Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of my divorce - the Decree Absolute that is - the final, formal decree that interred my marriage in its grave, and sent it into history.
As it happened, history that did not repeat itself. I learned from that experience. I was forever after reluctant to enter into any formal living-together arrangement.
My friendship with M---, although it eventually involved sharing her home from late 2005 to late 2008, was never fully like a marriage. Her home remained hers, never mine. Indeed it could only (as a formal matter) have the status to me of temporary accommodation, because otherwise her pension income would be in jeopardy. I was in some ways in the position of a privileged lodger. She was such a good friend, to let me share her living-space for so long. And because we got on so well, I was glad to stay with her. Although it couldn't go on indefinitely - the terms of her pension deed had to be taken seriously - I'm sure she was glad too. At first, anyway.
But as our friendship came under increasing strain, I had to move out. That doesn't happen with a marriage, at least not in theory. Marriage partners have extra glue to bind them. Friends - no matter how close, no matter how trusted, and no matter how long the relationship has existed - can be ripped apart quite easily. I was shocked to discover just how easily. We backed off from many, many years of amity. It hurt us both, but the Cottage fiasco and other matters made carrying on impossible. It hadn't been a marriage, but my goodness, it felt like a full-blown divorce!
Nevertheless it wasn't the legalistic ordeal of my earlier, proper divorce in 1996. And that didn't actually go to court - we achieved a binding settlement, one that the judge was able to accept without a hearing. I would have been scarred for life by the horror of a cold courtroom confrontation. It was a narrow escape. But I still count the breakdown of my 1983 marriage and the eventual 1996 divorce as one of those awful Life Experiences one might expect to go through. I sometimes list them in my mind:
# A failed marriage (W---).
# A failed major relationship not involving marriage (M---).
# Loss of both parents.
# Loss of my only sibling (Wayne).
# Loss of a colossal amount of money (£200,000 on the Cottage).
# Major unhappiness and contention at work.
I haven't yet had a major personal illness. And I haven't had to cope with the death of a child of mine (nor will I ever). But the list is formidable enough. And yet most people experience similar grief sooner or later. So I claim to have taken only routine knocks, and suffered only normal wear and tear. Nothing more.
That doesn't prevent the experiences in my list leaving their mark. That's why sharing my remaining life with anyone - even my physical space for more than a few hours - has become psychologically impossible. And no power on earth will ever now make me invest significant money in a 'safe' get-rich-quick scheme. I am locked-down where personal control and security is concerned. And I don't think I will ever relent. That's sad, because it rules out future intimacy and any circumstance in which I might surrender myself on terms of total trust. But that's what my experiences have done to me, and I have pulled up my drawbridge.
And now the nation, or 52% of it, has also pulled up the drawbridge. How ironic that the anniversary of my divorce should almost exactly coincide with the start of the nation's own divorce proceedings! But the love-affair is all over, anyone can see that, and a rapid severance is now best. Hopefully it can be done in a civilised fashion that keeps acrimony to a minimum, and nurtures the gradual re-flowering of friendship from a little distance. Because the parties must still live in the same town!
How natural it is to apply the same post-separation notions to the nation's divorce turmoils as to a personal sundering. But there do seem to be real parallels, psychologically at least, now that the Referendum has exposed the true extent of grass-roots discontent and made hard talking necessary.
I hear that an online petition, already three million strong, has called for a second Brexit Referendum. Presumably on the basis that the first result 'got it wrong'. It will have to be debated in Parliament, but I hope this idea is discarded. The electorate have already spoken. That 4% margin between the Leave-the-EU voters and the Remain voters, though not overwhelming, is still sufficiently decisive. It's a clear expression of what the greater number of people think. How can such a result be set aside, and still observe the basic principles of democracy?
The 48% who wanted to stay with the EU will have had reasons as various and compelling as the 52% who voted for divorce. Certainly, they can't be ignored, and it will be politically insane to proceed as if everyone voted Leave. It will be like divorcing without the approval of the kids. The kids may protest, but can't stop the dissolution of a bad marriage. And they can't insist that the parents try again. But if they are minors, then their welfare must be properly considered.
If there is, amazingly, a second chance to consider the issue of EU membership, then I intend to vote Leave again. I have not had a post-Referendum change of heart.
And the way some countries in Europe are muttering, I think our departure would actually ease tensions and smooth the road to further continental integration. They are sorry we don't want to stay and join in, but if we must go - and clearly a majority in Britain do want that - then could we please get on with it? There will surely be a great howl of protest from across the Channel if a second Referendum goes ahead, no matter how rapidly the preparations are put in hand.
Besides, the EU will surely not stand in the way of Scotland and Northern Ireland, its potential new recruits once the divorce takes full effect. One yellow star gone from the blue European flag. Two to replace it.
And I get an opportunity - sooner than I thought would be the case - to replace my EU passport with an England & Wales one. Thank goodness: that 2010 passport photo was so awful. A libel on the distinctive, characterful, classical and noble Melford visage.