Brexit and Trump – A view from the Hamptons

Written By: Alison Aird

I met an Australian woman in the annex at LVIS the other day. If you have not yet stumbled upon the Ladies Village Improvement Society in East Hampton, it is a thrift shop which has a wonderful annex, full of crockery, cutlery, cameras, pots, bedding, ornaments and other amazing stuff. You can also shop in the books, clothing and furniture departments but I love the annex. I love the people, the atmosphere and the mixture of useless rubbish with valuable antiques and divinely beautiful and bizarre, mysterious items.

I have met Bulgarians, Malaysians, South Africans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Irish, French, Lebanese, Israelis, Brazilians, Jamaicans, Indians, Russians and many more people from around the world browsing the aisles, as well as the Brits and Americans. All of these fascinating people chat with different levels of English and I work my hardest to understand their stories (I am shamefully almost monolingual). There are ‘middle class’ locals from East Hampton/Springs called the Bonakers and bilingual/monolingual Latinos crammed into the area too (both populations often in understandable conflict). There are rich Hamptons men and women, poor artists, rich artists, cleaners with young children and people who seem to be able to pick out the most glorious combination of items I had never noticed in their previously scattered positions amongst everyday necessities. Chefs, summer landlords, babysitters, antique hunters, collectors of silver, Stop and Shop workers, landscapers, musicians and people with some time on their hands drop in once in a while, often as regulars.

But before I describe my encounter with the nameless Australian woman, I should give you a glimpse of my own background. Loads of people tell me their names and ask for mine; this is  completely pointless as I will never remember anyone’s name unless I write it down. I attribute many names to the wrong people including my children and pets. Most people recognize this problem because everyone’s memory seems to be shot, but a lot of my memory space has been zapped out with radiation and battered by chemo to preserve the working cells of my brain tumor challenged head…. Details of that fascinating saga must be saved for another time but understand that my non-fiction writing is a little distorted, embellished and misremembered (maybe I should run for President!)… Meanwhile, getting back to the plot (ahem) I will introduce the American man, the Australian woman and the main action. In the annex.

In strolls a bronzed and informative chef (or perhaps a knowledgeable man or restauranteur), an example of a happy, successful, confident and highly sociable member of the summer Hampton’s crowd, who gaily chats about the uses of various strange pieces of kitchen equipment. I am too tired to keep up and a bit overwhelmed. I tot up his purchases and he helpfully corrects my miscalculations. He oozes confidence, kindliness, he is a suntanned glowing adonis in a well taken selfie. No offense meant if you recognize yourself in that description. I try never to offend – anyone could have a gun! I’m a British ex-pat born in the USA but ‘If you don’t like it here you can get out’ is a comment that quickly shuts me up. But of course my Adonis has neither shown any such vulgar behavior nor beliefs (yet).

I know he is part of the social scene as he strides up to the very tall woman who has just entered, mid sentence ‘excuse me’ and greets her delightedly. She is tall and elegant with style and comportment and I am hidden behind Adonis as he engages her in lively conversation. She is speaking quietly so I wonder if she is a Hamptons celebrity. I have no idea which well disguised star I could be looking at, I don’t recognize her at all. However I get the impression, when hearing bits and pieces from the china section, that the man is more interested in chatting than she is, then somehow the two find themselves talking politics audibly by the kitchen utensils. And I’m always interested in politics.

The tension between the two is becoming tangible. Adonis smiles and laughs that Donald Trump would be no worse than the rest of them, at least it would be a change. My eyelids open wide with interest, how is she going to respond. She too is not wanting to get into an argument with him and glances over at me with a slight contraction of the eyebrows. I chip in with an encouraging ‘oh no’ which my Adonis ignores but seems to give my Australian woman the confidence of having some support here. BTW I will name her Kylie, as in singer Kylie Minogue who is half as tall but a spunky Australian gal nonetheless.

Even with his back turned to me I feel that Adonis is a little irritated that I have joined in, uninvited, with my pathetic whimper, but am chuffed to see that Kylie has heard and challenges him adroitly. Wedged between two sane women (or at least one)  Adonis throws off his laid back (politically insane) wolf costume revealing a sheep, baaing with a swagger, and exits the annex.

Kylie beckoned to me and we discussed where she was from (not Australia as I had imagined) and how she wouldn’t be able to vote in the coming election as her visa won’t have come through. She was as terrified as I was at the possibility of Trump becoming president and how sad we were that Bernie was out and that we would have to support Hillary despite her propensity for war.

Our conversation ran around the world, with the craziness of the Brexit vote in the UK (to exit the European Union) and the appalling international consequences of the referendum in free fall. Tory comedian Boris Johnson being made foreign secretary of state was as jaw droppingly hilarious, if not as mind blowingly dangerous as Trump being made President. Trump and Johnson, bereft of policy but full of racism, misogyny and aggression. And dodgy blond haircuts (linking in Adonis here as an additional suspect).

Not knowing which country to escape to from the USA and UK, Kylie said that at least Brooklyn had some great action groups. The People’s Republic of Brooklyn in the hair-raising times of Trump. The People’s Republic of Brighton and Hove in the south of England, a bastion of common sense resting on the edge of the English Channel, a stone’s throw from France, has a similar appeal.  I’d move back to London to be with family if I had the money (perhaps as sterling plunges I do) or if the Tories kept their hands off dismantling and destroying the widely admired National Health Service. They’re already at it ‘big time’ (my Czech friend’s favorite phrase). So maybe not. What a mess.

I can’t remember how or why our interesting discussion ended, probably a customer’s detailed questions, but it was refreshing to have such a like-minded person to chat with. A surprise encounter with a distinctive LVIS flavor, one of the reasons I am a dedicated volunteer (even though the hours I give are embarrassingly few). Please visit if you’ve not been there before!

In conclusion I’d like to say thank you to oozing Adonis and political comrade Kylie for inspiring this little snippet of life in the Hamptons. But most importantly please, please, please vote in November, and don’t be like the half of the UK who voted for Brexit as a protest without realizing that they might win and find out the hard way what they have lost!