Day 13: Barkham to Chazey Heath

Arrived knackered at the end of a long and fractious day at Mapledurham- a long way from Wokingham!

Much of the walk was on cambered roads through the edge of Reading. Anyone who walks seriously will attest how uncomfortable a material camber can be over even short distances. Vast roaring lorries and dozens of mean little whining cars all created a light smog; our feet kicked up the spoor from thousands of students from the local poly, cigarette packets, condoms, coke cans and literally a carpet of fast-food cardboard junk.

When I sought from a store a bottle of fresh pressed orange I was told they only had bottled “juice” , all highly coloured and smothered in sugar. Two vast and highly-tattooed ladies with mauve hair purchased a stack of crisps, snacks, chocolate biscuits and lottery tickets and staggered out of the shop, pecking at the snacks as they went.

Then we passed through the waste land into newly mown fields; if we had had the energy we would have done a jig for joy.

Being Nice

My great Aunt Daisy used to tell me, “When you can’t say anything nice about someone, Tom, best say nothing at all.”

How wise. But even the kind-hearted Daisy might have been moved to say something about the way our fellow countrymen and women look today.

We’re an irredeemably scruffy lot. It’s extraordinary why men think looking unshaven is sexy. The hunky, grizzled “look” may suit film stars but when you are over 50, and wedged into ill-fitting jeans with a jutting beer belly, a spotty face and a red nose, you don’t look like Brad Pitt, you look like a three-flush floater.

By far the most stressful sight I’ve seen was while strolling along a beach on the Isle of Wight a few years back. There stood a weightlifter, naked apart from a thong, and looking like a brown condom stuffed with conkers. 

The Price of Treachery

What a soft and foolish nation we have become. I wonder for our national sanity when I read comments by the likes of Douglas Murray (you must read his excellent The Strange Death of Europe) about Jihadi Jack and Shamima Begum of ISIS fame being allowed back into the UK after they fought on the side of those who killed and tortured many of our people.

We appear to be losing our wits! We don’t have to guess what would happen if Jihadi Jack (really Jack Letts from Oxford), and others returned to the UK to face trial…

Away Game

Just see what happened when Canadian Omah Khadr arrived back in Canada after he’d spent years fighting with ISIS and allegedly murdered a US sergeant. All the Khadr family are ISIS fighters: Omah’s dad was killed, and another son wounded.

Omah’s mother made her position clear: of course there was no family remorse or apologies: all she wanted was “our rights as Canadian citizens”.

The Khadr family prove that it doesn’t matter whether you fight for the “home” or “away” team in these twenty-first-century wars: if the away team fails, you get better treatment than if you had played for the home side. Rather better in fact.

Thanks to an army of pro bono lawyers, a couple of years ago Omah was awarded $10m damages for having been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay – this despite the fact that he had fought against his own country. That’s far more cash than any American, Canadian or British widow could expect to receive for the loss of a husband.

Multi-millionaire Omah was interviewed on a Montreal TV show and greeted by a standing ovation. He was gently interviewed about his “journey”, telling viewers of how he had “suffered PTSD”. He claimed to have been in “an unfortunate place, in difficult circumstances”. A fellow guest said, “I’m filled with admiration for your fortitude” and Omah was asked, “How can you be so mentally strong?”

Now the issue of killers returning home is erupting in the UK. Thankfully passports are being refused to those who want to come back as if nothing untoward had happened. But of course, they all have a case, championed by lawyers and an army of supporters.

No one ever says “sorry”. Jihadi Jack’s ghastly father admits, “My armchair revolutionary ‘shite’ (his words, not mine) may have influenced my son”. His son is said to be a “victim”.

And during the Shamima Begum case, I remained unmoved by the arguments that somehow “we are all to blame” for her joining ISIS. This is our dilemma. We know roughly what to do when these people are in a foreign field; with luck, we can take them out with a drone. But we have no idea what to do if the Shamimas and Jacks return!

I can just imagine it. A softball interview on the Today programme would be followed by a TV special. Then after some sympathetic profile pieces, a legal case for mistreatment would be funded pro bono. Soon studio audiences would be applauding Shamima’s and Jack’s bravery. We just can’t help ourselves, can we? No matter that these traitors are undermining the integrity of our country and making a mockery of our defences, we just can’t help giving everyone – whatever atrocities they have committed, whatever side they have fought on, and no matter how many people they have killed – the benefit of every doubt. We seldom bother to learn the names of their victims, do we, or pause to wonder how the victims’ families are surviving amidst the wholesale destruction of their lives.

I say banish such traitors from the UK forever! They can float stateless across the world like the Flying Dutchman for all I care – for we will only embarrass ourselves if they are allowed to return here.

3 comments

    • Alex Stewart on September 9, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    Hear, Hear!

    • Simon Knight on September 10, 2019 at 7:41 am

    Thank you for your common sense, Tom. The absurdities are truly depressing. Those whom the gods wish to destroy… I long for a national spiritual and moral revival.

    • Jill Rowley on September 11, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    Thank you Tom for your interesting blog/ commentary – I also, like Simon Knight hope for
    a national spiritual and moral revival especially for our children and grandchildren.

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