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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square


The main effect of bigging up Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square will be to give a new lease of life to the men already bigged up there. Most of us had long ceased to notice the men  and were happy to leave them to the mercy of pigeons overhead and dogs down below. Fawcett adds one more ugly monument, in Gillian Wearing’s very obvious signature style, to those already there and its newness will temporarily revitalise the entire graveyard.

The common desire to big up dead heroes, some of them not so heroic of course, is probably too atavistic to challenge - though there are strands in religious thought (Wahabbi Islam the most notorious) which object to the practice. The desire has always been a competitive one, as can be seen in any old Roman Catholic graveyard where the wealthy compete to have my drooping angel bigger than your drooping angel. 

Graveyards eventually get bulldozed and nobody much minds. But it is very hard to get rid of these public monuments raised by Public Subscription to assert the importance of this hero or that. There are just too many of them now, cluttering up public space, but there will always be objectors to pulling any one of them down, including the ones who turn out not to have been heroes at all. The only solution is to pull them all down. Individuals are people best remembered in our heads, in the books we read, the museums we visit, and in the causes we support. Hectoring plinths occupied by larger-than-life tasteless monumental sculptures are tiresome and best toppled. A good start could be made in North Korea.

Bodies mummified in bronze are very different to collective memorials, like the Cenotaph just up the road from Parliament Square, to which individuals can respond each in their own way provided only that the monument has  a certain abstractness, a certain symbolic character, which is entirely lacking in the banal literalism of Gillian Wearing’s monument.

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For more on this topic, see the chapter "Death Rituals" in my The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016 or yours for a penny on Amazon)

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Long Live the Ruritanian Monarchy!

Prince Charles has been made a grass-skirt wearing High Chief in Vanuatu and the BBC can't get enough of it. I leave you to look up Vanuatu and the pictures.

Rule Britannia!
The sun never sets!
Bring back the 1950s!
Bet you're jealous Putin!
Coming next: Dr Fox's Patent Trade Deal with Vanuatu!

(Those wishing to place a bid on the grass skirt, Lot Number 2018, should contact ....)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Disorderly Brexit Has Already Begun


When Thomas Hobbes fled from London to Paris in 1640 he proclaimed himself, rather proudly, as “The first of all that fled” from England’s looming civil war.

I recalled that when it occurred to me that it is not so much that England risks a disorderly Brexit as that we have one already. The moment Theresa May wrote her political obituary, her Article Fifty letter, individuals and organisations began to make their own moves.

The Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian workers began to go home and fruit and vegetables began to rot in the fields though I don’t know how many newspapers apart from The Financial Times printed the photographs. EU nurses and doctors began to go home too, or look for jobs in Remain EU countries. The NHS authorities are now pleading with the government to admit more non-EU foreign workers to replace those who have been lost. 

The European Union itself began to pack up its agencies in the UK, including the European Medicines Agency. Quite a few UK citizens contemplating the limitations of the threatened blue passports found their Irish roots and applied for Irish passports. Dual nationals switched to the better side.

A few companies have moved out and perhaps a few vulture firms have moved in, sensing the chance of a kill when companies go bust or top end house prices fall or the USA gets the permission it wants to dump chlorinated chicken and unfit milk on the UK.

As I write, we are bracing for Unilever’s announcement that they will abandon their UK headquarters and work exclusively from their Dutch one. Easyjet has already launched its contingency plan with a new base in Austria.

Anyone and any company with any sense is hoarding euros. And so it goes on. This is already disorder, though merely a foretaste of what is to follow when the factories start to close, the food banks become even more essential, the criminals start to celebrate. As a writer in The Financial Times observed, a civil war is starting in a country hopelessly divided. The worst is yet to come.

Added 5 April: Here's a link to a Financial Times article which is just one story of what is already happening:

https://www.ft.com/content/dbeecd9c-3754-11e8-8b98-2f31af407cc8

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Simple Solution to the Hollywood Problem

Just don't go there.

Since I deleted the Hollywood-obsessed Guardian and Huffington Post from my Favourites bar, must be over a year ago now, I find I know so much less about Hollywood and it's a good state to be in. As for the actual films, I am sure that occasionally a decent one slips through the net, but that's certainly no reason for enduring the others.

Back in 2014 I had some time to kill in London and, finding myself in Leicester Square, decided to re-visit a cinema which once specialised in arthouse movies. They were screening Darren Aronofsky's Noah. It was all right, Noah as a Californian hippy, but there is only so much surround sound someone like me can tolerate. I haven't been back.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Deadly New Flu Virus Targets Daily Express readers



A mutant flu virus is causing worrying concern to Boris Johnson. It targets older voters and especially those whose brains have been addled by The Daily Express. What makes it worse, Boris is reported to have said, is that it comes at a time when my enemies in the Cabinet have starved the NHS of funds. So these people don’t have a chance. It’s very bad news for me.

So far the virus seems not to have targeted Daily Mail readers, but a spokesperson for the CBI, who did not wish to be named, commented, “We can only live in hope”

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Biggest Demonstration Ever - To What Purpose?

The usual suspects are telling us they will organise the biggest demonstration ever if Donald Trump visits London. They may well succeed. It will conveniently avoid confronting the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has led his party into an alliance with the Donald Trump wing of the Conservative party to deny young people the rights and opportunities which those older have benefitted from. One third of Leave voters have a good opinion of Trump.

There can be no Big Tent in British politics because the country is split down the middle over Brexit.  Demonstrating against Trump can be no more than  feelgood politics for those who are not so much disenfranchised as deprived of a political party - but unwilling to confront that glaringly obvious fact.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Re-defining the word "Intimate": Modern Bollocks, Number III in an occasional series



"Prince Harry and Ms Markle will get married in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. It holds about 800 people, making it a more intimate setting than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding in Westminster Abbey."

BBC News website, 28 January 2018, explaining why President Trump does not have an invitation