Monthly Archives: January 2011

‘With many original features’

This is one of the ‘original features’ of this house. Before Friday night I had no idea at all that it was here. It is the ceiling of the living room, which used to be the farmhouse kitchen. It has been covered up with modern plasterboard, put up with iron nails, not galvanised, which creates interesting little rusty lines over the white.

So now I have another thing to do, or, more honestly, to cause to be done. I have to take down the plasterboard and expose the first beautiful ceiling. Oh, and hide the wiring, and somehow box in the drainage for the shower-room, and replace the central plank, destroyed by the job-worth, prove-a-point employee of the wood-worm treatment co.

It is vain to reflect that had I known then what I know now, the en-suit would be in my bedroom, and holes in the plasterboard would have allowed treatment of the wood without destruction. And indeed what is life without challenges?

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Don’t worry

Of course I’m happy with the ruling that hotel owners cannot discriminate against gay guests. Since the case got itself all over the newspapers, I’m sure you have caught up with it. A gay couple in a Civil Partnership could only stay in The Chymorvah if in a twin-bedded room.

Actually my youngest son and his girl-friend would have found themselves in twin beds too. The hotel owners only let married couples have a double bed. The hotel owners were guilty of discrimination because they failed to recognise that Civil Partnership confers the same legal status as marriage. Mistaken as I feel they were in that, I feel they were even more mistaken in not recognising the limits of proper responsibility

Bluntly, I do not think we are bound to police the morals of others. Within limits.

The first limit is this: I think we do have a responsibility to prevent the abuse of one human by another. I thin hotel owners do have a responsibility to prevent the sexual abuse, or the violent abuse, of a child or of what is known in care shorthand as ‘a vulnerable adult’, that is, somebody who from mental or physical infirmity is unable to give real and informed consent to what is going on. This abuse would also include taking advantage of a sleeping or absent fellow hotel guest by stealing from them.

I also think we have a right to be allowed to express in polite and non-confrontational terms what our own moral code is. I think, for instance, that I have a right to tell others that I never buy battery-farmed eggs because I think keeping chicken in small cages is cruel. I do not think that in the real world we can expect we will never hear criticism of our own conduct. I think it would be more politic in a hotel simply to say: ‘all the eggs I serve are free range’, but let us admit that even in doing this I am making a moral statement. If, let us say, Richard Dawkins turned up as a guest at this imaginary hotel, I would not myself think it good sense to tell him I was a Christian, but I think I should have the right to do it. I guess I therefore have (reluctantly) to concede that Mr and Mrs Bull, who own the hotel in question, had a right to inform guests that they thought gay sex was wrong.

There, it seems to me (and if you think otherwise, it might make a good discussion) there my responsibility stops. Christians have a right to follow their own moral codes (plural, mine in no way resembles the Bull’s) but none of us are enjoined to make sure other people follow it too.

Not only I am not obliged to enforce my moral code on others. Indeed, I am obliged not to enforce it. It appears that God, too, takes this approach. He offers advice (and how irritating is it that ‘Don’t worry’ appears high up the list) but he leaves it up to us. If we want to worry, the most he will do is set things up so as to point out, gently, the error of our ways. Even if he could, one cannot imagine him dragging himself through a law court to prove that he had a right to discriminate against people who worry.

On being ill

I have been ill. Not with some serious ‘let’s see what the tests show up’ kind of illness, but with a ‘oh help I am not going to be able to get to work tomorrow’ kind of illness. I hate it, or most of it.

The worst bit is the slow realisation that, no, just taking it a bit easy and having a cup of tea is not going to fix this one. One is going to have to give in, admit one is ill and go to bed. Once the really acute phase has passed, there follows the more-or-less pleasant bit. One has tacit permission to take it easy. As long as one lies there and does almost nothing, one feels fairly good. It is nice to be able to enjoy listening to the radio (as long as The Archers are not on – that used-to-be pleasure is ended for the time being) and to think about reading, and to dwarm.

When I was a child I used to spin this out as long as I could, lying there, food brought at intervals, reading and ‘giving my ducks words’ and enjoying warmth and comfort. In the end however, indulgent parents would suss out incipient recovery.

Then comes the next horrid bit. One has to get up and to pretend to be well. One feels grim, and things which before the illness were easy are now like mini mountains, each needing struggled up. This is the stage I am currently failing-to-enjoy. To well to be ill and too ill to be well.

What I long for is the next stage, which I think intellectually will indeed come, though emotional faith in it is hard to find. The day when one wakes up and actually wants to get up. When doing something is pleasant and easy and fulfilling.

Like a warm day of sun and no snow and ice, it is hard to believe in.