Dispensing Witan Wisdom Since The Days of King Eggbound The Unready...

Not to mention "Left-Wing Pish"

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Epiblog for The Third Sunday of Advent

It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley. We’ve now reached that stage in the year where I begin to count down to the Solstice and the turn of the year, oppressed by these long, dark, cold nights, and hanging on grimly with my fingertips to all sorts of things I cherish. It’s cold, and dark out there, where the monsters live, so we huddle ever nearer to the fire and spend our time as best we can in keeping warm and making sure we eat as healthily as we can, as a defence against the nasty, black blast of winter.

Not that it’s totally without beauty. On Wednesday and Thursday, Debbie’s two “early start” days, I got up with her and was therefore able to watch the complete progress of the dawn on both days, right from the first feeble glimmerings in the sky along the eastern horizon, right through to what passes for broad daylight these short winter days. Despite the fact that, on both days, it required a major effort of will to swing my legs out of bed from underneath the warm duvet, I was glad that I had seen the dawn.

From the glimmerings, the sky transformed itself strips of blue, red and gold, colours of almost heraldic purity, gradually growing in intensity until they spread across the whole sky, which looked almost as if it was pulsating, until finally the sun itself rose over the far side of the valley, sudden and brilliant through the bare trees, and, as its light grew more confident and assured, the hues of the sky-pageant faded, until they were finally gone.  For the rest of the day I found myself humming along with Karine Polwart:

Oh, oh, the night is long,
But day is longer still,
Oh, oh, the night is long,
But the sun’s coming over the hill.

Matilda doesn’t really like these bright, hard, flinty days when the air itself feels like a cold helmet close around my head, as I trundle down my wheelchair ramp to put out the rubbish-bag.  She was determined to tough it out, though, and asked to go out first thing on Tuesday, so I let her out of the conservatory door and, instead of pushing off and leaving her to it, I decided just to watch for a few minutes and see what happened.  She sat there with her ears back and her eyes squinting in the cold, determined to stay out there as long as she could.  Then, one of the sudden intermittencies of rain (you can’t really call them showers, they’re over almost before they’ve got going) pattered across the decking and that was it, as the first raindrops touched her, she scuttled back to the door and meowed for me to let her in.

The inhospitable nature of “outdoors” is probably what’s fuelling her obsession with the garage, where she escaped once again for an extended period later that same day. I think it’s because the garage is sort of like being outside, only warmer and without the attendant perils (falling leaves, sudden showers and other cats) that bedevil her when she’s in the garden proper. I don’t really mind her going out there, except that there’s no cat flap from the lobby back into the kitchen, and it’s a pain having to keep watching out for her little whiskery face pressed up against the glass of the door when she finally decides she’s had enough garaging for now.

We’ve now begun using the herbal dietary supplement “Canicalm” in Misty’s food, and I’m glad to say that it does seem to have reduced her inherent fear of fireworks and other loud bangs. Just as well, really, because on two occasions during the week anti-social idiots were letting off bangs at inappropriate times. Mind you, we don’t need fireworks for that because the morons who are demolishing Park Valley Mills (or part of it) and replacing it with new empty units on the same site in a futile wasteful and disruptive gesture at what the Council calls “regeneration” have kept up a constant obbligato of unwanted racket throughout the week. I actually sought out one of the firms responsible on Twitter and tweeted them asking if they could get the demolition men to make more noise as I could, at that precise moment, still just about hear myself think.

We’ve also acquired another element in the armoury to help Misty in her struggle with the fireworks a “DAP” collar, impregnated with Adaptil, a synthetic version of the hormone that female dogs secrete to calm their puppies. The idea is that as the collar comes in contact with the dog’s skin the hormone is slowly released and the dog feels calmer and more relaxed.  So far it does seem to be having an effect, though sadly there isn’t a similar one for naughtiness!  I think Misty is going through, in human years a difficult teenage which is probably why she managed to escape from the back garden at Colin’s side during the week and disappear down into the woods. After five minutes of me sitting at the conservatory door freezing my nadgers off and bellowing her name at the top of my voice, she returned, barrelling back in such a way that she knocked over the wrought iron gate that Debbie had blocked across the exit and wedged in place with an old plastic dustbin.

She redeemed herself in the cuteness stakes, if not in naughtiness, by stealing Debbie’s new furry socks on Thursday. Debbie called in at Lidl to do some hosiery replenishment and came back with two pairs of “furry” cotton socks.  She unpacked some other bits and bobs she’d bought and left the socks on the edge of the settee while she put the rest away. It only took Misty a couple of seconds to grab them and take them into the conservatory where she started playing with them and shaking them like a rat. Fortunately, Debbie retrieved them before they suffered the same fate as the furry squeaky duck and ended up strewn in bits all over the rug but rather foolishly she put them back in exactly the same place Misty had stolen them from, so, a couple of minutes later, the retrieval process had to be repeated. Misty thought it was a great game and I must admit it made me chuckle but Deb didn’t see the funny side.

I’ve had the usual week, battling against the same accretion of the same problems that have bedevilled my life for so long now.  The post comes, and I write letters in reply and the post goes and I pack up books and send them to people, and we take a few steps forward, then a few steps back, and so it goes on. The emails flow back and forth, and gradually the day darkens and the shadows deepen and it’s time to shut the doors, light the lights and bank up the stove again.  By the end of the week, with the “clouds so swift and ran fallin’ in” the background music to my life had changed from Karine Polwart singing “The Sun’s Coming Over The Hill”, to Robert Zimmerframe singing “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” which seemed altogether more appropriate:

I don’t care how many letters they sent
Morning came and morning went
Pick up your money and pack up your tent
You ain’t going nowhere.

There were some small victories, though; I noticed on Facebook that the Sheffield City Pound were looking for a “quiet” home for an elderly Border Collie.  I wished that I could just have rung them up and said we’d take her, but by no stretch of the imagination could our house be described as “quiet”.  I did have a moment of what passes for inspiration though, and cross-posted details of the old lady in question on the Facebook page of the Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies, where Misty came from. By that time, the Pound had already had two offers of homes for her but if both those fell through, the FOSTBC said they would take her, so whatever happened she wouldn’t be stuck in the Pound. It just goes to show that sometimes, in one mouse-click, you can achieve some good, even though 99% of the time I spend on Facebook is probably frivolous fritterings.

Friday was always gong to be a sombre day, and so it proved. Two years had passed since our old dog Tiggy died, on St Lucy’s Day 2011. God alone knows where those two years have gone.  St Lucy’s Day used to be the shortest day of the year, until they started mucking around with the calendar in 1754 or thereabouts.  Despite that, it still felt like I was living in John Donne’s poem about it:

It is the year’s deep midnight and it is the day’s
Lucy’s, who scare seven hours herself unmasks…

As the actual hour of the anniversary drew near I stopped working and put some Gregorian Plain Chant on in the background, and lit some incense, and remembered the happy days we’d had, the many times we’d passed waiting in the camper van in the sunshine at the side of Kilbrannan Sound waiting for Debbie to paddle back to shore and drag her kayak up the beach. The happy times, the sunny times. And I thought of the vivid red dawns I’d seen this week, and how that same light would have been bouncing off the dour crags in Cumberland where Debbie and Tig had climbed together; Hellvellyn, Blencathra, Cat Bells, Pike O’Stickle, Haystacks, Helm Crag, Fleetwith Pike, and the Old Man of Coniston. To name but a few. I don’t know if animals have souls. The church says not, but I would defy anyone to have looked into Tiggy’s eyes and tell me she had no soul.  Whatever form she and I are in, I hope she’s waiting there with all the others to welcome me at the warm inn when my life’s weary pilgrimage is over.

Saturday dawned bright and breezy for a change, although it did deteriorate later into mere wind and rain, but as I sat on the edge of my bed getting dressed and looked out over the garden, the wind was thrashing the trees about, whirling the leaves in crazy twisters. They say that cats are very sensitive to changes in the weather, particularly in air pressure, and Matilda proved it by thundering about, doing a circuit from the conservatory door through into Colin’s and then back again. She was obviously suffering from what Granny Fenwick would have called “the wind up her tail”. I let her out (the cat, not the late Granny F) and she went as far as the corner .of the decking. Just at that point a huge gust of wind send a cloud of dead leaves flying past her, and a scatter of little twigs broke free from the branches overhead and plopped onto the roof of the conservatory. That was it. Her eyes huge and glittering, she turned tail in panic at being furfled by the wind-Gods, and fled back to the comfort and safety of the door.

In the wider world, outside the confines of the valley things continue their journey to Hades in a handcart. Nelson Mandela is still dead, something the BBC sought to remind us at regular intervals, including an hour-long programme of him lying in state. As I said at the time, a webcam with a motion sensor would have been a lot cheaper. Meanwhile, all the politicians who were queuing up in the 1970s to suggest that Mandela should be hanged for terrorism were trundling out their pictures on Twitter to show them side by side with “the great man”- yes, David Cameron, I am talking about you.

But the main theme of the news (such as it is) that has filtered through to me in my little medieval cell this week has been bout “austerity” – a word that seems to have acquired a multiplicity of meanings, depending who you ask. For instance, if you asked Iain Duncan Smith, £40million is a mere bagatelle in an age of austerity.  It’s no big deal, for instance, to write off a sum of that magnitude on a failed computer system intended to bring in the Tory flagship policy of Universal Credit, which keeps getting pushed further and further back and which keeps costing more and more money. 

The irritable bowel, IDS himself,  was hauled before a House of Commons committee this week, to explain his rather cavalier use of statistics when composing bilious DWP propaganda, demonising people who are ill and on benefits and leading to them committing suicide in some cases and being the victims of hate crimes in others.  Despite the best efforts of Glenda Jackson, sadly, the smarmy bastard managed to do his usual trick of declaring that black was white, good was bad, and it was anybody’s fault but his.  He’s only been censured twice over his use of statistics, apparently, and he seemed to think this was some sort of justification.  He was also, according to several first-hand accounts by political bloggers who attended the event, surrounded by armed police and minders. And this within the hallowed precincts of the House of Commons.

I can understand he feels the need for protection – after all his evil policies have killed enough people since 2010 to ensure that there must be somebody, somewhere, out there, lurking in the shadows and waiting for the chance to plug him. Personally, I wouldn’t shoot Iain Duncan Smith, even given the chance. Lead is expensive, and could be put to so many better uses. And it would be far too quick and merciful. I’d hope to see him lose his job, then his seat, then suffer a slow decline with some sort of debilitating illness, so at the end of his miserable days he’s living in a bed-sit in Hastings, claiming benefits, and only able to afford cat food on toast.  Then, and only then, he might have some sort of inkling of the damage he’s caused. It’s called karma. What goes around, comes around. Badabing, badaboom.

Princess Michael of Kent, no less, has also been hit by austerity – they can no longer afford to eat out!  See you at the food bank, your Royal Highness.  Instead of eating out, they now have to invite guests to  Kensington Palace, and get the caterers in.  Wow, that is an example of tightening the belt, one which I think we can all learn from.  These revelations came in an interview to publicise – you’ve guessed it – her latest book. I neither know nor care what her book is about. Given her witterings in the interview, it will be a complete waste of tree. If you needed any further confirmation that she lives in a strange, Narnia-like, parallel universe, four stops beyond Barking and well off the bus route, she goes on to declare her admiration for Michael Gove (go figure, as they say in the colonies) and ends by stating that she is a “workaholic”, declaring emphatically:

"I’m a Capricorn, It’s my nature, And I’m convent educated: I sew better than any nanny we’ve ever had. And my father had a farm in Africa. Have you ever taken the insides out of a stag?"

No, your Royal Highness, I have never taken the insides out of a stag.  But I am more than willing to practise it, on a minor member of the Royal family, to make sure I get it right, before trying it on a real dead animal.

It has become clear, in the continuing debate around austerity and benefits, that there is a hard core of people in this country who have absolutely no intention of ever doing any meaningful work. They are more than happy to just turn up every so often to sign in and just take the money. They contribute absolutely nothing, and they are leeches upon the public purse. There are 640-odd of them, and this week they had the brass balls to accept, blushingly and reluctantly, the suggestion that they might be worth an 11% pay increase.

For what it’s worth here’s my solution.  MPs' pay should be frozen at its present level until 2020 as a gesture of remorse and solidarity with the people whose lives have been wrecked by their stupid, criminal mismanagement of the economy over many, many years. After that, they should be reviewed annually, in line with inflation.

But the current furore over pay also serves to mask a much wider package of reforms of the role of an MP, all of which are urgently overdue. MPs should have to live in the constituency they wish to represent for a minimum of two years before being eligible to stand for election there. "Pairing" should be abolished. MPs should have ONE house, in their constituency, that THEY pay for. Expenses should be limited to office and establishment expenses, and permitted overnight stays in budget hotels eg Travel Lodge. There should be a MINIMUM ATTENDANCE REQUIREMENT at Parliament, which, if not met, would result in pay being docked. MPs should have NO OTHER PAID EMPLOYMENT while being an MP. That's for starters.

I utterly reject the argument that you have to pay top dollar in order to keep and recruit high-class high-ability politicians. If you implemented these actions (above) people coming into Parliament would be those who really wanted to make a difference to the country, rather than the present lot, who are only interested in making a difference to their bank balance, at the expense of the poor, the unemployed and the ill. And I have now submitted an e-petition request to the government petitions site to that effect, which is currently under consideration. If it goes live, I will post a link here.

Austerity as a concept was well and truly clobbered by John Cassidy, writing in no less a forum than the New Yorker last week.  The full blog is well worth reading, even for those like me who find economics gives them grey hairs and additional knits in the brow. If I had to summarise it in the proverbial nutshell, he says (correctly in my view) that it was Osborne’s mistaken charge into the valley of death after the 2010 election that reversed the feeble growth that was coming back in the last few months of Broon’s administration and tipped us into recession and that the recovery, such as it is, is only happening now because Osborne stopped doing what he was doing, and instead introduced a huge dollop of Keynesianism into the economy in the form of the housing guarantee scheme.

The problem is, of course, that this sort of argument takes a lot of close concentration to follow, and it’s nowhere near as persuasive and insidious as the DWP propaganda about people getting “£500 a week on benefits”.  Housing benefit desperately needs reform, but you have to remember that when you read these lurid headlines about someone getting "£500 a week on benefits" the majority of that is usually housing benefit which the "recipient" never actually sees, because it goes straight into the pockets of the landlords.

And the reason rents are so high in the private rented sector is because of a massive shortage of affordable social housing which has been a crisis breeding ever since Thatcher sold off the council housing stock and then successive administrations (of both parties) failed to replace it.

What needs to happen is that the government either needs to embark upon a massive programme of building social housing, or tell councils to do so. This would a) ease the housing crisis and private landlords would have to lower rents to attract tenants, thus in turn lowering the bill for housing benefit, and b) provide a much needed boost to the housing and construction market and instead of having chippies, brickies and sparkies sitting on the dole, they'd be earning money AND SPENDING SOME OF IT, boosting the economy as a whole, and they'd also be paying tax, so the tax take goes up and the deficit comes down.

THIS is what they should be doing instead of providing underwriting for private home building which inevitably results in the wrong type of housing in the wrong place. But there's as much likelihood of the Tories (or indeed, sadly, Labour) doing that, as there is of me getting out of this wheelchair and flying to the moon.

Plus, of course, the figure of £26,000, on which the DWP’s  “£500 a week” figure is based, only applied to a tiny percentage of all benefit claimants, but the DWP propaganda recycled by the likes of the Daily Mail makes it seem as if it applies to all claimants!

So, it’s been rather a depressing week for those who are trying to correct misapprehensions, left, right, and possibly centre. Zoe Williams wrote an article in The Guardian pointing out step by step, thread to needle, in beans, how Iain Duncan Smith is setting out to dismantle the entire fabric of the welfare state, and her article provoked such a shitstorm of adverse comments that it's a measure of how far the poisonous bile spread by the DWP has reached, that there are even people on the Guardian web page commenting, readers of a supposed "thinking man's" (and woman's) newspaper, who are prepared to swallow the DWP's anecdotal crap about benefits abuse, hook, line and sinker, when the actual fraud rates are so low. And where are Labour in all of this? Rachel Reeves has already conceded the field to the Tory agenda, instead of taking it on head-on and challenging it. It's like one team not bothering to turn up for the cup final, leaving their opponents to boot the ball into their open, empty goal, again and again.

One way of cutting back on government spending would be to refrain from embarking on insanely grandiose computer schemes doomed to failure from the outset (Iain Duncan Smith)  and repeating the procurement and specification mistakes of other previous administrations - of all parties. That would be a good place to start. Overall, if you want to cut government spending you could also look at things like the totally unnecessary re-branding of government departments, (Michael Gove) giving public money to any miscellaneous group of drongos who want to start their own private school (Michael Gove) and the money spent by the Home Office on vans driving round bearing the types of slogans previously used by the BNP (Theresa May) or Theresa May again, hiring a private jet at a cost of £180K to attempt to deport Isa Muazu. There you go, I've just saved us at least half a mill, in eleven lines. No need to thank me.

Like I said, there is lots that can be done, but of course, it’s much easier and more convenient for the Blight Brigade to continue bashing the old, the sick and the poor, while continuing to claim credit for a “recovery” that is only happening because they finally stopped cutting and started stimulating instead – something they should, and could, have done three years ago. And, also like I said, their propaganda is working: the internet meme about how people should have to have a urine test before they can claim benefits has been doing the rounds again.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s supposedly written by a worker on a gas rig or an oil rig in the North Sea [though it came originally from the US and has been adapted] and the author is saying [I’m summarising here] that because he has to take a urine test before he can go to work, people on benefits should have to take a urine test before they can claim benefits, in order to ensure they aren’t spending his hard-earned taxes on drugs or booze.  It’s a plausible and insidious argument, and is actually quite difficult to unpick, but let’s have a bash.

We could start with the obvious statement that the reason he has to have a urine test is presumably because if he is out of his tree while he is in charge of complex mechanical equipment and extremely volatile substances, he is likely to cause a major accident, possibly with fatal and environmental consequences. An unemployed bloke fumbling with the remote on a sofa in Droitwich trying to find his afternoon shot of “Countdown” is unlikely to be able to compete, really, in the ecological disaster stakes.

Underlying it, though, are three basic fallacies.  That people should be able to dictate the actions of those who receive benefits because they are in some way “better”, more “responsible” or more “worthy” than those unfortunate enough to be out of work or ill, and that there is some sort of split at birth into “hard working families” and “scroungers” and never the twain shall meet, whatever you are, you are, and you stay that way all your life, in much the same way as people from Hull are either Hull FC or Hull Kingston Rovers and that’s that.  The third fallacy in the unholy trinity is that people who are on benefits want to remain there and stay there as some sort of lifestyle choice. 

So, at the risk of repeating myself, life on benefits is tedious, boring shit, and, while you will inevitably get the odd bod who scams the system, most people on benefits, I assert, want to get themselves off benefits and into work.  Secondly, it is perfectly possible to be a member of a hard working family one day, and the next day find yourself out of a job, ill, or even in hospital for six months. Trust me on this one, I know.  One thing the Junta has done is to ensure social mobility, but not in a good way. All snakes and no ladders.  And finally, a benefit is a universal benefit and once you start saying that there are deserving and undeserving poor [based, I might add, on purely anecdotal evidence] you are abandoning a key principle of the welfare state [and your name is probably Iain Duncan Smith]

Anybody who thinks a life on benefits, struggling to pay your debts and with the constant threat that one day you might lose your home, is such a picnic, is more than welcome to swop their life for mine. In fact, as an added bonus, since one of my long term meds is Furosemide and I always, therefore, have a plentiful supply of urine, I’ll even post you out a sample on request, if you want to test it before committing.
Meanwhile, we now apparently live in a country that not only privatises its prisons but then makes women who suffer a miscarriage in custody clean up after themselves, including dealing with their own dead baby. Yes, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse. I am going to quote the article from The Independent in full. If you are easily upset by such things and don’t want your Christmas spoiled by mental images of medieval horror that you’d rather not have in your head, then please feel free to skip the next bits in italics: 

A woman who had a miscarriage at a private prison was left to clean up after herself while the foetus remained in her cell, it has been alleged. Although a nurse was present when remand prisoner Nadine Wright, 37, lost her baby, she says the foetus was left with her afterwards and that she had to clean up the blood. Her barrister, Philip Gibbs, told Leicester Crown Court: “There was blood everywhere and she was made to clean it up. “The baby was not removed from the cell. It was quite appalling. It was very traumatic. She only received health care three days later, after the governor intervened.”

The incident allegedly took place the day after Wright was taken into custody at HMP Peterborough on 23 November. It was not revealed in court how many months pregnant she was. Mr Gibbs told the court that Wright had landed in prison after she stole £13.94 worth of food out of desperate hunger as she did not have the money to pay for it because she had not been given benefit payments she was entitled to. The alleged incident came to light when Wright appeared for sentencing for breach of two court orders in place following previous offences by shoplifting the items and failing to attend appointments with the probation service. Wright pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months' jail. Mr Gibbs also attacked the probation service, accusing it of failure to help Wright to receive any benefit payments during the 11 months she was under its supervision. Wright has mental health issues, had been battling long term heroin addiction and had recently lost her mother, as well as being pregnant when she was arrested, Mr Gibbs explained.

He said an investigation into Ms Wright’s alleged mistreatment would now be carried out by her legal representatives. HMP Peterborough is a category B privately-run prison managed by Sodexo Justice Services. The company was contacted for a comment by The Mercury news agency but a spokesperson said it “cannot comment publicly on individual cases”, and would not reveal whether an inquiry following the alleged incident is being carried out.

“A prisoner received medical treatment on the day of her arrival in prison and was seen by a GP the following day,” the spokesperson said. “We have a duty of care to all prisoners that we hold. As part of that, we ensure that all prisoners have access to the same level of NHS services as those in the community.

I really just want to ask one question, as you read that, on the third Sunday of bloody Advent. Are you angry? Or is it just me?  I am so angry, reading that, that I could get in my wheelchair, trundle down the A1 to Peterborough, find that damn prison right now, and start chipping away at it with my bare hands, dismantling it brick by bloody brick until not one stone remains standing on top of another.  Great sodding gongs of Gehenna, have we, in Britain, in Great Britain, in 2013, really come to this?  Why isn’t this front page news?  Back in 1788, we deported people to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread if they were starving. In 2013, we send people to a privatised jail in Peterborough for stealing £13.94  and make them clean up their own miscarriage. Do you know what? Transportation almost sounds more civilized, as an option, even if the current head of the Australian administration is a misogynist idiot!

Yes, there will be those who say she brought her plight upon herself, with a catalogue of bad decisions. Personally, I think she had been “punished” enough already for the “crime” of being afflicted with mental health issues and addiction, though of course there will be those who rejoice in the fact that she was unable to claim benefits because the probation service wouldn’t or couldn’t help her. That’s another few quid shaved off the benefits bill to buy the votes of “hard working families” at the next election. Serves her right. Perhaps she should have had a urine test, then they might have realised she was pregnant.

We absolutely, positively have to do something, whatever it is, to reverse all this damage that is being inflicted on Britain and start to make things better again. We could vote them out. We could gather outside the prison. We could tear it down stone by stone. I don’t care. But the time has now come to do something. Once again, for the second week running, I am ashamed to be called British and am now going to buy some clogs and a windmill and be known as Jan Van Der Vaart.

I look around at the next generation of Debbie’s family.  Young Ryan, already a computer whiz; Caleb, drawing the family’s Christmas cards at the age of seven.  Adam; Katie; Holly; Ben; and now Chloe and little Isobel.  We owe it to these kids. We have to create a world where they will grow and thrive. For the sake of the children, if nothing else, we have to fight, fight, and fight again for a better world.

And so we came to Sunday; the third Sunday in Advent, and another day when the UN is dragging its feet and not providing the requisite aid to the Syrian refugees, to the extent that they are now boiling snow for water.  Oh, and dying.

Look, I’m sorry about this. You came here to hear about how Misty and Matilda were doing and whether I had managed to get myself into any amusing japes this week, and here I am telling you about people being forced to clean up after their own miscarriages and refugees dying because the UN can’t be arsed to send aid.

This is rather akin to the acerbic message in today’s Gospel, Matthew 11:2

NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he whoso-ever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

So: what went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. In the real world, people are dying. In the real world, animals are being abused. In the real world, people are sleeping under the viaduct. In the real world, people are being forced to clear up their own miscarriages.  In the real world, “soft raiment” is reserved for the cushioned and the privileged.

I’m sorry if this isn’t what you came here for, if you just wanted me to be all Robert Frost and fey and folksy and say that Juliana of Norwich says that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.  It’s growing more and more clear to me that unless we take the initiative and make something happen, we will still be stuck here this time next century. All shall be crap and all manner of things shall continue to be crap.

We owe it to the kids.  If Christmas means anything at all, if Jesus means anything at all, then Jesus should be in the prisons making them better, Jesus should be out there taking the soup run to the rough sleepers, Jesus should be in the Syrian refugee camps, in the animal sanctuaries and the dog pounds, Jesus should be with the deportees, Jesus should be with the poor and the despairing who have had their benefits sanctioned on a pretext in order to massage the figures. Maybe he is, or maybe he will be. I hope so. I pray so.  If advent means anything at all, it should be the advent of better times for all of us.

But more and more, I am coming to think that we might have to kick over the tables of the moneylenders ourselves. If we can’t rely on Jesus to transform the world and make it new and fitting for the kids to live in, then we might have to turn to Oliver Cromwell instead: trust in God, but keep your powder dry.  


  1. It's fun to hear the light hearted comedy of daily life with the pets and the furnace and the greenhouse, but I also value the grittier stuff. The reality check. I'm too lazy, (dim?) to unravel all the statistics so I like to come here and have it done for me.

    Not that I always agree with you as to the best course of action in respect of it all. :)

  2. Well Daisy, you're entitled to your own opinions, the important thing is that at least someone discusses it instead of wombling on further and further into the mire.