Sunday, 17 July 2016

Vanity Fair...

An Anglican priest (another splendid old bugger) once told me, in reply to my question about why he hadn't joined the Ordinariate (on account of his sincerely-held beliefs), that he thought it supremely unwise for men to change their allegiance, except in the rarest of circumstances, and he was far too old for such a change anyway. I thought when I went home (I am, after all, a bit slow in the uptake!) that that was an admonition for me to return to the Roman Catholic church and stop pretending to be an Anglican. Pretending! Surely pretending requires some effort? All that seemed to be required of me as an Anglican was to turn up on Sunday, or when I felt like it. I never felt as though I fit in anyway. Most of the congregation were wealthy, influential people; not riff-raff like me, and I found most of them too frivolous in matters religious. And as for being homosexual, they might have forgotten the sins of the cities of the plain, but I certainly hadn't. Nor shall I ever. So perhaps I was a pretender.

I was certainly not a pretend Roman Catholic, except perhaps in the last days when the veracity of the claims of that church crumbled not only before the Novus Ordo crowd (the ascendant ones, on whom I had given up around 2002) but also under the sheer weight of the hypocrisy of the traditionalists. It also occurred to me that the very existence of a "traditionalist" movement meant that tradition, something I always cared more about than allegiance, was no more. The Roman Catholic church soon became the bane of my life, and I railed against her with utter contempt. Long-standing readers know the story. This caused the disintegration of several former friendships (which I regret), and the loss of any credibility I might once have had (which I don't). To have carried on as a Roman Catholic in the baleful knowledge that it is a false religion would have been pretending.

Ever since my extrusion or flight from Rome, I have been houseless, witless, carried about with every wind of doctrine, as the Scripture says. I was thrust out into the wilderness of this world and my only notion of direction in this open field with no sign posts, but very many ditches, was simply not to go back but either to stumble on in search of some new home, or to sit down and perish alone. Among many of life's fateful choices, this latter seemed the best one for the time being. For the time being, mind you. After all, it is not enough to leave one church and rationalize that choice. Nor is it enough to simply sign up to another, bearing the old prejudices and regrets, and all the baggage that goes with with all that. The strait and narrow Way to life (Matthew 7:14; Acts 9:2) is not some casual tour of Vanity Fair; nor does the Way have much to do with high ecclesiastical policies, theology or gossip (see 1 Timothy 6:5); on the contrary "a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise," Psalms 50:17. Christ is the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13), and He demands more than just a change of allegiance. Everything must be tried as by fire; your way of life, your seeing, breathing and hearing; your repose and your waking; your eating and drinking; your physical exercise; the literature that you read, and the music that you listen to; the thoughts in your head; the company you keep; your prayer. As Our Lord says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," Matthew 5:48.

It is for these reasons that I have not (yet) joined the Orthodox Church. Conversion, true conversion to God, is not a question of liturgy, or the kalendar, or ecclesiastical polity (although these things have their eminent place); it is a question of Christ Our God, and at the present my faith is cold. I am, nonetheless, comforted by the words of St Bede the Venerable, who longed piously (as recorded of him by his friend and disciple St Cuthbert):
Tempus vero absolutionis meae prope est, etenim anima mea desiderat Regem meum Christum in decore suo videre.

Friday, 15 July 2016


Just watch as the quacks, pundits and politicians come out and express the same tired, phony outrage and sympathy for the French victims of the latest terror attack. They will be careful not to omit the demonstrable lie that Islamic terror has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. I woke up this morning, saw the news and sighed: "another one?" What a tragedy for the victims' families to be treated with such boredom.

What we need to do is to fix our oil problem (and by extension our transport industry). We need to deport all Muslims back to the Middle East and Africa. We need to stop supporting Israel, and then adopt a non-interventionist foreign policy. We need to create a situation where Sunnis and Shias are killing each other, rather than us, and all Muslims are killing Israelis. And a pox on both their houses!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Isles, Part III...

Wherein is concluded my account of my peregrinatio to the Ionian Islands.

The modest church built into the rock above Lassi.

I returned to the monastery for another look around (and to cool down) but, being alone and in the middle of nowhere, where most people had their own motor cars, I began to fear that I'd be left stranded. Vivi, my friend at the hotel reception, had told me that the bus would come back at 2:30pm. I didn't suspect her of mendacity, of course, but whenever I am alone like this, in the middle of nowhere, without much money, &c, &c I become anxious, and I needed to be reassured from locals that the bus would come back. I found a cheap taverna on the road to Argostoli and took some water and light refreshment with what money I had and looked around at the countryside as I waited for the bus. I thought how beautiful it was, perilously beautiful. When the bus returned (at 2:30pm exactly) I was still anxious because the driver did not immediately turn back, but carried on past the monastery and into the hills. An elderly woman disembarked at a bend in the road, at another Kandylakia in fact, whereupon the driver did a u-turn, and drove back to Argostoli. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and went back to the hotel.

On the road to St Gerasimos' Cave, a wasp.

On Saturday morning, my friend and I went to St Gerasimos' Cave in the uphills of Lassi. When St Gerasimos landed at Kefalonia in circa 1555 he dwelt in this cave for five years as a hermit, praying for and educating the many people that came to him. The cave is up another winding track, shaded at the top by olives and firs but very much exposed most of the way up! We passed blackberry bushes and grape vines on the way to the modest church built into the hillside. It was empty, but open to visitors. Nothing much to report about the cave, save that it was lit by a small hole pointing east and littered with icons. A quick Collect (for Purity), and The Lord's Prayer, and we were off again. My friend and I returned to Trenti's that evening for a last view of the sunset over cocktails. It was, subjectively, the most beautiful sunset we had seen that week; a pale blue vault rejoicing in fire as the bright day sank to slumber to his palace in the West (that's Thomas More). Unfortunately the view was blighted by a family of tubbo's (they had to be British; the Greeks aren't that fat) who spent the entire evening on their mobile devices. My friend, who has a skill for this kind of thing, nicknamed them "the Golightly's," and we both thought how unsociable to spend an evening engrossed in a piece of technology; how philistinistic to ignore the view, and how pernicious Globalisation really is. Not just the working class abroad but the fact that we had seen in remotest Ithaka cans of Coca Cola on sale, and the fact that many of the Greeks spoke proficient English (which, I must admit, spared them my feeble attempts at Greek), and the music on the radio tended to be Western pop music, except for a few cabs and restaurants.Where was the national costume, except as a quaint curiosity aimed at British tourists, who, from what my friend and I could see, knew and cared little about Hellenic culture and history? We saw Greek dancers during the week but they were laughed at, and all those old widow women in black I remember from Corfu in 1993, where were they? Dead and gone, that's where, and replaced by tourists whose fat lives and influence are slowly poisoning the island. May the curse of Babel strike all their tongues till they can only say baa baa, say I.

I can't remember who is depicted in that icon but it was his feast day.

On Sunday morning my companion and I went to Divine Service in Argostoli. Just a priest and two cantors, and someone to ring the bell. As parochial, and simple and utterly honest as one could wish, with a natural, seamless quality and a timeless ethos that seemed to transcend the locale and the people (I suppose that just means "catholicity" in a round about way), as though we really were praying in the Spirit and the beauty of holiness, and yet faithful to Tradition as a guide rather than a rule. No rubricism here! Not one of the women covered their heads, as I have seen among the Greeks in London, which I must admit I find irritating. And before you start about such things as slavery being sanctioned by St Paul, let me ask at what point do we cease dispensing with the commands of Scripture as being out of date? Is it at the point of complete negation? Because it seems to me that such things as head covering for women are not as trivial as they seem, and the decline in this godly discipline came about not by ecclesiastical reform but by the ineluctable tide of a culture that long ago dispensed with Christianity; the very tides that brought us multiculturalism and the dogma of equality. Anyway, to return to Mare Nostrum, my friend and I left the church with the Antidoron, and went to the airport.

Another view of Ithaka...

Kefalonia and Ithaka are indeed beautiful but they are becoming increasingly like Tenerife and any number of Mediterranean "little Britains." This is shameful. Just like my companion's comment about building a tunnel through Ithaka. What an abominable notion! The most regrettable irony of Globalisation is that the bigger, cleaner, and more advanced things become, the smaller, dirtier and more backwards we become. It is painful to see the Kefalonians subsisting on the sale of tawdry junk to the Golightly's of this world, without, it seems, any moral or intellectual advancement in the buyers. Why go to Greece to burn on a sunbed when you can do that quite easily at home? And why would you do that in the first place? Why would you go to a foreign country and expect the locals to speak your language? Is there any place on earth where reactionary back numbers like me can go without having to put up with the bloody English? The locals all liked me, of course! Vivi, Sofia, Angela, Constas, the lady from La Gondola in Argostoli whose name I can't remember...they all encouraged and corrected my Greek, and were visibly delighted when I said that we shared the same catholick and apostolick faith. I was embraced on Sunday morning when I recited the Trisagion for two of the maids in my hotel who had missed church! I like to think that my companion and I left an impression of the English abroad unlike the others who go simply to drink lager, tan, buy junk and speak English everywhere.

The next time I go, if I go at all, it will, God willing, be in the winter, when there are no tourists. Hopefully to see Theophany.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Isles, Part II...

The most complete map of Ithaka I could find in Google Images. The island has an area of about 38 square miles, and is mostly mountainous. For me it remains the jewel in my memory of Greece. It is a paradise.

The second part of my account of my personal Itinerarium to the Ionian Isles.

We left Kathara at 2 o'clock and drove down the mountains along the coast. Along isolated, little-used country roads with few anti-crash barriers, it was not encouraging to see a rusted car wreck, overgrown with weeds, over a gorge outside Agios Ioannis. Our tour guide conspicuously did not point this out to us, neither did she say that there are, in fact, no hospitals on Ithaka. I told my companion this, who chose before we set off to give me the window seat. Presently we came to Stavros, and I was desirous to see the church again, but the coach didn't stop so "Mrs Pastry" (I wish I could remember her real name) told us that we would stop in the town on the way back. Through a countryside rich with an abundance of olive groves, cypresses, almond trees in blossom and wild flowers, we went on our way until we could see the sea on the other side of the island, washing the shores of Kioni. At Kioni the coach stopped at the top of the town because the roads were too narrow for him to go further downhill, so we had a pleasant walk past many a tended garden to the seafront. We had a lunch of seafood linguine and local wine in a charming little restaurant by a stone beach with a spectacular view of the sheltered bay, where the harbourage was good. A man was snorkeling in the bay. Our waiter told us that he was 80 years old and had been doing so for many years! It was here that my companion came up with our tour guide's nickname. We were both amazed that on such a hot day this plump lady could polish off two generous meat pies in ten minutes; hence the eponymous "Mrs Pastry."

We went back uphill to the coach after lunch, passing another one of those little green lizards basking on a flint wall covered with dry olive leaves. It soon disappeared. The coach then took us back to Stavros, where we had precious little time to explore. My companion and I went into the church of St Joachim the Ithakan, whose silver reliquary is decorated with precious stones. We did obeisance to him and then went to a cafe to sample some of the home-made ice cream. I tell you, when you have the real thing, you can no longer stomach shop-bought stuff. Or I can't.

I told you it was a ghastly tour...

We were summoned to the coach at last, and that was the end of our tour of Ithaka. By this time it was after 4 o'clock. Naturally, I wanted to see more of the island but for that we would need a hire car, and my friend (the only one of us who can drive) was put off first by everything on the wrong side, and the rusted old car confirmed his fear that hiring a car would lead to disaster. We saw goats running in the hills on the way back to Aetos but I fell asleep on the coach in Kefalonia and woke up as we reached Argostoli. It was a taxing day. I just wish I could have done a bit more walking. There is more to trees, as Treebeard can tell you, than the sight of them from a coach, and those splendid hills are full of them.

A ruined Venetian lighthouse north west of Fiscardo. On the left is the new one.

On Thursday we were picked up by another coach, and another tour guide; this time to take us on a boat tour of the island. We drove again through the fertile Omala valley, this time to the port of Agia Effimia, south east of Sami, where we boarded the "Romantika II," a cruiser. We sailed to Fiscardo, a town whose name is derived from Kefalonia's almost forgotten Norman heritage. It was Robert Guiscard, the man who destroyed Byzantine rite and rule in southern Italy, who died there in 1085. I found an Icon shop in Fiscardo, from which I bought an Icon of the Crucifixion, hand-written (graphia) in egg tempera and gold on wood. I was hard-pressed to find decent Icons in Kefalonia. Most of them were cheap lithographs aimed at tourists, the vast majority of them depicting the island's patron saint, St Gerasimos. We left Fiscardo and sailed north and west around the tip of the island. The sea became "rough," in the estimation of the boat's captain, and we had to abandon our aim of reaching Assos (which boasts one of the most beautiful beaches in the world) and go to a beach on northern Ithaka instead, which was a disappointment to say the least. I suppose it was another case of "health and safety" gone mad. If the captain thought that that was rough he should try the Irish Sea between Scotland and Belfast when everyone on board is sick! Otherwise I can think of nothing more to say about this mostly-wasted day. Standing at the prow of the boat as the white spray gushed up, and the contrary winds blew, was exhilarating, and the captain's son was nice to look at, but this day out (my companion's idea) was uneventful, and a lot of waiting around. I shan't be doing that again.

The katholikon of Agios Gerasimos. I did not take pictures here. I found this on the Greek Wikipedia entry for the monastery.

On Friday morning my friend and I went to Argostoli, he to do his own thing (whatever that may have been), I to catch the 10:30 bus to Agios Gerasimos, the most prestigious monastery and the centre of religious life on Kefalonia. Agios Gerasimos is in the midst of the Omala Valley, in the foothills of Mount Ainos. It was founded by St Gerasimos (1509-1579), of the dispossessed Byzantine Notaras family, in circa 1560/61. Much of the monastery, including the katholikon, was destroyed in the devastating Ionian Earthquake of 1953. The katholikon was rebuilt soon after but I thought was rather ugly, too modern and "light" for my taste (I prefer dim churches to churches where you can see all the dirt, even if there's none). The small conventual church of the Panayia, with its impressive Iconostasis was far more welcome. It is here that the relics of St Gerasimos himself are interred in a silver casket, on which images from his life, including his own falling asleep, are carved with considerable skill. I bought a prayer rope from a nun in the narthex of this church, and went in, and out. I walked through one of the monastery's many gardens, past wells dug by St Gerasimos himself; past the nuns in straw hats with their watering cans and baskets who paid me no heed as they tended the shrubs and flowers that grew there in holiness.

Presently the bells of the campanile rang out and I turned to see people going into the church of the Panayia, so I went back. The priest who had been sat outside with his prayer rope had put on his Epitrachelion and began a chant which I interpreted in my mind (based on frequent repetition of "Yerasimon," and "anesti") as a kontakion in honour of the saint, as the reliquary was opened for veneration. The priest had one key to the reliquary, an elderly nun (the abbess?) had another. St Gerasimos was there in the flesh, incorrupt, beneath a red pall embroidered with gold. There was quite a queue to venerate the relics. Upon reaching the front, I presented the nun with my newly-purchased prayer rope, which she took and crossed three times over the body of the saint and gave back into my hand. I then kissed her hand and venerated the saint, and left. I drew water from the well to quench my thirst and turned past the katholikon, down the steps to the roadside. The bus wasn't scheduled to return until 2:30pm, and I think the time then was about midday, so I turned left and walked to the Robola Winery.

Icons from St Spyridon, Argostoli. This photo was taken on Monday, if I remember rightly.

The Robola Winery is about half a mile from Agios Gerasimos, and all uphill. I passed another Kandylakia on the way, a welcome reminder to the Greeks, and to tourists like me, even if they bewilder the rest of the world. I paused, crossed myself and thought of Christian as he stood before the Cross as the burden fell from his back, and began to tumble. I carried on. There isn't much to see at the Robola Winery but I would recommend "San Gerasimo" (described there as the "full expression" of the Robola grape, which grows high on the slopes of Mount Ainos where there is less rain, and more sunshine). I wondered why they called it "San Gerasimo," rather than "Agios Gerasimos," but then I thought that perhaps it was easier to pronounce. Who knows.

End of Part II.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Isles, Part I...

Lord Byron, most famous of Philhellenes, in Greek costume at the time of the Greek War of Independence. Byron landed at Kefalonia in 1823 with money, medicine and arms for the Greeks in their struggle against the Turks.

As promised, an account of my trip to the Ionian Islands, part I.

I went with a companion this time, that is someone who could stand my company, to Kefalonia. We arrived on Sunday 3rd July (new style) at around 2 o'clock local time and went to our hotel in Lassi. Tired from the flight and unused to the heat, we decided to stay in the village, have some lunch, and buy some tea and milk for our room, and generally dossed around. We went to a cocktail bar in the evening called Trenti's which has a beautiful terrace looking west over the bay. It was a delight to watch the Sun go down beyond the hills as the stars kindled overhead, and I was anxious to try the bar's signature cocktail again, which I remembered from last year: a mixture of Vodka, Passoa, orange and pineapple juice. Four of those on a hot evening was quite enough!

On Monday my companion and I went to Argostoli, the island's capital. We went first to the quayside where the local fishers process the morning's catch because last year I learned that Caretta caretta, the only species of sea turtle native to the Mediterranean, feed there every morning on the fishy offal thrown overboard by the fishermen. At first, as we walked along the quay, we saw nothing, then suddenly Look! my friend pulled at my sleeve as a turtle came to the surface of the water for a puff of air and swam back down again. We followed her (I assumed it was female) as she swam by the boats, and she was joined by another, as well as many a school of small fish. Other than the fishermen, and two young ladies who were clearly conservationists, my friend and I were entirely alone. Where were the tourists, I wondered? Looking for tourist shops, or other tourists? How strange that here was a local miracle and my friend and I were alone. It was the same last year. We watched the turtles for about twenty minutes as they fed (and fought!) until we were conscious that the morning sun grew too hot for our fair skin and we decided to get our own breakfast.

St Spyridon's, Argostoli.

We broke our fast at one of the restaurants in the town square. I had toast with local marmalade, a savoury bun with sesame, drizzled with thyme honey, Greek coffee and peach juice. My friend had sausages and fried eggs with a kind of butter sauce, and tea. We sat talking for an hour in the shade of the plane trees of the square, ordered more coffee, when my friend said that there was a Muslim woman crossing the square. I said: "are you sure it's not a nun on her way to the bus station?" "See for yourself," said he. Well, I was aghast! Coming towards us was a young woman in a white hijab pushing a pram. Here, in heavily-Christian provincial Greece, was an infidel in our midst. I noticed that the locals stared at her in an openly unfriendly way. I didn't blame them, although I felt rather sorry for the woman, and wondered where her husband was. I also wondered what on earth she was doing there. Was she on holiday, like my friend and me? If so, what did she expect to see or find in Greece? There are no mosques, and, unlike here in England, the local shops won't sell halal meat. I thought then that it would do her the world of good to visit any of the local churches. So, I expect, did the Greeks.

On Tuesday my companion and I took the ferry from Argostoli to Lixouri, on the west side of the gulf of Argostoli. Unless I am quite mistaken, there isn't much to see in Lixouri other than the same junk shops we saw in Argostoli but we did visit the Monastery of Kipoureon, the residence of one elderly monk. A char woman sitting outside the katholikon let us wander about for a bit but we became bored and soon left, returning by ferry to Argostoli for lunch. Walking through the trees in a side street to avoid the sun I spotted a small green lizard, which soon disappeared into some foliage. My friend, who didn't actually see it, guessed it to have been a species of rock lizard.

The only cloud we saw that day. Aetos is to the right of this promontory.

On the morning of Wednesday we were picked up outside the hotel by a coach to take us to the legendary Kingdom of Ithaka on a ghastly one-day tour. We were driven through the Omala valley, brimming with orchards and vineyards, through winding mountainside roads to the seaside town of Sami, from which the ferry took us to Ithaka. It might have been a combination of slight hangover, the heat of the mid-morning Sun and the ceaseless up-down motion of the Ionian waves, but I felt rather sick and, unlike last year, did not go out to the deck to view Odysseus' antient home from a distance but sat in the shade with a bottle of water, hoping that I would not throw up. I didn't. We landed at Aetos at just after 10 o'clock, from which the coach took us by a narrow coastal road to the island's capital at Vathy for a two hour stop. It was a long and circuitous route, and my companion, uneasy at the sharp turns along the way, said that the EU might well have built a tunnel from one end to the other. I do not share this view, and think that, in addition to corrupting the natural beauty of the island, a tunnel would totally negate the worth of the journey (or pilgrimage); something I can only compare to the cheap, evanescent thrill a gambler feels at winning the lottery.

Vathy has a museum of, mostly broken, Classical artifacts. I saw it last year but I went in for my companion's sake. We then went into the church of Christ the Saviour, whose 15th century Iconostasis was miraculously preserved in the cataclysmic earthquake of 1953. A priest saw my companion and I cross ourselves outside the church as we went in but said nothing. Conscious of the time, my companion and I hastily crossed the town to refresh ourselves at a cafe with sorbet and water, whereupon we returned to the coach to move on. We went by another coastal route into the mountains, passing a roadside shrine, or Kandylakia, on the way. The shores outside Vathy were as I imagined the pearly strands of Alqualondë at the noontide of Valinor; as pure and clear as if I looked upon their first Creation, and flowing from green and turquoise shallows into a sapphire sea. O, the paucity of mere words! Presently we came by steep and winding roads to the Monastery of Kathara, a skete overlooking the bay of Vathy. "Mrs Pastry" (my companion's nickname for the plump tour guide with the comical voice) spent the forty five minutes there talking to another char woman, dressed head to foot in black (a rare sight in modern Greece and Spain). As in the other churches I had seen, my companion and I were greeted by the Byzantine double-headed eagle as we went in, and I prayed for a return of the Emperor before the Icon of Sts Constantine and Helena. As I had done last year, I climbed to the top of the belfry there and looked out to the sea. It was a hot, dusty day so we didn't stay up there for long but the belfry there, standing over a thousand feet above the sea, boasts a panoramic view of the south of Ithaka. Below us to the south we could see clearly the islet in the bay, whose name I can't remember, upon which was built a church and where, on Theophany Even, the sea is blessed using the old Greek rite. I'd like to see that.

End of Part I.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Away again...

I have been away again to the Ionian Islands. Comments awaiting moderation since Sunday last have now been published. A friend suggested that I might go to be Baptised by the Greeks, in Greece. The thought had crossed my mind but something held me back. More on that when I write an account of my trip. I did, however, in token of Baptism, buy an Icon (not a lithographic print on plywood) of Christ's Baptism in the Jordan in a monastery. It now hangs in my bedroom, pride of place, where that old Spanish crucifix (the one I gave away) once was.

Now to catch up on everything...

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A response to Fr Anthony...

This was going to be a comment on Fr Anthony Chadwick's blog on his latest post but it has grown in the telling and was too bulky to be a mere comment.

Tolkien shared your sympathy for Germany too, father, and said that he had a bitter personal feud during the War against Hitler himself, who bastardised that "noble Germanic spirit." But I have to say there is something dark and aggressive about Germany, and I don't just mean the Nazis. Germany has been an aggressive power since the 1860's, first of all as a pan-German, pietist Protestant nation under Bismarck; then as the imperial power we fought against during the Great War; then as the libertine, elitist, anything-goes Weimar Republic, whose degenerate policies included pioneering in Jewish psycho-sexual innovation (proto-transsexual surgery, legalisation of sodomy, &c); then along comes Hitler and revives a humiliated country, and says things about various things that rather a lot of people then thought. Just as Henry VIII's break with Rome hardly "invented" the spirit of national pride that made it so successful, Hitler's policies were not exactly imposed on an unwilling people (except Jews, who were the greatest beneficiaries of the Weimar Republic). Unfortunately, mobs, crowds, rallies of angry people...well, you know where I'm going.

And we're seeing this to-day. The European Union is a socialist institution. We see this most clearly in policies such as the expansion into poverty-stricken former Communist countries and having to bail out countries like Greece, who, unlike we British, won't work more than thirty-two hours a week. And with the expansion, together with the principle of "free movement," comes mass immigration. Then comes the inevitable spiraling down of wages because a Polish builder (for example) is willing to work longer hours than a British builder, and for much less money. How is this not going to cause resentment among the native people? And that's only the immigrants that work! My mother has seen Romanian men on Eltham High Street who are inebriated bums going through bins; unemployed, unwanted and a waste of space! What right do they have to be here? And if they do have a "right," which clearly trumps the rights of the British people, what duties do they have to their host nation? Because these drunken bums clearly don't want to learn English...

And this resentment, we're told by the metropolitan elite, is gratuitous xenophobia and racism. Remember when Gordon Brown called Gillian Duffy a "bigoted woman" for raising genuine concerns about immigration? That's the kind of sneering condescension people like me face to-day. When a legitimate concern is dismissed as a phobia then the accuser can simply avoid answering the question and dismiss his opponent as an ignorant yokel. What a sham!

And as for Mrs Merkel, another champagne socialist, her utterly daft policy of open doors is going to destroy Europe. Perhaps she thought that an open-door policy would provide a counter to Germany's appalling record of aggression since the 1860's, but, in reality, by destroying the social fabric of Europe, she will have added to that record. She will go down in history as worse, much worse, than Hitler. And she is not alone in championing this self-destruction. There are many MPs in the British Parliament, such as Yvette Cooper and the late Jo Cox who, out of misplaced compassion and moral superiority (or cowardice), are our silent killers. And we vote for them (well, I don't)! And since the candidates who stand before us at general elections are pre-selected by closed committees of elitists absolutely loyal to the "party line," which, since the 1990's, has been pan-Blairism across the political parties (with, from what I can see, similar politics practiced by the political establishments on the continent), and totally uninterested in their constituents, the electorate might as well just be incidental to the whole process. It boils down to politicians seeking the votes of real people whose real opinions and concerns they secretly despise.

But coming back to the open-door policy, to where does this inevitably lead? In twenty years I can see the political class and the working class evolving into the Inner Party and the Proles; the Inner Party being the "democratically elected" leaders, safely cordoned off from the Proles by body guards, heavily armed police, and living in separate communes (true communards), riddled with a standard of living not shared by most, and debating policies in parliament that really only affect them because the Proles have descended into poverty, tribalism, crime, disorder, ignorance and idleness. I imagine sectarian conflict between the Sharia communities of Muslims, and football hooligans. I imagine car bombs, demolition of churches (there would still be cathedrals but these will be for the Inner Party, who come together at certain times for pagan, humanistic services orchestrated by people who dress like Christian ministers, but really aren't). I imagine abortions taking place on street corners. I imagine sex in public places. I imagine waste being collected once a month, with rats and foxes prowling the streets by day. I imagine grim, grey high rise flats that stink of stale urine and cheap lager. I imagine Christ's Name openly scorned. I imagine mass surveillance and identity cards. I imagine toxic fumes rising from slag heaps. I imagine corpses being left to rot. I imagine stabbings and shootings in broad daylight. I imagine blood feuds. It will be Hell.

But there'll still be freedom, and the rule of law, and the glories of a multi-racial, tolerant and diverse society. There'll still be Victory gin, and month-old razor blades. Doubleplus good, eh!

To return to the unhappy present, Fr Anthony raises concerns about nationalism and a rise in far-right politics, racism and so on. I must say I'm not as concerned about that myself. This sort of thing happens when the Left is in charge. The real beast is the Left itself. I can't remember who said it but in Britain there is an inch of difference between the two political parties, and it is in that inch that we all live. Since the Restoration of 1660 Britain has enjoyed a curious liberty, precariously in the balance. George Orwell mentions something like this in his essay The Lion and The Unicorn, where you set up the Nazi Storm Trooper against the hanging judge, a figure almost as savage but as old as the hills and part of the fabric of the unwritten constitution. Of course, that figure no longer exists and in his place has appeared an armed police force, and a detached political class overwhelmingly on the Left, even when they sit on the Right of the Commons chamber. "Compromise" is the word I'm searching for, and there is absolutely no compromise to-day. It is within the parameters of compromise that we enjoy liberty. If there is no compromise, whether to the Right or Left, then one side will be in the ascendancy and the other will be brimming below the surface, ready to erupt at something completely innocuous.

Something needs to change. We're seeing some kind of change in Britain at the moment, but whether for the better remains to be seen. As for change on the continent, what with Austrian elections being re-run for fear of electoral fraud and the rise in far-right nationalism, well...God grant that we can say: "that's no longer our concern."

Friday, 1 July 2016

The wilderness of this world...

G.B.Smith (second from the left at the back), a childhood friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and member of the Tea Club and Barovian Society, with other soldiers in the 19th Lancashire Fusiliers. All died during the War.

Let us commit to the LORD the most heroic and Christian men, admirable templates for Tolkien's "Samwise Gamgee," who made the ultimate sacrifice one hundred years ago at the Somme; a battle so unutterably tragic and wasteful that I, who have never seen bloodshed, can scarce conceive of it. I chose the title in deference to Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, a work known to most men of that time, many of whom tried to reconcile it with what they saw around them.
"I am going to my Father's, and though with great difficulty I have got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who will now be my rewarder. When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the river-side, into which as he went, he said, Death, where is thy sting? And as he went down deeper, he said, Grave, where is thy victory? So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side."
Eternal rest grant unto them, O LORD, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.