Margaret Thatcher was buried today, and was given a burial that was consciously modelled on that of Winston Churchill. It was fitting in one way – it was a bit of a jarring anachronism. And that is pretty much what the woman was. The cliché that the media hatched for coverage of her passing was that she was a divisive figure. And so she was, But I wonder if the Venn diagram looks quite how the reports implied. Maybe the division was between the people who thought she did something important, whether good or bad, and those that wondered what all the fuss was about. Continue reading
I love banking bail outs, and so should you. What would life be like without them? Without bail outs bankers would have to behave like the rest of us, and where is the fun in that? Of course, banking could be a pretty straight forward job. You look after people’s savings by investing them in profitable enterprises. The savers get a return on their money, the enterprises thrive and a little way down the road society as a whole is richer. It is not very different to laying bricks or running a shop really. A bit of common sense and some hard work; you make a nice living and do your bit to improve life for everyone else.
But be honest, wouldn’t that just be so dull! It is a lot more fun to lend out more money than you actually have to lots of very risky projects which pay a good return. Continue reading
Ancient Greek Medicine doesn’t have enough humour.
Divine delight of men, Mother of Aeneas, Beneath the gliding signs of heaven, Holy Venus
Who fills the fruitful lands and navigable seas
With all the types of creatures that your conceptions please
For you from now, and still forever
They welcome the rising Sun together
Lucretius opens the epic latin poem On The Nature of Things praising Venus for the creating the multitude of life on Earth. He goes on to recount how she conquered the warlike Mars with the overwhelming power of love. It is beautiful. I love the rich symbolism of ancient paganism, and this is a superb example from the First Century BC. Praising a deity is a cliche ridden business, and not something that many writers can do without embarrassing both themselves and the reader. Lucretius in contrast handles the task superbly. But the opening lines of the Nature of Things belie what it is about and give no clue as to what is coming next. Continue reading
Exodus Lost by S.S.Compton is easier to describe by saying what it isn’t than what it is. Despite having a lot about the Bible in it, it isn’t a book with any particular angle on religion. It isn’t a conventional history book. And it isn’t a crazy ‘Chariots of the Gods’ style fairy story. So what is it? It is a very good read, and because it has a sort of detective story feel to it, I don’t really want to talk about the contents. You don’t often have to worry about spoilers reviewing history books. But in this case the fun is seeing the case being built up. Let’s just say it covers the question of whether or not there was communication between Ancient Egypt and the civilisations of South America. Continue reading
The early years of the reign of Gratian, who came to the throne at the age of 19 were very promising. He defeated the Lentienses at the battle of Colmar freeing Gaul from the threat of German invasion. He also solved the problem of who should rule the Eastern empire by the canny appointment of the very able Theodosius. If that was the measure of the youthful Gratian,things seemed set for a glorious reign as he matured. But it soon turned out that the early successes were down to good advice from the people placed around him by his father. They didn’t reflect the character of Gratian himself. Continue reading
With the emperor dead and two thirds of his army destroyed Adrianople was one of the major setbacks in Roman history. In fact it has often been regarded as one of the decisive battles in the decline and fall of the Roman empire. It was certainly regarded as extremely serious by the people at the time. Accounts of the battle and its aftermath take on apocalyptic tones, almost literally so in the case of Saint Jerome. Jerome is recognised as one of the founding fathers of both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. His writing on the issue comes with a rather biblical tone. He describes the entire area of the Balkans being depopulated, not just human beings but animals as well and even the fish in the rivers leaving nothing between the Earth and the sky but barren wasteland. Serious and harrowing stuff indeed. Continue reading
I was shocked to hear the news that women will not be allowed to become bishops in the Church of England. I had no idea that they were banned in the first place. I had thought that when they were allowed to join the clergy in the first place, that opened up the whole hierarchy. Oh well, it is only the C of E. It is not as if it is anything that important. In fact, I should have realised that if there was a crazy option to take on the subject of gender, the established church was likely to take it.
I only have to look at some of the curious arrangements in the churches in the little bit of the patchwork of the English countryside where I happen to live. The local Catholic priest lives with his wife. He can only do that on the basis of a special dispensation from the Pope. He used to be an Anglican vicar who went over to the Catholics over the issue of women priests. The Catholics were flexible enough to allow married ex-Anglican clergy to sign up even if they were married. Not too far away a former Catholic priest has turned Anglican. He was obliged to make the switch when he fell in love and got married. Not all local clergy have such problems I should point out. The previous vicar in the Church nearest to me was a confirmed bachelor, who was happy to make do with the companionship of a good friend who lived in with him. So that was alright. Continue reading
The opening lines of Henry V, the ‘Oh for a muse of fire’ ones, are justly famous for their beauty and literary flare. But at the end of the day, they are basically an excuse for poor staging. We are being told that the actors are doing their best but you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in the dots.