Single Jehovah’s Witnesses

Canary Wharf, business suits…

Being a pensioner, thus not very bright by definition, when I first heard the acronym ‘SJWs, I thought it referred to “Single Jehovah’s Witnesses”. I imagined this to be a dating website where optimistic young ladies could find young gentlemen with a similar religious persuasion. But, no. Somebody put me straight, obviously. There’s something grandiloquent about the notion of “social justice warriors”, something apparently praiseworthy, to be emulated or at least admired since the current tidal wave of public opinion runs inexorably in their favour – for the moment. The sight of a climate change protester being forcibly removed from the roof of a London commuter train by those simply wishing to get home was both cheering and indicative. The 17th century mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal wrote “Justice is as much a matter of fashion as charm.” How richly such a truth is demonstrated in our times. Seldom have the demands of (social) justice been so manifestly faddish, blown hither and yon by the caprice of public opinion, relentlessly fuelled by social media, any dissent being asphyxiated by an avalanche of protest. We now talk endlessly of climate change. Not Tibet, or the Yazidis or Christian persecutions any longer. Being identified as a victim of injustice, in the present case, the entire planet, is short term, until something else flits across the screens of public consciousness.

SJWs are intolerant of criticism. The suggestion that some of the primary propositions upon which their protests hinge are plainly wrong is rejected as reactionary thinking, worthy only of ridicule, the more public the better. Overthrow the prevailing power structures, and injustice will simply vanish is both the strategy and the creed. Anyone who questions this vision is not just wrong but evil. Plenty of activism, disruption and days out in the city, with the thrillingly illicit possibility of arrest and hence vindication is the driving force. Solutions are sparse, perhaps non-existent, but, of course, that doesn’t really matter – others will find those.

At the heart of so many SJ initiatives is the overarching theme of equality (good) and merit (bad). These imperatives are inescapably locked in either competition or conflict, both practically and ideologically. A society that was perfectly just by meritocratic standards would be quite unjust in egalitarian terms. Some injustices may be worse than others, but no world is imaginable in which all the demands of social justice are fully realised.

For example, income and wealth distribution are partly random. But so is the distribution of genes. Some have to manage with a pair of sixes, others get four aces dealt them. Gross disparities in educational opportunity are accepted as long as they cannot be defended in terms of merit. Selection by ability such as in UK grammar schools is rejected by large swathes of progressive opinion; people seem to find it less objectionable to send their children to schools where selection is by parental income.

There’s a hypocrisy here. Hypocrisy requires a measure of self-awareness, and there is little evidence of that in the sunny uplands of certainty that the SJW inhabits. When people buy an expensive education for their children, perhaps they are in fact sidestepping the whole uncomfortable notion of meritocracy. No doubt egalitarians who send their children to private schools, buy in private tutors or are well-heeled enough to buy a house in a catchment area containing a socially selective comprehensive are stacking the life-chances of their offspring against those of the majority. But why should any child be denied the good fortune of having progressive parents?

Extinction Rebellion, the apotheosis of egalitarian thinking, will of course go ‘the way of all flesh’ eventually, the irony being that its primary support base is derived from those who have benefited most from a meritocratic worldview. We remain hopeful that at the very least they won’t do too much damage.

When it does not lead to tragedy, the pursuit of social justice can quickly turn comedic. There was something darkly amusing about the short shrift given to the people who climbed on top of the trains and, perhaps, rightly so.

Sheep

This being Yom Kippur, a reflection. A look back at things well done and a resolve to do better. No more golden calves.

People crave certainty. At least in some of us there’s a stubborn, persistent hankering and adulation for leaders which is why dictators flourish. Indeed, in the kernel of personality there seems to exist this idea that it’s OK, indeed desirable to be a sheep where all one has to do is to follow instructions and all will be well. Highly structured religions are full of instructions to be followed on pain of serious, everlasting and frequently painful retribution. One point eight billion people worldwide subscribe to a religion based around a man who lived in a cave and received visions which were orally transmitted by an archangel over a long time and over 170 years later somebody thought to write them down. History, or better, historical fact has been overlain by the dust of centuries, redacted by opinion, scholarship and sheer manipulation, to form a set of rules that all its adherents mostly abide by, with more or less fervour. When actually written down it seems fatuous and naïve, a collage made up of small, half-remembered pieces picked up and hastily sewn into some kind of semi-coherent whole.

The Jews have an even longer period as their rituals and practices evolved from pre-Canaanite traditions into a massive lexicon of mitzvot, regulations and rabbinic pronouncements which have provided fertile ground for opinion, debate and argument.  Moses Maimonides, the great twelfth century rabbi, wrote his ‘guide to the perplexed’ to shed light on the fundamentals and to provide a bedrock of certainty which could be relied upon to stand the test of being assailed over time by other, divergent views. Christianity stands or falls on the messianic principle, as the wild olive of the Gentiles is grafted into the Jewish branch to ingather all into a soteriologically secure sheepfold of belief. 

I was thinking about my own experiences in light of some of these ideas. Brought up by a righteous father and confused and basically monochromatically inept mother, I believed what I was told to believe for longer than most. Argument with Sunday school teachers was a sport I learned in mid-teens when dissent was considered rebellious and “as the sin of witchcraft”, the only consequence being the development of an overloaded sense of guilt and an inability to match up to exacting but entirely artificial standards. Grace seemed too easy to obtain and too hard to justify one’s receipt of it. Toes were dipped into the experiential, the miraculous, the emotionally-fuelled and intellectually impoverished with a brief but delicious diversion into the theatrics of Anglo-Catholicism, an opera for the sensations; all the awe and wonder held together by the granite of scriptural certainty.

Things changed. And yet, the old ideas persist, as if woven into a childhood garment that one can never quite outgrow or throw off. I have watched the church as it has metamorphosed so spectacularly in the last few decades, from a 1950s conformity and a sense of treading a well-worn yet secure path, one sheep following another, into a smorgasbord of different doctrinal emphases, as evangelicalism gave way to charism and emotion, which in turn spawned rock concert church plus a bit of sermonising, prosperity gospels which asserted that one could simply pray one’s demands into existence like Janis Joplin’s Mercedes-Benz, with much head-wagging from the Calvinists and traditionalists. We cast about for someone to blame and a theology which had been in the sights of the intellectuals for a hundred and fifty years became the culprit. Things began to change with the Germans who began to disembowel the ancient texts as one might dissect Chaucer or Shakespeare and meaning, myth and poetry swirled around in one’s mind like gauzy silken scarves, through which it became more and more difficult to visualise truth, so much so that it is today not inconceivable to refer to an atheist archbishop. So, we abandoned the idea that truth even exists, and moral relativism became the post-church, postmodern doctrine du jour. Modern miracles were relegated to dewy-eyed Pentecostal adherents for whom healing, prophecy and deliverance were part and parcel of everyday experience. For most, such improbables perfused downwards and backwards so first century miracles were disassembled and reconfigured to be consistent with the more intellectually acceptable position of our being disinterested observers rather than active participants.

I have seen more than most, experienced either directly or indirectly some of the axial shifts and changes in moments of inertia that ‘church’ has become. And yet, in spite of all efforts to make sense of so much, the less I really know and understand. Wisdom is compensation to the old for lack of knowledge in one’s youth, but it is not easily come by.

Belief systems are in disarray, and they themselves serve as a metaphor for a worldwide and accelerating confusion which in some cases has descended into near-panic, so amply demonstrated by near-hysteria over climate change and our purported part in it. The oldest democracy in the world is headed towards a cliff edge at full throttle with no clear plan as to what happens when we fall off and the consequences are thought by some to be apocalyptic. The many-headed hydra of radical Islam has been imprisoned but not killed off, civil disobedience is considered almost legitimate and wars rage ceaselessly, swapping participants as if bringing on the substitutes of protest to replace the faithful in a football match.

I read today that Greta Thunberg is the bookie’s favourite for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un are in the frame as well, along with many others, perhaps far more deserving. If she gets it, it will serve as a metaphor for the clouds of unknowing in which much of the world seems currently enmeshed. We know so very little, yet sheep follow sheep, all bleating in unison and often with no real understanding of why they do so. Some have grown teeth and claws, ready to savage, upend and attempt to destroy the fragile democratic systems on which so much of our security has been built. They seem prepared to demolish the political status quo with no idea what to replace it with, play follow-the leader with the gullible, the blind and the delusional and moreover, are rewarded for doing so.

And yet, faith refuses to lie down and die, at least for me. I have seen too much for full-blown denial, too little to volunteer for the armies of righteousness. In the maelstrom, there exists the eye of the storm, where order replaces chaos and stillness the crashing and battering of mountainous waves. I fail to find it, so very often, but I know it’s there.

Good Advice for Parents

I have five grandchildren  who, I think, are well parented. Their parents are for the most part wise and moral, ethically thoughtful and pretty much above normal reproach. But, the herd mentality is generating a different kind of parent. As the old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song says “teach your children well”. This suggests that parents have sufficient discernment to do so. Big people can be more rabidly hateful, especially online, and think nothing of trashing reputations, espousing violence, or often anonymously invoking intolerant racism, misogyny, religious bigotry – you name it –  in support of what are frequently half-baked, ill thought through or frequently wrong opinions.

So, here’s a quick summary for parents, carers and those who are supposed to give a damn.

First of all, people don’t matter. Human beings are objects like axes wielded in battles in order to win. Actual flesh and blood exists as a mirror image of your stereotypes and caricatures and has no intrinsic value. The moment you can dehumanise a person you’ve never met, is the moment you free yourself from any responsibility for the damage you do to them or applaud someone else doing. Anonymous commenters on forums, are you listening?

Next, one must never, ever apologise. Admitting fault is a prima facie sign of weakness and you will be devoured for it, so  don’t do it. When you are found to be wrong or have spoken in error, be a politician and never admit it. No matter how far adrift of  the facts, how grievous the mistake or how divorced from reality you’ve been, simply attack your critic’s credibility and, more importantly, his integrity, but never admit the error and never, under any circumstances, say you are sorry.

The more differences there are around you, the more there is to fear. Threats always come from those who aren’t like you. If someone’s skin colour or dress or sexual orientation or nation of origin isn’t exactly the same as your own, they must be either treated with extreme suspicion or be avoided altogether. It’s never a good idea to deliberately seek out people who aren’t like you. Introversion, exclusion and self-preservation are the best defences against all the world’s evils which are ranged against you and exist only to hurt you.

Forget the advice of all the do-gooders, teachers, pastors and self-help books, because the bottom line is, it’s all about you. Leave behind all that mediaeval nonsense about loving your neighbour as yourself or doing unto others that which you would like to have done to you. Other people are unimportant. In this selfish, cold-hearted universe you are the solitary star around which every other body revolves. The more you allow other people to be seen and heard, the less you will be able to control them. This is a zero-sum game and there is only one winner. Make sure it’s you.

To empathise with another human being is a flaw and if you’re strong enough it can be resisted. Sitting with people, sometimes in quiet companionship, as they pour out their story to you and to get to feel a little bit of their pain – this kind of thing just slows you down. The more callous, the less vulnerable you become. The greatest self-protection is to simply not to give a damn about anyone else. Bleeding hearts just make a mess.

And, don’t forget – a really important one for the boys. Women are cheaper than men. Consent? Irrelevant. Female autonomy is a myth. A woman’s body does not belong to her; she exists solely for your satisfaction. Doesn’t matter if she’s a wife, a prostitute or the girl crossing the street, it applies to them all. Most of the time, you’ll just get away with it.

The big myth is that ‘cheats never prosper’. Of course they do, but like the poker player with the ace up his sleeve, the purpose of cheating is winning, of getting a better grade or beating someone more deserving to the top prize. The end always justifies the means, no matter how mendacious, despicable or cruel and the more you can rig the system in your favour, the happier you will be. Play fair? Not a chance. Be honest? Never.

White people are just…better. All those people who bang on about equality are deluded fools. Sometimes it’s useful to pretend it matters, but don’t believe it for a second. White people were destined from the beginning to rule the Earth because they are smarter, stronger and better equipped to subdue all the inferiors who aren’t really made in God’s image. Also, your convictions are for sale but only to the highest bidder, laws were made for other people so it’s OK to bend them or even break them with impunity, not forgetting to lie as often as it takes for people to actually believe it. Religion is about as useful as a rented tuxedo, by all means wear it when occasion demands but don’t hesitate to take it off when you no longer feel the need of it.

Well, that’s about it. We can only marvel at Aldous Huxley’s comment ‘Oh, brave new world, that has such people in it.’

Cannon Fodder


London, Friday 19th September 2019

I’ve written about this before, but the sheer scale of Friday’s gatherings has prompted me to add something to an earlier post. It won’t be popular, many will sneer, laugh or both, but I’m unconcerned. Unless you’ve been living under a stone for the last few days, the outpouring of children missing school and on to the streets to ‘protest’ about the lack of Governmental effort worldwide about ‘climate change’ can have barely escaped you. The numbers are staggering. Three to five million is a very conservative estimate, with the the poster child herself, Greta Thunberg addressing a crowd of anything between a hundred thousand and a quarter of a million in New York alone. News outlets picked up the baton, endlessly recycling images of children from all over the world. who it is alleged were given permission to skip school on Friday. Even in downtown Kabul a few hundred gathered.

But, is it really true that mankind is unilaterally responsible? There is a far more complex and less threatening picture of what’s happening to the climate that the alarmists would have us believe. Indeed, such is their unscientific hysteria that even some of the most prominent alarmists have become themselves even more more alarmed by their activities.

Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told the Talouselämä magazine in Finland of his concerns about doomsday climate extremists calling for radical action to prevent apocalypse.

“It is not going to be the end of the world. The world is just becoming more challenging. In parts of the globe living conditions are becoming worse.”

He has also controversially suggested that radical environmentalists are now a major problem. I am inclined to agree with him.

 Paraphrasing: “Climate experts have been attacked by these people and they claim that we should be much more radical. They are prophets of doom, extremists who make threats, carrying the world with them on a tidal wave of outrage, loosely based on fact.”

This is exactly the kind of scenario that children raised on fantasy video games are most likely to be impressed by.  They are less impressed by scholarship, much more by the roller coaster ride of emotion that goes with it. The psychology of a movement such as this is irresistibly magnetic for the young.(italics mine)

Even NASAs work on solar activity, which is the engine for climate change – far more significant than the emission of greenhouse gases – has been largely suppressed on their Web pages, in response to the howling rage of those whose agenda is damaged if its results come to light. Man-made climate change deniers are shouted down, ridiculed and pilloried in their communities. Research grants to support climate  change denial are routinely withheld.

It seems that something is happening – this is undeniable – spectacular pictures of great ice sheets collapsing in Antarctica make for  gripping viewing but, although the effects are self-evident the detailed causes are not well understood – data is conflicting as to cause and effect and if we dared be truthful with ourselves and stand against the hurricane of popular opinion, the thought might just occur to us that in the mists of our misunderstanding it is quite conceivable the our planet goes through cyclic changes about which we know very little. If we choose to build cities in low-lying areas, it is not the fault of rich capitalists in London or Washington that the sea reclaims what it once had.

Global movements like this need organisation. And money. Wherever money is spent, there is investment, an expectation of a return. 

Who is investing and why? George Soros’ name has been linked, together with other shadowy financial heavyweights. Smart money is investing in climate change – this is the new Eldorado and pension funds from all over the world will be plundered to make vast amounts of capital available to turn the profligate West at least towards greener pastures. The Chinese are a different kettle of fish – they spend billions on coal fired power stations and are largely unmoved by the Green revolution.

There is a capitalist-anti-capitalist tension driving these movements. As usual the bankers and investors will just sit back and watch the money come rolling in, while the unconscionable exploitation of children as cannon-fodder is unlikely to dissipate any time soon.


Speak to us…

Here, overlooking the immeasurable horizon, sitting on a wooden chair with my coffee and water, I bought a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s masterpiece ´The Prophet’. It can be read without absorption in half an hour, but to fully grasp it can take half a lifetime. Each chapter begins with the same words as the title of this post. Reflection takes us both inward and, more importantly, outward as we gain insights into both our insignificance also the uniqueness of our own being. Nobody is like us. We, like a pebble on the beach, or a fallen leaf are utterly and completely unique. We sometimes try to measure the unmeasurable, comprehend the incomprehensible in order to find meaning amidst chaos, rest amidst the fury, silence amidst endless chatter. Looking out over the limitless ocean is reason enough to visit it, its capricious waves and turbulence softly hidden beneath the long, straight horizon. I was reminded of a verse from Isaiah 40 which sets all things in their rightful place and the raging winds are quietly calmed. And peace unspoken sets our restless soul in order.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on a scale and the hills in a balance?”

China Shops and Bulls

Broken crockery not shown.

I wasn’t going to write about Brexit because everybody is fed up to the back teeth with it and most of us have stopped caring. However, the proroguing (there’s a fifty-dollar word) of Parliament and the theatrical and frankly disgraceful behaviour of those who purport to govern us, has caused me to sharpen my quill.
The mess we are currently in began three and a quarter years ago but reached a cacophonous crescendo this week. Mr Speaker, blessedly and slightly tearily announced his retirement – for a Tory MP he was Labour’s favourite lapdog and the stony silence on the Tory back benches contrasted painfully with Labour’s cheers as if to a conquering hero instead of a dwarfish and often petulant Speaker who seemed to imagine that Parliamentary rules were for other people. Furthermore, does his wife buy his neckties for him, I wonder? If so, a rapid and painless divorce might be recommended.

Screenshot 2019-09-11 at 10.06.09

Is that the Periodic Table, Mr Speaker?

David Cameron’s catastrophic miscalculation and the backstage manipulation by the devious Dominic Cummings – surely the comparison to Robespierre is not without merit – was enough to tip the balance. The referendum ballot paper in 2016 was unambiguous. ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?’ Simple enough question – a binary choice – no problem. Clearly, the political class wanted us to vote one way and Cameron, with stern upper-class gravitas, warned us all that this was a once-in-a-lifetime decision, yet, like the idle wind, we heeded him not and perversely voted the wrong way.

If we had chosen ‘Remain’, as most of the Establishment expected, Britain would still be trapped in an unhappy but survivable marriage with Brussels. However, the country voted the ‘wrong’ way and filed for divorce. As it happens, the British people’s decision wasn’t quite without precedent, except, of course in outcome. In the past, whenever other member countries were given a vote on the EU, they too wanted to slam on the brakes. The Dutch decisively but firmly made their collective view known at the ballot box some years ago when they were asked to ratify a proposed constitution that was clearly intended to push Europe towards super-state status. The Irish brushed Brussels aside in a similar referendum in 2008.
Inexplicably, both were told to vote again until they swore allegiance, or perhaps, subservience to Brussels as it steamrollered along towards the sunny uplands of superstatehood.

The tentacles of the EU have woven themselves inextricably into British society and a simple handshake and farewell had no chance of success. It has been suggested that the EU needs us more than we need them so they’ll strain every sinew and set as many bear traps in our path to prevent us leaving as they can manage. One commentator has even suggested that the EU might never let us leave, since we contribute so much. Theresa May with all the enthusiasm of a ride on a tumbril and against her better judgment tried, as a good servant of the people, to push a deal through with spectacular lack of success, thwarted by just about everybody in Opposition plus a cabal of right wingers who stood to benefit, perhaps substantially, by a no-deal outcome. Now, in her place, we have an oafish, unpredictable, but oddly charismatic leader who blunders along with all the grace of a bull in a china shop, oratorical dexterity notwithstanding, towards the cliff edge. Famously, he declared that he’d rather be dead in a ditch than extend the deadline further. Quite a number of people have offered to hire a mechanical digger for a day to expedite the process.
Selling any kind of deal to the implacable mandarins in Brussels isn’t, as BoJo seems to imagine, like selling prayer mats to Arabs; instead more like selling air conditioners to Eskimos.

Hallowe’en, exit day, isn’t far away. Until that time, we have no Government for at least five weeks, unless the Supreme Court gives a ruling, currently with trousers neither up nor down after the English ruled the suspension lawful whereas the Scottish did not. Meanwhile, the Labour Party twiddles its thumbs, looking vacuously out of the window, dreaming of the overthrow of the hated capitalists and are, it appears, even more bovine and helpless than Baldrick who at least had “a cunning plan”.  If anybody, anyone at all, has a strategy, a way through the swamp, a ‘secret trick’ that nobody has yet thought of, don’t bother sharing it because nobody’s listening any more.

Private Baldrick is about to execute a cunning plan.

Double Act

Since we’re all utterly cheesed with Brexit, BoJo sucking up to both Mutti Merkel and Macron’s wife in Biarritz and claiming victories yet, lo, they are not, I thought a bit of levity might be an antidote to the gin-sodden melancholy that has gripped us all.

A few years ago, I created a fictional character for a magazine called Peregrine Spode, a kind of amalgam of Bertie Wooster, Tim Nice but Dim and Mr Bean.

Poor Perry. He’s rather alone in the world and doesn’t write like me at all, possibly because he was dropped on his head as a baby. This much at least we have in common. I thought you might like one of his pieces, so, here it is.

“Came across this the other day and thought it absolutely spiffing. Being a bit of an arse, I can’t really claim to be much of a screenwriter, but, I’ll have a bash and hope you get the idea. So, possibly some scene setting,  subdued yellow lighting, dark, vibrant ‘cello music. Cue to fogbound street, lit by a single, weak gas lamp.  Nobody about. A hansom cab, its horse weary from a long day clops forlornly in and out of scene,  hooves gently clacking on cobbled stone. A shifty-looking chap with a cap pulled down over his forehead emerges, scuttles, almost runs, head down, glancing left, right and occasionally behind as if pursued by some foul fiend that ‘doth close behind him tread’.  Cut to first floor window. A tall, languidly elegant man in a beautifully cut black frock coat parts the curtain with a violin bow, and takes in the entire scene, his eyes unblinking and heavy-lidded. He sees absolutely everything, cocks his head, listens for a moment, one eyebrow raised until the inevitable single pistol shot rings out and said chap sprawls, dead as a dodo.. And then, an opening line: “You see, Watson, but you do not observe”, the great detective’s famous maxim. Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character created by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, still enthralls, fascinates and inspires. Got that last bit from one of the books, actually, so, have to admit that I didn’t actually write it. But look, old Perry isn’t just a pretty face, if I’m allowed a little laughingly hysterical untruth.  I used to quite often imagine myself as trusty assistant to the Man himself – how easy it is to baffle those of weaker intellect – my own little Walter Mitty moment. No tricks, sleight of hand or miracles here, just cold, lightning fast logic and a dazzlingly rapid display of neural connectivity and systematic common sense.  You see, even I am capable of the odd fifty-dollar word. It comes from having been quite a lonely and, let’s be honest, quite an ugly, friendless child. Holmes became my joiner of dots par excellence, my personal Einstein of detection. I used to slip easily between being Holmes or Watson, depending on mood. 

Everybody knows this and, since I read it somewhere, I’ll copy it down so that you can read it too.  “ “It was really elementary, gentlemen” was the phrase ascribed to Conan Doyle’s mentor and inspiration, the Edinburgh doctor Joseph Bell with diagnostic powers verging on the magical and under whom Conan Doyle had studied.  He is described as remarking  ‘I always impressed upon my students the vast importance of little distinctions, the endless significance of trifles.’ “ Gosh.

When I first came across this, I thought it had something to do with those rather jolly things with sponge-cake, jelly and cream that Grandmother used to make on Sunday afternoons… Oh, never mind. 

When at that spotty, unpleasant age of perhaps about eleven, when the nastiness of one’s classmates is most keenly felt, I had a maths master at school who loved his trifles and little distinctions. I suppose he was utterly fed up with dealing with dimwits who didn’t quite get the notion of a quadratic equation. “…the endless significance of trifles” was his way of saying “you’re a bunch of useless halfwits who can’t count your change on the bus.’ 

Whether it’s solving a crime or a maths problem, the process of deduction, according to Sherlock, remains the same – ‘you take all of your observations … you put them in order, starting from the beginning and leaving nothing out – the chain of reasoning and the test of possibilities – and you determine what feasible answer remains.’ I suppose he and I diverge a bit on a few of the more salient matters since I don’t really have that ever-ready attention to detail, being, as it were, a bit of a duffer, and I’m afraid I’m really not awfully adaptable as I go all wobbly in a crisis. Also I’m no good at maths and the sight of a quadratic equation makes me feel quite queer. Not allowed to say that, obviously. The idea of Holmes’ constant habitual vigilance is, I regret to say, often a bit more than the old Spode grey cells can manage, drifting off, as they rather tended to do into what some poet or other described quite neatly as “endless flights of fancy”, meaning, I suppose that the old intellectual balloon tended to slip its moorings once in a while and drift away into the wide blue yonder . Put simply, I’ve got the IQ of a watermelon. Although, I do have to say that old Sherlock and I do have a number of common features. Not facially or anything, you understand, but, well, er…features. For want of a better word.  

Under the bedclothes with my torch, hidden from mother’s prying eyes, Spode Minor learned a lot about Sherlock’s methods. “You know my methods, Spode” I used to imagine him saying. 

One thing we did seem to have in common was the fact that when he was working on a problem, he worked alone. I do too, but not out of choice. “This is quite the three-pipe problem, Spode”, I imagined him saying “and I beg that you will not speak to me for fifty minutes.” Which, coincidentally, was exactly the length of the Lone Ranger episodes on the television, so I had no difficulty leaving him to his own devices, and felt sure that when we returned, he’d have everything sorted. I used to imagine that Sherlock and I made up a proper double act. John Watson was really no match for the Spode/Holmes combo; I used to think of him lagging behind because he’d forgotten his old Service revolver, while S and I were sleuthing for real, the game afoot. It was always so very gratifying when we had to tell Watson afterwards how it was done which left him open-mouthed with astonishment and our trifling efforts seemed to him to be nothing less than sheer genius. 

The television can be such a disappointment, don’t you find? Especially American television. Nothing against our transatlantic cousins, of course, apart from the mangling of language, but, they do like to take a good idea and, well, ruin it. Take Sherlock, for example. Whoever could have imagined that an enthusiastic somebody would come up with the idea of an American version? Transplanting SH to New York City is as foreign as marmalade in Madagascar. To make matters worse, they not only called it “Elementary” but they came up with a Joan Watson! Delicious as Lucy Liu undoubtedly is, my breakfast curdled in my stomach as she and Jonny Lee Miller solved their way across New York for three whole series. Had I, like Watson, suffered from an old war wound, a Jezail bullet in the shoulder, to be precise,  it would have given me sharp, disapproving cramps every time the theme music was played.  OK, OK, call me Mister Old-Fashioned, but Sherlock and Victorian London are as inseparable as the holes and the Emmental.” 

Well, there you have it. Perry was raised from the dead for one post only. Unless he goes viral, of course, in which case we shall pursue his adventures in due course. I’m not holding my breath.

 

Common Sense

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.

A Gentleman’s Game

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.

Back to the Future

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.

Allow me.