Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years, indeed millennia. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned, but overbearing, education regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, (oh, dear, is a simple kiss to blame?) teenagers suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch and a teacher actually fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. I once had to physically restrain an unruly student who attempted to headbutt me. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they had themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children and the result is anarchy in so many classrooms. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer paracetamol, sun lotion or plaster to a pupil, but could not inform the parents when a pupil became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became not just contraband, but virtually illegal. Churches became businesses with slick advertising and good dentition and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home, but the burglar could sue you for assault because you protected yourself and your own. Firing a weapon in defence is, it seems, a criminal act. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap and was promptly awarded a huge financial settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility and his son, Respect. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I’m A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realised that he was gone. They played The Parting Glass at the ceremony. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.
I don’t normally write about sport. The English, minus the Agincourt archers, are to do battle today for the World Cup in a game which one famous, sadly deceased, journalist once described as ” the game you invented and the rest of the world whips you at”.
But, not today. The Kiwis are out for blood in the final and we shall see in a few hours’ time whether they have the bowels to see off the England squad and get their hands on the Cup.
Cricket, unlike baseball, is a gentleman’s game. Etonians play it well – I was in the First XI the day we beat them through sheer Midlands brutality, facing their fastest men. I was a nasty spin bowler and caught their captain out at mid-on with an incredibly lucky catch, overarching and backward. I still remember the thud as I hit the ground.
Sport is like war. It’s strange how we have replaced our thirst for battle with a thirst for victory in the arena. But, rightly so. There are no widows or orphans, No fire, demolitions or rape. Even chess, the most benign of conflicts, rouses passion in its adherents .Yet there is never blood on the chessboard, Queen’s Indian defence notwithstanding.
It may be that even the Australians, the semifinal losers, will gather in Melbourne bars to see if the bastard colonials get their asses’ whipped and the pride of the Pacific will be restored.
On the obverse side of the coin, today is Juillet Quatorze when French armed forces parade down the Champs Elysées, the final march being from the Légion Entrangère. They have to be last because the pace of their march is slower than all the others. Here, as of now, there is thunder, sheet lightning, as if the horses of the gods are girding for battle. Quite the metaphor. As if the gods are at war.
I used to love the fireworks. On a hilltop in St Germain, we could see the displays from at least seven different locations, including the spectacular one on the Champ de Mars where half a million gather.
I miss Paris.
Some memories from long ago, which is, of course the old man’s privilege, surfaced today. But the memory was so sharp, so vivid, so as if yesterday, It made me wonder. A friend mentioned Hildegard of Bingen – I haven’t given thought to her for half a generation – I wanted to remind him of the Kabbala, but, I did not. A rabbi whom I have met might do better. Another friend of a friend, a New Yorker whom I met in Jerusalem again just popped her head above the parapet, reminding me of Susan, whom I loved, and she loved me. All rather maudlin, but I was reminded of the fact that we ourselves live in the chronos, not the kairos – much as we might like it to be different.
I took a group once to Westminster Central Hall to hear a man called John Wimber, who spoke for ten minutes, sat down at the piano-he used to play for the Righteous Brothers – and the fire fell – this bit is just for those who know – but the memory in massive detail remained with me.