Thursday, 8 December 2011

Irony Day

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Mr Cameron emerges from Downing Street, looking grave, gets into his car, and is driven off at speed to save the Euro.

‘There he goes,’ says a rather breathless news anchor.

The irony hangs in the air like smoke: the leader of a Eurosceptic party must now battle to rescue a currency he is passionately glad the country has not joined. In fact, there are so many ironies I run out of fingers.

‘It’s Interest Day,’ says a financial reporter brightly, which does not mean a day full of fascinating things, but the day The Bank of England sets the interest rate, and sneaks out that bit about £278 billion of quantitative easing. (Or: printing money, as Andrew Neil likes to say.) I think actually it is Irony Day.

The awful thing is, Blighty can’t really do much. Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy are running the show. Sarko is patently, blatantly, the junior partner, which I think angers him, so to compensate, he gets furious with Mr Cameron. The truth is, all the Europeans at these series of emergency summits are livid with Britain. This is, I think, for a set of very complex psychological reasons.

It is, partly, because Britain is generally a mildly Eurosceptic country. In politics and the media, there are the hard-liners, who talk all the time of Euro-madness: straight bananas, the banning of imperial weights and measures, the renaming of the great British banger. But even Ordinary Decent Britons have a vague sense of unease at the idea of a kind of democratic deficit.

A lot of the scare stories are pure Euro-myth (the sausage was actually in an episode of Yes, Minister.) Some, however, are true. I particularly rue the loss of the 100 watt light bulb, about which I, as a good citizen and dutiful voter, was not consulted. It was in no party manifesto; the benefits of that directive to the environment have not been satisfactorily explained. The throwing back of millions dead fish into the sea to accord to European fishing quotas is not a Daily Mail nightmare, but a horrid reality.

These kind of objections are not little Englander harrumphs, but perfectly legitimate. My sense is, though, that some of the fury of the Europeans comes more from the fact that Britain refuses to share their great Dream.

One can understand this. Imagine you came up with a brilliant idea. It was a huge idea. It was founded in the most humane principles, and affected matters of life and death, morality and ethics. You had every reason to have stars in your eyes.

And then someone came along and grumbled and sometimes mocked and occasionally even laughed and pointed. They just did not get it.

The Dream of Europe is much more than bureaucracy and working time directives; it is the end of war. That was the founding principle, which now gets lost in all the sound and fury. It was, in many ways, a marvellous dream. It was a reaction to the horrors of the Second World War; it was Europe’s way of saying Never Again. How could anyone be against that?

I think too the crossness is exacerbated by what the shrinks call projection. I imagine Britain can be quite annoying, in its consistent, low-level scepticism. But it is not Britain’s fault that the Euro, and by extension, the whole Union, is now in crisis. The guarders of the great Dream have done that themselves.

One of the things I have never understood is how anyone let it get this far. The warning klaxons have been going off for years; yet no-one stood up and said, hold on one moment, something must be done.

I think there are psychological rather than practical reasons for this too. I think that because of the power of the Dream, many European nations went into a kind of denial. Our wonderful, shining idea is so perfect it must work, it shall work, something so great cannot possibly fail. It’s a bit like the belief that the Titanic could never sink.

It may also be the very human yearning that wishing and hoping can make a thing so. Humans have the ability to be extraordinarily irrational; it is why people play the lottery with their lucky numbers, believe in horoscopes, say good morning to magpies. (My dad had a tremendous superstition about hats on beds; I like to think of myself as an empiricist, but I cannot quite shake off a little shudder if I see a Trilby on a divan.)

If the Euro goes smash, the various European governments and policy-makers have themselves to blame. This must make them feel awful. No wonder they are lashing out. No wonder Sarko is yelling at Mr Cameron to shut up. No wonder he shouts: ‘we are sick of you criticising us.’

If it were not so serious, the sight of prime ministers and presidents rushing about like headless chickens at one vital summit after another would be comical. I have sympathy for them. That original, founding dream was a beautiful and gleaming thing. But in some ways, that makes me just as cross as they are. Come on, elected leaders, I want to yell; you were supposed to be better, cleverer, quicker. How could you let it come to this?


Well, there you are. I had been threatening a meaty, political post, and now there is one. It's rather a sad one, so I am giving you lots of bonus pictures of the Pigeon looking particularly pretty to make up for it. Never let it be said that I don't do light and shade.

There are wild gales bashing and buffeting around the house; when I opened the door for The Second Walk, her ladyship took one look and refused to go out at all.

Because of the weather, I only had time to take a few very quick snaps before I was driven back in by the storm. So here they are.

Even on the wettest, windiest, muddiest day, the beech avenue still retains its majesty:

8 Dec 1 08-12-2011 15-46-20

8 Dec 2 08-12-2011 15-46-28

8 Dec 3 08-12-2011 15-46-34

The mossy wall is a beacon of solidity in a buffeting world:

8 Dec 4 08-12-2011 15-47-05

The Pigeon has her serious face on. I love how in certain lights she almost comes out dark blue:

8 Dec 5 08-12-2011 15-47-26

It was getting very blowy by now, and a horizontal rain was starting. This is her I'm really fed up with this weather now face:

8 Dec 6 08-12-2011 15-47-51

In lovely black and white:

8 Dec 7 08-12-2011 15-47-51.ORF

Pondering the nature of the Universal Why, which is a good thing to ponder on this strange day:

8 Dec 9 07-12-2011 14-57-56.ORF

The hill, almost lost in the murk:

8 Dec 10 08-12-2011 15-48-50

Quickly pressing publish now, as the wind has gone insane, and the lights are flickering, and I am afraid the power lines might go down. I knew I should have got in more canned goods.

Oh, and this post is dedicated to The Beloved Cousin, who is currently catching up with the blog. 'More blog,' she writes on the email, which makes me very happy. I may have taken her instructions slightly too much to heart. Tomorrow there shall be pith.


  1. very sensible of her ladyship. I hope you, Pigeon and the garden have weathered the storm safely.

  2. I have heard talk of 165mph winds. I hope you are safe and have candles and torches.

  3. My Dublin-born mother could not abide a hat on a bed. I seem to have inherited this superstition. Fortunately, not many of us wear hats these days, which is a relief.

  4. that first photo of the avenue is amazing,a really beautiful photograph.

  5. The political part does not do anything for me (sorry!) though I do diligently read it through but at the risk of sounding repetitive, I just cannot get enough of the avenue and the dog of course. Have a good day.

  6. Hoping you are safe and warm. Am sure Pigeon is making very good use of her gorgeous festive blanket

  7. An excellent post today. Your take on the situation has much in its favour and I agree with your perceptions. Thank you for sharing your thought on this - as someone born straight after the war I am of course supportive of the idea of a Europe that will never fight another war again -we all are.

  8. 'The end of war . . .' Had not thought of it like that before. Thank you. The European Union could be (and still will be, one hopes) much more than just a vast commercial arrangement.

    Amazing how we believe that the people we elect are smart enough/moral enough/competent enough to do the jobs we give them. A few are and many aren't, but still we hope.

    A real, thoughtful political post. Well done. And just for good measure, The Pigeon and the beeches too. Very comforting to know that somewhere, someone is thinking rational thoughts, there is a dog who is in reality a queen, and there is a view like the beeches. Thank you.



Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin