OK, so it’s actually a T-shirted skeleton sitting waiting patiently in a van parked in our street rather than an actual corpse in a car, but you get the idea – this one even has its own name badge! 🙂
For this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday Linda has asked us to write about the subject of the last piece of mail we received.
Hmmm… well, I suppose I don’t actually get much hard copy mail sent through the post any more, so much comes in electronically these days, either via email or easily accessed through my online digital accounts. Bank statements are easily downloadable as necessary, and faraway friends tend to keep in touch via mobile instant phone messaging or email rather than by snail mail. Birthday cards and Christmas cards still generally come by post, but of course that’s only once a year.
However the other day I actually received a proper paper parcel in the post, sent out from our local hospital including a letter informing me of the date and time of my forthcoming appointment for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy in the next couple of weeks. Also enclosed was a lot of printed information and instructions as to what to eat for the few days leading up to my appointment and what to expect on the day – oh, and a package of very powerful laxative to start taking the night before to clear out my digestive system… oh joy!
I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to the actual procedure, but I have to admit I’m really looking forward to finding out what’s wrong with my errrant digestive system – it’s so hard not to worry that it might be something serious. I tell myself I’m sure I’ll be fine, it’ll be nothing concerning, and try to talk myself down from all this fretting. But I also know that sometimes people do get sick out of nowhere – I have a family history of bowel cancer, so I’ve seen at first hand how people can seem to be fine one minute, and then sadly they’re not…
Hopefully all will turn out to be well and it’s just my age, or an occupational hazard of menopause, or something equally routine and ordinary that I can fix simply enough by eating differently – well, eating better, to be honest – but I suppose it’s human nature that until we know different, our health worries are inevitably just that – an unavoidable worry… 🙂
‘Society bristles with enigmas which look hard to solve. It is a perfect maze of intrigue.’ Honore de Balzac
Brexit is certainly an enigma, a perfect maze of intrigue, ostensibly growing more and more disastrous every day… What a mess, even after all this time there is still no clarity on what the country wants, and at this point I wish we could just take back control once and for all and revoke Article 50 forever… please!
The latest overture in our ongoing bloody awful Bexit brou-ha-ha comes courtesy of the intervention of Speaker of the House John Bercow, who has just stated (quite correctly) that according to Parliamentary rules, having already had her Brexit deal voted down twice Theresa May cannot now take her current motion back to the House without first making substantial changes to the terms.
My understanding is that it was Labour MP Angla Eagle who initially reminded the Speaker that buried deep (page 397) in the Commons Rule book sits the statement that ‘A motion or an amendment which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.’
I say ‘overture’ because although we may only be 10 days away from our legally agreed exit from the European Union, this now is only the beginning of Parliament finally (hopefully) being treated fairly and honourably by a Government that has to date ignored and bullied and chided and refused to listen to reason to anything other than their own blinkered viewpoint.
It seems clear to me that to date Mrs May had deliberately run down the clock on Brexit in the hope that the threat of a No Deal (or alternatively a long extension to the process) would inevitably force MPs to accept her deal ‘or else’. But she simply cannot continue speaking to the Members of the House of Commons as if they are behaving like recalcitrant teenagers objecting to her matriarchal authority and expect them to toe the line just because she says so…
So it seems the saga of Theresa May’s makeshift making-it-up-as-she-goes-along Brexit mayhem is set to continue unabated… sigh!
Since Parliamentary democracy has been televised live, I’ve got used to watching how the House of Commons debate and vote on issues, and the sheer anachronistic physicality of it all never ceases to amaze me. In a modern world where we can all use technology to assist us in simplifying so many labourious or repetitive daily tasks, we still rely in Parliament on people – on our politicians – actually getting up and voting with their feet.
After an issue has been thoroughly debated – usually quite vociferously – in the Chamber, the Speaker of the House asks for the Members of Parliament sitting in the House to vote ‘aye’ or ‘no’ on the matter. And if there is no clear difference in the decibel level between the two, the Speaker shouts ‘Division!’ and the whole Chamber clears to allow individuals to pass through one of two lobbies to cast their vote.
The Division Bell rings, and not only those present in the chamber but all MPs present in the building will drop whatever they are doing to rush to the particular lobby of their choice to vote. If they are not present, they do not get to vote, and some MPs actively choose to abstain from voting (for whatever reason). Obviously the bigger the issue (like with the current Brexit votes) the more MPs are present for each vote, and as each motion requires the same procedure, with votes often occurring one after the other in straight succession, there can be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and milling around waiting.
Once the MPs have voted, everyone returns to the Chamber awaiting the result, where after the votes are physically count one of the four ‘tellers’ of the House stand at the front and read out the total numbers of ‘ayes’ and ‘noes’ for that vote. The Speaker of the House then repeats these out loud for the benefit of everyone, and states whether the ‘ayes’ or the ‘noes’ have it, before the results are formally recorded for posterity.
I suppose as well as tradition, there are very good reasons for having one vote for one MP in person – there can be no confusion, no obfuscation, and an indisputable transparency of process that cannot be hijacked or fiddled about with. We all know – and often see – how each MP votes on each motion, and who defies the Whip (and sometimes even resigns their Cabinet post) to vote with their concsience rather than along party lines.
And as we currently have a political party Government in power without a majority of MPs to necessarily vote in their favour, these individual votes have a far greater signifiance than when a party is in Government with a clear majority across the House. There is often no foregone conclusion, and so the actual voting procedure is no longer just a basic formality of Parliamentary process.
The fact of the Government having to rely on every individual vote makes it all the more uncertain as to the result of each motion, which may be proving exteremely frustrating for Theresa May at the moment but is democratically just for the country as a whole. The country seems to be as divided now on the question of Brexit as it was three years ago, and this division is inevitably showing within the House of Commons too.
To the rest of the world it looks bad, laughable and incompetent even, but the current Parliamentary stalemate over Brexit is nevertheless giving an accurate political reflection of where we all are right now as a country – a thoroughly disunited kingdom – so whether we like it or not, it shows us all clearly that our democractic process is actually working…
This week’s provocative question asks: “When you learn about highly regarded artists being accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, especially with minors, can you separate the artists from their art, or would you refuse to listen to, watch, or read the artists’ works?”
Hmmm… Well, to be honest I’m not a huge Michael Jackson fan and there are many other artists with music similar enough to R Kelly, so I’m not likely to listen to their music any more or less than I have done so far.
But back in the day in the glam-rock seventies I absolutely loved Gary Glitter with his showy sparkly arrogance on stage, asking if I wanted to be in his gang… and I sang along at the top of my voice with all my young teenage peers, starry eyed and caught up in the moment. But now it just feels creepy, considering his predeliction for young vietnamese kids, and so it seems in hindsight I can’t separate the artist from the art and no, I don’t listen to him any more, not even for the sake of nostalgia.
And as well as musicians, another famous publicly-shamed sexually-abusive celebrity of my innocent youth was Jimmy Saville of ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ TV fame, where for years the ‘lucky’ kids for whom he fixed their particular dream come true were privileged to sit on his lap live on air… Again, just too creepy to think about these days…
But of course it’s not only money-laden celebrities who take advantage of the trusting dollar/pound-sign blinkers placed over the eyes of both parents and children, but also certain members of the Catholic Church. The sheer arrogance of power, whether financial or religious, creates a trust imbalance that seems to allow certain predatory types to behave atrociously and apparently expect to get away with it, whether through physical or sexual abuse of children in their charge.
So to take the question a step further from considering only musical artists or celebrities, does the dubious historical action of the Catholic Church relating to allegations of child abuse affect the way I consider the Catholic religion? Absolutely – my grandmother and her younger siblings were brought up between the two wars in several orphanages run by the Catholic Church, and were treated cruelly enough by the nuns that as adults they all refused to attend church, and this experiential distrust has been passed down the generations.
Additionally, my husband was also brought up in the Catholic faith, and during the 1980s attended a prestigious private fee-paying boarding school in the Highlands of Scotland run by Benedictine monks in an actual abbey setting. Yet only a few years ago we had two policemen at our door asking my husband for a statement about his time at that school, as his second-year house-master has been accused of the sexual abuse of one of my husband’s class-mates. Sadly this is not a unique allegation, and an entire TV documentary was made at that time relating to the school (and monks) in question.
So can I separate the church from the child abuse? Nope, not then, not now, and not ever. Had the church dealt with any and all accurations of abuse openly and justly, then fair enough. But instead offenders were simply protected in order to protect the good name of the church and quietly moved on elsewhere, ostensibly free to offend again, leaving their vulnerable victims disbelieved and traumatised for the rest of their lives.
But in the longterm it does seem that the abuse of power negates whatever artistic achievements have been made by the offender. Off the top of my head just look at Jimmy Saville here in the UK for example, where there were discussions about him being posthumously stripped of his knighthood (not possible, as the honour dies with him) or the spectacular falling-off-a-cliff careers of Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey in the US… what goes around, comes around, I guess…
To my amusement I’ve heard it said a couple of times recently (but can’t remember by whom) that the UK is currently in line for achieving a Hotel California style Brexit – namely ‘You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!’ 🙂