As I write in the UK it is scheduled to hit a 31-degree high and a 53-year political low (since Suez) with the doom that awaits in the shape of Boris Johnson. I don’t think they have exit polls with this type of thing as it’s done by postal vote but all pundits agree that this is the probably outcome. As if Brexit itself weren’t enough, Johnson looks like being our Trump, a self-serving narcissist hell-bent on power for its own sake (even Max Hastings doesn’t trust him, for god’s sake!) all set to dissolve Parliament and drive us off a cliff in the interests of – well, I’m not sure what exactly but no-one will benefit from a no-deal Brexit. The best we can hope for is that so many of his MPs would desert him (two have already resigned and more have refused to serve under him) that he’d lose a vote of no confidence and be forced to call a general election. Labour seem finally to be lurching towards a coherent policy on the two things that have held us back over the last couple of years: anti-semitism and the dreaded B-word. We have launched a website and educational documents about anti-semitism and seem now finally to be backing a ‘people’s vote’ on the final deal, if not a second referendum. Yes, these things should have been done two years ago but hey, better late than never.
Brexit really is a Gordian knot; whichever way you look there’s no clear solution. Thankfully we Brits are dab hands at the good old-fashioned fudge, which is probably what it’ll turn out to be in the end.
It’s enough to make you go and live in Scotland. It’s bloody cold but at least they have sensible policies.
Additional: after his vote was almost double that of Hunt, I have now decided that BoJo stands for ‘beyond a joke’
This week I have been focussing on the practice of patience and I thought it would be useful to focus on what it ain’t. What isn’t patience – or rather, what isn’t a salutary practice to develop?
First, it isn’t resignation. Hopelessness, apathy, despair, none of these have any part in patience. Just as santosh doesn’t mean accepting that things will never chance, so patience doesn’t imply a belief that your goal will never come. Often impatience is driven by fear – if I don’t get this now it may never arrive. Patience is born of the knowledge that all things have a time and in that time they come.
Take gardening. Of late I’ve been going out in the garden and wishing my plants would get a move-on. Why? Because I’m afraid they may never flourish; that if I don’t rush around fertilising and weeding and watering and what-have-you, they’ll just give up and die. Patience implies a faith in the future; that things will come. You just have to wait.
Of course, there’s always the hope deferred thing, which means you should always take advantage of opportunities when they arise; that as well as being patient we should ask ourselves ‘is there anything I should be doing here that I’m not doing? Can I actually get this thing I want right now instead of waiting?’ Marcus Aurelius said ‘Everything I want in life I can have right now if I don’t deny it to myself.’ that’s a statement I’ve been wrestling with ever since I first read it. Stoicism is not a grim-faced resignation, a sort of Hilda-Ogden heaving yourself into the kitchen after a death like Victoria Wood said (I can’t find the routine but it’s quoted here) but a refusal to give up, even in the face of despair. And there’s a lot to despair about right now – but as OH and I keep saying, even if the worst happens and the Tories are stupid enough to saddle us with BoJo, he may not last long. Perhaps he will blow himself out like a storm at sea. In any case there doesn’t seem to be much we can do right now to prevent it.
Stoicism is a useful philosophy and a forerunner of Christianity. It’s useful because it helps you to accept what is and to think of everything as contributing to your highest good. Let us consult the oracle on stoicism:
Me: how would you define stoicism in twenty words or less?
OH: We can’t control the world but we can control our emotional reactions to it.
Brilliant. So there we have it. I may not be able to influence the result of the leadership elections but I can ask myself ‘what would Marcus Aurelius do?’ As an Emperor who considered his duty to be the happiness and welfare of the people, he would deplore BoJo’s self-serving and duplicitous nature but he would say these things are sent to teach us something. And I suggest one thing to be learnt from this process is how better to campaign and organise to defeat what I can only call the forces of evil. I don’t think Boris is evil per se but I do think the consequences of having such a person as our leader would be.
Just now I felt a wave of unwonted warmth. At the same time the sky lightened and I caught a glimpse of something round and yellow. What could be happening? I searched the recesses of my memory and came up with a word, something like soon or son – no wait, sun! That was it, sun! I remember that.
Ah, how quickly we forget! A week of incessant rain and all memory of the hot, sunny weather which has predominated since – well, February – is washed away. Just a few days of gloomy skies and non-stop precipitation, and the bright mornings and long sunset evenings are quite flushed down the drain. But since this week’s relentless news of Boris’s rise to power (will no-one rid us of this turbulent beast?) I have another nightmare. Remember the sun in the Teletubbies? I close my eyes and I see Boris, all haystack hair and manic grin, shining down on us all summer long.
BoJo really is this nation’s answer to Trump: once the NightMayor of London, now soon to be Prime Minister, a self-serving, capricious, lying climate-change denier and purveyor of tax cuts to the rich – oh, and listen to what he said when Gordon Brown was appointed PM without having won an election:
I really am going to emigrate, I swear.. but where will I go? Scotland I think – it’s the only sensible place left.
Did I say forbidden? That must have been a Freudian slip. I said some harsh things about Black Mirror the other day and now I have to take them back a bit because, having watched Smithereen, the second episode in series 5, I have completely changed my mind. OH reckons I wasn’t the right demographic for episode one and maybe not, but I still think it was slow and unoriginal. But episode two! Oh my god. Utterly enthralling. I watched it over dinner and when I’d finished I didn’t know where I was. What is this house? What is that garden? Why is there a plate in front of me? Who brought me here when I was just in a car in a field and a mountain-top in Utah? I’m not going to tell you any more about it because you need to watch it for yourself, but Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) is utterly terrific as he always is, and you simply could not guess the storyline. The third episode, Rachel Jack and Ashley Too, seems to be aimed at teenage girls which suggests that OH’s theory – each episode being aimed at a particular demographic – could be correct. It stars Miley Cyrus as a manipulated and disaffected teen star whose aunt goes beyond the bounds of controlling relationships to preserve her own personal gold-mine. So all in all I think it’s a good series but not a great one.
At the weekend I went to a meeting on One-Nation Conservatism, a beast which I’d previously thought extinct but which seems to be surviving, albeit mostly in caves under the ground, and OH and I went to see Late Night with Emma Thompson. I’ll say more about this another time but we enjoyed it a lot. Then what with Picnic in the Park being relocated to Fearon Hall and seeing a play at the Swan with friends, it’s been an eventful weekend. I’m still catching up with myself.
So there we have it. I’m sorry Charlie, your first episode did really suck. But boy, you made up for it since.
You know a word’s in trouble when an otherwise fairly erudite and intelligent writer uses it wrongly, for today this canard cropped up in my daily readings from Richard Rohr, and I put my head in my hands and groaned. It seems almost everyone now uses disinterested to mean bored or uninterested, so that the original sense of the word as defined here – not having a vested interest, being impartial or above debate – is lost. What’s more no-one seems to mind. Not wanting to look like frowsty old professors or grizzled grammar geeks, everyone stands by and allows poor old disinterested to be hacked to pieces. Well, not on this blog! We stand for the fearless protection of words! We will not allow people to tell us they’re ‘good’ when actually they’re ‘fine’ – we will not allow them to say ‘disinterested’ when they mean ‘uninterested’!
But in the end all this is just Canute holding back the tide (although supposedly he did this to demonstrate his lack of power). It’s the Academie Francaise trying to stem the flood of English words by issuing French alternatives and it is doomed. In the end what decides the meaning of words is general usage, and if everyone chooses to redefine disinterested – as I think they already have – as uninterested then that is what it now means.
Thankfully though, Peterborough has not been redefined as Brexit city; Labour won by six hundred or so votes. Phew!
Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more TV drama quite as good as the series you’ve finished watching (and yes I know Killing Eve is coming back but you’d have to be under a rock not to know that) along comes Russell T Davies to knock you off your feet and turn you upside down and spin you round and round. Years and Years is quite simply astonishing drama. A pinch of Black Mirror, a dash of The Thick of It and oodles of what can only be called Russell-T-Daviesness, that unique quality that he brought to Dr Who and now splashes all over this slightly futuristic drama, make this highly watchable. Emma Thompson plays against type as a nasty Katie Hopkins-ish politician, part of the political backdrop to the story of the Lyons (definitely a reference there) an extended family including a left-wing political activist, a politically naive and rather annoying wheelchair-user (good to see him casting against the usual angelic type there) and a housing worker who falls in love with a Ukrainian guy. These stories of gay love, deportation, exploitation, technology and Trumpian politics take place against the backdrop of a banking crash which propels the father (Rory Kinnear) from rich householder to cycle courier forced to decamp with his family to his mother’s (Anne Reid) huge house. Two storylines culminate in a devastating denouement in episode 4 – and it’s not over yet! There are two more episodes and since they haven’t put this up as a box set we’ll have to wait. As God intended. And quite right too.
Back in what we are pleased to call the real world, the Queen must be having interesting times trying to make conversation with You Know Who. This Tangerine Nightmare is the last person anyone wants over here (except Boris – but did you see that embarrassing video they posted on Big Ben?) but he doesn’t have the sense he was born with. If you really want to take over the NHS the last thing you should do is tell everyone. Perhaps now people will wake up to what the real Brexit game is.
Yes, she’s finally gone – the woman who seemed so welded to her position that nothing could dislodge her; not so much a Teflon leader as one bolted into position with the bolts rusted tight. She had survived crises which would have unseated any other PM, any other time: calling an election to increase her authority and losing her majority, having as a consequence to call on – ie bribe – the DUP for support, thus potentially destabilising the Good Friday Agreement; failing to get support for her Brexit bill; bringing the same bill back twice more and finally bringing back a slightly amended bill which so many of her own MP’s said they wouldn’t support that the vote had to be shelved – all in all she resembles nothing so much as a steamroller crashing through the countryside, deaf to cries that she is wrecking everything in her path. Even now she hasn’t quite gone, just set a date to go (admittedly not too far ahead) after which she will remain as ‘caretaker’ until they elect a new leader (not Boris, please not Boris…)
It beggars belief. I simply cannot understand what goes on in that woman’s mind and neither, it seems, can anyone else. Like Thatcher she got quite emotional at the end and I almost felt sorry for her, but you can’t help thinking, why the hell didn’t you listen to anyone?
So, what potential delights do the Bastard Party – sorry, Tories – have in store for us? Front runners are probably Johnson, Gove, Leadsom and Hunt with others such as Rudd and Javid bringing up the rear. It’s a crowded field all right and interesting though it would be to have a Muslim leader or another woman, I can’t see either Leadsom or Javid cutting it. In the end I think it’s going to be between Johnson, Gove and Hunt and I think of the three I’d marginally prefer Gove, despite him being this generation’s John Selwyn Gummer. Needless to say I’m not keen on any of them. It’s hard to see how they can avoid having a general election soon, and that could be between Johnson and Corbyn. Interesting times…
Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend.