It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley. Summer seems to have suddenly burst over us in the last few days, there are flowers on the magnolia tree, and all the herbs are thriving (for now!) As I type this, the door to the conservatory stands wide open and the dog and cat are wandering in and out onto the decking, bemused at their sudden freedom to come and go as they please.
This is not such good news for the squirrels and the birds, however, who have to take their chance and nip in for bird food when they can get it. Still, they don’t seem to be exactly starving, so I guess they are doing alright. This must be one of those times when it’s good to be a squirrel, high up in the gently swaying trees in the bright sunshine with just enough breeze to stop you from overheating, sighing past your perch every now and again.
For the moment, the badger seems to have become a permanent fixture, as she has now been for something like nine or ten nights in a row, lumbering across the decking to hoover up the stale bread and peanuts at more or less 10.30pm on the dot. Last night she was 5 minutes late, and I was growing quite concerned. Of course there will come a time when food which is both nearer to her sett and easier to access will become so plentiful that she will stop visiting us – that has been the pattern over the last three or four years – however, we hope we’ve got a couple of weeks yet of seeing her.
Matilda has simply transferred her daytime snoozing from indoors to outdoors, and she has found herself a little sunny spot round the corner near the back door to the garage where she sprawls out in the sun in a most ungainly, unladylike fashion, with her legs going out in all directions, looking just like a hastily-discarded set of furry bagpipes.
The longer days have also meant more outings for Misty Muttkins, including, rather startlingly for the dog, Debbie deciding to get up and do a five mile run at 6am on Tuesday morning, prior to a full day’s teaching at college. It startled me, so God alone knows what the poor mutt thought. She ate her breakfast though, and then went back to sleep. Debbie’s father’s genes are undoubtedly resurrecting themselves from the great beyond. Misty’s also been learning to ignore the new dog-whistle, which I ordered because I hoped it would improve her recall off lead. Debbie thinks this is a waste of time, and in the course of a discussion I said that I wondered if they did one for wives as well, to which she replied that even if they did one for husbands she wouldn’t buy one because she didn’t care if I came back or not! So we left it at that.
As for me, I am still teetering along on one good wheel and one dodgy one, at the old crinkle-crankle, expecting every moment to develop a sudden list to port and crash to the floor, raising a huge cloud of dust. However, a phone call on Friday morning brought the welcome news that on Monday, I shall be the proud possessor of not one but two new wheels on my wagon, which I hope will put an end to the problem for months if not years to come. I don’t know what they do with the old wheels, probably take them to bits and use what pieces they can in other wheels, if they’ve got any sense.
The wheels are coming off the country as well, of course, but then we said that last week. We’ve had more missed targets than a blind archery contest, and more u-turns than a driving instructors’ convention. The latest being that apparently now, all schools will, er, not actually be forced to become academies. Jeremy Hunt has had to give in and say he will talk to the junior doctors after all, the police force in ten or twenty counties are considering whether to feel the collar of the relevant Tory candidate for election expenses fraud, and best of all, Boorish Johnson is no longer mayor of London. Actually, that is probably a relief for him, as well as us, because it must have been incredibly difficult for the last year keeping his expenses as an MP and his expenses as mayor of London separate. People have been quick to assert that the election of London’s first Muslim mayor is only one step away from an Islamic caliphate being proclaimed in Tooting, but Mr Khan seems to me to look more like a hedge fund manager than a jihadi. I do object to him being mayor, but only because I object to anybody being mayor. Directly elected mayors are a waste of public money, an unnecessary extra layer of local government that achieves very little. Bring back the LCC.
Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has had the sort of week when you could crap a golden egg and someone would complain it wasn’t silver. In his case, usually one of his own MPs, the ones who still can’t accept the result of a democratic leadership election, six months on. If they can’t deal with the fact that Corbyn is leader, maybe they should just shut up and go and join the Lib Dems in their phone box in Truro, where they would be welcomed, no doubt, with open arms. Labour actually made a reasonable fist of the local election results, apart from Scotland, where it seems, rather depressingly, that they still haven’t learned the lesson that ignoring the issue of independence is the political kiss of death. All that sitting on the fence achieves is painful splinters in the bum.
My main engagement with the political world this week, however, has been watching as the total of signatures on my petition continues to climb inexplicably towards the magic figure of 10,000 when the government is obliged to respond. In case you hadn’t been following developments (I am attempting to try and get the law strengthened against people who deliberately go out of their way to hurt and injure animals for “fun”) here is a link to the official petition page. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/120545 As I sit here today, typing this, it needs 209 more signatures to get to 10,000. It automatically lapses on August 6th, so I think there is very little chance of it going on to reach 100,000 and thus becoming eligible for consideration for a parliamentary debate, but even so, I am amazed at the way the movement behind it has grown.
When I started the petition, there were just 14 supporters. Then, one day, after we had tramped along the road awhile, there were 198. Then one day I looked behind me, and, amazingly, there were 6,000 following our banner. I felt like Byron, the day hee woke up and found himself famous. No doubt some have their own agenda, and I am the first to admit that what I have proposed is not perfect. Plus, I can imagine that the government response will be largely along the lines of “go away and stop bothering us, the existing legislation is sufficient”. Without wishing to sound too like Trelawney at this point, if they do say that, here’s 10,000 of us that will want to know the reason why.
What I intend to do, I think, rather than pre-empt it here, is to see if I can gather the remaining 209 signatures and if I do, to post a one-off blog page in the middle of next week, purely on my reasons for starting the petition and how I would see it working in practice, then I can direct any questioners to that page, and I can also (this is the crucial bit) get my response to the government’s response in to the government before they respond to me, and thus, I hope, head off some of the flim-flam and guff they will be looking to utilise to blur the issue and blunt the threat. If I can second guess what they are going to say, and scotch it before they say it, maybe it might make for a better response. You may think that, in a world where America seems hell-bent on electing Donald Trump as its last, apocalyptic president, all this is irrelevant. Sadly, you may be right, but one does what one can.
In fact, things like that, and the fleeting good weather and the general sweetness of summer and being warm, and being able to nod off in my wheelchair sitting at the conservatory door, and trying to unpick the general tapestry of birdsong back into individual threads of particular birds calling and answering each other, has all conspired to put me in a rather carpe diem mood. Seize the day. So I may actually do the almost unheard of and cut this blog short, and go and do something (I know not what) in the remaining sunshine, until Muttkins and wifekins get back from Blackmoorfoot, at which point I will be required to confect a salamagundi for the latter and some Butcher’s Dog “rustic feast” mixed with muttnuts for the former. I might serve them up each other’s for a laugh.
Today has been the feast of (amongst others) St Victor Maurus. Born in the third century AD, in what is now Mauretania, he is supposed to have been a Roman soldier, indeed, perhaps even a member of the Praetorian Guard. Despite being a Christian since his teens, this belief does not seem to have hindered his military career under the Roman empire, until it finally caught up with him in his old age, and he was arrested during the rule of the Emperor Maximian. Maximian had St Victor tortured, including having someone pouring boiling lead over him, before the saint was finally martyred, being decapitated in Milan around the year 303AD.
According to St Gregory of Tours, from whom much of the story originates, a church was then built over the site of St Victor’s grave, and many miracles were reported there. In 1576, St Charles Borromeo had the saint’s relics removed to the (then) modern church of the Olivetan monks in Milan, where they remain to this day.
Obviously, we have no way of knowing at this great distance in time either what the miracles attributed to St Victor Maurus were, or whether they would have occurred anyway without the added factor of having taken place at the shrine of a saint. There is a whole case to be made for the effect of what you might call “collective positive belief” – if enough people think something will happen, and then it does, that also takes us on into a decision of what reality actually is anyway, in a universe where, unless you can measure its location, you have no way of knowing where anything is. Until I see the badger, don’t forget, it is like Schrodinger’s badger – it neither exists or does not exist. Simultaneously. So even if all that happens at a “miraculous” event is that enough people convince each other that they have all seen the same collective hallucination, that in itself is scientifically interesting. Or is it one of those events which I have written about before, when the “normal” rules of “reality” are paused or set aside for some reason. It is easy, on a day when the afternoon sunshine seems timeless, to conceive of such a moment – although T S Eliot also had one in the middle of winter, at Little Gidding church – the “moment in the draughty church at smokefall”. There’s also the question of who chooses these moments. Or what. Are we chosen to see behind the veil momentarily, and if so, why.
Of course we could all be deluding ourselves, and each other. The only difference is the faith – or lack of it – behind your emotions. There will never be a satisfactory scientific proof, it’s like trying to measure the humidity in the atmosphere with a golf club. It doesn’t stop me coming back to it again and again, of course, especially as I feel that my own sands of time are diminishing. The thing is though, it seems to be the case that the more you look for it, the less likely you are to find it, whatever it is.
Still, it’s time to give up these fruitless musings and get on with the doing the thing in the sunshine. I’m working on a painting project at the moment, but it’s a surprise, so I can’t be more specific, but I might go and work on that for a while. It’s a shame to waste this precious time, because the next time you look, it’s usually gone. So. It’s time to get a wriggle on. A mad wriggle, in fact. Fa la la la la…