Off at seven thirty. A long day today and we are over half way, hooray! I have to nip to London later today (Wednesday) for a vital ZANE meeting that will affect the lives of a great many people in our care so a break for me anyway as poor Jane goes on walking.
Jane tells me that nine times out of ten, when she sits next to a man – any man – at, say, a function or any casual dinner she is hardly ever asked anything about herself, her work, her family or her views but the man just more or less ignores her as a human being and simply talks about himself, his work, his stories; then he will give his often puerile and drivelling views in exhausting detail. It’s an interesting phenomenon that. Is it all women most men simply ignore or just Jane? Are all (most) men simply incapable of holding a proper conversation which is surely to share information and politely listen to the stories of others? Were they never taught basic manners when they were children? After all Jane is a fascinating woman who has worked as a social worker specialising in mentally ill geriatrics ( do be aware that when she appears to be nice and friendly she is actually professionally assessing you!); she has started two charities, one for the mentally ill, the other one of the first UK food banks; she has been an MPs wife, mothered four interesting children, yet all this is ignored. It’s not rude, just sad!
The US poet Don Marquis used to write about a toad called Warty Bliggens who used to sit under a tree and wonder that the sun and moon an stars were all created for him alone.
I recall that Marquis finished the poem about Warty by saying don’t laugh too much at Warty for most human beings think the same!
On our day free visited Bolton abbey, a peaceful retreat shattered for the monks by Thomas Cromwell acting under the orders of Henry 8th: what a total bastard he was. You only have too look at his piggy little eyes staring straight at you out of the vast Holbein picture in the portrait Gallery to understand the sheer terror he must have instilled in everyone who served him. He was Stalin in ermine. Poor Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s dutiful servant, who did everything for Henry and yet was executed anyway because he fell out with the nobles.
In the afternoon we went to Towton Moor, the UKs largest and bloodiest battleground where the Yorkists finally beat the Lancastrians in 1467 and thus ended the War of the Rose’s at a joint cost of about 24.000 hideous brain bashing deaths. The Lancastrian were destined to win the battle but lost when the wind changed and blew their arrows short of the enemy. I often wonder what the poor bloody soldiers on both sides actually thought the battle was about, or how their miserable, brutal and violent lives might have been improved a single iota if their guy won? I suppose they fought because their chums fought and that was would be the end of it.
This is how it is in all battles since the world began. Of course, if they were on the side of the losing army they would be massacred. Poor Lancastrians. Everything was going for them and still they blew it. Just like the last election really.
Those of you who read my blog may recall my hapless attempt to teach volunteers in the Oxford Community Foodbank (CEF) how to solicit food outside Waitrose in Headington. As I was once a politician, I reckon I know how to persuade strangers. The volunteers were all set to watch the example of the master.
“All you have to do,” I said brightly, “is to be charming and persuasive like me!”
I then chose an attractive woman who looked as if she was just my sort of woman: she probably shopped at Harrods.
“Good afternoon, Madam,” I smiled winsomely. “Please will you contribute some food to the foodbank?”
Hardly breaking her step, she snapped, “Bugger off!” And so that was that.
Ol’ Twinkly Eyes
Undaunted, a few weeks back I gave an encore. I was worried – with, as it turned out, every reason – during the election that Jeremy Corbyn might slide into Downing Street because he is an excellent campaigner – better than Theresa May. I reckon that he and his team are just as dangerous as Donald Trump. Today’s young have little memory of our recent UK past and of course it’s horribly clear many of them voted for that nice old man with the twinkly eyes – because he made numbers of uncosted promises, particularly to the young.
But ZANE donors will recall the three-day week, the winter of discontent, the fact that leftish Labour policies have the opposite effect to that intended: rent controls mean fewer homes to rent, further employee “rights” and higher minimum wages bring unemployment, the unbridled power of trade unions is pernicious, nationalisation is costly, and raising taxation will bring less revenue. The idea that the prime minister should be a pacifist with past links to our nation’s enemies or that his would-be chancellor is a Marxist is profoundly upsetting. (Let’s forget about Diane Abbott for this is a family blog.)
So, I persuaded myself that the great Benyon had a duty to warn public hustings of the dangers that might lie ahead. And the main danger was that although Labour candidates like Sir Keir Starmer, Frank Field and Dan Jarvis are maybe excellent moderate people, they are of course also standing as proxies for Corbyn and his crew. If enough people voted for the moderates – and they nearly did so – we’d have Corbyn in charge.
The well-attended meeting was addressed by three women candidates. When I arose to make my points, I forgot that my voice when raised is a mix of Bullingdon and Montgomery lecturing troops before Alamein. If I had been addressing Ed Balls in a bar somewhere, it would have been fine, but as it was –in a room full of Remainers in deep mourning over Brexit – the tone could hardly have been worse.
Then to my horror I saw my dilemma was actually far worse than first imagined. The Labour candidate I was aiming at was delightful… and she had no hands. The whole room was murmuring admiration for her overcoming her ghastly disability, and rightly so.
Half a sentence in, I now know what the Titanic navigator must have felt like when he saw the iceberg. The temperature in the room dropped and furious faces glowered at me for being profoundly ungallant – as far as they were concerned, I was attempting to kick a disabled woman to death before their outraged eyes. As I struggled through a question and a half, it became clear that my performance was a hog-whimpering disaster. The excellent chairman knew I was way past the point of no return but what could he do anyway? He was kind later.
As I slouched out, I was cross with everyone, then with myself. I was then informed that my flies were undone.
After apologising to anyone with a pulse, I asked a friend (do I have any left?) what he thought of it all?
“You came over as a total prick,” he said.
Probably an understatement.
Am I rare in thoroughly disliking bus passes, free TV licences, child benefit and fuel allowances? It’s all so darn patronising. And as it’s our money that is being expensively recycled, it’s a total, costly con. If we are entitled for help with our families, why was it nicked in the first place? Tax allowances should have enabled us to keep our own money safely in the bank.
The “left” governments taxed us mercilessly, then the “right” inadvertently left this nonsense in place because they wanted to virtue signal what a “nice” and caring party was by leaning to the left. So when some chancellor tries to simplify the ghastly mess that is our tax system, Middle England, like Violet Elizabeth Bott, stamps her foot and threatens to be sick.
The trouble is that once a democracy makes a concession, it’s impossible even to trim it. I recall way back during the three-day week and the miner’s strike, Ted Heath decided to bribe voters with a £10 “Christmas bonus” (he lost power anyway). Years later, a new chancellor failed to take it away as the cries of pain indicated the impossibility of Baby UK ever living within its means.
Gordon Brown was the worst practitioner of the dark art of bribery. He thought that because we are children of the state, pocket money should be doled out to us whenever he felt in the mood. In this way he succeeded in making us dependent on government pocket money so we would beg for the next gobstopper and vote Labour. And for a while it worked. Now child benefit is paid on behalf of 14 million children, and 45 per cent of all non-retired households receive government handouts – an increase of almost one million over the last 10 years.
HMRC gives with one hand and snatches back with the other. Reform is essential before muddle overwhelms us.