After the Election

It’s two weeks tomorrow since the UK General Election which saw Theresa May’s hopes of domination crumble into dust. Today was a shorter than short State Opening of Parliament with the Queen in her Ascot gear, eschewing the robes and crown.

She delivered a speech shorn of some of the nastiest proposals by the Tory party, though Brexit dominated and although some people are making hopeful noises that it may not, in the end, happen, I’m not holding my breath.

It was the defeat of Mrs May’s dreams that my cousin Russell and I celebrated on 9th June, a day we had planned to spend far from news and celebrating Tory voters, hoping walking and nature would be a balm to our European, Green voting souls. i have already written of our gleeful grins, of our alcohol consumption that lunchtime during a scrumptious meal where we toasted the many, not the few, but I have not got around to posting pictures.

This first might give you an idea of our route.

Give me a sign

On the other hand, it may not. Continue reading

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The Many, Not the Few

In today's Guardian, I learned that “Donald Trump has told Theresa May in a phone call he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming.”

What a relief. Cancel the banquets, stand down the riot police, put the placards away. Business as usual, as Theresa May might say. Though how much longer her words will have an audience wider than her nearest and dearest is a subject bookmakers are assessing as I write.

Having held an election she did she was not going to have, to get an endorsement for hard Brexit and to do things she has not deemed the electorate sufficiently grown up to be told, Mrs May finds herself with a reduced number of Tory MPs, yet bizarrely seems to think that she can go on being PM nod acting as though the country has not just given two fingers to her plans for continued austerity and a hostile relationship with the rest of the EU.

The Tories like to paint themselves as the fiscally responsible party. I don't know how much it costs to hold a General Election, but it's obviously more than a few quid. Now the rumours are we could have another before the end of the year. Couldn't we spend the money on something else, the NHS springs to mind, and just ditch the right wing, nationalist agenda and revert to being annoying members of the EU?

For all I know, that is exactly what is happening. I am at das Boot for few days, listening to birds, not the news, planning an early night with MasterB who has already commandeered the bed. I thought he wanted to go out a little while ago, so put on an old sweat shirt jacket and discovered the mice have used most of the right pocket for nest making. I wondered where the soft green stuff had come from. We spent about five minutes ashore before he headed back to das Boot. I am hoping this will not herald a disturbed night.

It's a beautiful evening. No one else is here. We have the skies, the water and the birdsong to ourselves. The cuckoo has just stopped calling; swifts and swallows skim the water eating insects. The bats are flying by the trees.

On Friday I met my cousin Russell for a walk in the countryside near his home in Hampshire. I have been meaning to post pictures ever since. We have both been voting Green for the last I don't know how long, and that discovery of shared beliefs has helped underpin our new relationship as older adults. It also helps that he is now vegetarian, as are his wife and their two children. We were both fairly glum about the election when we arranged to meet a few weeks back, but just as the mice have nibbled at my pocket, so Jeremy Corbyn has nibbled away at the expected Tory landslide, so now we have a hung parliament. It's a strange thing to celebrate, but we are. My liver is going to rebel at some point soon.

Our grins when we met on the station platform were wider than those of a wide mouthed toad. We hugged each other and decided that lunch would be a celebratory feast, even though we were in a part of the country where as Russell put it a bit too graphically, they'd vote for a turd if it was painted blue.

And feast we had. The chef may have been Tory, I don't know, but s/he made a mean lunch. A lunch we enjoyed after several miles of green and luscious countryside as we discussed the election and its result.

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Laughter, the Best Medicine

This time tomorrow the polls will be about to close, and the country’s fate will be sealed for five years. Pray god it’s not a Tory landslide. Mrs May has not had a good election campaign, but while television is required to be balanced in its reporting, newspapers are not. The headlines of the Mail and the Express make me wonder if we are on the same planet, let alone if we have been listening to the same speeches or reading the same manifestos.

On the other side of the pond, in the wake of the terrorist attack at London Bridge, that great savant Mr Trump has been making unwarranted accusations against our elected London mayor, Sadiq Khan. Trump seems to be under the impression that Sadiq Khan is a threat to democracy. I’d say the boot is on the other foot.

Having been pretty uninspired by the leaders of the three main parties at the start of the election campaign, I am surprised to find myself increasingly impressed by Jeremy Corbyn. I have to pinch myself every now and then as this seems so unlikely.  I am hoping that the votes for the Lib Dems, Labour and Greens will be enough to halt the Maybot in her tracks, or at least severely hobble her. If David Davies and IDS lose their seats, I may have to do a conga around Parliament Square. Don’t hold your breath.

If Friday finds us with a Tory majority and a strong opposition, I may still open the champagne. Opposition is vital in any democracy, and Theresa May’s calls for unity fail to disguise the fact that she would prefer a weak opposition, or preferably no opposition at all. This is a frightening prospect in any country, and her further statements that human rights could be suspended in certain circumstances should strike fear in the hearts of anyone who thinks even for a moment what that implies.

But May’s stance on human rights has always been shaky. So devout Tories as well as others who think she is a *strong* leader, offering a *stable* government, may not bother to consider the implications. Perhaps if they were to find themselves imprisoned without trial, waterboarded, deprived of their citizenship or deported without explanation, they might think otherwise. A lack of imagination is as dangerous as a lack of empathy. Continue reading

Play For Today

My parents weren’t theatre goers. They had neither time nor money, though my father attended music concerts in his youth, and as a pupil midwife my mother enjoyed London’s West End theatres courtesy of free tickets left at the nurses’ home. I got the bug for watching plays via the BBC. There used to a programme called Play For Today. Every week, on Thursday night, I think, there was a new play written for television by writers that included Dennis Potter among others. It was magic. My sister loved the Regents Park open air theatre and introduced me to that, and I became a supporter of my local theatre in Guildford, where five minutes before curtain up for 50p I could get a seat in the house.

Unsurprisingly, in London theatre has been a constant since I moved here.

My friend Tony and I went to see Twelfth Night last night at the Globe. Last year we were blown away by Emma Rice’s Bollywood Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as this is to be her final season at the Globe, we wanted to see Twelfth Night as she has directed it too. I bought tickets as soon as they became available and have been really looking forward to this production.

Most of the audience were enraptured. We less so. After Malovolio had blown his whistle for the sixth time, I wanted to leap on the stage and take it away from her (a female actor is playing the part of the male steward, whereas up river at the National, a female actor is playing Malvolia, the steward’s gender having been changed).

It was a less than subtle production. Emma Rice seemed to have decided to throw everything at this one, and for me it was a case of less would have been more. There were bits I loved; the shipwreck, Antonio rowing through the groundlings in his boat Bewitched, some of the music. There was a lot of music. At one point in Act I, we wondered if the play had been turned into a musical. Twelfth Night is a light, frothy sort of play, to my mind it didn’t need, or deserve, to be whipped up further and half a ton of cherries put on the top.

It’s part of the Globe’s 2017 Summer of Love season. Ironic in more ways than one, but with the upcoming general election on my mind, it’s the disunity on painful display across my country, the distinct lack of love among our separate parts that seems most obvious this summer. The talk is all of a Tory landslide, Labour wiped out, Theresa May measuring up for new curtains at Number 10 and settling in for a long stay. Some of her admirers speak of her as the new Margaret Thatcher, a divisive politician to the power of n, and although Mrs May says she is no Margaret Thatcher, her constant harping on about unity while spelling out policies that obviously divide, punish the metropolitan communities who so stubbornly don’t vote Tory, and reward the Home Counties and shires who do, reminds me of Thatcher’s little speech when she quoted St Francis.

But for those of us who remember the days of Thatcher as leader, and I do with a shudder, we know that unity was the last thing she achieved. My country was riven. There were riots across the country. Greed and ostentatious wealth were praised, poverty was obviously the fault of not believing in Mrs T strongly enough, of being feckless enough to think the weak and the vulnerable were deserving of respect and dignity, of working in the public sector. Continue reading