A politically emotional word, one that makes me flinch while others preen.
I think of Paris, the Paris of today as well as the Paris of my past, a visit on a school exchange aged 14, a romantic trip with my first real boyfriend, bomb blasts, carnage, heartbreak, tragedy. But I feel these feelings with a sense of love, a sense of comradeship. I think of Portugal and my first paintings inspired by the colours of the cliffs, the freezing sea, the wobbly restaurant attached to a rock face.Sardines on the beach and yellow houses. The quiet of the afternoon, the clanging of church bells.
I find it hard to believe that we are going to turn our backs on something so wonderful. Our friendship and alliance with Europe has brought us so much: sumptuous food, oozing garlic, red wine drunk in pavement cafes, rich aromatic coffee, gingham tablecloths, hams, croissants, pizza.
And then there is fashion, who remembers the dull high streets of the 1970's, Shoefayre being the highlight of a rainy Saturday afternoon.
When I think of Europe I see colour, bright reds, swirling skirts, lipstick on smiling mouths, The emerald green of a silk scarf caught in the breeze, shiny hair in curls, dancing. Happy waiters, surly waiters, petite waitresses standing to attention, fishermen clinging to steep vertical cliffs, eager for a fat fresh fish to take to market.
To me Europe means art, fashion, food and wine. sunshine and sea. Glamour.
I dearly hope our European neighbours will continue to open their doors and their hearts to us brutal Brits who have rudely dismissed the hospitality offered by our cousins abroad.