I USED to pooh-pooh cosmologists' assertion that the universe was expanding.
For starters, it's a physical — not to say astrophysical — impossibility. For a universe to expand, there has to be an elsewhere to expand into.
And if there's an elsewhere outside the existing universe, then it's not a uni-verse at all — at the very least it must be a duo-verse, or even a multi-verse.
However, I now have personal experience the cosmologists have got it right.
Lately, when I go to put on socks, the feet seem to have receded just a little bit more. Like watching an out-going tide, at first any recession is imperceptible but after a while you suddenly notice a bigly gap to the water's edge.
Except the gap is now between out-stretched hands clutching the empty sock and the proximity of the foot. The gap grows daily, ergo the universe must be expanding.
Now this might be drawing a long sock, but the expanding universe is having a similar effect on the United Kingdom.
For an age now, the receding tide of former imperial glory has been slipping out, seemingly unnoticed, farther than the infamous cockle banks of Morecambe Bay.
The vacuum left behind seems to be mainly situated under John Bull's top hat. Despite flirtations with the new European order, ultimately many Brits thought it time for Mr Bull to button up his best Union Jack waistcoat, reassert himself, and tell the European Union to go whistle.
Some contend that one of Britain's finest hours was elicited by the German bombing of London — known as the Blitz — during World War II.
They pulled together as the united kingdom they professed to be, ate their powdered egg and spam, rolled their sleeves up, cleared the rubble, and got on with the job.
Ironically, the rationing and generally straitened times put lead in their pencils.
Restrictions prohibited many processed foods — for example, wholemeal bread supplanted white, to the health benefit of all.
But having survived the Blitz, Britain is now faced with another existential threat. Let's call it the Splitz, aka Brexit ... to leave or not to leave. And Brexit's putting no lead in Brit pencils, but lead in their boots.
Firstly, though, recall how the present shemozzle started. In 2016, then Prime Minister David Cameron thought he could silence his own party critics via a referendum on the leave-Europe issue, positive the public would support sticking with the EU.
His main mistake was not in calling for the referendum as such, but in leaving the result dependent on a simple 5-plus majority.
In the event, the final outcome, with its monumental implications, was determined by a couple of percentage points — about the usual margin of error accorded routine poll-taking.
It's normal in Western democracies to set a higher benchmark for matters of major constitutional concern — changing the structure of parliaments, and so forth. Often this trigger-point is in the order of 60 per cent, or even higher. Britain's Brexit issue could rightly be considered a constitutional issue given the various treaties and commitments acceded to as pre-conditions for EU membership. These agreements affected many elements of national sovereignty.
At the time, setting a higher benchmark on such a crucial issue would have been thought prudent and sensible. At, say, a 60 per cent threshold, the pro-Brexit votes would have fallen well short, and the whole matter considered settled, albeit with a few mutterings.
With the bar set so modestly, the door was open for a boil-over.
It could have all been so easily avoided, yet for the past 18 months Britain's been floundering knee-deep in a phantasmagorical mess of sorcerer's apprentice proportions.
It would be no surprise if they now held a referendum on whether or not to hold another referendum.
Maybe it's time to be calling off the whole calling off.