Archive for February, 2015

More Heritage Please


I recently made a trip over the Churnet Valley Railway. It’s a  preserved line close to where I live and runs through some attractive scenery. The only thing that let it down was the use of the public address, both at Froghall station and on the train. Both were used as if on the main railway, including the annoying “please mind the gap between the train and the platform.”

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog of my hatred for these announcements, being both insulting and intrusive. They are bad enough on the main railway, but completely inappropriate for a “heritage” line. The whole point of these is to get a flavour of what rail travel used to be like, not to get a pale reminder of the modern system. Please stop it. It ruins the experience.


A Sudeley Tomb


Behind the castle and tall hedges
With low green arches cut,
I found the church.
Past the creak of heavy wood and iron,
Old stone, polish and
Centuries of candles, a tomb,
The effigy of yellowing stone,
Prayers carved to ease the journey,
You lie in pious repose.
I learned your name at school:
The last wife and widow of a king,
Though you didn’t long outlast him:
Finally free to marry for love,
You thought yourself happy,
Yet your love was betrayed,
A pawn in the power plays
Of unscrupulous men.
And now, I’m here, another tourist
Come to stare, yet not.
We’re alone here, the coach parties
Prefer the castle to parade in,
Probably know nothing of you,
Of the name I learned at school,
Made real in smooth stone, now, here.
What survives of you,
Sole survivor of the final Henry?
Your name in books and on the lips
Of historians on the telly, and now
On mine as I stand here,
Filled with pity, trying to find
A connection to your dead time.
No mason’s skill,
Though it will outlast us both,
Can lay down more than mere memorial:
That is what survives of you:
Memory made long in mute stone.

Women Bishops? About Bloody Time.


It’s good that the Church of England has finally consecrated its first woman bishop, a mere 20 or so years after women were allowed to be priests.

Shame someone protested at the ceremony, and on the dubious grounds that such things “are not in the Bible”. Just like bishops generally, churches, and rather a lot of what the Church does in ceremony and so on. I’m sure the objector – a vicar himself – would not wish to see some things that are in the Bible, such as stoning stoning people to death, crucifixions, or daughters getting their father drunk and having sex with him. It’s no wonder the Church is considered an irrelevance by many, with so many reactionaries in its ranks, clinging to the morality of 2000 years ago.

Yet even as it did something progressive and forward looking, in the same week it also consecrated another reactionary as a bishop to minister to those who won’t accept the change. I can’t help but wonder if this attempt to “be all things to all men”, in the name of unity, is ultimately doomed. If the Church wishes to be modern and forward thinking, then it should declare itself as such. And the reactionaries can leave and form their own church, much good may it do them. I suspect however, the Church will try and muddle on as it always has, while the rest of us will look on as it argues with itself on complete irrelevances.

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

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