We had supper at the Wheatsheaf in Beetham and we were served by a delightful waitress called Jacqueline (Jax). Jax is the heroine of the day. She looks about 38 and she is a high class copper-bottomed grafter. To pay her way she works full time in a “Help the Aged” charity shop in Milnthorpe and serving us in the pub is her second job. She is amusing and uncomplaining and hard working and a credit to society. I hope her boyfriend realises how lucky he is to have her in his life and binds her to him with hoops of steel.
Our new dog is bounding along and to our surprise she seemed happy to walk the whole way. I still find I call her “Leah” from time to time and not “Dinah”.
ZANE Down Under
Two years ago Michael Carter, Jane and I flogged our way round Australia drumming up support from the diaspora who had left Zimbabwe or fled. Since then Michael, and an excellent team working with Steve Pullman, have worked hard and built a worthwhile network and a steady stream of funding. We are very grateful to all ZANE supporters “down under “. Could we also ask any of our donors in the UK who may have family or friends in Australia to suggest that they consider supporting the ZANE Australia initiative.
ZANE Australia has its own logo and website so please see: www.zaneaustralia.org.au
Hacking the Dinner Party Conversation
I knew I was in for trouble a few nights ago when I said at dinner that I was sorry for Andy Coulson! It’s not that I condone illegality, because I don’t. It’s rather “There but for the grace of God go I”. Hacking has been going on for decades- remember squidgygate when Diana and James Gilbey’s rather odd mobile conversations were crudely hacked- few complained about hacking then because they were laughing too much. But suddenly after the Milly Dowler case it all went too far, water turned to ice and hacking became a hot issue. Poor Coulson has been left holding the package in pass the parcel with a stony-faced world staring at him, and all of them are out to condemn him.
Hypocritical sods, most of them. Take this for a sample: at an Oxfordshire dinner party a woman hissed that crime doesn’t pay and that Coulson deserves everything he gets.
“I have no sympathy for law breakers,” she hissed to approving nods around the table.
I happen to know that this twice-divorced lady boasted to me once (when she was half-pissed) that she shunted her speeding points to her last husband-but-one as a matter of routine. I also know that when her mother died the old lady’s precious porcelain collection mysteriously went missing, neatly avoiding inheritance tax.
I hope her deserted husband does not spill the beans about the points and the china.
If he does, she can be assured I will stay by her as I hope Coulson’s pals stay by him.
We all fall short, some of us by miles.
Kicking the Can
Whilst on a legal theme, last night we discussed why people who must know at the outset of their trials that they have no chance of a “not guilty” verdict string out the agony for as long as possible. Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce are clearly cases in point. Why did they play it so long? You may also wonder at the length of time the cases regarding phone hacking have taken to come to conclusion. Why didn’t the guilty just throw in the towel and face the music?
From the Horse’s Mouth
I will tell you why. There once was a king who was a sour old thing. More than anything this miserable monarch longed to laugh, so he commanded that all the comics in his kingdom be rounded up and each be allowed 10 minutes to amuse him. As an added incentive, the comedians were warned that if they failed to elicit laughter, their heads would be immediately cut off.
The comedians performed all day, and after each attempt the king sat po-faced and sullen on his throne. Meanwhile, the gruesome pile of heads grew higher and higher. At the day’s end, just one comic – accompanied by a horse – remained.
“Oh king,” the man proclaimed, “I have no wish to die. May I suggest a deal. If my horse can be persuaded to tell you a funny story within 24 hours, will you spare my life?”
The king’s lips twitched with some appreciation at this offer and he agreed. “Yes, that sounds amusing,” he growled. “You have 24 hours. Set the clocks!”
The comic and his horse were dragged into a cellar. The gaoler, who had listened to the exchange, scratched his head with wonder and asked: “What on earth are you playing at? It’s crystal clear to anyone that your horse is a horse, and dozy one at that, and it will never speak. Why are you such a time-wasting fool?”
The comic replied, “It’s easy. I have bought 24 hours. In that time, the king might die, I might die… or the horse might talk.”
Now you know why people with apparently no hope choose to kick the can down the road. And remember you read it here first.
War and Peace
A few miles along our route, we pass through Kirkby Lonsdale. The town’s war memorial declares, “They shall never be forgotten.” Oh really? The single wreath on display is old and tattered. Of course, 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of the 1914 war, the so-called Great War. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, though it shattered a generation whose memories have now glided into history. I can’t help wondering if “we will remember them” is a reality or a cliché?
Could such a war happen again? Of course, not in the same way – but man is every bit as violent and wicked as he ever has been. What are the potential Hitlers, Stalins and bin Ladens doing with their lives now? Psychopaths are still being born, and when they grow up will they be content as building society managers? It’s a tad unlikely. How can we ensure their lives will not generate carnage on an industrial scale? Is there any evidence that man has grown wiser with the passing of time? From time to time, I read commentaries on ghastly catastrophes such as the Syrian war: “That should not happen in the twenty-first century,” say some. How fatuous is that? Why on earth shouldn’t it happen today?
We pass a lovely church and find a shop in a nearby street selling crosses and small statues. I suppose that nowadays many people who visit churches have no idea what they are really for, so instead of making time for prayer or reflection they buy tat instead.
I double back and enter the church. A guide is chattering to a disinterested group, half of them studying mobile devices as they fumble up the aisle. A girl at the back of the group is flicking through Hello! I watch her poring over the magazine’s airbrushed celebrities, the eleventh-century church ignored. Such are her preferences.
Suddenly, I am overcome by the need to get away from people, and dart into the Lady Chapel. A sign on the wall reads, “And underneath are the everlasting arms.” The truth of these words leaps out at me, rising above the murmur of noisy street traffic and muttering voices. I feel the assurance of a peace so profound that the madness of the world seems absorbed by it.