In a month the Festive Season will be in full swing.
To put that another way, quite large numbers of scattered families will get together. Office parties will ensure that a noticeable proportion of people will wake next morning with a hangover and a nagging sense of guilt over making fools of themselves, or of making improper sexual advances.
Some people will go to church. Some others will make their annual visit to a pew on Christmas Eve, hearing packed congregations joining in O Come All Ye Faithful, In the Bleak Midwinter and, in some conventicles, Mary’s Boy Child.
In concert halls throughout the land, local Choral Societies and prestigious professional soloists will pack the halls with their annual performances of Handel’s Messiah.
On television, Songs of Praise will be longer than usual, with a couple of actors bussed in to read the lessons.
Outside such places of public rejoicing, a large proportion of British citizens will be barely, if at all, aware of the significance of these musical celebrations. For many people, Bethlehem is a town in the Middle East where Arabs live behind a high and ugly wall built by wicked Zionists.
Some people will earnestly debate whether the UK can any longer be intelligibly described as a ‘Christian country’.
From God to Mammon
Turning from God to Mammon: this Christmas many people, apparently, are likely to be even more deeply in debt than they are already, having not yet paid off loans they took out to fund their gifts and celebrations last Christmas.
Money, real or notional, is in most people’s minds. Significant numbers cannot pay the rent for a house they have lived in for years, or keep up mortgage payments on one they have bought.
Housing is at the centre of many people’s gravest difficulties. It has been seriously mooted that anyone renting a council house with a spare room should pay a ‘bedroom tax’. This, it is thought by money people without much grasp of anything else, will free up accommodation for people with families who cannot find housing, by driving existing tenants out. (Where such ex-tenants will live instead has not been revealed.)
Single people, parents whose children are no longer at home, a widow or widower whose deceased spouse slept in a separate room, should pay up or move.
Taxes may well rise for everybody except the very, very poor and the rich, who, apparently, are the only factor warding off total financial collapse. People with enough money to spare to have savings and investments are earning no more than one percent. One percent is way below the rate of inflation.
Even I can understand the mathematical consequences.
And now, politics…
Passing from faith and finance to fairyland (i.e. politics) we find equal, if not even greater disarray. We have, of course, a coalition government. The current wisdom is that we will have another one after the next election, due in 2015. But which party will provide a prime minister and most of the cabinet?
Current wisdom is that it will not be the Conservatives. One reason for this is obvious. They have presided over the later stages of our descent into financial mess. They, as governments invariably do, blame the situation on their predecessors and, in particular, the last Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown.
That claim is not altogether unjust and neither is their claim that they have had to make difficult decisions. (We must remember, however, that for a politician, a ‘difficult decision’ is one that makes you unpopular).
A serio-comic undercurrent in Parliament is currently provided by its rather short speaker, John Bercow and his wife Sally. Bercow is a Conservative MP who was voted into office when his Labour predecessor was dismissed as incompetent.
Some Conservative MPs, however, are now baying for his blood. He has shown a tendency to select Labour speakers whom he knows wish to propose amendments to Government legislation. Many Conservatives concede that in doing so Bercow has turned the House back into a true national forum for debate.
Others accuse him of disloyalty
He is apparently unable or unwilling to conceal his aversion for David Cameron. According to James Forsyth of The Spectator, this has been particularly evident at Prime Minister’s question time in recent weeks. Forsyth also thinks, however, that Bercow ‘could go down in history as a great reforming speaker of the House of Commons.’
Meanwhile, Sally Bercow keeps us all amused by posing, draped only in a sheet, against the backdrop of Parliament.
The Conservative/Lib. Dem. Government has reached that stage in its life when it is unpopular and therefore attracts much criticism, making it very edgy.
There are widespread perceptions of perceived deterioration in the unity and prosperity of Britain. Nothing, it seems to many, is quite as it should be. There have been many incidents of murder or violence: stabbings, shootings, use of motor vehicles as weapons. Much of this is seemingly random.
Few days pass without further evidence of police deception and laundering of evidence.
Education and pornography
Meanwhile, state education is in a mess. Children are accessing horrendous pornography on I-phones. England’s shipbuilding yards at Plymouth have been closed, apparently in order for Scottish yards to remain open. And Scotland wants those yards to belong to itself as an independent nation. Or perhaps it doesn’t. When the referendum takes place we shall see.
The price of energy is a minefield. Charges are rising. Is any of that extra money going anywhere other than into the coffers of foreign firms who pay no tax here? Those who argue that man-made climate change will wreck the earth are eyeball-to-eyeball with those who argue that man has little to do with it. The latter want fracking to be introduced in many currently delightful rural areas.
But Christmas is coming. The goose may not be getting fat, but somehow we will enjoy it.
Amazingly, a World War Two propaganda message has suddenly become the catch-phrase of the hour. It is on mugs, badges, aprons… And, equally astonishingly, an extended version of it is on the wall of the men’s half of our hairdressers––which is staffed by a roster of excellent south-eastern European clippers and snippers…