It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley, so busy that the knock-on effect stretched into Saturday, the day when I normally do all of my “domestic tasks” and thus Saturday’s tasks had to be incorporated into today, so I am later than usual in sitting down and opening up the laptop to write this. Maybe we’ll catch up as we go along, who knows.
The weather has been vile. For vile, read cold and damp, the worst sort of weather for making my bones ache and sing, and not in a good way. The sudden cold snap was a real shock to the senses after a mild muggy and damp autumn so far: the two empty plant troughs at the side of my wheelchair ramp, which have filled up with rain-water over the last few weeks, were both frozen over the other morning. I had great and childish pleasure in whacking the ice to break it, reciting Shakespeare:
When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail
Matilda is also unimpressed, and has finally realised, somewhere in the crevices of her little walnut of a brain, that it’s warmer in the house. The thing is, she does seem to like going outside these days (when we first got her, it was all we could do to crowbar her off the settee) and she complains bitterly at the weather when it’s raining or too cold (both of which it has been this week). This morning, she came in from the garden with her coat full of hailstones, having had the misfortune to be further away than a cat’s scuttle from the door when it all kicked off.
One night during the week, I forget exactly which, I expended a considerable amount of energy from about 8pm, trundling my wheelchair (with me in it) to the conservatory door at half hour intervals, opening it, and going "Puss puss puss, Tilda, come on, puss puss puss" to no avail. I was beginning to resign myself to having to spend the night freezing my nadgers off with the cat flap door open, when Debbie informed me that Matilda was, in fact, curled up fast asleep on the settee in Colin's front room and had obviously been there for some hours.
Her answer to the cold snap is to sit inside the conservatory door, looking out at the dish of bird food I’ve put out on the decking, and threatening the pigeons who swoop down to feed from it. The pigeons, knowing that Matilda is safely behind two centimetres of double-glazing, take no notice whatsoever. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they deliberately taunt her, and cock a snook at her, if that is indeed something which it’s physically possible for a pigeon to do.
Apart from the hailstones, the threatened “wintry” weather has held off here for the time being but Debbie, Misty and Zak had a bit of an adventure when they found themselves engulfed in a sudden blizzard on top of Dove Stones on Friday. Fortunately the dogs were good, and for once, Misty didn’t attempt to abandon the expedition and make her own way home, but trotted along like a good ‘un, secured to the new heavy duty karabiner on Debbie’s belt by a length of Dyneema that terminates in another, similar karabiner, clipped on to Misty’s harness. The last bit of the walk, in the dark, involved a narrow path with a drop into a stream on one side, but once again the Walkies Gods were in a benevolent mood, and the fearless pioneers all managed to negotiate it back to the safety of the camper van, without falling off/in. Debbie is thinking of getting a length of actual lightweight climbing rope, though, just in case Misty decides to go abseiling one day.
I read somewhere (probably on one of the many collie dog training sites) that a good reward for your dog, if you happen to have one to hand, is a raw carrot, and I tried this out on Misty during the week, She mouthed it briefly, before chucking it on the floor in disgust, then coming back and begging for a dog treat. Yet, one morning towards the end of the week, Deb chucked half a baguette into the garden, because it was rock-hard and only fit for the birds to peck at, and Misty immediately went and “retrieved” it for her. She has, previously, when I’ve chucked out “fat balls” for the birds, gone and picked them up in her mouth, carried them off, and buried them in the garden.
There was one point on the Dove Stones walk where Misty got spooked by a bird rising suddenly from the bracken, and Debbie was trying to describe to me what happened, when she got back.
“I don’t think it was a pheasant. What are those other things, that aren’t pheasants?”
“Er… Great White Sharks?”
“No, I mean a bird.”
“Yes, that’s it . The whirring noise it made startled her.”
The whirring noise made it a pheasant, in my book, but then Debbie isn’t known for her bird recognition skills, frequently describing the wood pigeons that come down for the bird food as “jays”.
Still, at least we can all recognise a great tit when we see one, but just in case there was any doubt, this week’s UKIP gaffe, fresh off the assembly line conveyor belt, was Nigel Farage saying that breastfeeding women should do so in a corner or a little room of their own, somewhere discreet. Perhaps they should go behind the fridge to do it, then UKIP would have a win/win situation, because they could do some cleaning while they’re there. Why any woman would even consider voting for this bunch of creepy misanthropic perverts escapes me, but then I’m not a woman. Mr Farage’s stance was supported by The Sun, a “newspaper” that knows a lot about breasts, having featured them every day on page 3 since about 1970. Irony has truly eaten itself.
It would be so easy at this point to glide effortlessly into another “tit” joke to continue on and consider George Osborne and his “autumn statement.” Oh, go on, then, if you insist. According to Mr Osborne, it’s all going trifficly well, everything is ticketty-boo, and er, they have failed to cut the deficit as they said they would, and borrowing has actually gone up again. Given that George Osborne has missed every target he set himself, losing the UK its triple A credit rating along the way, why anybody should believe a word that comes out of his mouth, or indeed any other of his orifices, remains a mystery. If the man told me today was Sunday, I would want that fact verified independently by a competent compiler of almanacs.
Even economic reality deniers like George Osborne can’t dodge the logic of the situation forever. If he’d taken the advice of Keynesians like Paul Krugman and invested off the back of the recession to create jobs, instead of behaving like all four horsemen of the Apocalypse rolled into one, the tax take would have risen, and he might even be on the way towards beginning to get out of the hole by now, instead of being still in there and digging furiously with a spade labelled “austerity”.If you owe someone a hundred apples, you can't pay him back by chopping down your orchard.
The tax take has failed to rise and come to his rescue because the fake jobs which the Junta has “created” in order to get unemployment down and as a pretext to lower the benefits bill, are all crappy low paid zero hours contracts where the employee frequently has to be bailed out by the benefits system, rather than contributing to it via income tax. Obsorne seems to think he has now found a few billion pounds down the back of the settee, given the grandiose schemes announced for public works in the Autumn statement. Anyone tempted to believe any of this is cautioned to remember that there is an election in six months, and to reach for a very large pinch of salt. Osborne’s conversion to Keynesian economics on his political deathbed is only temporary. The deficit reduction plan, in so far as he ever had one, is now away in la-la-land, somewhere, and he has his fingers firmly crossed. If he gets in again in 2015, watch out for another five years of slash and burn, unless there’s a revolution first.
As indeed there might well be, if people like Judge Rebecca Poulet QC continue to sit. She allowed two former RBS bankers guilty of a property fraud worth £3million to walk away without going to jail for it, because she said in her summing-up that they had suffered enough. Despite the fact that they each earned more than £100,000 pa, Raymond Pask and Andrew Ratnage set up a string of fake companies and then used them to apply for mortgages. With the money, they bought and renovated homes and then sold them on at a profit, amassing over £3m in a period of five years. In the four years it has taken to bring the case to court (why?) they have paid back the money and because they expressed embarrassment and remorse, the judge said this was sufficient to avoid a custodial sentence.
I couldn’t help but contrast the four years with the last four years since I came out of hospital. I wonder if, were I to default on filling in a tax return, or fail to submit a VAT return, or fail to complete one of the many forms that the DWP bombard me with, asking the same crap over and over again, the court would accept as a valid defence that I have suffered enough. I doubt it, somehow. Not, at least, judging from the evidence so far of the many people driven to their deaths, yes their deaths, by ATOS assessments or the Bedroom Tax. But still, we should be thankful, because, apparently, according to George Osborne, it’s all been worth it. Worth the four years of cuts and closures, worth the growth in homelessness, worth the food banks, worth the abandoned animals, worth the repossessions, worth the deportations and the xenophobia and the scapegoating because the economy is recovered and we’re all back in the black once more. Hooray!… er… oh, hang on.
Even if that was true, even if the public finances had improved so much that the government could give each of us a tax free one-off gift of £10,000, that still wouldn’t be “worth” the deaths of Mark and Helen Mullins, Karen Sherlock, Richard Sanderson, Paul Willcoxson, Paul Reekie, Elaine Christian, Stephen Hill, David Groves, Mark Wood and Stephanie Bottrill. And many others. As it is, George Osborne’s strategy for tackling the economy, which started out as a pile of doo doos, is now a festering, smouldering heap of ashes, and all he has to offer is to hold a mirror up to the smoke.
As if that wasn’t reason enough for a revolution, in a week which saw an MP “tweeting” a complaint because she had to share her train seat with a fat member of the public (welcome to the real world – at least your ticket was on expenses) how about this: it emerged this week that a proposal to make savings on the public finances by merging the catering contracts for the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and thus achieve economies of scale, was vetoed by the Lords “because they were afraid that the champagne on offer would not be of the same quality” as that to which they had become accustomed. Since 2010, the House of Lords has bought in more than 17,000 bottles of champagne at a cost of £265,770. Apparently this works out at five bottles per Member per year. They always used to say that one way of defusing a really pompous, bullying buffoon was to imagine them sitting naked on the toilet. Well, the next time you’re tempted to give Members of the House of Lords the benefit of the doubt, especially on a night when it’s forecast to be minus seven, and there are people bunking down under the railway arches, image some corpulent fat bastard pissed as the proverbial newt in the House of Lords, swathed in a nice warm ermine robe and surrounded by five empty jereboams of Tattinger.
Stories like these are just so bad for my blood pressure, and only serve to make me even more determined to stand as an independent in the next election, even if it is the economic equivalent of taking £500 out of the bank and setting fire to it in the driveway. It’s just as well that a double-duty of domestic chores has prevented me from browsing the pages of the news sites further today, which is (already) the second Sunday of Advent. I’ve been waiting for the appropriate day when the bit from Isaiah about the child sticking its hand into the hole of the adder is going to come up, but so far, I seem to have missed it. I was driven generally to browse Isaiah looking for all the famous bits and found:
Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Why anyone would want the government upon their shoulder escapes me – we’ve had this set of deadbeats on our backs since 2010 and it’s nearly killed us (I know it doesn’t really mean that, it’s a joke) but I never fail to find these words uplifting. Especially as I can never read them without sing-along-a-Handel going on inside my head. I discovered that the really famous bit is Isaiah 11: 1-10, but they don’t have it every year because it depends whther it’s year A, B or C, apparently. Well, I am declaring a unilateral Advent and having it now.
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together:
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
You have to admit, it’s pretty good stuff, on a par with Churchill in 1940, or Henry V at Agincourt. Every time I read that it makes me want to put on some armour and clank off down the street in Rocinante, my faithful wheelchair, tilting my lance at any and all evil that gets in my way. I find myself wondering what it is that stops all of us doing the same, and I have come to the conclusion that some of it is the English disease of embarrassment. We may well feel outraged at the grandiose excesses of our “elders and betters”, but all too often, we just tut and say “mustn’t grumble!” We don’t like to get involved in the suffering of others. It’s much easier to pass by on the other side. We find religion (or even the mention of it) faintly disturbing, and we laugh nervously and sidle away.
There are those who would call me a “holy Joe” or a “God-botherer” for writing what I write, though to be honest, God doesn’t seem overly bothered by anything I say or do, he’s probably seen it all before. And so, in our resignation, our weariness, our embarrassment, the time slips by, the years pass, and we’re just as far as we ever were from every valley being exalted, and every mountain and hill laid low. In the same way that the Labour Party needs to remember why it was formed in the first place and start doing something about it, the Church of England should be stepping up its condemnation of the vile crew who are going to be responsible for misery at Christmas, misery in 2015, and misery until at least 2020, the way things are going. Denounce them from every pulpit in the land. Did Jesus think “Oooh, I mustn’t get involved in politics,” before he strode into the Temple and kicked over the tables of the moneylenders?
Anyway, that’s enough soapbox for one week. I have a fire to mend, and there are those who will say that I have always been better at starting fires than mending them. So it’s time to prove them wrong, and put the kettle on for the hot water bottle which Debbie will need when she comes back from walkies with Misty, nithered to the bane. Matilda has already burrowed her way into her little nest on the settee and we shan’t see her again until bedtime when she emerges to scoff some Felix. Misty will be wanting her tea, though, and then it’s time to get my pinny on and get stuck in. Another week of “proper” work will be here all too soon with the usual seventeen intractable problems, so tonight I’m going to make some vegan Cornish pasties. Sometimes, it seems like the only sane response.