Archive for May, 2016

Brexit: Grow Up and Stop Scaremongering.


The main problem with the whole referendum “debate” is that both sides are resorting to scaremongering, distortion and outright lies. This is dishonest and dishonours the whole process. It’s far to serious and important and issue to be trivialised by such juvenile tactics.

If, as I suspect, we vote to remain “in”, it will because people have believed the scare stories and decided “better the devil you know” rather than at least trying to make an informed choice. I’ve done my best to do so, and have made up my mind as to how I’ll be voting.

A plague o’both houses.

I’m certainly no fan of Gove (quite the reverse!), but this is one of the few reasoned arguments I’ve seen from the Leave Camp:

This classic from Tony Benn:

Sargon of Akkad’s critique of Project Fear:

Boris’ Brexit Lies:


Eleanor Rigby: Lonely or Loner?


Richard Coles’ autobiography Fathomless Riches opens with a story of a priest he knows retiring to bed at Christmas with a bottle of vodka. This sad vignette put me in mind of Father McKenzie from The Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby:

Father McKenzie writing the words
Of a sermon that no-one will hear
No-one comes near.

One of two characters in the song, the other being the eponymous Eleanor. Both alone, and not, the song tells us, in a good way, with its insistent refrain “ah look at all the lonely people.” We have Eleanor wandering through an empty church, clearing up after a wedding. Someone who “lives in a dream” and hides behind the brave face she shows to the world – described in the arresting image “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” We don’t know where she lives. When she goes home and bolts the door, what is the true face that emerges? Why does she go to the church? And there is Father McKenzie, living alone and darning his socks. As no-one hears his sermons (except Eleanor perhaps?) the church would seem to be little used.

The song’s killer punch is reserved for the last verse:

Eleanor Rigby died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came

What a piteously sad image. The only person present the officiating priest, Father McKenzie, who “wipes his hands as he walks from the grave”. The only survivor from the song, perhaps now lonelier than ever, returning to his solitary sermon writing and sock darning. Who will pick up the rice after weddings now?

Where do the lonely people come from, where do they all belong. The insistence in this refrain is perhaps too insistent. Loneliness is assumed, taken for granted. Eleanor may very well have been lonely, but she could also have been a loner. The put on face does suggest the presence of others and needing it to hide behind, but it also suggests a self-contained person, one that keeps its true self hidden and private. One that craves solitude and does not fear it. Or as Philip Larkin put it:

Viciously, then, I lock my door.
The gas-fire breathes. The wind outside
Ushers in evening rain. Once more
Uncontradicting solitude
Supports me on its giant palm;
And like a sea-anemone
Or simple snail, there cautiously
Unfolds, emerges, what I am.

(from Best Society)

The absence of mourners does not contradict this. The song’s storyteller has assumed things about her, on what seems at best to be a passing acquaintance. “Where do they all come from?” may be a rhetorical question, or even, if the pronunciation stresses are changed, a suggestion of distaste: there’s too many of them, where do they all come from?

“Where do they all belong?” is rather presumptuous, and follows easily from the earlier assumptions. They belong wherever they feel they belong, or perhaps don’t feel the need to belong at all.

Perhaps I’m making too much of it, but the inference drawn by the storyteller is a common one. And while it could be correct – Eleanor and Father McKenzie could indeed be lonely – ultimately, it turns on assumptions so is as likely to be wrong. “No man”, says John Donne “is an island/Entire of itself/Every man is a piece of the continent/A part of the main.” Oh really? Who says?

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

Journalism from London.

The Political Potteries

A Political News and Debating Website for Stoke-on-Trent


Poetry around The Potteries

Everywhere Once

An adult's guide to long-term travel