We walk along the ‘Fleam Dyke”, astoundingly dug by hand by Saxons sometime in the fifth century. We read on the council notice boards that it was constructed in order to enable the authorities “to monitor the countryside”. Perhaps an early and forlorn attempt to control Roman immigration and seemingly so it has been ever since!
The dyke consists of vast mounds of compacted clay several hundred feet high with a tiny track perched on top that makes walking troublesome. It seems the ancients have strewn the route with slyly hidden holes designed to throw strangers like us off balance with a parting gift of a twisted ankle. Donald Trump should take a look. It might give him a few new ideas as how to control his Mexican neighbours. The trouble is that he would need thousands of slaves and about two hundred years to complete it.
Then we found ourselves in fields and were blessed with easier walking. The grey skies were huge with clouds forming around the size of trucks that as we watched slowly morphed into black lorries; then came the squalls of wind that blew slanting rain in our faces. Each time we struggled into our waterproof jackets a watery sun came out.
Jane and I were in Boston in February this year seeing American ZANE donors. We spent a happy couple of spare hours at the Boston Tea Party Museum.
There was a drama production commemorating the act of rebellion in 1773. This protest against the despised “Taxation without Representation” – a tax which had been imposed by George III and his “iniquitous” government – involved rebels throwing chests of tea from three cargo ships into Boston harbour.
Actors playing the rebels – disguised as Native Americans – made inflammatory speeches about the monstrous rule of the unfeeling king and his crass ministers, and about how they were being exploited by cruel repression and the presence of licentious soldiery. We, the audience – made up mainly of tourists – were handed cards with the actual names of townspeople known to have taken part, and were encouraged to make sympathetic public protest by banging the floor with our feet, and shouting “Up the rebels!” and “Down with the King!” It was the start of the new American Republic.
Going Off Script
It all became too much for me. When it was my turn to speak, I rose to my feet and all fell silent.
“I am the direct descendent of Lord North,” I declaimed to the astonished audience. “On my paternal grandmother’s side I am his great-great-great grandson. As the prime minister in George III’s government, North was responsible for taxing your tea, keeping the peace, and maintaining law and order. I have read the papers and listened to your bleating about unfair taxation and repression. But you have failed to take into account the vast costs incurred in defending you militarily from the greedy French. In fact, unless our General Wolfe had beaten General Montcalm in 1757 at the Battle of Quebec on the Heights of Abraham and stopped the growth of the French Empire, you would all be part of it and would today be speaking French!
So ladies and gentlemen, I think you are all traitors.… You should be taken from this place and banged up in jail. And after your trial for treason, you will undoubtedly be found guilty and hanged.”
A strange silence fell, as no one knew if I was being serious or not! To be frank I was a tad unsure myself… and then I began to laugh. The mood relaxed, and I confessed that on balance, as a supporter of the great Thomas Paine, I rather agreed with the rebels! The show continued, and after it was over I gave a brief interview because the history I spouted is true. I am indeed a direct descendent of Lord North, and there was a perfectly good Crown case that went more or less unheard. The majority of the Bostonians at the time were royalists and against the insurrection. It was only because of the crass way in which George III behaved, and the fact that Lord North was rather an ass, that the mood turned sour and war started.
However most of the time I do not parade my relationship with North. All things considered, he was an inadequate prime minister even by the standards of the time. He once dreamed he was in the House of Commons and gave the worst speech in parliamentary history; and then he woke up and found it was true!
However, you can’t let those pesky colonists get away with it without some sort of a corrective comment.
Gypsy Rose Lee
Pundits are still trying to forecast the future. Why on earth they bother beats me, you would have thought they might have learned the futility of ball gazing by now. The forecasts at the last election were an absolute farce… All the parties spent substantial sums on polls and stared nightly at the results of the modern equivalent of chicken entrails. On the back of those, they made all sorts of decisions…. And then, oops, oh dear, everyone got it wrong didn’t they just.
If anyone had forecast at the beginning of last year that the Tories would win an overall majority, that the Lib Dems would be reduced to a mere eight seats in the Commons, that Labour would hang on to just one seat in Scotland, or that the Scottish National Party would be dominating Scotland and that far-left Jeremy Corbyn would become Labour’s leader – well, everyone would have thought the pundit was on day release. And who forecast BREXIT?
The polls were in La La Land. It was ever thus.
Imagine if 2,000 years ago, scholars had been invited to predict what would last longer: the Greek and Roman Empires with their vast might, wealth, culture, and powerful armies; or Jesus, who was crucified on the cross, and his ill-educated, inarticulate disciples who never wrote anything down?
The answer would have been, “what’s the point of the question?”
Well the empires have been totally swept away. And Jesus’s movement, “Christianity”, is the fastest growing “revelation” (not a “religion”) ever – if you think the Word is dying in the UK, just take a look at its incredible growth in Africa, China, South America and in the Far East.
And “Christian” names such as Peter, Paul, Thomas, Mary, Joseph, Christopher, James, Ruth, Esther and Elizabeth are the names of choice across the Western world and have been for centuries.
And we call our dogs “Caesar” and “Nero”, and throw bones to them!
Want to make a forecast anyone?
I enjoyed all the ancient history and the contemporary political comments. Very well put.