Hello everyone - yes Jane and I am in the UK at present, visiting our son and daughter-in-law, who are posted here, my brother and sister-in-law, who live here and many other friends and relatives. We have visited castles, cathedrals, National Trust properties and beautiful gardens and of course have not stopped talking and have been fed to bursting point!

 

But I don’t want to talk about any of that! Because we are here at a time when only two subjects are on everyone’s mind.- the Ashes and Brexit!
 
I’m sure to varying degrees you have all been following both, with varying degrees of fascination. Let’s start with the Ashes. As I write this the 4th test is at a crucial stage, with England at 5-200, nearly 300 behind on the 4th day and everyone, aussies here and locals certain that the match is in the bag and the Ashes retained.
 
But of course we were there at a similar stage in the third test! So the barmy army is still singing and we of the green and gold are holding our breath. The difference this time is Stephen Smith, who I am claiming as my nephew (I wish!). His amazing innings have just about got rid of those who want to boo and everyone here is just overwhelmed by his performances. I had the great pleasure of watching most of his 211, a bit of good luck came into it of course, but I reckon he deserved it after the horrendous smack on the head in the second test. 
 
What was remarkable for me was that as a 13 year old in 1956 I watched that other amazing moment at Old Trafford, Manchester, when Jim Laker took 19 wickets against Australia- I think Smith’s performance is equally stunning. However as remarkable as this series has been, with twists and turns in each match, it is all what you might expect in an Ashes Series, but nothing has prepared us for the extraordinary business of Brexit.
 
I have had some very enjoyable conversations with people I have met about the cricket, where we all knew what we were talking about- but Brexit- wow!
 
No one here can believe what is going on, will there be an election before the 31 October and if so which party will win, will there be a negotiated deal with the EU, will there be a no deal withdrawal, will the Irish border issue be fixed, will the ports come to a standstill, will the pound drop like a stone, or will they somehow get another delay, have a second referendum and end up staying in Europe!!
 
Everyone I have spoken to, from both sides, cannot believe what is happening, love or hate Boris and are waiting with bated breadth for the next few days to unfold.
 
Last week I spoke to a German tourist in the garden of a beautiful stately home in Cornwall- there could be nothing more British (English). She said that in her view, if Germany were to have a vote about the EU membership a huge number of Germans would vote to leave and she thought many other countries would be the same. She didn’t think these votes would necessarily end in a Leave decision, but, like Britain, the split in the country would be severe.
 
Here in England that split is overwhelming, with families unable to resolve their differences. If you look at Britain as a whole, just like watching the Ashes with fascination, I watched the ‘debates’ in the House of Commons in amazement. The leader of the Scottish National Party spoke passionately from the floor of the house, criticising Parliament for disregarding the wishes of Scotland and threatening another Independence vote which he is confident would be won this time. And so it goes on!
 
Jane and I will be escaping to a small island in Greece next week, where British friends of ours have a house. It will be very interesting to see the story as viewed by the Greeks and of course by our hosts. She, Jilly, is a Dame of the British Empire, so is very well placed to have a view. She and her husband are lovely, the conversations will be very illuminating. But whoever we speak to, whatever analyst we listen to, no one knows what will happen next.
 
History will be made!
 
Best regards to all
Peter Smith
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