Richard Warren

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

Tag Archives: fascism

National Mistrust

It’s a while since I had the chutzpah to post here any of my own *creative* writing, but while struggling (still) to complete my Great Novel, I stumbled recently across an unconnected and forgotten fragment that may be worth a second look.

Though written over three years ago, much of “National Mistrust” seems to reflect quite well our current mood of national hysteria. Its two surviving parts blend gardening, stately homes and mobility scooters with surveillance, paranoia and some variety of fascist militarism. I suppose it owes something, in a pale kind of way, to Auden’s The Orators of 1932, also cited way back in this post. Much of it was written in the launderette at Dawley, near Telford, during a spell without our own washing machine. Dangerous places, launderettes.

So, to what purpose I know not, “National Mistrust” now has a page with a tab up above, or go here. The illustrations to it are looted from anywhere.

Note: screens in Brunswick, willow, bamboo slat, bamboo cane. Each portable in its own green carrying case. Enhances the patio or balcony. Creates a quick and attractive feature. Combines shade with shelter from sniper fire.

Idea: employ garden statuary for beginners’ target practice. (But not metal – danger of ricochet.)

Query: can garden hose systems be adapted to serve as flame-throwers?

Query: is it possible to train robins?

What are we fighting for?

For the conservation of our Landscape!

Sea, sun and fascism

Having just tried it, I’m not sure I’d wholeheartedly recommend a cruise holiday. (Unless, of course, you like the idea of being imprisoned in a floating holiday camp with a couple of thousand Daily Mail readers.) But at least it took us to Athens, Crete and Rhodes, including the remarkable Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes aka of St John, aka Hospitallers. In the thirties under the Italian occupation, the palace was heavily repaired; the resulting mediaeval-deco “restoration” came across to me as highly staged – vast, uninterrupted, checked stone walls, baroque angels looted out of their context and isolated in bare niches, huge Japanese vases (gifts from an Axis ally), all punctuated by wrought iron chandeliers that only emphasised the empty hardness of the surfaces. With its gratuitously surplus uninhabited spaces, its alien aesthetic of impersonal, almost anti-human, tastefulness and order – anti-human both in scale and in texture – the whole interior felt still drenched in fascism, as if we were wandering through a set for some lost scene from Bertolucci’s Il Conformista.

 

Had the Greeks not seen fit to deconstruct and reclaim all this? How was the fascist period of the Italian occupation regarded now? We’d just been to the monastery at Filerimos, built likewise in the thirties with its Italian Way of the Cross, but also home to an ancient, inexpressibly dolorous and affecting icon of Mary; so how far had the occupation tolerated the Greek Orthodox church? I asked our tour guide.

 

I couldn’t actually make out her eyes behind her sunglasses, but I could tell that they hardened instantly. Her previously modulated voice became intense and emotional. It had been horrible for the people of Rhodes. Horrible. In 1922 they had replaced the old governor with a fascist. Most of the churches had been closed. Children had been forced to learn Italian in school. All opposition had been eliminated. Her mother, as a child, had seen people executed in the street. It had been a dreadful time for Rhodes. She gestured behind her to a large plaque in Italian, still prominent on an outside wall, crediting the palace restoration to Il Duce. My fellow Brits appeared bemused or indifferent.

 

High on one vast checked wall inside we saw carved between roses “Fert”, the motto of the House of Savoy. No one translated; looking it up now, I see that various unlikely acronyms have been suggested, but in simple Latin it can be read as “S/he suffers”. That seems appropriate enough. The next day we found ourselves at Arkadi monastery in Crete, besieged by the Ottoman army in the Cretan revolt of 1866, where a few hundred women and children, barricaded into the powder room, had blown themselves to pulp rather than be taken alive. The attached museum displayed a long hank of human hair, retrieved later from a roof top.

Back on the boat, having finished W G Sebald’s excellent but distressing Rings of Saturn (more journeys, more atrocities), I found myself in need of fresh reading material; the only half decent book on offer in the little shop turned out to be Robert Harris’s Selling Hitler, a fascinatingly repellent account of the forged Hitler diaries scandal of 1983. Following the revelation that Goering’s yacht was appropriated by the British royal family and rechristened the Prince Charles, I read that Hitler’s paintings are technically so poor as to be a doddle for the amateur forger, and so boring that in the final analysis no collector of them really cares whether what they have is faked or real. That evening the ship’s tannoy announced a poolside Last Night of the Proms-themed singalong, to “celebrate all that makes Britain great”. The holiday was not turning out quite as I’d expected.

There are plenty of images of the Grand Master’s Palace online but those above are mine. Click for enlarged slides. I haven’t linked to any image of the icon at Filerimos, as no reproduction or copy really looks like what we saw, nor gives any sense of the experience of being in its physical presence. For the first time, I’m prepared to credit an icon as being an effective and transmitting thing-in-itself. As being in some sense “alive”.

Set that against the deadening art of fascism!

Women bishops – over the cliff with General Synod

Off topic for this blog, I know. But when you need to shout, the nearest rooftop is at least somewhere to start.

Breakfast TV and the morning papers say that the Church of England is now “in turmoil”. “Meltdown” hardly does it. “Tailspin”, maybe. In thirty years or less, the national church, in which every person in every street in every parish in the land may claim a stake if they care to, will have become a dispersed, disestablished, reactionary cult, populated by a few nutters.

Women clergy have gone to work this morning dismayed and angry. Many seriously tempted, I don’t doubt, to throw in the towel. In this diocese at least, emails of pastoral support to them from their concerned bishops are conspicuous by their non-existence. Maybe they need their PA’s to do their emails for them. I don’t know.

Who (apart from the Taliban) would contemplate a system in which women could be teachers but never heads, on the check-out but never managers, nurses but never consultants?

And all engineered by a handful of religious rednecks who have used the inertia of the majority to push themselves onto Synod. I nearly wrote “fascists” there, rather than “rednecks”. But to be honest, when we take a cold look at the distasteful, square-headed fundamentalism of Reform and the childish, ultramontane ponciness of Forward in Faith, the term doesn’t look too inappropriate.

Once you boil it down, there simply are no good, rational reasons to oppose the episcopacy of women. Not even simplistic and confused appeals to Scripture. It is pure and shameful misogyny – nothing more, nothing less.