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

Not to mention "Left-Wing Pish"

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Epiblog for the Feast of St Hedwig of Poland

It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley. This will be a short blog, as I have some eikon painting to finish off, and later, when Debbie gets back with Misty and Zak, we’re planning to do some gardening, as summer seems finally to have come, at last. It’s July, of course, the holiday month, so it’s only right and proper. Even the squirrels seem to have gone on holiday, as they haven’t been around much. Maybe they have a second tree somewhere that they go to from time to time, in the same way that people in Hampstead who live in a council house have another council house in Wales that they go to at weekends.

Matilda has been enjoying the outdoor life and making the most of it – although, for Matilda, making the most of it involves nothing more than extending the time that she spends curled up and semi-snoozing under the overhanging fern next to the large planter on the decking. She likes it there, she can watch the world come and go, and no effort on her part is required apart from occasionally to get up, stretch herself in the way cats do, and toddle through the open door to sit expectantly beside the magically-refilling cat food bowl.

Misty, and to a lesser extent Zak, have also been finding that having the conservatory door open all the time is something outside their normal range of experience.  Misty seems to relish being able to go out on to the decking and check that all is well there, in the way Border collies do. Zak is content to sprawl out on the dog-bed, chilling, just maybe keeping an eye on the door from time to time, in case anyone comes through it who might have a treat for him, or want to take him walkies.

As for us, we the humans, we’ve been trying to rebuild our strength. Next week we really do need to start serious holiday preparations if we are going to get off anywhere at all in the camper this summer, let alone Scotland. The trouble is, as always, that when it’s peeing down with rain nobody feels like traipsing in and out carrying stuff, getting gear together, organising food, and all the other tedious chores that make preparing such a bind, and yet when it’s fine, you feel that the day would be better spent in a little light gardening, or in my case doing some baking, or painting eikons, anything, really, rather than traipsing in and out carrying stuff, getting gear together, organising food, and all the other tedious chores that make preparing such a bind! What will probably happen is what has happened in previous years – we’ll get to a point where we say right! And then we will start in earnest. But I think we’re a few days off yet.

I’m still ploughing on though and making progress in getting rid of loose ends. Of the four books I was working on simultaneously a month ago, one is published, one is at press, one is at final page proof state and I am proof reading the fourth (at about 100 of 399 pages done so far). So, I felt a small pat on the back might be in order. Of course, as always, the real challenge is to turn that work into money, with sales this autumn and running up to Christmas.

Always assuming we still have an economy. Or even a country. It’s been one of those weeks when my reaction to events in the outside world has ping-ponged wildly between “OMG” and “WTF”, if I may deploy two rather over-used computer keyboard acronyms.

On Monday, Andrea Leadsom, the wicked witch of the Brexit, pulled out of the Tory leadership race, leaving Theresa May unopposed. After a short period of head-scratching, and much consultation of the rules, the 1922 committee (which sounds obviously wonderfully democratic, doesn’t it) decided that meant she’d won, and was now Prime Minister. Well, not exactly there and then, because Cameron wanted one more day to have a go at Prime Minister’s Question Time, and to pop round to the Palace and say goodbye to the Queen.

By Wednesday, however, I found myself living in a country committed to a Brexit I didn’t vote for, with a Tory government I didn’t vote for, led by a Prime Minister nobody voted for. I can only hope all these people who voted to leave the “undemocratic” EU are revelling in all this “control” they have wrested back!

May then caused a blip on the internet on Thursday evening when she appointed Boris Johnson foreign secretary. I kid you not.  Thousands of twitter users in the ISIS network were no doubt left scratching their heads and wondering what the hell was wrong with Twitter and had another bit of Michael Jackson died or something.  The first reaction in our household, once I had restored my lower jaw to its right and natural place, was that it must be a joke. But, sadly, no. Boris. Johnson. Is. The. Foreign. Secretary.  I was moved to speculate what the rest of her cabinet would look like; Vlad the Impaler in charge of the NHS, perhaps, with Gary Glitter as the Education Minister?

There is also going to be a separate ministry just for Brexit, headed by David Davies, a man who, apparently, until May of this year, had no idea that it was not possible to negotiate with EU states singly to establish separate trading agreements, the negotiation must be en bloc with all of them. This doesn’t bode well for his future in the job. But apparently we have opened trade negotiations with Canada. So we need to buy shares in thermal underwear manufacturers, except that these days, they’re all in Bombay, not Bradford.  Davies says we will invoke article 50 this year, May says she is in no hurry and will wait until the time is right. It’s nice to see the government speaking with one (or two, or three…) voices.

Boris’s new career got off to an eventful start with an evening event at the French embassy in London on Bastille Day, during which he immediately went off message to stress that EU nationals in the UK would be allowed to remain provided the arrangement was reciprocated by the EU (I can’t believe he had discussed this with May in the 90 minutes between being appointed and opening his fatuous mouth). His reward for this was being roundly booed by the audience.

All of which was quite amusing, in a clownish, buffoonish sort of way, except that then the next two days intruded real events into the slightly Ruritanian atmosphere, in the form of a mass-murder in Nice and a failed Turkish coup.

Because I was having massive computer problems (thanks, Bill Gates and your sodding windows update) on Friday morning, I had no idea that some maniac had used a hired lorry as a weapon and mown down 84 people until well after lunchtime.  By then, the attack was already being linked to ISIS. In fact, the same process was going on that happened after the Orlando attack – even though there were strong indications that the perpetrator might have been some sort of unhinged wingnut with a bee in his bonnet who was a few Corinthians short of a Bible and not particularly “Islamic” or “Jihadi”, people have been quick to rush to judgement. He may well turn out to have been “radicalised” whatever that means, although he didn’t apparently get flagged in any French police records other than for routine offences. ISIS claimed responsibility, but then, like Mandy Rice-Davies, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Nigel Farage, speaking from his new standpoint of complete irrelevancy, blamed the refugees, conveniently ignoring the actual nationality of the perpetrator. But Nigel Farage in any case is now just yet another superannuated bar-room bore.  Not that I ever cared what he said when he was leading the Barmy Party.  I don’t know what Trump said about it, when his aides had explained to him where Nice was, but no doubt the NRA said that the tragedy could have been prevented if everybody else in the crowd had also had a truck.

Even while France was still counting the cost, Boris was no doubt disturbed by a further late-night phone call from his “Sir Humpreys” at the FCO to tell him that Turkey was imploding. As it happened, the coup fizzled out, and the elected dictator Erdogan has spent the last two days making sure that anyone vaguely connected with the events has been exterminated. This is the country that (according to the Brexit campaign) was on the verge of joining the EU. I think not.

The prize for bewildering and semi-tragic stupidity though, has to go to the Labour Party. I am so glad I resigned when they voted to bomb Syria, and also that I didn’t re-join in order to re-vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the re-run of the leadership re-election.  At a time when the Tories are basically about to give the green light to the Brexit campaign to make the poorest and most disadvantaged in our country pay the price of the economic chaos which is going to be unleashed; at a time when lunatics are causing mayhem in the name of “Islam” even though nowhere in the Koran does it say “hire a lorry and run over 84 people”; at a time when a strategically important ally on the edge of Europe is in meltdown, the Labour Party NEC spent most of a day closeted away like the College of Cardinals, trying to decide whether to allow Corbyn’s name to even be on the ballot!

The more I see of the finagling and the shenanigans surrounding the Labour leadership, the more I am convinced that someone has been putting LSD in the tea urn at Labour Party HQ.  I’m increasingly reminded of that Monty Python sketch about the Judean People’s Liberation Front and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Judea. We’ve just had one very public evisceration of a political party in the form of the Tory squabbles over Europe, and now Labour seem keen to follow suit.  All these differing interpretations of arcane rules of who can and can’t be on the ballot, which local parties can and can’t be allowed or trusted to meet, which members can be suspended for writing satirical poems about members of the PLP, or for displaying “eye-rolling and negative body language” remind me of medieval theologians arguing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, or the ones who tried to compile Indices Indicorum and all went mad.

There are still two or three things Labour could do to make themselves look even more stupid and unelectable, but they are almost there, not quite, but as near as makes no difference. The PLP should pass a motion to change the name to The Paedophile Party or something equally repugnant; they should instruct all their members to lob half bricks on sight at passing kittens, push old ladies off the pavement and into fast moving traffic, and to grow an beard and then daub it with their own excrement.  Maybe they could strip off, smear their bodies with woad, and sacrifice a baby on College Green or something.  Either way, they are as near to being completely stupid, useless, ineffectual, crap, irrelevant and idiotic as it is possible for one parliamentary Labour party to be. They have elevated “stupid” to the status of an art form.  Although, to keep the contest of who can best be the intellectual equivalent of a breeze block alive, on the Tory side, Andrea Leadsom, despite having had the political equivalent of Dorothy’s house fall on her, has risen, vampire-like, to say that there shouldn’t be male nannies because they might just be paedophiles.

So, it’s been a foul week in the world, and I am in a foul mood with it. Plus I seem to have developed, possibly as a result of trying to cut corners and get everything finished off, the gift of blundering forward, putting my foot in it, and upsetting people. Usually the ones I would least wish to offend.  Perhaps someone has been putting LSD in my tea-urn as well.

Today is the feast of St Hedwig of Poland. Hedwig was the Queen of Poland and has been described as “a model of faith”. She was the daughter of King Louis I of Hungary, ascending the Polish throne at the age of only thirteen. She married Jagiello of Lithuania, but only after he became a Christian, and then actively promoted Christianity in Lithuania.  She was born in 1373, and died in 1399, so she didn’t have much time to make an impact. As well as being the patron saint of Queens, well, someone has to be, I suppose, she is also invoked as the patron saint of a united Europe, which is quite spooky, given the week we’ve just had.

To be honest, I know very little about the history of Christianity in Lithuania, and I am now at the age where, like Homer Simpson, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my head, so I don’t suppose I’ll be rectifying that any time soon.  My devotions, such as they are this week, have been the usual round of solitary prayer and, in what is laughingly described as my “spare time” painting eikons.  We had an all-to-brief but nevertheless very welcome flying visit from Owen this week, who brought me a dozen panels of reclaimed timber from his own timber store at his home in the Brecon Beacons, so I have been busy working on two or three at once.  Much to the amusement of my wife. I happened to venture aloud, the other day, that I wondered what the collective noun for eikons was. “In your case, it’s a ‘shite’,” she replied.

It’s also been yet another week of anniversaries. They do tend to cluster at this time of year. So much so that July is probably not only the holiday month but also the anniversary month.  This week it’s been St Swithun’s day, where, by ancient tradition, whatever the weather is like on that day, so it will remain for the next 40 days.  It’s a significant anniversary to me, not because of my fanatical devotion to obscure, weather-predicting Anglo-Saxon saints, but because on that day, July 15th, six years ago, I was carted off to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in an ambulance with the blue light and the siren and all, for an operation which saved my life and repaired a perforated intestine.  It was when my body failed to respond in the weeks that followed to the physio needed to get me back on my feet, and it was investigated further, that was when I got my official diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy. Or, to be more correct, since there are several sorts, Facioscapularhumeral Muscular Dystrophy. Well, if you are going to have an incurable disease you might as well have one with a long wacky name that only you and about another 1000 people in the UK suffer from. One likes to keep it exclusive, darling.

So I have been a little too preoccupied with my own plight, this week, to wonder where God was when that bastard in Nice was driving down the pavement and mowing down innocent bystanders.  Not that I could have explained it if I’d had the entire week to do nothing other than contemplate it. The danger is, as well, that our humanity is becoming compromised by the regularisation of these vents. Well, mine is, obviously I can’t speak for you. But it happens over and over: it starts with unconfirmed reports and posts on social media. Then the dreadful tragedy unfolds, then the forces of “law and order” eliminate the perpetrator, then the commentators and politicians have their say while everyone picks up the pieces and buries the dead, people change their status on Facebook to commemorate the lost, and we all sit and wait apprehensively for the next one.

I haven’t got time today to go into why it should be, to go back to first principles and ultimate causes. I suspect, in any event, that the ultimate cause lies in what Christians might call “a fallen universe” coupled with our inability to understand the mind of God, which refuses to bend logically to our human definitions of right and wrong. All of this is of no comfort whatsoever to someone who has had their loved ones shot, blown up or run over, and, what’s more, it opens up huge theological questions to which I have no answer, and to which there may be no answer.

Especially on a day like today when there’s gardening to be done. All I can think of at times like the baffling febrile hopeless despairing ones we are currently enduring, is to concentrate on the small victories, the unasked-for random acts of kindness, the help that came from an unexpected quarter, and affirm in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that these are the things that matter and the things that will continue to matter, and that all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. “What will survive of us, is love”.

No comments:

Post a Comment