Day 15 – Blenheim

The last leg had us chasing around Stonesfield, through Blenheim and what a beautiful estate it is, particularly in September sunshine.

We talked about “racism”. What, we wondered, is a fair definition as the word is so often hurled about in argument as a terminal insult?

I like Martin Luther King’s hope that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin. One walker wondered whether the Scots’ Nationalists should be accused of racism towards the English. It may sound bizarre, but what else can be the reason why so many scots are content to give some of their democratic freedoms to the EU but battle to escape the Union.

But maybe “ racism” is only white on black.

Factor X

It is alleged that Meghan Markle was chased out of the UK because of of racism.

Of course there is racism in the UK, but compared to all other countries, the UK is a benign and tolerant place in which to live. I suppose that is why the majority of desperate migrants want to come here and nowhere else.

No, the reasons Meghan left this country have nothing to do with racism.  

Femme Fatale

Will Meghan destroy her husband, Harry? Obviously I hope not but to my mind the omens are worrying.

Of course, it’s not the first time a man has given up everything for a dream that turns into a nightmare. Let’s start with Yeats’ “Poem to my daughter”:

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger’s eye distraught

They’re great lines. I am convinced that the way to a happy relationship is not to chase factor X or a femme fatale. Marry a beautiful person, of course, yes, every time – but don’t pursue the type of beauty that Yeats warns us about.

We read a great deal about men’s power – the so-called “patriarchy” where women are dominated by men. But what about the potent power some women exercise over men? This is a power than men don’t have – put simply, the ability to drive a person mad, to derange them. Not just to destroy them but to make them destroy themselves. The sort of power than allows a young woman to target a man, often at the height of his accomplishments, and torment him, make him behave like a fool and wreck his life utterly for just a few moments of almost nothing.

’Twas ever thus. In the book of Proverbs (7:21–3), we read: “With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk… All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter…  little knowing it will cost him his life.”

So of course, nothing is new in the dance between the sexes. In ancient times, Helen of Troy was married to Menelaus, King of Sparta. General Paris was so consumed by her beauty that he abducted her, thereby causing the 10-year Trojan War. Here’s an extract from Christopher Marlowe’s “Dr Faustus” that captures the electric effect Helen had on poor old Paris:

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss:
Her lips sucks forth my soul, see where it flies!  

Paris went mad to get his hands on Helen. Yet when the war ended, she went back to Menelaus. The story could be on Netflix.

And what about Samson and Delilah? She pretended to love him and then she drove him mad with desire for kinky sex (see Judges 16). Delilah nagged Samson ceaselessly to find the secret of his strength. Finally, coldly and ruthlessly, she sold him to the Philistines, who blinded and destroyed him.

Now fast forward to the early 1930s. The power women have over men can’t all be about looks, for Wallis Simpson was no Carey Mulligan, yet she had such an electric effect on Edward VIII that he caused a major constitutional crisis by abdicating his throne.

Then in 1961, Christine Keeler sent Jack Profumo mad. I knew him a little in the early seventies when we both sat on the same committee with Lord Longford. He was a fine man but his brief liaison with Christine destroyed him and was in part responsible for undermining the Macmillan government. (Ever the name-dropper, I must admit to dancing with Christine at the 1962 Sandhurst spring ball – male ZANE donors, eat your hearts out! However, as apparently Christine was having sexual relations with both the Russian military attaché and the UK Secretatry of State for War at roughly the same period, she was somewhat above the pay grade of Officer Cadet Tom Benyon. I assure you, though, she had factors X Y and Z – and it took me some time to recover my equilibrium!)

Princess Diana had factor X in such quantity that she tried – and nearly succeeded – to create a Royal Court in opposition to that of the queen. And the majority of men, some admittedly of curious quality, fell helplessly under her spell.   

But for all that, factor X is an arbitrary quality. I know a family where a very ordinary-looking woman – to my mind with the looks of a genial horse – had, astonishingly, factor X. She could “pull” men on an industrial scale to the considerable detriment of many marriages in the surrounding district.

Trouble Ahead

And now we come to Meghan Markle. One of my old vicar friends is hard of hearing; when he heard on the radio that Harry was going to marry Meghan Markle, he told his amazed congregation that Harry was about to marry Angela Merkel: “It will do so much in terms of good will with the EC!”

I’ll bet Harry wishes he had married the German chancellor. She would never have towed him away from the job he was good at to a life of burning boats in the UK and who knows what in La La Land.

My worries about Meghan have nothing to do with race. It’s just that Meghan comes from a culture that is narcissistic and absorbed with identity politics, that of putting self-interest first at the expense of others. She knows little of self-restraint and the daily grind of duty. She understood nothing of the crucial constitutional importance of the UK monarchy and the unflagging duty of all those who are part of “The Firm”. She should have talked to Princess Anne who completes 500 events each year: she would have told Meghan that she now has to restrain her ambition, back the royal family and play a part in the often tedious grind of (for example) opening the Milton Keynes Health Authority’s new building. It’s often unglamorous, hard work and all participants must put duty first, themselves second.

Instead, Meghan appears wholly self-centred and set on serving her own interests at the expense of poor Harry and all he stands for. For it’s Harry who has lost out: Meghan has lost nothing. She has an even more glittering career that she had before as she is now a duchess and she is married to a very rich man. In short, she has won the jackpot.

Harry has lost more or less everything. When the gilt comes off the marriage and he sees that he no longer has a role, I think he will be desperate. Of course, I hope I am wrong. But I see trouble ahead and I think this is just the start of the saga.  

Back to Helen of Troy. A poet called Lord Dunsany – and no, I had never heard of him before either – wrote a short poem about the legendary beauty. It’s called “And Were You Pleased?” I fear it will become Meghan’s signature tune…

“And were you pleased,” they asked Helen in Hell.
“Pleased?” answered she, “when all Troy’s Towers fell;
And dead were Priam’s sons, and lost his throne?
And such a war was fought as none had known;
And even the gods took part, and all because
Of me alone! Pleased?
I should say I was!”


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    • Annie Robinson on September 21, 2020 at 9:16 pm
    • Reply

    Very well done and welcome home!

    • Adrian Frais on September 22, 2020 at 5:46 pm
    • Reply

    Congratulations and very well done.
    My sympathies re. map reading,been there,done that,got the scars to prove it

    Thoroughly enjoyed your blog
    Agreed with your incisive analysis of Ms M’s ” performance”.

    • David S on September 22, 2020 at 6:49 pm
    • Reply

    My feet were sore (a little) and my energy levels drained (a little more than a little) by the time Chiltern Railways brought me back into Marylebone station late afternoon yesterday.
    However, the preceding eight or so hours were absolutely splendid; my thanks to you and Jane, and our fellow walkers.
    I would thoroughly commend the experience to other donors, and those generally interested in the plight of the impecunious ‘ancients’ in Zimbabwe’s currently forsaken land.

    • Ann R. Nailsea on September 22, 2020 at 8:24 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you and well done ! Weather must have been perfect for you.
    Have good rest and know God blessings in days ahead.

    • angela honeyford on September 23, 2020 at 5:59 pm
    • Reply

    Yes, Well done, you good and faithful servants ! Still walking with my friend Pat from South Africa and all the miles we clock up will wing their way to Zane’s funds. God bless. Angela

    • Christopher Piggins on October 8, 2020 at 10:23 am
    • Reply

    Well done, Tom and Jane, yet again. Your comments are always pithy and apt and deal with what is worrying for so many of us. We seem to have lost our way and forgotten how to behave towards other human beings. Nothing beats kindness but it seems to have been casually thrown away by so many who should know better.

    I am sorry to say that our walking days are over as our 90s threaten which is a great sadness as we so much enjoyed our walks with you and hosting you when the opportunity arrived.

    I have noted your mileage and a cheque will be on its way.

    God bless you both. Keep well.

    Love, Christopher and Anthea

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