For most people it is the end of the year. For teachers, it is simply the end of the first term. An opportunity to relax at home with the inevitable illnesses you have caught from the children. It has always been a mystery to me, why we always have to finish the hardest, most tiring term of the year, with a whole-school assembly where the kids can all share their coughs, colds and ‘flu germs with Mr Thomas who has been cruelly placed by management in the middle row of Year 9 pupils to keep order.
And so following the disaster of the Christmas parcel (see Rubí donkey’s Boxes Day post), there was the agony of a festering festive week of wasted days lying prone with a temperature, unable to do anything but watch some television and drink hot orange, honey and whisky.
I don’t watch the television much and I had long ago exhausted the few DVDs I possess by watching them too many times: in the case of Jean de Florette, my favourite, probably a dozen times. I watched the first few minutes but decided I couldn’t bear to repeat viewing the sorry tragedy again while coughing and sneezing my way through its Provençal sunshine. Having once said on this blog “I never tire of watching it,” I’d now like to correct that statement.
So, as one orften does at Christmas, one thought one would suffer the Queen. I signed up for Netflix and watched the whole collection of the epic series The Crown. Whether it would have been so utterly compelling had I been in better health and free to leave the sofa, I do not know. All I can say is that I have never before spent two whole days completely transfixed before the screen. The icy remoteness and – yes, savagery – of the British establishment is chillingly entertaining when done with panache, good acting and excellent direction. It was also the story of our lives, in some vaguely coincidental manner. As in Shakespeare, you sometimes see glimpses of the little people. I hardly dared watch the scenes of the great London smog of 1952 in case it brought back the wheezing chest I suffered as a one-year-old, when I was hastily removed from London to Essex in order to breathe, or I may not have survived.
As her Majesty’s story unfolded, in hours and hours of The Crown, it was punctuated by the arrival of the latest email attachments from my daughter Alys, showing the evolving state of her Christmas bouquet. After my discovery on 23 December that her Christmas parcel had sat in Finestrat post office for three weeks and hadn’t gone anywhere, I arranged for a Christmas bouquet to be made up by a local florist in north Wales, and they did an excellent job of it! The flowers kept opening each day, with new and surprising blooms. As I saw the photographs of it through the week, in between the comings and goings of different prime ministers at Buckingham Palace in The Crown, and continued to battle my high temperature with hot toddies and paracetamol, the stories became intertwined.
I don’t get many interesting dreams these days. I used to have some wonderful dreams when I was reading C.G.Jung on The Archetypes of the Unconscious, and when I was a Franciscan friar in pursuit of mystical enlightenment, but all that was many years ago. Now, I’m lucky to get through some mundane chain of trivial nocturnal confusions without having the dream interrupted by a catfood commercial. As I don’t even have a cat, these are not the sort of dreams that inform one’s waking decisions. Nor would I particularly want to inflict the recounting of such dreams on the sixty new readers of this blog (and welcome).
However, I have just experienced something a little different. As Leader of the Opposition I have been facing off Churchill, Eden, and Macmillan, as they took turns standing at the despatch box, at Prime Minister’s Questions, dwarfed by the enormous traditional Christmas bouquet which constantly kept changing to reflect the political situation.
In the last part of this useful experience I was finally able to confront Theresa May. The actual words of the exchange did not survive the waking split-second of recall. All I remember is the tomatoes in the bouquet… Readers will forgive me if I improvise on the dream.
Prime Minister’s Questions
SPEAKER: Mr Peasant!
PEASANT: Thank you Mr Speaker. Prime Minister, is it not true that there are clearly more red flowers than white in the bouquet and it is time for her to consider going to the country?
MRS MAY: The gentleman’s view is very myopic as usual and I would recommend frequent visits to the optician for someone of his age. From where I stand, there are a number of white Irish lilies about to burst into flower and these are clearly in line with the democratic wishes of the people of this country.
SPEAKER: Mr Peasant!
PEASANT: Can the Prime Minister point to a single positive thing that her government has done in these Brexit negotiations to show that she is fit to lead this country into the next round of negotiations.
MRS MAY: (Smiling icily.) Where the gentleman can only see in this Christmas Bouquet the red berries of the Magic Money Tree, it takes the special genius of a Conservative administration to finally give the people what they want for very little cost. (MRS MAY reaches into the Christmas Bouquet and holds up a bunch of shiny blue British passports. Conservative backbenchers rise, waving their order papers and making an unarthly din, like the souls of the dead in an instructive Victorian Christmas tale.)
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I remind the Prime Minister that the traditional Christmas Bouquet should not be tampered with by either side of this house? Mr Peasant!
PEASANT: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Could I just say that the show is not over until the fat lady sings. There are a number of dedicated people still working away behind the scenes to make sure the British landed establishment, their wealthy Russian backers, and all who want to see a disunited Europe, do not get their way in this matter! And look, those lilies are fading already! And what do we have now? Just an enormous bouquet of rotten tomatoes!
The House descends into its normal prep-school inanity. MPs are crawling over the despatch box, reaching into the bouquet, and tomatoes begin to fly.
Happy New Year to all readers of this blog. Also, special greetings to colleagues in the British in Europe lobbying group. See you for a new year drink in the virtual pub later. I’m looking forward to my next assignment and it has been great to see how good, honest volunteer effort – brought together by good coordinators and appropriate technology – can make a real difference.
Make 2018 the year when we swing it all back to common sense. A plague on Brexit! An inquiry is urgently needed into Arron Banks and the referendum funding, Russian interference and significant polling expenses fraud. In Spain they would have charged quite a few people with sedition by now, and have them already banged up awaiting trial, if such things had happened here.