Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Our Hilarious Monarchy

The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favourite FetishThe Monarchy: A Critique of Britain's Favourite Fetish by Christopher Hitchens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One day early in the morning I was feeling ever more broody as I mooned around the landscape of my Kindle. I’d been clicking and sniffing between books I could read next, in that horrible in- betweeny mood in which I found myself. I’d just finished reading the second volume of an excellent trilogy and I needed a break, a breather, a period of recuperation and recharge before plunging into the explosive third volume and it was in this ‘need a short, sharp break’ frame of mind that I browsed my 5-way button to The Monarchy ~ A Critique by Christopher Hitchens, for no particular reason apart from the need for a total change. By the time I’d reached the end of the free sample I was chortling away as I hadn’t done for many a merry month and rarely have I clicked that ‘buy’ button with such eagerness. ‘After all,’ I reasoned to myself, ‘£1.49’s just over what I paid for a pint of IPA draught at the local when I moved to this village 30 years ago.’

So without further ado let’s take a look at the The ‘News’ presented as if it’s set in stone. As Christopher Hitchens (1949—2011) writes: “We know that this strident, bombastic noise is a subliminal appeal to think of ‘News’ as part drama, part sensation and part entertainment”. The beauty of this opiated numbing show is that you never know whether your trip is going to be good or bad. The same thrumming monumental brass rhythms will tell us either that the Queen Mother has got a fish bone lodged in her throat, or that we’ve just severed diplomatic relations with Iraq. YOU are left to decide which item carries the greater weight.

Already long, our Prince's face lengthens
even more as the news worsen

Chris (Yes, let’s hob-nob for a bit!) invites us to look at absurdities like the ‘Investiture’ of Royalties which to most of us mean a lot if we don’t think about them, but examined closely they amount to absolutely nothing. Just look at this on the myth of the ‘Investiture’: “The official guide to the ceremony dissolves in contradiction here, because it says of the sacral moment that it comes from Zadok the priest, who anointed Solomon as King of the Jews, and that the ceremony follows the old Saxon ritual, and that the moment is to be accompanied by the singing of Handel.”

The more we bring our pet-theories into the light, the more threadbare, nay mendacious our propaganda seems. ‘Invisible earnings’ may indeed be comforting dummies to suck in times of crisis, but in these days of costing everything up why do the powers that be seem incapable of coming up with an estimate? And while we’ve revelling in contradictions, what exactly is this ‛special relationship’ which we apparently hold with the USA? — What does it amount to? In these days of costing everything up, listing and categorising every aspect of our lives, which boxes does it tick? And what exactly is the ‘unseen hand’ of the money market?

The End of This Post
Back-chatter :
End, what do you mean, ‘End’? Monarchies and Dreams don’t have an 'End'. They dissipate in the morning mist when the sun rises, only to re-form with the coming of the night. Monarchies keep folks dreamy, happy ready to chase the rainbow to its end.

Think Barbara Taylor Bradford, man, finish with all this Woman of Substance fantasy and begin to Hold That Dream. Never mind about subscribing to The Sun or Mail, just keep to the news for your daily fix. Suck the curate’s egg of the ice-cream cone, starting with the sickly raspberry ripple and the tang of the lemon twist. Lick your way through the chilled artery-clogging fat of the ice cream and don’t stop until you reach the sickly nugget of treacle at the end. Worry not, you’re in the Ukay. Just keep taking the tablets and watching The News.... Dang, dang, Dang 16/08/12 13:51:10 Stop Press (Dissected) (1) The Duke of Edinburgh has been admitted to hospital because of a bladder infection. (2) This is just a routine and it’s giving no cause for concern. (3) He’ll be in for a few days he’s receiving intravenous antibiotics. In juxtaposition to this we’re asked to also know that: (a) The Duke is 91 years old and it’s always serious at this age. (b) (Invisibly: He obviously can’t swallow tolerate tablets, hence the anti-bio’s) (c) This is the 3rd time he’s been in hospital in the past 9 months, the first time being before Christmas when he was admitted because of a heart problem 20/08/12 06:24:36 The Duke is having to spend a fifth day in hospital. Remember it’s (a) Just routine and nothing to worry about. (b) He isn’t allowed any visitors (Only one telephone call from The Queen so far) (c) If the stay extends to a sixth night, there will then bee ‘cause for concern’ Despite their apparent longevity, (Long-faced Prince) Monarchies are really a transient and ephemeral phenomenon which are lent their solidity solely by the careful presentation of choreographed images flashed onto our retinas, much in the way that ‘movement’ in a movie is really a sequence of still images. The images presented here now need to be frozen in aspic, at a time when very little appears to have happened. Let’s keep in that way before the routine of the fifth day lapses into the concern of the sixth. If it gets to that, matters will be a little more serious than the tragedy of our Duke missing The Boxing Day Shoot of Christmas 2011. Hurried Royal Notes scribbled frantically as I try to close this blog entry (again). I blink my eyes awake after a late night, first carefully checking my limbs and hair to see whether I’ve woken up as Nicholas Witchell. Fortunately I haven’t, as my hairs have no trace of gold or red in them, they’re just showing me an agéd grey and I’ve woken up as me, the same me as I’ve always been:
Will The Duke have to miss the
Boxing Day Shoot?
(** Prince Philip has been taken to Papworth Hospital rather than a local cottage hospital. Rather. Rather. What on earth do they mean “rather”. There is no RATHER about it! Cottage hospital are totally incapable of inserting stents into a coronary artery. Papworth Hospital is the main, the only hospital in the area which is capable of performing the procedure.) STOP PRESS: The Queen’s corgis have got into a scrap with Princess Beatrice’s dog Max. I don’t think I can stand any more of this. Off with them, all you get out of my sight! Mad Hatter, I call to you. Please make yourself welcome in my house any time you want...

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Killi’s Very Civil Ceremony ~ A Sweep Through Time

 About 20 years ago, in some middle of nowhere track in India I met an eleven-year-old boy who said his name was Killi. Killi attended (from time to time) the local village school and his favourite lesson was called... Truant. “It’s simple,” he explained to me, “School is about learning things, and when I go to class I learn nothing, apart from the fact that the teacher either isn’t there or doesn’t do anything when he is. Even were he to beat a boy one day, we’d all have a little entertainment spiced with our resentment, but more often than not he can’t even be bothered to do that. He just tells us to carry on studying.”
Not Really 11
It wasn’t long before Killi’s lost the isolation of his Jungle adventures. “After all” added a school-chum, you need to have a buddy with you in case of snakes.    “And I suppose my parents would miss me” said Killi in reply. “More like they’d miss someone lugging jars of water from the village tap at 3.00” a.m. grumbled his mate Vibhu. You know  how we stand in there in all weathers keeping each others’ places in the queue before grabbing a bit more sleep until we go to attend classes that aren’t there!” Killi simply didn’t reply to this, but he welcomed the company nonetheless, and soon there was a gaggle of four or five boys playing hooky as they explored the jungle nearby.

In the course of time, Killi and his mates would come back with many things, mostly Nellikai or wild gooseberries, their ragged pockets bulging with the hard green fruits along with string and unprotected razor blades. These became a currency with the boys as they emerged from the forest, sharing them round, but only with kids who were prepared to do other work in return. I swear these children had several sets of eyes. They’d shared and bagged the prestigious job of pushing the wheelchair, so I would use this free form of locomotion to explore as much of the mountainside as I could with wheels permitting. It wasn’t long before I’d scream out NIL (STOP!) because I’d seen a wiggle of movement under some plant and ordered them to bring it to me. Astonishingly, most boys were terrified of some of the creepies like bristly devil-headed caterpillars, advising me to be careful and not to touch. Persuading the diábolo to leave its stalk and wander along my hand while I blew mock kisses in its direction. That raised my social status even more, and I must admit I much enjoyed the power which was heaped upon me.

It wasn’t long before my room was filling up with bugs, millipedes and inch-worms, not to mention the odd sweet-jar which contained soil and ant lions, and occasionally a flower-pot snake or two. As the specimens poured in I soon realised that I was biting off more than I could chew, or indeed feed. And what is more I saw that all this gathering and collecting “for John” had very little to do with me until the small runnel of regular absenteeism from the village school turned into a river. John would be well and truly in the spot-light if it was traced to him!

It Was Like This: Thanks Getty!
Matters came to a head one day when I found that unasked, a boy had cycled a further 12 miles into the depth of the jungle and came pedalling furiously back.  He presented me with a live chameleon he had captured there and thought I’d like to keep it as a pet. A live chameleon was something I’d never met face-to-face before; I’d always wanted one as a child and now my wish had been granted in a quite unexpected way. Even so, I had a strange surge of emotions sweeping through me at the moment; Deeply touched that a boy had cycled so far on my behalf and that he’d correctly guessed what I would love. At yet at the age of 44, I’d also learned that the creature would be thoroughly accustomed to the deeper jungle world which was his home that very morning. After giving the boy a hug of thanks, I told him that it could not be.

On opening the little box, the lizard had done its utmost to convince me that it was a Fischer-Price Plastico-rubbery toy which had pipe cleaners embedded in its limbs. The creature seemed frozen & dead, but after leaving it alone a little it started to move jerkily and roll those googly eyes. The boy pleaded for me to keep it but I explained through my friend that back home in Tiruvannamalai the conditions were totally different. There wasn’t the humidity and the greenery there, and even if he lived he would never find a mate. Without his jungle cover he’d soon become a target for a hungry crow and rat, or perhaps he’d simply die to have his flesh picked off by ants. I think that of all the futures I saw, that was the saddest possibility.

Killi With Brother Ramana
And then one day he decided to clean my floor with a brush, push the chair even more and make my breakfast. Jungle adventures were left behind as time’s broom swept us all on. I missed him sorely when I returned to England I determined   I would bring him, with his brother, to help me throughout the year. Inevitable difficulties followed, the most formidable of which were the Home Office Dragons who made it an almost forgone conclusion that entry to the UK would be referred. “Highly unlikely” was the term used in their letter to my MP.

Surprise followed on from surprise. Who knows what happened in the intervening years. Somewhere along the road that chameleon lizard must have traded places with an axolotl. In the course of leaving the watery humid jungle a veritable dragon has emerged to begin his life as a fully-fledged UK Citizen.
Killi's UK Welcome Ceremony.
 In the picture, in front of the portrait of Her Majesty the Queen, we see Killi with the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, Penelope Walkinshaw as well as Councillor John Powley. Killi has just received his Certificate of Nationality.