Choosing Logres

Jeremy Corbyn has been stuck like a fishbone in the craw of the Labour Party almost since he was first elected back in the eighties.

Irritating but immovable, the party learned to overlook him – along with the smaller band of refuseniks who sat with him on the backbenches resolute in their – deeply unfashionable – principles.

Fashion, though, has a way of coming full circle. Just as we can be certain that mullets and bell bottoms will one day return to triumph – so Corbyn triumphs now. It’s biblical: remember Psalm 118 v22:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

So, with socialism back on the table, we have a choice on Thursday. It is political of course, but I wonder if it isn’t deeper than that too. Here’s something I read years ago in CS Lewis’ strange novel, That Hideous Strength. One of his characters, Dimble, asks if we had noticed:

“How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven’t you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers; the home of Sidney–and of Cecil Rhodes. Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites? But what they mistake for hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain.”

It crops up in Howards End too as the contrast between the life of the mind – and heart – and the world of ‘telegrams and anger.’ Margaret Schlegel, here:

The truth is that there is a great outer life that you and I have never touched–a life in which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we think supreme, are not supreme there. There, love means marriage settlements, death, death duties. So far I’m clear. But here’s my difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid, often seems the real one–there’s grit in it. It does breed character.”

Margaret’s wisdom is to see that you have to have the grit of the outer world as well as the world of ‘personal relations’ – but it shouldn’t be all about those ‘telegrams and anger’. In Lewis’ terms Logres and Britain will always need each other.

The problem today is that, for the last forty years ‘Britain’ has been in the ascendant. The voice of the practical woman and man has been supreme in the land. Some things have improved, but a great deal of what we most value – children and families, health, the environment, has been – is being – threatened. We need to redress the balance, bring back some of those other qualities – where people matter, where the heart has value, and where what counts is not merely money.

Corbyn – for all his many faults (he’s no King Arthur) does represent something different. Maybe Thursday is the time to give Logres its chance.

Choosing Logres

The Naked Quaker

I’ve been reading a little about the early Quakers recently and came across these two decorations of the lengths they’d go to demonstrate their belief that, whether finely or raggedly dressed people, underneath were just the same – including a willingness to go naked in public – described as a “dramatic way of calling people to repentance…[and] ‘a trenchant reminder to the ungodly'”.

Two examples:

Elizabeth Fletcher who ‘in obedience to ye Lord’, went naked through the streets of Oxford ‘as a sign against that hypocritical profession they then made there, being then Presbyterians and Independents, which profession she told them the Lord would strip them of, so that their nakedness should appear’.

And this, from Samuel Pepys about an incident in Westminster Hall in 1677,

when, a large crowd having assembled to hear the King speak, a Quaker ‘came naked through the hall, only very civilly tied about the privies to avoid scandal, and with a chafing-dish of fire and brimstone upon his head did pass through the hall, crying “Repent! Repent!”‘

So streaking wasn’t as new as we imagined back in the 70s.

I couldn’t help imagining the man with his chafing dish as a sort of seventeenth century as a sort of early Arthur Brown. Inaccurate of course – Brown always covered more than just his ‘privies’.

Photo of Arthur BROWN and CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN

The Naked Quaker

Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker

I came across a lovely piece about the relationship between the leaders of the GOP and – at the time – candidate Trump.

It begins with this report of a conversation amongst some old New York mobsters:

In the late nineties, federal agents insinuated an informer into the ranks of the DeCavalcante crime family, of New Jersey, and the resulting wiretaps and transcriptions revealed a dying language of secrecy, petty schemes, and blood oaths gone wrong. Sad old veterans of the Punic Wars of Essex County talked about selling old comic books and Viagra to make money, and yet they knew they were losing touch with the new world.

“They make money with the computer,” a gangster named Joseph (Tin Ear) Sclafani said incredulously about the young. To which another associate replied, “These [expletive] kids—twenty-five, twenty-six years old—will teach you things you could not ever believe.”

 “You know, I’m computer-phobia,” a DeCavalcante soldier named Lenny replies.

“That’s the whole thing,” another says. “In this [expletive] life that we live, every day if you ain’t like a chameleon, if you can’t change, you’re finished.”

I thought of this exquisite sampling of the DeCavalcante tapesafter reading the riveting serio-comic report in the Washington Post by Adam Entous describing a meeting in June, 2016, on Capitol Hill, at which Republican Party leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, gathered to talk business. Let’s not be unfair, much less libelous. It’s not that the members of Congress present were involved in crimes or illegal activity of any kind; no, it’s that they seem so craven, cynical, and, ultimately small-time. They have sunk so low that they are willing to get behind a candidate for whom they clearly have no regard. Because, well, that’s “this [expletive] life that we live.”

The two reported dialogues are well worth comparing.

Source: Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker

Paul Ryan Keeps It All in the Family – The New Yorker

Election Windows

We were talking about the election we are facing here in the UK and shaking our heads at the lack of credible contenders for Prime Minister.

May is hopeless, Corbyn principled but hopeless. The rest so far off having a chance of election that they hardly register. But Tim Farron….really?

Then C had a brilliant notion. If you look at football there’s a similar situation – a dearth of talent at every level. Football’s solution is the same as every other business and industry in Britain – it buys in foreign talent.

Why apply the principle to politics as well? Instead of choosing from a ruck of losers why not go for foreign talent. Buy the best!not appoint MPs and our Prime Minister on the same basis?

The Queen I guess would have to stand in for the FA in this situation and instead of an election campaign we’d have a ‘window’ like the Transfer Window and then it would be a race to get the best.

But who of the premier league leaders would you choose.

I fancy Duterte. Now there’s a man who’d give those Europeans a fight…

Election Windows

Wealth mountains and what they are worth

There was a headline in the Guardian last week that read:

Old People due to pass on property ‘wealth mountain’ worth 400bn

When you read the article you realise at once that it could – more accurately but less sensationally – have read:

‘Old people hope to leave their homes to their children or grandchildren.’

You could have added as a strapline ‘If care costs don’t mean everything is spent before they die’.

It’s horrible the way that the language of economics and accountancy sets the agenda for us now.

Horrible too the way that headlines like this seem designed (even in otherwise thoughtful newspapers) to emphasise the division between old and young as the new ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

All that will happen is that both groups are made more miserable about themselves and more distrustful of each other.

What these pieces never do is ask why the difference is there. If, as a nation, we are  so much wealthier that we were 50 years ago, why most people are poorer? Why bull markets and successful companies mean unaffordable pensions? Why decent wages are hard to come by? Why public services are so diminished?

Far easier – as always – to set people against each other and let them squabble over crumbs, while the real wealth remains unremarked and untouched.

 

Wealth mountains and what they are worth

Done is a Battle

Here’s a poem to send you off triumphant this easter day:

Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our champion Christ confoundit has his force;
The yetis of hell are broken with a crack,
The sign triumphal raisit is of the cross,
The devillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,
Christ with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungan is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The cruewall serpent with the mortal stang;
The auld kene tiger, with his teith on char,
Whilk in a wait has lyen for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clawis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice was dicht,
Is lyk a lion risen up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him on hicht;
Sprungen is Aurora radious and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit victour again is rissen on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth was woundit;
The sun that wox all pale now shynis bricht,
And, derkness clearit, our faith is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the heaven is soundit,
The Christin are deliverit of their wo,
The Jowis and their errour are confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battle is done ceis,
The presone broken, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeon temit,
The ransoun made, the prisoneris redeemit;
The field is won, owrecomen is the fo,
Dispuilit of the treasure that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.
William Dunbar

I love these 15/16century scots poets. They look impenetrable – but if you read them doing a Billy Connolly impression it all becomes clear.

Done is a Battle

Dark and Unaccustomed Words

Slow I know, but I have just caught up with the fact that a Trinidadian poet, Vahni Capildeo, won last year’s Forward Prize for Poetry for best collection.

This, from a Guardian article, is what the chair of judges said:

Capildeo’s collection [is] “a book you will forever be opening”.

“She is trying to articulate something quite hard to pin down and isn’t afraid to boldly take risks in language and layout,” Booker said. “It is a book that no one else could have written; it is her DNA, her stamp. Every time you open that book, you’ll find something peculiar, something exhilarating, something new, something exquisitely crafted.”

“[Measures of Expatriation] is almost like a swan – calm on top of the water, and underneath it is pedalling furiously, to create a new vocabulary in terms of the layout and language used, the lexicon it uses.”

One of the commenters underneath the article linked to this lovely short of Vahni reading three of her poems.

Dark and Unaccustomed Words from Riposte Pictures on Vimeo.

Dark and Unaccustomed Words