A beautiful walk to Sissinghurst and miles through Hemsted Wood, where, dappled and mysterious, you would expect to see Robin Hood fighting with the Sheriff of Nottingham at any time. Then, last, ”Rogers wood” where the missing apostrophe jars with me.
I hear that Ruth Davison has resigned from the leadership of the Conservative party in Scotland. Sad, yet another example of the gulf between mothers and fathers. In my experience many women’s priorities change when they get “Mumsie”, but I know of no example of a man putting his career on hold because his wife has had a baby! I know of course that fathers play a more substantial role today with their children and that is a good thing. I also know that men can demand paternity leave to help look after their newborn. But I am sure that men who run their own businesses can’t possibly afford such a luxury, so paternity leave is pretty much limited to those working in the public service and charities.
I served as a lance corporal stationed in Fort George with the Queens’s Own Cameron Highlanders and, as a privately educated Englishman, I know something about the visceral loathing “Hey Jimmy, are you looking at me?!” of many Scots towards the English.
But I managed to survive well enough.
So, I think I know why the SNP are keen to keep Scotland tied to the European Union where they will suffer material democratic consequences yet they want to sever the ties with England and wreck our ancient and very successful union. Why? It makes no sense until you recognise the history of Bannockburn, Cromwell, Culloden and all the rest.
I think the SNP and their supporters actually hate the English. Otherwise, why do they want to wreck the Union? Maybe they are guilty of a crime?
I remembered some of the people I have loved who are long since dead. I thought of Pam and Humphrey Scott Plummer – my Jane’s parents – such warm and kindly people who welcomed me into their Borders home with trust and great kindness a lifetime ago.
They formed a core part of an old established farming community in the Scottish borders. The key word is “community”, the enduring melody of a world of farming, hunting, horse and dog shows, gardening and quiet country pursuits and quiet enjoyments that have been core for generations. Some people living there were probably prodigiously rich, others made do with very little, but no one really cared. If you fitted in you were accepted.
The word “gentlefolk” sum up Pam and Humphrey and I mourn their passing to this day.
“British history shows what a disgraceful people we are”, she wittered with the finality of a 19-year-old. “Our past is full of vicious, selfish wars… then there is the story of slavery. We should hang our heads in shame!”
She had that look so much favoured by the left, by those squatting on Corbyn’s moral high ground: the look that says, “Don’t even dare to disagree with me, or you’ll soon find out you’re beneath contempt and not even worth arguing with!”
So, dear ZANE reader, I shut up. After all, she was only an elderly child and I suppose if you can’t blither lefty nonsense when you’re that age, when can you?
She thought the British empire was a wicked conspiracy against the world’s most vulnerable people and that we mercilessly pillaged and exploited at will – instead of a mix of good and not so good, which is usually the case in all human endeavour. Of course, we made dreadful mistakes, but she was unaware that we built hospitals, railways, schools and universities – the infrastructure the colonies needed to develop. She wasn’t aware we built an admirable civil service and police forces; that we taught aspirations of freedom, justice and human dignity; or that we introduced humanitarian ideals from the likes of Livingstone and the basic values of honesty, democracy and the rule of law.
All she seemed to know about were the errors. She went to a leading public school for at least eight years and I couldn’t help wondering what exactly her parents thought they had bought with their money. For example, she had no historic perspective or real knowledge of the history of slavery or the role of our churches. She hardly knew who Wilberforce was or what he did. She had dimly heard of Churchill and only vaguely knew what the last two world wars were about. Nor did she have any appreciation of how ignorant she really was. Who had “taught” her and what did they think they were teaching? I suppose her excuse might be, “I forgot to ask” or “I didn’t ‘do’ history”. But all this is general knowledge: everyone should know the basic facts about our island story, it should be rooted in our DNA! If I were her parent, I would be asking for my money back.
I am proud of the empire Britain built and what our forebears managed to achieve. I am proud of the fact that no country on earth has given as much to the world in terms of ideas, language, the rule of law, democracy, literature, the arts, sport and political structures as the UK. Our children, the future youthful ambassadors for the UK, should raise their heads from Twitter and Facebook, and gently remind their friends in other countries of the truth about British history. Then they can play their vital part in building a diverse, tolerant and dynamic country that, once again, can be the envy of the world.
Baroness Park, a former principal of Oxford’s Somerville College, told the story of an octogenarian baroness holding forth in a House of Lord’s tearoom.
“The trouble of being my age is that all the men I have slept with are now dead,” the formidable woman declared.
There was stony silence and then a shaky hand was raised by an old man at the end of the table. “Hang on! What about me?” he asked.
The baroness reached for her glasses and stared at him before announcing, “Sorry, I thought you were dead.”