Do you ever have that feeling that you are the only sane person and everyone around you is mad? I think that’s supposed to be one of the signs that you’re mad yourself, except that in today’s world it feels normal. On the other hand I know that close family, friends and perhaps over half the UK agree with me. It is the rest who are bonkers. Unfortunately they include the tiny number that are Conservative MPs and party members who are going to decide our future.
There is one thing that unites the contenders for the party leadership and position of PM (7 at the time of writing). Actually it’s two things – they are all in favour of one form of Brexit or other and they are all flawed. By that I mean they have serious character defects. Without exception they have an over-inflated opinion of their own intelligence and expertise, they all lack humanity i.e. the ability to put other people before themselves, and they think that the UK has some clout left. Many of them are seriously contemplating leaving the EU without a deal. Seriously. Do they have no concept of what negotiation involves. Trust, first and foremost. If the UK crashes out of the EU who else is ever going to believe that the UK will stand by its obligations and responsibilities. The UK will just be fodder for the predators out there = and pretending that the UK is still a “big hitter” is to be severely stuck in the past.
It is even worse that the front runner, the idiot that is the darling of the aged Tory party in the shires is the most flawed of the lot, a serial womaniser, a Walter Mitty who has no concept of what is the truth, and an incompetent. Some people have said that by referring to him as Boris is to make his character familiar, and cuddly. No it doesn’t. To call him Johnson is to confuse him with the many other honest people with that name. The only Borises I can recall are the drunken “hero” of the fall of the Soviet Union, and the typecast actor who played Frankenstein’s monster. To refer to someone in public office by their first name is to belittle them. Soldiers in WW2 sang rude songs about Adolf; the Emperor of France was always Napoleon, not M.Bonaparte; and Stalin was Uncle Joe. Of course a nickname reduces them further. The Guardian’s John Crace named Theresa May, “maybot” and from then on she was seen as a malfunctioning machine bound for failure and obsolescence. Stewart Lee, in the Observer, has tagged Boris Johnson with all the words he has applied to minority groups – Boris Piccaninny Bumboy Letterbox Johnson – a marvellous takedown. I think those words should be inserted every time his name comes up as a reminder of the type of person he really is.
The Pope has decided that gender is up to God. It is not a choice. Perhaps he is right because no one would choose the abuse and hate that arises when someone announces that their gender, or lack of one, does not match their biological sex. Surely the identity one feels must come from a higher source. It certainly is not a trivial selection. So, I hope to see the RC church, its believers and governments that follow its doctrines doing their best to accept and assist trans and non gendered people. My expectations are low.
I haven’t done any writing this week. I have been on holiday on the Llyn peninsula in North Wales (not Whales), or rather Gogledd Cymru. It is a marvellous area of conical volcanic hills, flats lucious farmland and coastal cliffs and bays. It is also predominantly Cymraeg speaking and confident in that fact. I’ve had a wonderful time. So, it’s back to the archive. Here is a piece I wrote in 2014 commemorating the start of WW1. It seems appropriate following the marking of D-day and the questions about our relationship with Europe.
‘It’s not my fault,’ Bert said, picking up the basket and starting to re-fill it with the apples that had spilled onto the grass. I knelt beside him and began to help him.
‘What’s the matter, Bert?’ I asked.
‘Me mind keeps wandering,’ he said.
I knew what he meant. The war across the channel was on my mind too. The reports weren’t good. The Germans had advanced through Belgium and into France with our boys and the French being beaten back. It had all happened so quickly since war was declared a month ago. Bert’s older brother Sid had joined the army a couple of years ago and he was over there with the British Expeditionary Force. Like Bert I wondered how Sid was doing. What must it be like fighting in battle?
We both kept our thoughts to ourselves as we got on with the job of filling baskets with apples and loading them onto the cart. After a couple more hours we’d done all we could for one day so we walked the horse and cart back from the orchard to the farm and unloaded it into the cider barn. It was still light when Bert and I trudged home. There were some new posters on the boards outside the general stores in town
‘Look at that,’ Bert said, ‘the boys ‘ave done it.’ The sheet that Bert pointed at reported that the Germans had been halted at the River Marne.
‘They’ve only stopped them,’ I pointed out, ‘the war’s not over.’ I pointed to the poster on the other board. Enlist now – your country needs you it said in bold colourful letters with a picture of Lord Kitchener pointing his finger directly at me.
‘What do you think Bert? Should we join up?’
‘They said the war would be over by Christmas,’ he replied.
‘Yeah, but they’re going to need more of lads if they’re going to push the Huns right out of France and Belgium.’
‘Perhaps you and me could ‘elp and give Sid an ‘and.’ Bert said, ‘but what about the apples. Who’ll bring them all in?’
‘There’s other people,’ I said, ‘Your Pa wouldn’t mind a bit more work and there’s my sis. She’d love to earn a few coppers.’
‘Yeah, well I wouldn’t want to see them apples left rotting on the ground.’
‘They won’t. Let’s join up tomorrow.’
There wasn’t much left of the village we’d come to defend. Every building was damaged by the bombardment’s from both sides as the Germans had first taken it then been forced out. Bodies in German and British uniforms and of ordinary men and women lay amongst the muddy pools. We were the reinforcements sent by General Haig to make sure that the line was held.
‘What’s this ‘ere place called?’ Bert asked as we marched up the rubble strewn street.
‘Givenchy,’ I replied.
‘Some place to spend Christmas.’
‘There’s a few more days yet.’
‘I don’t reckon this war is going to be over by then, do you,’ Bert said wistfully.
‘I think someone got it wrong, Bert.’
At the edge of the village we entered the trenches and were ordered to get out our shovels ready to do some digging of our own.
‘Keep your ‘eads down,’ the Sergeant ordered, ‘or the German snipers’ll have you.’ As he spoke there was the scream of a shell over our heads followed by a deafening thud as it exploded in the remains of a house a hundred yards behind us. As we filed through the muddy corridors we met the defenders we were relieving. Every one of them looked exhausted and over halfway to death, covered in muck and blood.
A few hours later. I knew how they felt. I too was covered in mud from shovelling and there was plenty of blood too from the bodies of the soldiers we carried out of the shell-damaged trenches.
‘They say these ‘ere trenches go all the way to the sea,’ Bert said as we carried one mangled corpse.
‘And to Switzerland, that way,’ I said nodding in the opposite direction.
‘Is this what war has become? Blokes rotting in holes in the ground while taking pot-shots at each other.’
Voices shouted, whistles blew. ‘Fix bayonets’ came the call. Bert and I dropped our burden and swiftly slotted our bayonets to the rifles that we’d been carrying over our backs. Our weeks of training had taught us that at least, even if we were barely prepared for the realities of war. Guns fired, and I heard the bullets buzzing over our heads. More shells screamed over, exploding one after the other until the roar was continuous.
‘What’s happening?’ Bert shouted.
‘Counter attack,’ someone replied from nearby. We held our rifles at the ready staring up at the rim of the trench. Our own howitzers opened up and the chatter of the machine guns added to the din.
‘I wish I was back in the orchard,’ Bert bawled at me. A wave of mud thrown up by a near-miss swamped us.
‘I’m sorry Bert,’ I spluttered, wiping the muck from my mouth with the wet sleeve of my uniform, ‘It’s my fault that you enlisted.’
‘Tha’s right, lad,’ He gave me his toothy grin, ‘Think of them shiny sweet apples lying in the grass while we moulder here.”