Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I was contemplating just giving you a lot of dog pictures today. It is a dour, cross day; the sky is the colour of old socks. It is coming up to tax day, and that always makes me furious, not because I resent paying tax, but because it always reminds me of my inability to keep track of the Vital Documents. (I have banged on about this before, and shall not revisit it; it is too demoralising.) I am having a sluggish work day, which sometimes happens and is not the end of the world, but is a mild, constant irritant like a grumpy old fly buzzing in my ear.
On days like this, I generally don't have much to say. But as I sat down to write, or rather not write, the blog, I suddenly remembered something someone said yesterday. There was a discussion about the resignation of Andy Coulson, and how it left the Prime Minister without the crucial voice of the Essex Man. Coulson is not a child of privilege. He is working class, has worked for the tabloids, and not only did not go to Oxbridge, but did not go to university at all. All this was related as if it gave him exclusive insight into the mind of the modern day equivalent of the man on the Clapham Omnibus. It was stated, by every presenter and commentator, that without the Coulson hotline to the great British public, the front bench would be left clueless, cocooned in the precious bubble of money and private education, entirely unable to discern the worries and fears of ordinary citizens.
This herd narrative started to irritate me. There was a kind of four legs good, two legs bad whiff in the air. The implication was: regular, not especially rich, state-educated people are all good, and fortunate, moneyed, public school people are all bad. It was all reductive, all the time.
It's not so much that I mind a bit of toff-bashing. The toffs have had an awful lot of advantages in their lives, and so can probably take a bit of bashing. I'm not becoming tenderly protective of people who went to Eton. What I mind are lazy generalities and intellectual incoherence. The idea that every single person who grew up on a council estate is automatically morally superior to every single person who was expensively educated is just empirically incorrect. The notion that because a politician went to Oxford or Cambridge, she or he may have absolutely no understanding of someone struggling on the minimum wage cannot be right. It is much, much harder, if you have never had the sick panic in the pit of your stomach because a bill has arrived which you have no money to pay, to put yourself in the position of someone for whom that is a weekly occurrence. But humans have two miraculous faculties which make it possible. These are: imagination, and empathy. The ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes is one of the defining marks of an adult. I cannot believe that every single member of the government had it magically removed at birth.
I am perfectly certain that there are elected representatives who regard everyone on the dole as work-shy dossers. The point is that you cannot tell who they are simply from where they went to school. It was Norman Tebbit, if not an Essex man at least a Middlesex one, who insisted that everyone out of work should just get on their bike.
But this counts for nothing in the current received wisdom. One journalist yesterday revealingly said that the point of Coulson was that, unlike the Prime Minister, he understood 'real people'. The assumption is that not only does Mr Cameron have no concept of real people, he is not a real person himself. I can't go too high up on the mountain top on this, being fatally attracted to a massive generalisation myself. But you can't go around dividing people into the categories of real or fake because of their backgrounds. The silliness would never end. Was Churchill bogus because he went to Harrow? Must we regard Gladstone as a phoney because he went to Eton and Christ Church, where he got a double first in Classics and Mathematics? Would a little bit of complexity kill us? That is all I ask.
Pictures of the day appear to feature rather a lot of wood. On the ugly old days, I search for moss and lichen and a good bit of texture like a trufflehound on the trail.
That's probably quite enough of that. Despite the dreich, there were still some views:
To cheer me out of my blah mood, the Pigeon put on a tremendous jumping display:
She may be eleven years old, but she can still get her groove on when she sees a cattle grid to leap over:
She goes so quick it is almost impossible to capture on film, but I rather love this blurry shot of her feet:
The Duchess, meanwhile, was much more concerned with doing a bit of moody gazing:
(Do not disturb me; I am contemplating the possible existence of an eleventh dimension.)
And here is the dear old Pidge at rest:
Despite the dull dankness of the day, there were some thrilling buds, to remind me that spring will one day come:
In three months, those will be horse chestnut leaves as green as apples. And these will be a philadelphus bush:
And today's hill is cropped right into close-up, for your viewing pleasure: