Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Tag Archives: Brexit

The silence of the baa-lambs

You can’t make an image of a mother and a baby without it lurching off into a signification of The Mother and Child. Or at least, Ford Madox Brown couldn’t. So here, as a Christmas image, is his extraordinary Pretty Baa-Lambs of 1859.

It’s the colour of that sky that does it. Luxurious, calm, almost silent – but ominous. And those evening shadows, creeping sideways. The child staring at the future. The mortality of The Lamb. (Compare with Richard Dadd’s visionary Mother and Child of the following year – here.)

Though, considering ominous, maybe Baa-Lambs is not so unfit for the times through which we’re now obliged to live, having somehow surrendered our future to a bunch of shameless chiselers.

But at some point a reckoning will arrive. Meanwhile, a bit of Peace on Earth to you today – Happy Christmas.

Red white and blue retirement

This glossy invitation to experience Exceptional Retirement Living tipped onto my doormat the other day. Though my wife and I may be the right age for luxury retirement, we’ve neither the cash nor the inclination, and certainly not, I must say, if this eye-pummelling décor is a glimpse of what we might expect.


Since this is apparently not the Boutique Hotel from Hell, it must be the “Library” at St George’s Place. (It’s clearly not the on-site Health Club or Restaurant also advertised. Nor the living accommodation, which, thank goodness, looks extremely bland.) If I were shut in this room, I might last fifteen minutes before attempting to gnaw my way out through the locked door. It’s like a bad dream of an afterlife that’s gone wrong – the cheap baronial chandelier, the Catherine Cooksons and Geoffrey Boycott’s memoirs stacked beneath the job lot Chinese vases, the crassly doubled-up sub-Bauhaus mirrors, the pseudo-Sonia Delaunay curtains and cushions, the overpowering square yardage of bright red (including the radiators), the indescribable chairs and – the real Piece of Resistance – some oversized Hanoverian in full tartan striding out from the faux chimney breast.

Or some hopelessly impoverished parody of The Posh Life, conjured up by a drunken magician on a bad day, or reconstructed from a garbled, twenty-third-hand source and thrown together by Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time. This is genuine Outsider Post-Modernism, so unknowingly AWFUL that it could hardly have been done better. And I can’t see that it can represent any actual environment that anybody has ever known, expected to know or would want to know.

Oh yes, and why “St George’s”? What’s with the nationalist vibe? The retirement rabbit hutches apartments down the road from us are slapped up by a firm of Tory donors called Churchill, who fly the Union Jack outside. What next? Thatcher Mansions? Rees-Mogg Mews? Farage Towers?

Maybe that’s it. Post-Brexit, this will be your expected aspiration, what you will think you remember with longing, or what someone else more “cultured” than you will be remembering for you. This room’s been designed as a *meme* of Britishness. Though if the Scots cut free, the dude in the gold frame will need a hasty makeover.