Day 8: Kington to Alcester

We walked from Kington to outside Alchester. Warm and muggy. We had lunch in yet another pub that clearly buys bulk food from a wholesaler who guarantees that none of the recipes need cooking, so the food – if you can call it that – just requires slapping on a plate by anyone.  No skill or preparation needed.  Only the non-complaining English tolerate this sort of thing.

I was hugely complimented by International Rotary who awarded me the Paul Harris Medal of honour for ZAN’E`s work in Zimbabwe. What a friendly charity Rotary is. We walked on with a spring in our steps.



Readers may have read the sad story concerning saintly war hero Bishop George Bell of Chichester. Damages have now been paid by the Church on the assumption he sexually molested a five-year-old girl.

So far, so commonplace: after all, the papers are full of this sort of thing these days. So what’s odd about this case? Well the woman complained recently of Bell’s abuse, which occurred over 60 years ago, and Bell died in 1958.

Fearing criticism if it was seen to do nothing, the Church dealt with the civil action without “due process”. The assumption was made that in all probability Bell had carried out the alleged abuse and a financial settlement was made. The Church then tried to bury the scandal as best it could. But appalled parishioners started to strip Bell’s name from various church buildings, while others have tried to win a modicum of justice for Bell’s memory. This story isn’t over.

Rough Justice?

Let’s take into account that saintly people can do appalling things (look at Abraham, Jacob, David and so on – the list is vast), and remember how many thought that Jimmy Savile was a (albeit very weird) hero until we found out he was a horror story.

Let’s assume that the complainant’s motive is genuinely to right a wrong and that she is not driven by financial reward – not easy for I have been around a bit, but of course I may be wrong.

I worry that Bell’s reputation can be trashed when he’s not around to defend himself. And is it justice to rely on the word of one complainant concerning memories dating back to when she was just five years old – without third party endorsement – to prove guilt, and thereby comprehensively destroy a man’s reputation?  I understand that there are thousands of cases trundling through the courts on the word of one complainant with no witnesses. This worries me.

The great Russian theatre director Meyerhold used to tell a story from his days as a Moscow law student. One of the professors would arrange for a powerful thug to rush into a busy lecture hall and start a fight. The police would be called and the troublemaker removed. The students would be asked to recount what had happened, and each would tell a slightly different tale. Some would even insist there had been two thugs rather than one.

“Hence,” the professor would explain, “the old Russian saying, “He lies like an eyewitness.”

Capitalism: Red in Tooth and Claw

You can tell the difference between businesses that are run by the state ostensibly “for nothing” (by tax payers actually!) and those operating under the lash of making a profit.

For example, I used to be a member of a “Virgin” Health Club – as you’d expect, it’s run ruthlessly on business lines. Newcomers are sternly interviewed and members mercilessly and routinely sifted by a martinet. I was frequently asked if I wanted to ”upgrade” my already expensive season ticket: “No!”

The club must make a fortune. One day after your subscription is out of date, you are barred until the next dollop of cash has been paid. Quite right too.

I then discovered another gym 400 yards away run by the council: same facilities, newer machines and fees at a quarter of the price set by the private gym.

However, I notice that the entry gates in my council-run gym are forever open, there are no checks to see whether or not my membership is valid, and no one ever asks whether I want to upgrade my membership, pay more or buy any other services?

Who cares? It’s only taxpayer money, so it’s a commercial bombsite. There are happy users of the services of course, but the poor sucker-rate payers pick up the bill caused by unmotivated and lazy staff.

While I am on about it, without serious market discipline, the NHS will bankrupt us all in the end. It’s the nearest thing to God we have in our deeply secular society, and of course it’s run on financially incontinent, communist lines, and no politician dares touch it without ruining their party’s electoral chances.

The NHS is a haven of waste. But if I am wrong and if the principle of a free NHS is such a wonderful idea, why don’t we nationalise the provision of food as well?

Message from the Bank

Lloyds Bank in Oxford’s Summertown sends a clear message to its customers.

As you drive into its small car park, you are faced with the sign, “Bank employees only!”

I often wonder why they don’t add a few words to round off the message: “Customers can get stuffed!”


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