. I’ve been watching the currency markets on screen all day and sterling’s heartbeat feels way too strong. Remain is talking its own book. Complacency is what happens when you sit in an echo chamber. When we pull in to the station, it’s 45 minutes to go before the polls close.
the road run through its invisible wall.
The view from here is the border
swallows, tractor, trailer and damsel-
fly, not so much law as a stretch of water.
There’s the fault whose tremor you feel.
The view from here is a border
an impression that’s begun to snowball,
not so much water as law and order,
a dotted line turned block and fractal:
the view from here is the border,
law and order written on water.
In recent months it’s been said that those voting to leave were ideological and cultural throwbacks, yearning for an insular past. They even embraced the idea, with their talk of taking Britain back. In truth even their heartland, where I’m writing this, has always been European.
Brian Dillon's latest book is The Great Explosion: Gunpowder, the Great War and a Disaster on the Kent Marshes