Friday, 13 December 2013

Flim Flam

I listened to Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, and it seemed to me that, despite indulging in quite a lot of demagoguery, Jeannette Winterson did identify a problem we have in the English-speaking world, when she asked, "When are we going to dignify ordinary life again?" We are dazzled by celebrity and quick money and flashy behaviour; we give too little respect to the well- led ordinary life:

At the other end of the spectrum, I was pretty shocked by the vox pop I heard from the streets of Brixton on the morning after Nelson Mandela died. A woman proudly told the reporter that she'd telephoned her employers to tell them that she couldn't possibly come in that day, as she was too upset.

Probably the first event of this kind that made any impact on me was the death of Winston Churchill (not often you'll see a naval officer engaged in ballet). I'm ashamed to say it, (although I was very young), but I'd never heard of him until then. The sense of sadness - mixed with a pride that the country had produced such a person - was intense.

It was unusually cold and foggy but day and night for three days people filed past his body, lying in state in Westminster Hall. There were no cellophane wrapped flowers or heart scrawled cards or teddy bears. I doubt anyone rang work to say they were too overcome to come in. Yet there was real emotion.

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