No photograph would do justice to that phrase, so I will do without for fear of scandalising the congregation.
It was a statement in frequent use by my grandmother’s neighbour… a lady of firm opinions, baldly stated. I would dearly like to have her resurrected in this era of trigger warnings, PCism and all that…Saul might have slain his thousands, but she would have slain her ten thousands, snowflakes melting to left and right of her. Suffice it to say that she enjoyed the Black and White Minstrel Show on the television, went to church on Sundays and regarded all foreigners with suspicion. Rumour had it that in her younger days during the Great War she had denounced a Belgian for espionage on the grounds that he wore a wig, proving that he was a master of disguise.
She was also involved in the forced resignation of my grandfather from his post as an ARP warden in the Second World War when he crept up on her gossiping and waved his gas rattle at her. The fact that he was supposed to be a messenger during an exercise which supposed a German bombing raid in the area which resulted in, hypothetically, the gasworks being blown up together with the trolley bus depot and the hospital because he had dallied in the Rose and Crown might also have had something to do with it…but as far as he was concerned, it was the neighbour wot done it.
As children, my grandmother used to usher us indoors when an encounter with her neighbour was likely to sully our ears, but she had a carrying voice and we, straining our ears for more, were agog.
The problem was, one could not seek enlightenment….one would be accused of eavesdropping…so to this day the phrase, ‘There she stood, tits akimbo’ remains an enigma.
I can remember receiving a horrified dressing down by my mother when I saw a woman walking down the road outside and asked whom that tart might be, as she had been so apostrophised by the neighbour. I had been puzzled as to me, in the age of innocence, a tart was something to eat, made of pastry and fruit, so I vaguely thought the woman must be involved in the bakery business. I was enjoined never to use the phrase of any woman but retained an idea that women who ate fruit tarts were of ill repute but that attention should not be drawn to that fact.
Which sounds very like the respect accorded to the current generation of politicians. We know they are venal lowlife, but attention should not be drawn to that fact…because if you do you are either wearing a tinfoil hat, are a domestic terrorist or a pathetic lunatic…so, as she so often said, you can kick up all you want, but you might as well shit in your hat.
We have moved to one of the spare bedrooms as it is more convenient for Leo if he is wakeful in the night. Wakeful or not, he still starts his day at five thirty, collecting the dog bowls and recuperating any leftovers into the pan which will go out to the chickens. I, however, unless there is cricket on the radio in the small hours, give myself another half hour in which to come to life before checking my slippers for a scorpion which lives among Leo’s papers and has made more final appearances than Frank Sinatra, prior to trekking across the house to perform my ablutions in the main bathroom.
However, on that particular morning, I was not alone.
There was a very hairy spider, larger than my outstretched hand, trying to escape from the bath. Good luck with that, I thought…the bath was constructed by Danilo and resembles the sarcophagus of a Pharoah – without the lid.
Or the gold.
I don’t mind spiders as a rule…they rid the place of other pests…but this one is described by Danilo as a horse killer which does not inspire me with confidence.
I eyed the beast warily.
It was immobile. Probably eyeballing me with a view to goodness only knows what.
Best not to whinny.
I went to find the long handled dustpan and a heavy cloth with which to trap the brute
On return…no spider.
How long had it been trying to escape? And why did it choose that moment to succeed?
Why, in the wilds of Costa Rica, did I have to come across a descendent of the spider that inspired Robert the Bruce?
I know that the Scots get everywhere….but that this tradition extended to Scots spiders had remained unknown to me..
It was the worst of all possible scenarios…it could be anywhere.
However, as it was clearly no longer in the bath that was a safe zone. I drew a bath.
Now a bath is said to be a relaxing experience…not if you are scanning your surroundings for a monstrous horse killing spider it isn’t. Nor was it. I was out of that bath, towelled and dressed, with the speed of a rat up a drainpipe.
Over the next few days the spider made irregular and unexpected appearances…..on the wall behind my desk…..emerging gaily from the shower……..on the seat of Leo’s electric scooter…only to disappear before dustpan and cloth would be brought into play.
We christened him…not, as you might expect, The Scarlet Pimpernel, as we decidedly did not seek him either here or there…but the Black Douglas, Bruce’s companion in the Scottish Wars of Independence in the fourteenth century, the master of guerilla warfare.
Scots tend to go on a bit about Bannockburn and beating the Sassenachs…not so much about the raids led by the Black Douglas, more politely known as the Good Sir James, that forced England to accept the independence of the kingdom years later. As a reminder of his exploits, children in the Border regions would be lulled to sleep by the rhyme
‘Hush ye, hush ye, dinna fret ye
The Black Douglas willna get ye.’
I know how they felt.
Scots also tend to go on a bit about the union of the Two Kingdoms in the eighteenth century – brought about by the near bankruptcy of the lowlands of Scotland caused by the failure of the Darien scheme, which aimed to establish an Atlantic/Pacific trade route in what is now Panama in the face of sabotage by England and hostility by Spain.
As P.G. Wodehouse wrote, ‘It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.’ and the Act of Union certainly cast a cloud over the Scottish psyche in the succeeding centuries, fuelling calls for independence and a habit of ascribing all ills to governance of Scotland from Westminster.
Since 1999 Scotland has had a devolved parliament, deciding most domestic policy, and, over time, the Scottish National Party has assumed overall control, currently with a massive majority.
There was a referendum on independence on 2014, lost after promises were made by the leaders of the three main parties in the Westminster parliament, and the then First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, was obliged to respect the result.
However, as might have been expected, the promises came to naught, and the SNP settled into ruling Scotland with, in general, beneficial results for the country.
But there has been disquiet…to Alex Salmond and his like the new leaders of the party have lost sight of the goal of full independence and are, instead, intent on consolidating their power over party and country – potentially dangerous in what has almost become a one party state.
The criticism is unwelcome…..to the extent that women with contacts in the higher echelons of the SNP decided to bring concerted accusations of sexual impropriety against Salmond….since MeToo, how better to destroy a male reputation. Touch a woman’s backside these days and a man will be cast into outer darkness. Unless he is Prince Andrew, of course.
How the case was ever prosecuted is beyond me….the evidence was always questionable….but prosecuted it was and the jury threw it out.
A triumph for Scottish justice? Hardly….a politically motivated case is brought to court on evidence so shallow that it would not drown a mouse. The triumph is that the jury was more concerned to sift the facts than to be politically correct.
Yet the SNP government proposed to take unto itself the power to abolish jury trials as part of the response to the current virus scare and was only forced to withdraw by sustained pressure from the Scottish Criminal Bar Association, pointing to the potential for abuse.
What might have happened to Salmond without a jury, one wonders….
Given a judge who knows on which side of the bread the butter has been spread and we might have a new Lord Braxfield stalking the courts.
He was a judge in the period when the Establishment feared the influence of the French revolution on the people of Great Britain and he was an Establishment man to the core.
His view of his role was as follows, when it came to ordinary people seeking reform
‘Let them bring me prisoners and I will find them law’.
Responding to the claim of a reformer appearing before him on a charge of sedition that Jesus Christ too was a reformer, he said’…and muckle guid it did him for he was hingit tae.’
And were he in sole charge of the Salmond case his best known quote might well have been resurrected.
‘Ye’re a vera clever chiel, man, but ye wad be nane the waur for a hanging.’
Clearly the resurrected Lord Braxfield would adopt a different tone…that of political correctness, more soothing on the ear, but equally punitive.
Elizabeth I stated that she did not want to open windows into men’s souls – outward conformity in matters of religion was sufficient
Political correctness – especially in the sphere of what is called hate crime – not only opens a window, it ram raids the door. For a ‘hate incident’ to take place it suffices that the victim – or anyone else – thinks that what took place is motivated by prejudice or hostility. No intent is required to be shown.
Not unlike Braxfield’s invention of the crime of ‘unconscious sedition’.
And yet it can all look so reasonable. Complainants making allegations of sexual impropriety guard their anonymity nomatter what the outcome of the case. Given the hurdles faced by women bringing such actions guaranteed anonymity is a necessary encouragement.
So in the Salmond case, the women concerned have the right to the protection of the law if there is a risk of their names being made public.
The problem is that, given their proximity to Salmond in his role as First Minister and leader of the SNP it would not take a genius to work out who most of them are, and the press have gone pretty near the mark in so doing.
So are there any prosecutions of the mainstream press?
Are there any prosecutions at all?
Yes……of two bloggers, neither of whom have gone anywhere near as far as the press.
One happens to be someone who was once high up in the SNP but disagrees with the current leadership, the other a man with a high profile on revealing the underbelly of power.
In the latter case a virtual hearing on management of the case will be heard and the gentleman concerned is anxious that he will not be steamrollered by inappropriately applied procedural devices.
He is keen to have people ask to have access to the virtual proceedings and, as his Twitter and Facebook utterances have a high level of suppression, asks people to read his statement of the case and to spread a link to it.
I am not a great fan of Alex Salmond, nor a follower of the gentleman in question, Craig Murray, but I am not at all happy at what seems like the Scottish justice system being used to attack fair comment, so here is the link.
Oh, and by the way, I thought I would float in the pool today before the afternoon rains started…and guess who was there already, clinging to the side?
The Black Douglas. Clearly the bath was not the limit of his aspirations to conquest.
Over the holiday period when the presidential candidates are silenced and the bureaucrats are off to the beach, life is quiet.
The fiestas of Christmas are over, those of the New Year yet to come; the organisers buying their potent fireworks from local shops who display a notice banning their sale on the very cabinet containing the display – everything from rockets capable of a Mars mission to landmines in hessian bags.
Although this is the dry season and the grazing has started to dry out we have had rain in the afternoons – just when I had been thinking of going down to the pool – so in intervals between feeding poultry, sheep, horses and cattle I’ve been watching more television than usual.
Generally I listen to the BBC radio which I can access without difficulty, but for the Test Match, because of rights issues, I have to use a system which hides my IP address and have to go through the same rigmarole to watch BBC television.
It annoys me that I pay for this when I could be paying the BBC direct…but the BBC doesn’t seem to understand that it has an enormous potential audience – not just among expats, but among people wanting to learn English by the best possible method – listening to the language as it is used in all its variety.
If the IP address hiding companies can sort out the technology, why not the BBC?
The resulting close encounters with BBC television have led me to think that those running the joint have lost touch with what Reith announced were the duties, the responsibilities, of the organisation: to educate, inform and entertain.
Just tell me where Bargain Hunt or the Puppet Game Show fit in to any of these categories, let alone the ubiquitous Stephen Fry and the murderous Eastenders.
Those currently running the BBC appear to me to be much more motivated by lining their own pockets by resigning with a whopping severance package and then returning to the same job as a freelance on a tax fiddle than by providing a public service….they are the clones of their counterparts in commercial broadcasting.
And yet they like to dress themselves in the clothing of their predecessors….telling us that they provide ‘quality’ broadcasting.
Up to a point, Lord Copper: I still remember the hash they made of the Jubilee River Pageant….more like Three Men in a Boat without a bung.
How would anyone interested in quality manage to present to the public an overheated pseudo-historical hodgepodge like ‘The White Queen’?
Or that mountebank performance on ‘Byzantium’ where the presenter manages to reduce the impact on its world of the Arian heresy to an anecdote relating the demise of its protagonist while on the loo.
And for the introduction to ‘The High Art of the Low Countries’ we are given the high treat of the presenter cycling through a low lying landscape of multi coloured tulips with a background of windmills just to make it clear to us that this is all about Holland. Except it isn’t, as the presenter makes clear almost immediately.
I can never work out whether the BBC and all its works thinks we, the public, are terminally ignorant or whether it is they themselves who have been dumbed down by the system which produces them and they are paying us the compliment of placing us on their own level.
Still, I brightened up on seeing a programme called ‘Pride and Prejudice…Having a Ball’ which promised to present an historically accurate depiction of the ball at Netherfield.
Despite relentlessly jolly presenters popping in and out of doors like weathermen on speed it was interesting….the clothes, the food, the dances themselves, explained by experts in their respective fields.
Among the dancers representing the guests was a chap of mixed race origin.
In every other aspect we had had accuracy, from the men’s ‘ready boys’ trousering to the china blancmange moulds….but this was a glaring anomaly.
A chap of mixed race would not have been among the guests.
This was supposed to be the provincial society of Regency England….not the society of revolutionary France where the father of the novelist Alexandre Dumas could become a general despite his origins as the son of a French colonial planter and his black slave woman.
Carelessness…or political correctness?
Probably the latter to judge by the advance publicity for the BBC’s forthcoming production of Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers’, where we are to be treated to women ‘with a real sense of their own destinies’….Milady de Winter, who ends up on the block?
Women ‘as powerful and impressive as the men’….Constance Bonacieux, poisoned in a convent?
Not content with this the series will touch on domestic terrorism (!) and slavery while to crown the whole misbegotten gallimaufry the boastful musketeer Porthos will be – wait for it – of mixed race, having been born in the Cour des Miracles – the Paris equivalent of the Seven Dials rookery in London.
Those responsible for putting this on the box need urgent assistance to remove their heads from their backsides.
‘The Three Musketeers’ is a classic adventure story…not a vehicle for ticking politically correct boxes.
I can remember a previous television serialisation of ‘The Three Musketeers’ – I think in the sixties – but above all I remember when the BBC was capable of producing a series that was an accurate depiction of the book from which it was taken.
Who can forget Alan Badel in the ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’?
I can see that face in the mirror yet.
If the BBC wishes to be politically correct, it should apply itself to the manifestations of discrimination and exclusion in our own time…the past is another country, and attempting to push our own preoccupations upon it can only further pervert the way in which we see it.
Or is it, as I suspect, that political correctness is used to plaster over the cracks in society, not to dig them out and repair the faults within.