I’m watching the Nymph from the balcony on the first floor. She’s in the back garden trying to balance on top of the fence that separates us from our neighbours.
Truth to tell she’s not very good at balancing. Again and again she topples over onto our recently planted flowerbed. I’m not impressed.
‘Peirene, don’t destroy all the nice plants,’ I call down.
Peirene, scrambling to her feet, throws me a dismissive glance. She brushes off the dirt from her legs and hands and clambers up the fence.
‘What I’m doing here serves a larger purpose. I need to understand what it feels like to sit on the fence. There must be benefits otherwise people wouldn’t be doing it.’ She straightens, wobbles, but manages – just for a moment – to stay on top.
Suddenly I understand what this is all about. We’ve drawn up an open letter to be published on our website and in a broadsheet newspaper. In this letter we explain why, from a cultural point of view, it is vital that the UK remains in the EU. Last week we started collecting signatures for it – from cultural institutions, publishers, writers, journalists, literary critics, academics. We received enthusiastic responses. But a number declined to sign with the explanation that their job requires them to remain impartial. Each time such an email dropped into our inbox, the Nymph couldn’t hold back her outrage. ‘Aren’t they aware that if the UK leaves the EU, the country takes a step towards isolation. A vibrant, leading culture needs impulses from the outside. Brexit means cultural death for this island.’
The Nymph now sways dangerously from side to side, her arms flailing. I can see that she’s trying to fall onto our side. But – oh dear – she goes down the other way. Fifi, the aggressive little fox terrier from next door, has been observing the spectacle. This is what she has been waiting for. She races towards Peirene yapping hysterically. I laugh out loud as I watch the Nymph throwing herself back over the fence as quickly as possible, landing with her face in the mud.
Back in the kitchen I help Peirene to clean herself up. I expect her to be in a bad mood. But far from it. She’s thrilled with her adventure.
‘You see, I’ve proven my point. If you try to sit on the fence you might end up falling on the wrong side. And while I could get back to safety this country, after Brexit, will face dangers far worse than Fifi.’
By Meike Ziervogel
Image by localpups, creative commons.
This blog was originally published as part of Peirene Press‘s series Things Syntactical. The Pain and Passion of a Small Publisher on 25 April 2016.