All the world wondered

With their take-over of the British government, Vote Leave’s subversion of our democracy is so complete, the country’s divisions so wide, the future of families and businesses so bleak, that no joke about it seems far-fetched enough to be funny any more.
Brexit has plunged us into wartime black humour conditions. Not altogether healthy: we laugh at truths we want to minimize.
This, for instance, sounds more like a plausible outcome of the new Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s, tenure than a laughing matter:
Screenshot_2019-07-25 Richard Coles on Twitter I suppose one way round the Brexit problem would be for Priti Patel to sell [...]
Priti Patel, sacked as a government minister by the previous Prime Minister for pursuing her own secret foreign policy and lying about it, is typical of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet of Rogues. The stench of their lies and amorality is polluting the air of an already over-heated country.
It is being said across the world that this is Great Britain’s nadir. The election of the classically educated dreamer of Ancient Roman emperors and do or die global swanking, the narcissistic liar and charlatan Boris Johnson (“It’ll take more than shouting some pig Latin and waving around a kipper” to run the country tweeted Larry the Cat) as Prime Minister, by 0.13% of the country, is the latest sign of our democratic dysfunction.
Nero_Glyptothek_Munich_321
Head of Nero (popularly regarded as one of the worst Roman Emperors) Part of a statue, after 64BC. Glyptothek, Munich. Image: Wikipedia
This, it is being said, “is how Britain ends”. (James Butler, The New York Times, 22 July, 2019)
The Tory Party members who voted for him “were obviously dominated by people who like Boris Johnson, do not distinguish between fact and fiction”. (Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC, 23 July 2019)
The organization Vote Leave, to which the majority of Johnson and his appointees belonged, has been found guilty of breaking electoral law. As they are now the rulers of Britain, it follows that Britain is no longer governed by the rule of law.
Accountability, keystone of Democracy, is now eliminated from the UK government. Vote Leave’s reign of liars, racists & careerists, enabled by most of the news media, most notably by the BBC, lacks the most basic justification for power.
Many of us feel ashamed to be English. Brexit is an English far-right project, either dragging Wales, Scotland and Ireland down with it, or threatening the Union itself.
We must resist it.  We, “lions led by donkeys”, have been betrayed by the privileged political classes before. We have defeated fascism abroad. Now, we must defeat it inside our own borders. Our island has gone mad, and we must heal it.
We need your support, wherever you are.
When men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over,
and the tale hath had its effect….like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead. Jonathan Swift
LightBrigadebyChristopherClark
Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   ….
All the world wondered.
From Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade, which, before Brexit, was England’s iconic worst self-inflicted disaster.

The White Cliffs of Dover

PROJECTION ON THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER DURING BREXIT CRISIS

“This precious stone set in a silver sea…this England” has been defaced by nationalism, lies and misinformation. Some of us are still fighting to Stop Brexit, Save Britain.
Please support us.

The comfort of dogs

Wright of Derby, Joseph, 1734-1797; Maria, from SterneHeartbroken Maria, with her beloved dog, Sylvio, from Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (1768) by the great Joseph Wright of Derby.
Ferens Art Gallery. Image source: All Things Georgian an essential online guide to the society and culture of the British 18th century.

“Her goat had been as faithless as her lover; and she had got a little dog in lieu of him, which she had kept tied by a string to her girdle: as I looked at her dog, she drew him towards her with the string.—“Thou shalt not leave me, Sylvio,” said she. I look’d in Maria’s eyes and saw she was thinking more of her father than of her lover, or her little goat; for, as she utter’d them, the tears trickled down her cheeks.” From ‘Maria’, in A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy by Laurence Sterne (1768)

Maria is another casualty in the line of emotionally abandoned girls, like Ophelia, driven out of her mind by grief from a lover’s desertion and a father’s death, and Marianne Dashwood, whose excess of 18th century sensibility is the same as a major depressive disorder today, and real-life sisters, Sally and Maria Siddons.

Fortitude in high heels

SerpottaFortitude
Fortitude Sculpture by Serpotta in white stucco and gilding, height 200 cm, 1710-17.
Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico, Palermo. Image: WGA

Elegantly dressed for the life she wants,
in her favourite high-heeled shoes, breastplate bodice and plumed headdress,
Fortitude leans her elbow on the pillar of patience,
never keeping her eyes off the longest battle.

She doesn’t like what she sees, but she will never give in, she will never be part of it, even when other people make snarky remarks about her posing in her Rococo niche.

She exemplifies the moral courage of sticking to her post “because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

Keeping true to herself, and her fashion sense,
without bragging or lecturing, she puts the fun back into virtue.

“Patience is the pillar which nothing can soften.”
St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Music composed by Hildegard of Bingen

“She sat like Patience on a monument, Smiling at grief”
Viola in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (1601)

Smile sung by Judy Garland (1963)

Fortitude is one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Christianity, recommended in a life skills course dating back to the 4th century, based on Aristotelian and Platonic ethics.

Aristotle defined fortitude as courage governed by reason (or temperance) in circumstances of fear or over-confidence: “Courage….chooses its course and sticks to its post because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

St Augustine of Hippo defined fortitude as “love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object”.

Kant: “Virtue is the moral strength of the will in obeying the dictates of duty, never developing into a custom but always springing freshly and directly from the mind.”

Fortitude has become rarer in the modern world where license has chained us to new tyrannies, and freedom is as elusive as ever.

The advantages of self-control in adverse circumstances have been forgotten in the revolt against the misunderstood stiff upper lip. It’s adorable. The straighter the face, the better the joke.

The primary importance of sincerity in human intercourse – “speak what you feel, not what you ought to say” – has been effaced by knee-jerk opinion polls and social media group anxiety – Like to be Liked, Follow and Ye Will Be Followed – which have compromised Freedom of Speech and promulgated the nonsense that passes for wisdom nowadays.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a modest disclaimer: yes, I’m as foolish as you.

The most self-expressive of Romantic poets would not have predicted humanity blogging itself to death.

The people who died for Democracy did not expect the Voice of the People would come from Babel.

Fortitude rests on her broken pillar, not on popularity.
Fortitude does not betray her soul, which to her is virtue, which to us is self-identity.
She fights on.
She wears the shoes she wants.

She?

All four of the Cardinal Virtues, Prudence (or Wisdom), Fortitude (or Courage), Temperance (or Self-control) and Justice (or Fairness) were allegorized as female.

Figure_des_quatre_Vertus_from_Ballet_comique_de_la_reine

Figures of the Four Virtues from Ballet Comique de la Reine, 1582, one of the court entertainments commissioned by Catherine de Medici from which classical ballet, and political satire, developed. Image: Wikipedia

Fortitude lives up to her reputation for cheerfulness in adversity by playing the lute and holding a pillar at the same time.

“Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did,
backwards and in high heels.” Bob Thaves, Fred and Ernest comic strip, 1982

Step By Step
Poster for Top Hat, 1935

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Bette Midler
(often misattributed to Marilyn Monroe)

SerpottaFortitudeHigh Heels

USE DEMOCRACY AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE. SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE’S VOTE TO STOP BREXIT DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY.

Adventures in Audioland

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For “a life larger than the sentence”:

Travel, Humour and Utopia
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High Fantasy, Science Fiction and Arthurian Romance
A LIFE LARGER THAN THE SENTENCE

True Shaggy Dog Story for Children of All Agesangelpyrenees

All three titles available for Christmas and the New Year on iTunes, Audible and Amazon (UK and USA)

A limited number of Audible codes for free downloads of  THE DRAGON AND THE UNICORN and THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW are available upon request – please leave a message in the comments section specifying Audible.co.uk or Audible.com and I will email you back.

A LIFE LARGER THAN THE SENTENCE

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photo by Martin Hübscher © March 2016

A Woman’s Travels with Tongue in Cheek

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New audiobook available on iTunes, Audible and Amazon

Pippa Rathborne narrates Margaret Eleanor Leigh‘s recent picaresque adventures across three continents in search of personal Utopia which turns out to be….

THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW

marathonMarathon by Carl Rottmann. Encaustic on stone, 1848. Neue Pinakothek, Munich. Image: WGA

The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!

(from “The Isles of Greece” by Byron)

MethonicastleBurtziBurtzi and the Castle of Methoni, Messinia, Greece by Flyax (Creative Commons 3.0 Licence) via Wikimedia Commons

THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW is available as an audiobook on iTunes, Audible and Amazon.wsy

If you would like a complimentary review copy, please leave a message in the comments section.

Margaret Eleanor Leigh follows the tradition of intrepid solo female travellers and recounts her misadventures with wry humour and relentless self-examination.

NellieBlyjournalist

Nellie Bly, journalist, industrialist and inventor, on the eve of her journey around the world, 1889.
Image: Wikipedia