The Writing on Our Wall

Rembrandt, Belshazzar’s Feast c. 1636 Oil on canvas National Gallery, London. Image: WGA

“We are leaving the EU and there will not be a second referendum”  (UK Treasury, 17 October 2017)

The handwriting on the wall that spoiled Belschazzar’s party and was interpreted by the Jewish prophet Daniel for the terrified, incompetent king of Babylon, translates roughly as:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians
(Holy Bible, Daniel 5:26–28)

More than an angry god, more than truth and justice, more than the costs of redecorating the wall, the average person fears owning up to a stupid mistake. Our elected representatives owe it to us to be bigger than their individual selves.

REVERSE BREXIT
SAVE US ALL

Our days are numbered.

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Lying in our hearts

Tired, wannabe Cassandra delegates living, influential, paid voices like this one (Patrick Cockburn in The Independent) to persuade friends and countrymen to get over the referendum and move on to saving all the living inhabitants, and future generations, of this shrinking island.

Defying and rejecting the result of last year’s opinion poll, changing our minds, admitting we were wrong – except in protesting that the EU needs monitoring and reform, just like all states, institutions and individuals on the planet – would be morally courageous, a collective act of heroism to save our children and their children, so why don’t we do it?

Horse Frightened by a Storm, watercolour by Eugene Delacroix, 1824. Image source: WGA

Does the Voice of the People only respond to the owner’s call?

In any other species, the self-preservation instinct would prevail – horses wouldn’t jump the Brexit fence, cats would turn their noses – so why do we carry on pretending we want to do it?

Or do we want Theresa to do our dirty work, and die with BREXIT lying in her heart?

Mary Tudor, queen of England and Ireland, by Antonis Mor, 1554. Image: Wikipedia
Though it is disputed that she said
“When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais’ lying in my heart”,
the implication that “Bloody Mary”, her conscience clear about
burning people alive, was tormented by guilt about the loss of
English empire in France, is touching.
In her rational Renaissance mind, the part uninfected by fanaticism, this dutiful woman who believed she was carrying out the Will of God,
knew we were stronger staying in Europe.
She was as devoted to the national interest as her more successful and popular half-sister, Elizabeth I.

Neither the 16th Century’s Will of God nor the 21st Century’s Will of The People are infallible; they are not sanctified by reason or ethics, they are bombast, slogans to sell shoddy policies and shameful desires.

Theresa is easily bullied and derided, she’s neither an orator nor a charmer, she is neither spontaneous nor profound, she does not please Leavers or Remainers, can’t trust anyone around her because they want her job, so we need her to be brave, braver than any British politician since Churchill, we need her to carry on containing Brexit in the national interest, until it stops completely.

The battle is ruining her health, we can all see that saving Britain could kill her, but sacrifice, not self-interest, should be the measure of anyone who would rule.

 

The biggest own goal in history

Will this country die from obstinacy? Why won’t the patients take their medicine?

Increased support among European nations
including the UK
for EU following Brexit

Simpkin at the Tailor’s Bedside c.1902 Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 Presented by Capt. K.W.G. Duke RN 1946 Photo © Tate

No-one reading this who holds different opinions should feel offended. I intend no disrespect, but I must speak, and I’ve been given this insidious tool to amplify my thoughts. I’d be saying the same things aloud in solitary confinement.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Coco Chanel.

I’m not addressing individual members of the audience. This is a platform, a virtual theatre. I’m not attacking you, I don’t dislike you, I should have lived 200 years ago, and published pamphlets or books anonymously (by a Lady), and if you didn’t like them you could have burnt them after reading or used them in the privy.

“This is slavery, not to speak one’s thought.”
Euripides, The Phoenician Women

I know I’m not going to change minds or influence people. I rant on about the same thing in messages in bottles, repeating myself, adding a fresh quote or two after a quick online search, skimming the surface of thought.

And it is a tirade. I know that. Give me a break on this weaselly platform and admit this is not blogging, it’s polemic. I’m impotent but loud. You’re afraid to let me in, because I’d overturn your tables and scream your house down.

I’m not talking to you personally, I can’t even see you.

I’m not part of your community, I don’t want your Likes or your Follows, I’m not even me, I’m inhabiting a role of a better me. I’d prefer to have lived 20

I’m standing on the wall, berating destiny. Call me Cassandra, if you like. You may think I’m mad and ignore me – I can see you are, by the paltry number of Likes – but you need me as a particle of collective consciousness in the grand muddle of truth.

Cassandra, Cassandra,
You’re fated to madness, it’s out of your hands
Destined to say what no one wants to know

‘Cassandra’, Famiglia album, written by Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor, Ed Harcourt, sung by Sophie Ellis Bextor

Her  again – the unknown woman lamenting by a burning city

J’accuse: the right-wing Brexit conspiracy, in which too many of us are complicit, is an act of vandalism, trashing our country’s history and laying waste to its future

Wake up, Britons! Avert this catastrophe! Don’t you hear Drake’s drum beating again, alerting him to save us from national danger?

This time, the threat to our country, this precious stone set in the silver sea…this realm, this England, is not from a foreign Armada, it’s from ourselves.

The language of English-speaking myths had charm, once, before poetic inspiration for doing the right thing deviated into  facile slogans for knee-jerk nationalism.

The beauty of metaphor, the subtlety of irony, has been defaced. “My soul, there is a country” seen in a vision of Peace by Henry Vaughan, the “green and pleasant land” of Blake’s Jerusalem, were spiritual and political ideals, not nostalgia for an England that never was. Patriotism, at its best, has always been a personal myth; at its worst, it covers up crimes with a national flag.

Joan_of_Arc_on_horseback

Joan of Arc on horseback, miniature from a manuscript, Les vies des femmes célèbres d’Antoine Dufour, 1504, Nantes, musée Dobrée. Image source: Wikipedia

 

A great British, working-class, transvestite heroine, Joan of Arc, is a golden girl, forever fighting to liberate people from foreign oppressors and gender prejudice. It’s a minor detail to us that she was French, born Jeanne in Domrémy, later called la Pucelle, the maid of Orléans, inspiration, mascot, scapegoat of French resistance to English imperialism in The Hundred Years War, burnt alive by the English in 1431, when she was nineteen years old, because she’s still ours, we made her, she wouldn’t be special if we hadn’t cooked her.

The living Jeanne d’Arc was a victim of an English war crime, and the dead Jeanne of England’s greatest victory, of imagination, of story-telling, of creating national fictions in the face of historical evidence, of kidding ourselves that sentimentality and sensation – canonized as “empathy” – pre-empt responsibility.

Joan is one of the national symbols of our dishonest relationship with Europe, and with Wales, Scotland and Ireland, of our habitual raiding and resentment of  our neighbours, abusing and assimilating as we choose.  If and when Brexit goes ahead, we’re going to lose the choice.

We’ve lost the blessed plot. We’re no longer the envy of less happy lands; we’re the butt of the rest of the world’s bemusement and pity as England scores the biggest own goal in history.

Brexit is the biggest lie perpetrated by small political and capitalist elites on the English public since the First World War.

And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension

Brexit is the poison that will taint a nation, a fungus that grew in the ideological rifts of the Conservative party and then infected purer minds.

Drink the medicine.

Changing your minds is not a weakness. The greatest courage is in turning to face reality.

Cassandra, Cassandra
If I could just sit with you
We two could conspire and
We’d make them listen
You only tell the truth.

Catastrophe

Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent…..Plato

With Britain as the new Atlantis, contriving its own liquidation through the hubris of Brexit and Conservative Government, where can a girl go in pursuit of freedom and happiness?

Our European neighbours who we have so rudely shunned are already showing us what we will be missing in their civilized world.

Spain has given vindication to anyone who’s been harassed by manspreading on a train or a bus, or in a theatre or cinema. It’s the beginning of reclaiming personal space, the rebirth of the rights of woman and man, the recognition that arseholes can’t have it all their own way anymore.

It’s the only news to have cheered me up on a scary Election Day, tired out by the cat that’s not mine but won’t leave my house and keeps me awake all night.

In one leap she burst through the barely open bedroom window and the rolled down blind, directly on to the landing pad of our bed. We could only see her outline in the dark, no more than a sinuous body and bushy tail, and from our experience of another cat trying to break in a week ago, we knew that it’s impossible to verify feline identification without electric light.

A nano-moment after our besotted “hello, darling” cooings, my husband said, “Are you a fox?” Knowing by now that the worst usually happens, I screamed and hid under the bedclothes.

At 7am, after the cat had eaten breakfast and gone out again, there was another kerfuffle as something struggled through the letterbox. Was it her? we wondered – but, no, it was the sound of the poor Lib Dems leafleting at dawn.

I voted for them, nevertheless – because they are the only party to have been consistent over Europe. I don’t understand why Labour and the Liberal Democrats are being so snotty to the rational, valiant Greens about a progressive alliance.

I don’t understand anything, I haven’t slept for weeks, and while I stutter and splutter over the keyboard, the beautiful, free-loading, conscience-free cat burglar is sleeping peacefully in her bed behind the sofa.

cat occupier

Conquest Cat Portrait by Martin Hübscher Photography

I did one of those voter-party match-making tests yesterday and the big shock for me was that my views are closer to UKIP than the modern Tory party, whose social policies really must have strayed right of Attila the Hun.

Wake up, Britons! Avert this catastrophe! Don’t you hear Drake’s drum? There’s time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too – reputed to have been said while he played bowls at Plymouth Hoe, it turns out he never said it, and it’s a soundbite invented over a century later. Our national myths had charm, once, before poetic inspiration for doing the right thing deviated into knee-jerk nationalistic slogans.

Now, the threat to the precious stone set in a silver sea is not from a foreign Armada, it’s from ourselves.

We’ve lost the blessed plot. We’re no longer the envy of less happy lands; we’re the butt of the rest of the world’s bemusement and pity.

And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension

Brexit is the poison that will taint a nation, a fungus that grew in the ideological rifts of the Conservative party and infected purer minds.

J’accuse: the right-wing Brexit conspiracy, in which the public has colluded, is an act of vandalism, defacing our country’s history and laying waste to its future.

Nothing that was true is true any more, nothing makes sense, not in my catatonic state. One thing is certain: all cats are grey in the dark. The inconstant cat’s not ours. She must have at least one other home. The stupid human beings in their different dwellings think she’s dependent on them alone, and she’s playing all of us.

Sounding like a Millwall fan chanting “Noone likes us, we don’t care”, I don’t like blogging, I don’t like Brexit, I don’t care if you don’t Like me, and all it takes to go to hell nowadays is pressing Publish, or drawing X on a ballot paper.

…..and the island of Atlantis …. disappeared in the depths of the sea. Plato

The Denialists

For once – I hope it’s only once –  I’m going to let two rich, middle-aged men speak for me.

They didn’t even remember to invite me to their party, but I, like them, am an angry denialist, rejecting this country’s fatalistic decline.

Before you generously ‘Like’ this post, you should know that I don’t respect the vote of anyone who voted Leave. When I try to, I’m lying to myself, and I won’t do that to you.

I think Leaving is deluded. I think the EU Referendum trivialized democracy and has betrayed our country’s past and future. I don’t want to “move on” into complicity. I prefer to stand ranting on the spot.

I know blogging about Brexit is silly and futile, but blogging is nothing if not a vent for denial and frustration, an illusion of empowerment, an undignified scramble for Likes and Followers similar to that of politicians and demagogues as they harry the country eating babies and kissing chips. [sic]

It’s my scream in the dark and if the noise disturbs you, I’m not sorry.

Cassandra lamentingJan Swart van Groningen, Woman Lamenting by a Burning City 1550-55
Pen in black, brush in brown,
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Image: WGA

Extract from The Guardian, 12 May 2017.
[Ian] McEwan said: “I belong to the smallest, saddest, most pessimist faction: I am a denialist. Almost a year on, I am still shaking my head in disbelief. I know it’s not helpful, but I don’t accept this near mystical, emotionally-charged decision. How can it be that in a one-off vote, a third of the electorate have determined the fate of the nation for the next half-century?”

“The musician and activist Bob Geldof said: “I loved [McEwan’s] rejectionism. Anger is a great animus. I heard too much reasoned debate this morning. I resent those who voted leave. There is too much hubris that infects the political class. Fuck them.”

Does Geldof make sense, rejecting reasoned debate? Not much. I thought it used to be Leavers who didn’t have reasoned arguments, only sentiment and gut feelings, but now it seems everyone is mad in England, just as the gravedigger told Hamlet they were.

HAMLET
Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

GRAVEDIGGER
Why, because he was mad. He shall recover his wits there, or, if he do not, it’s no great matter there.

HAMLET
Why?

GRAVEDIGGER
‘Twill not be seen in him there. There the men are as mad as he
.

Romney, George, 1734-1802; Lady Emma Hamilton (1761?-1815) as Cassandra

Lady Emma Hamilton as Cassandra.
Oil painting by George Romney © National Maritime Museum.

Emma Hamilton, painted by Romney at the height of her beauty and celebrity, long before she became Nelson’s blowsy, beloved trophy and resented by the ungrateful nation to whom he bequeathed her, in the character of Cassandra, the prophetess no-one believed.

“People are frightened of being associated with me in any way, shape or form.”
Gina Miller
interviewed by The Guardian, 13 May, 2017

Gilded Dramas

Functional objects, vessels for light and fragrance, tables, clocks and other household accessories for the rich and powerful, gilt bronze status symbols that are also neoclassical sculptures of the finest art, piercing the soft darkness with their golden fluidity, making your jaded heart sing – I never understood ormolu before I saw The Wallace Collection’s current exhibition Gilded Interiors: French Masterpieces of Gilt bronze.

Video Gilded Interiors © The Wallace Collection 2017

And, in The Wallace Collection’s tradition for 117 years, entry to temporary exhibitions as well as to the permanent galleries is and always will be free. Liberty, Egality, Fraternity still exist in an Anglo-French union in Manchester Square,  London W1.

It is a small exhibition, the pieces liberated by the curator from glass cases and cluttered rooms, out of the crude glare of museum electric lighting into simulated candlelight. The atmosphere is seductive. It is a tiny piece of gilded theatre. Continue reading