Day 9: Streatley to Reading

The Scots call it “drookit”, and that is good enough for me. We were drenched in a proper downpour. We went from drought to Noah’s Ark in a single hour. Neither Jane nor I mind walking in the rain, as we were brought up in the Scottish Borders and in Edinburgh, that is what one does. And as sensible Princess Royal said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing.” Incidentally, I can’t help wondering what that sensible woman thinks of Meghan.

While walking down the Thames Pathway, we were passed by several coppers, all chasing towards an “incident.” I immediately wondered if we were involved in a Telly film.

Notes From a Proud Island

Many years ago, George Orwell warned us that the “most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history”. We should not be surprised, then, that destroyers in our midst are promoting a false narrative. These critics claim that Western history is a litany of cruelty, greed, patriarchal oppression, sexism, racism, transphobia, theft, snobbery, and much more. They praise all other cultures (provided they aren’t Western), and then wonder why anyone should wish to live here in the UK when so much bigotry, racism and hatred is baked into our DNA?

Why these individuals behave thus is a mystery. Perhaps it’s because they hail from countries that have contributed little to the overarching wellbeing of mankind and, knowing that the West has contributed so much, are consumed with envy and bitterness? I am reminded of that old, cynical saying, “Why do you dislike me so much? What favours did I ever do for you?”

Her Crown is Honour…

Here, under the Crown, human life is regarded as sacred, people are endowed with dignity and wrongs are addressed in honest courts. Just consider the eternal beauty of Oxford and Cambridge, or of Salisbury and Ely Cathedrals. Think about Shakespeare and our rich cultural and artistic achievements. Then imagine what life would be like without our social services, our freedom of speech and religious freedoms, and democracy and the rule of law. Has this bounty been exceeded anywhere on Earth, in all recorded history?    

Our critics fail to express gratitude for these blessings, instead expressing resentment and bitterness at all the things they lack. The countries from where many of them come are places where lives are brutish and short, where corruption is endemic, where the young have no chance to make a difference to the way things are run, and where thinkers and critics rot in jail. And they are often places where racism flourishes – but it’s black on white, so no one bothers to comment.

Under our monarchy, citizens experience a form of liberal government and access to justice for which they ought to feel profound gratitude. The blessings of our monarchy are summed up by the chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis:

“Her crown is honour and majesty; her sceptre, law and morality. Her concern has been for welfare, freedom and unity, and in the lands of her dominion, she has sustained justice and liberty for all races, tongues and creeds.”

Citizens in the West experience a form of liberal government and access to justice for which they ought to feel profound gratitude. Of course, our Western freedoms and ways of doing things aren’t perfect, but they are better, by far, than any of the alternatives on offer elsewhere. 

The West is under relenting pressure to accept growing numbers of immigrants struggling to get to the UK. In terms of newcomers, we apparently add a city the size of Newcastle to our small and crowded island each year.

I can’t help but note the lack of immigrants desperately risking their lives to settle in Russia, Africa, India or China. Funny that!

Pure Poetry

I recently visited a vicar friend dying of cancer in Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital.

“Please will you read a psalm?” she asked.

I read the best-known psalm of all, “The Lord is my Shepherd”.

A nurse nearby listened with great care. “That was lovely,” she said. “Did you write it?”

“Oh yes,” I replied, “I knocked it up in the lift on the way up.”

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