Day 14: Chazey Heath to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell

I clambered into a thicket in the deepest wood to, ahem, repair myself. When I emerged I discovered that Jane had gone, vanished, vamoosed into thin air. I shouted to no avail and then discovered that, as usual, I had no idea where I was. Not a clue. There were several tracks all pointing in different directions so what was I to do?

Those ZANE supporters who have missed earlier blogs do not know that my sense of direction is not my finest quality. I would make useless taxi driver or Field Master of a hunt!  Once, when wooing a girl, I drove from Penrith to London; twenty miles from London  I went round a roundabout and drove more or less  back to Penrith. The girl dumped me and who can blame her? And when I was in the army I was known as “Backbearing Benyon’.  My guardsmen followed me not because they thought I knew where I was going but out of curiosity to see where we would end up!

Anyway, I was lost and the thought crossed my mind, how would I survive? Are my Bear Grylls skills up to scratch? How long could I survive? I was all right for water but could I eat?  Were those mushrooms halfway up that tree edible? Were those lice under that log crammed full of vitamins?

I wandered about like King Lear in the mad scene until suddenly Moses appeared and darted off and there was Jane grinning like an owl. What a relief!

Here Blair Everywhere

I keep seeing Tony Blair leering on the telly and I have to admit I find him increasingly irritating. He is, in my view, to a marked degree responsible for the Brexit catastrophe.

When  Blair was in power his Minister of State in the home Office, Barbara Roche,  decided to leave the immigration door wide open: in six brief years she allowed into the UK nearly two million people. Such an experiment has never been implemented  before, anywhere. Roche introduced far too many people into the UK, far too fast. She did not ask anyone, she just did it. I think the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, was preoccupied with the Iraq war at the time.  Anyway, Blair’s lack of grip on his Minister placed a great burden on house prices, on the health service, on schools. ,

And, to the anger of many communities, she changed their nature irreversibly;  she did so without asking anyone and,  if anyone complained, she labelled them “racist”.

This disaster was on Blair’s watch;  the resultant fear and anger about immigration numbers generated a great many Brexit votes.

And it was Blair who allowed the MPs’ expenses regime to flourish so that, when the row became public, the voters believed – with some justification – that there was one tax system for MPs and another  for their constituents. All on Blair’s watch.

So he  has quite a lot to answer for, doesn’t he?

Strange Death

Parents who happen to be my closest friends were visiting a Church of England school to assess whether or not it was suitable for their children.

The headmistress jabbered on about the school’s virtues: “Oh, so hard working, what wonderful exam results, if I do say so myself, very good discipline, da de da de dum…”

And then my friend asked, “What about religious education or chapel perhaps?”

“Oh no, you will be pleased to learn we are a strictly secular school.”

“Oh that’s a pity,” said my friend sweetly. “You see, I’m a vicar!”

The headmistress appeared to melt to glue. “Well, perhaps I misspoke,” she spluttered, and then laughed wildly. “Of course, we do have occasional prayers and talks…” She trailed off and there was an embarrassed silence.

It’s fascinating. Here is a CoE school and the head teacher thinks that boasting about how the school is wholly secular makes a strong selling point!

Losing Our Religion

There have been many wonderful things introduced these past hundred years, from the NHS to the Internet, but we have lost the plot when it comes to our religious culture. Muslims, in the main, haven’t forgotten their faith, but we are in the process of forgetting ours (and if you want to know the seriousness of what I mean, just read The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray.)

However faithless and unbelieving my classmates and I may have been at school – and sad to say, we were a godless lot – at least we were taught the basics about our Christian/Judeo inheritance. We roared the hymns so often, we knew them by heart, and of course we knew our way around Cranmer’s prayer book and the King James Bible.

But nowadays in school, Gospel teaching has about the same status as the tooth fairy. The reason is, of course, that many teachers are plumb ignorant.  

Doubtless, this idiot headmistress was all in favour of the “fruits of the spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control – but she wouldn’t have had a clue about where these virtues come from or who inspired them! People like her are living off the capital of the Christian faith. They want the king without the cross. God willing, our friends’ children will find another school with someone sensible in charge.             

Strip Thine Own Back!

One of my friends cannot stop banging on (no pun intended) about another married mate who has been caught out – by ill-advised messages on his mobile – having an affair. My view is that we should be very sorry for all involved and stop being so bloody censorious – and indeed, “There but by the grace of God go I.” Perhaps my censorious friend had a problem and was reflecting on it by his condemnation.

I have always been amused by a saying from American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The more he talked of his honour, the faster we counted the spoons.” In other words, let’s examine the hidden agenda of those who condemn sexual activity so vociferously?  And many of my chums who rant on about sex, clearly have never read Shakepeare’s King Lear:

“Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her.”

Gonorrhea with the Wind

Years ago, I was chairman of a Midlands health authority board, appointed by the great Ken Clarke, who was the then Health Secretary. It was in the early 1990s, when the health service was told that the local authorities had to be run like businesses.

Anyway I did my best with the Byzantine finances but no one really knew who was in charge: the local board or the National Health Authority.

Towards the end of my term, a new building was planned. No one was quite sure what it would be used for but we were all told that it would be a great asset.

Then I was asked if I would be happy to have the building named after me? I was amazed because I didn’t like the woman who asked me – and I was pretty darn sure she didn’t like me either.

But what an honour! Coo! Shucks! Well, I never did! But then I remembered Round the Horne starring Kenneth Horne, who “prefers to remain anonymous”, and something about the woman’s sly, little smile made me hang back.

Just as well because I discovered it was to be VD clinic.       

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