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Opinion

Paul McNamee: Beyond Brexit, life goes on

"Brexit is important, but until it happens, let's remind ourselves of the realities of life - and its everyday heroes"

Like a massive hovering zeppelin, the EU Referendum debate blocks light and eclipses everything. Guessing the next turn is like one of those kids’ adventure books that jump around the narrative according to which page the reader fancies next. You sense there is order but it’s not keen on revealing itself.

Day to day things become MUCH more curious than any fiction.

Ukip, the group who really brought about the Referendum, are beginning to fight like cats in a sack. At the very moment when their life’s work reaches its great crescendo, Nigel Farage attacks both Douglas Carswell, their only MP, and Neil Hamilton, their new, self-appointed leader in Wales. The agencies for Leave are showing more signs of splitting than a Monty Python sketch.

On the other side, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Cameron pal-up to push for Stay, on cultural grounds. Even though Benedict and his chums are pushing hard against the reforms that the PM and his culture secretary are making to the BBC. On cultural grounds.

There is life beyond Brexit. And death, too. And it’s in death that two stories of hope emerge.

Last week there was a memorial for Sir Nicholas Winton, the man behind the World War Two Kindertransport. He rescued 669, mostly Jewish, children from the clutches of Nazis in what was Czechoslovakia and moved them to new homes, new lives and a future in Britain. He died last year aged 106.

Gathered in London were some of the survivors and their offspring. There are around 6,000 people alive today because of his bravery and selflessness. He did not stand by. He acted.

There are around 6,000 people alive today because of his bravery and selflessness

Still, he was haunted, it is said, by a trainload of 250 children who were stopped before they could get out of Prague. It is feared they were murdered in a concentration camp.

Winton was a great man who, humbly, did a great thing.

Also, last week Jane Little died. She was a musician, a bassist, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She died during a performance. What makes this story heartening and remarkable is that she was 87. She was in the middle of a rendition of There’s No Business Like Showbusiness. She had remained a working musician for her entire life, the oldest in an orchestra in the world. She worked with some of the greats including Stravinsky, Copland and Boulez when they were visiting conductors.

Hers is a story that makes you happy to be around.

When the Brexit debate begins to feel too much (I can be as guilty as any for revelling in the minutiae) we should remind ourselves that in the real world there are people doing great things. Sometimes they don’t shout about it. They should – not just life-enhancing folk like Winton and Little, but the silent army of carers who look after millions of people every single day without public thanks, never mind proper pay. Without them, things would just grind to a halt.

Brexit is important but until the moment of the vote it’s largely an exercise in whataboutery. In the real world, real things go on. We should remember.

If you have any comments please email me at paul.mcnamee@bigissue.com, tweet @pauldmcnamee, or send a letter to The Big Issue, 43 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HW

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