I’m not given to religion, but today I’m observing the Sabbath…. on a Monday.
Today was Jessica’s civic service, which is essentially a church service designed for the new Mayor to have her or his work blessed by the church. It harks back to a time when religion played more of a role in civic life than it does today (although it is still more of an active part than you might think). Its also an occasion to dress up and celebrate a great achievement with friends and family.
We were chauffeured to the church (Holy Trinity, Pontnewydd) and were escorted to our seats by the church wardens, where we engaged in many hymns and the usual prayers of exultation to god. I then gave the following reading from the book of kings:
“The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for it was the greatest and highest place in the kingdom, and there he offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar to god.
While he was in Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and said unto the king, “Ask what you want from me.”
King Solomon answered god by saying, My Lord you have shown great mercy to your servant, David my father, for he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and with uprightness of heart toward You. And You have shown him great kindness in giving him a son to sit on his throne now this day.
Now, O Lord, my God, You have made, me, your servant a king in place of my father David, yet I am still a child, and do not yet know how to go out or come in. And I your servant am in the midst of your people, whom you have chosen. A great people. A people so numerous that they cannot be numbered or counted.
So My Lord God give unto me your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who else is able to judge among so great a people?”
And It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked for such a thing. God said unto him, “Because you have asked this and have not asked for such things as long life or riches or for me to take the lives of your enemies, but you have asked for yourself wisdom so that you may have discernment in your judgement,
I now do according to your words. I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there has never been any like you in the past, and that there shall never come another like you.
And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honour, so that no kings will compare to you all of your days. And If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments as your father did, then I will lengthen your days.”
Solomon awoke and found it was a dream. But when he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of our Lord. And there he offered up burnt offerings and offerings of peace and fellowship. he made a great banquet for all of his court, friends and followers and did so in the name of the lord.”
After I gave my reading it was followed by another reading from our local Member of Parliament and then a reading by Her Worship The Mayor, then we were treated to a performance by the Pontnewydd Ladies Choir before The Reverend Harald Thomas gave the sermon, there were a few more hymns, the collection plate went around and the national anthems were sung, Thus ending the service.
We were then bundled back into the car and driven to the reception and break neck speeds, so that Jessica, myself and the Mini Mayoress could greet everybody as they arrived at Mount Pleasant Hall, where the staff and the caterers had done a fantastic job decorating the place to make it, in Marianna’s words, Mum’s special day.
We were subjected to a lot of photo’s and a lot of small talk, but it really was a wonderful day, marred only by the fact that I didn’t get to take home our tables centrepiece bouquet.
As part of the thirty comics that I want to wade through before the time I reach the terrible prospect of my thirtieth year of existence I purchased a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy Of Mr Punch. A rather morbid and dreary tale of a man reflecting upon the experiences of his youth spending time with his grandparents and various relations, interspersed with various experiences of the traditional show Punch and Judy, and those responsible for bringing the magic to life.
The comic really highlights the violence of Mr Punch and that this sort of thing can have a truly lasting effect on children, and this is mirrored in the experience of the narrator who is introduced to the worlds of violence and of sex, and showing the early signs of disillusionment that come from witnessing adults as people for the first time, by being subject to their foibles and innate humanness the illusion crumbles and the child begins to become an adult, in possibly the worst way imaginable.
It is a work typical of Gaiman who manages to show magic and enchantment in even the most banal of situations and the dark moodyness is really highlighted in the artwork of Dave McKean and lends an almost Tim Burton like quality to the story.
Mr Punch is his usual terrifyingly evil self and McKean really has go the essence of the little bastard down. But I suppose if your going to do it “That’s the way to do it.”
I did have a blog post planned for today, but I’m going to leave it until tomorrow because quite frankly I just can’t be arsed. I’m not well, I’m in a lot of pain and I’ve had to spend the evening making endless small talk, which is in itself more tiresome than a full day of hard labour.
One of the biggest problems facing Northville (The area that I am lucky enough to represent on Cwmbran Community Council) is the plague of abandoned shopping trolley’s that festoon the estate. Living so close to the Town Centre with seven supermarkets within a quarter of a mile radius, coupled with low car ownership in the area (a problem likely to increase with the number of people set to lose access to motability vehicles) bringing a trolley back when laden with shopping is a sensible thing to do. The problem is people aren’t taking them back, and it really makes the estate look untidy, and really goes against the hard work that many in the community are doing to make Northville a great place to live.
To that end, this morning myself and my colleagues on the borough council, as well as a team from Bron Afon Housing (The main local social housing provider) went out distributing posters to many houses on the estate so that residents can show their dissatisfaction with the current situation and hopefully guilt the culprits into returning their trolleys to the town centre.
And whilst more plans will be coming to tackle this problem in a more lasting way, hopefully this is a good first step that the community will get behind.
Continuing to crack on with the 30 books that I want to read before I’m 30 I picked up a secondhand edition of George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm. Originally written at the height of the Second World War and at a time when Stalin and The USSR had come to be held in great esteem after joining the allied nations which was phenomenon that Orwell hated.
The book focuses on the aftermath of a revolution in which a collective of farm animals unite in a common cause to expel their human master and seize the means of the production for themselves, in a manner reminiscent of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The post revolution farm begins with contentment and satisfaction founded on lofty ideals under the leadership of the Pigs, but things start to turn sour when a cult of personality develops around the lead pig Napoleon, exiles and executions begin and the ideals that underpin communism (sorry animalism) are twisted to suit those that hold the power and that it actually moves back towards the original status quo, or a situation that is actually worse for the people (or in this case animals) the book really shows the development of almost every communist nation there has been, I mean you could retitle the book China From Mao To Now and you would see parallel development from glorious revolution towards oligarchial wealth hoarding for ruling elite.
One thing that did strike me was that in the modern world this would never happen, but I suppose that because of the level of education and the access to information that is available, if you can barely read and solely rely on the sate controlled media/ propaganda machine, you have little alternative but to believe what you are told, and thinking that this wouldn’t happen now is actually woefully naive as looking around at recent elections and referendums, it shows that stupid people will unquestioningly believe anything they read in the newspaper.
Orwell painted possibly the first real look at Stalin’s Russia and the abuses of power by those at the top and how it was worsening a country that would have no options but to expand outwards in order to satisfy its own excesses and the excesses of the ruling classes, and that the nation could go to hell as long as those who rule and the people that keep them there can keep their snouts in the trough.
Look out for more reviews from my Thirty Before 30 reading list coming soon.
As one of the Thirty Books I wanted to read before I reach the dreaded milestone of 30 years of age, you can guess that Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King was something I was dying to get my teeth into. And you’d be right. The Story itself originally published in 1888 is both a scathing look at colonialist tendency and also a rich satire mocking the English sense of entitlement regarding foreign land, and also pokes fun at the notion that Freemasons actually run the world.
The story centres around two soldiers of fortune turned con men who decide that life in India is not working out for them, and after failing in a scheme to blackmail a local Rajah decide to set themselves up as kings in the backwater nation of Kafiristan (northern Afghanistan) after swearing off women and liquor, they set off with a bunch of guns and manage to unite all the warring tribes of the region together through knowledge of Freemasonry,then acting as gods they rule the country benevolently until they are are brought low.
Kipling, in a short space of words, manages to set the scene of the British Raj and the inhospitable climes of Afghanistan, and offers up a fair summation of the contemporary political climate of warfare that was rampant in the Afghan provinces of the time (much like today) and also captures perfectly the attitude of the common Englishman of the time, that the world was theirs for the taking and damn anyone who got in the way. Its also a work about friendship and the perils that blind devotion to ones friends can bring. Spolier warning I did cry at the end, which is odd because having seen the classic film adaptation featuring Michael Cane and Sean Connery I knew how the book was going to end, and it says a lot about Kipling’s writing that it brought a tear to my eye.
Look out for more reviews from my Thirty Before 30 coming soon