Monday, 19 November 2018

One pinnacle of credulity to another

All her life she had always been persuaded that she saw what people meant; and the conviction had borne her triumphantly from one pinnacle of credulity to another.

Edith Wharton - Hudson River Bracketed (1929)

May or may not apply, but I sometimes wonder if those inside the political bubble understand those outside. So often bubble dwellers behave as if they have become far too familiar with imposing their own meaning on everything, as if they have mislaid the ability to see what people mean beyond the bubble. 

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Is it worth it?

Every man has somewhere in the back of his head the wreck of a thing which he calls his education.

Stephen Leacock - Literary Lapses (1910)

Saturday, 17 November 2018


I’ve had a busy few days, so no time for Brexit posts. However, from an early stage in the game it has been obvious that Mrs May and her advisers never wished to make a political success of it.

Had they aimed to do so the project would have a less ambiguous and politically problematic name than Brexit. The Norway Approach or the EFTA Option for example.

If we focus on the politics rather than the technicalities of leaving the EU, then it is easy enough to see that a name such as the Norway Approach would be much more difficult to attack that the name Brexit. Whatever the technical difficulties and complexities it would have added an aura of political solidity and achievability. In addition to that it would have provided criteria for success or failure.

Unfortunately the media debate immediately degenerated into numerous stories around supposed difficulties in preventing bureaucrats from fouling up international trade. Apparently Brexit will make it difficult for them to do today what they did yesterday.

Yet getting the narrative right was so simple. It is easy enough to understand why the EU would foul up the narrative but Mrs May and co could have corrected that had she chosen to. But she didn’t and we may as well assume it was deliberate.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Scruton on the beauty of belonging

Last month EPPC published a fascinating essay by Roger Scruton. In a typically insightful manner, Scruton outlines the deep and intimate role of aesthetic understanding in daily life. Certainly not as dry as perhaps it sounds, the whole essay is well worth reading as an antidote the the carelessly functional ugliness we see around us.

Artists in the Christian tradition have been inspired by the New Testament stories, and one story in particular has prompted them to reflect on the nature of beauty and its place in our lives: the story of the Annunciation. In this story we encounter a moment of interaction between the human and the divine, when an angel appears in the most private and protected part of a woman’s home. The light that radiates from the angel falls not only on Mary but on all the objects that surround her, showing the fitness of the woman for her holy task in the order and beauty of her room. The Annunciation by the Dutch master Joos van Cleve (1485–1540) illustrates the point. None of the objects among which Mary sits is purely functional: everything has an edge, an embellishment, a kind of gentle excess. The furnishings are not just accidentally there: they are there because they are also owned, shaped, and cherished. Mary has arranged the room with beauty in mind, so as to be a fit welcome for an angel.

We find the same cherishing of objects in later Dutch interiors, when the secular vision had begun to replace the religious. In an interior by Vermeer we see people set among objects that shine with the light of ownership. They have been brought into the house, so to speak, polished like mirrors, so as to reflect the lives and loves surrounding them. A kind of tenderness radiates from the objects in such paintings, to embrace the viewers and to tell them that they, too, are at home, among these things rubbed smooth by human affection.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Blue jeans

A mother holding her baby and an older woman walk into a cafe. Clearly they are grandmother, mother and baby – three generations taking a coffee break although baby has a bottle of milk from Grandma’s shopping bag. This much is obvious.

Baby’s mother wears blue jeans with fashionable knee rips. Not quite the thing for a young mother but she just about carries it off. Grandma wears blue jeans too, also with fashionable knee rips. A somewhat bony knee peeps out when she sits down. On Grandma they don’t work. Someone gave Grandma a dubious fashion tip - maybe the culprit was Daughter.

To my jaundiced eye it isn’t easy to wear blue jeans unless one is young and tolerably shapely. Convenient and cheap they may be, and that’s why I wore them for years, but on older folk even brand new faded jeans soon look like gardening trousers. Unfaded blue jeans look cheap even if they aren’t. After a certain age they rarely work.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Good old-fashioned ingredients

From the box

Our Classic Recipes are made using traditionally authentic recipes and good old-fashioned ingredients.

From the list of ingredients printed on the box

Palm oil
Palm Kernel
Rapeseed oil
Soya Lecithin
Citric Acid
Glucose Syrup
Rice Flour
Sulphur Dioxide
Ammonium Bicarbonate
Disodium Diphosphate

Blimey - was my mother cutting corners when she made her traditionally authentic ginger biscuits? They were really good and were soon gobbled up, but I'm pretty sure she missed out the soya lecithin and sulphur dioxide at least. Was it because we were poor and couldn't afford these good old-fashioned ingredients?