When I last visited the UK, I realised that my own anti-Brexit sentiments were not universally shared. As I stood on the footplate of a British-built Beyer Garratt steam engine on the Welsh Highland Railway, discussing the merits of a 9F 40sq ft firebox, Richard, the driver, asked me where I lived.
“Oh, then I don’t need to ask which side of the Brexit debate you’re on.”
“We have few steam trains left in Spain but I can understand why a man who drives a heritage locomotive, would prefer his country turned back to the good old days.”
We politely agreed to differ. From his perspective, I had used the freedom of movement to set up and work in Spain. He, on the other hand, had remained loyal to the crown and was angry at the imposition of European laws, especially with regard to immigration. I wasn’t clear which laws these were, but he seemed pretty exercised about them all the same. I couldn’t think of any suitable reply except, Vive la difference. He opened the furnace door.
I commented, “that’s a hot fire.”
“It’s going to get even hotter in a minute.”
Just then a mug of tea arrived.
As I stepped off the footplate into the misty Welsh rain, I felt a twinge of envy. I left him to drive this wheezing, hissing steam train; a locomotive that embodied the best of British engineering in its time, up to the foothills of Snowdonia. I wished him luck on his great journey and contemplated my own return to Spain and a precarious existence in growing isolation from the country of my birth.