By PETER HITCHENS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
PUBLISHED: 18:53 EST, 11 July 2015 | UPDATED: 03:36 EST, 12 July 2015
Does anyone miss the British Sunday, when our cities were like vast, well-ordered cemeteries, the sky always seemed to be black with impending rain, and a deep quiet fell on the land?
Actually, I do. I chafed at it as a child, because children don’t grasp the point of such things. Now that I know what it was for, it is too late.
I know this partly because of the experience of being in Cairo on a Friday morning, or Jerusalem on a Saturday, cities where a universal day of rest still exists, in defiance of all the racket and commerce of the 21st Century.
Before you have even opened your curtains or fully woken from sleep, you can sense that the day is different from all the others. You can feel the peace in your bones and blood.
Does anyone miss the British Sunday, when our cities were like vast, well-ordered cemeteries, the sky always seemed to be black with impending rain, and a deep quiet fell on the land? (Above, Oxford Street in London)
Resting from work and routine on your own is one thing. Doing it in company with millions of others is quite different.
Work, especially if you’re lucky in what you do, is one of the great pleasures of life, but – like all pleasures – it can become selfish. We need to stop.
In fact, we have probably never needed a day of rest more than we do now that we have become the slaves of the alluring hypnotic electronic devices we carry about everywhere with us.
The So-Called Conservative Party would know and understand all this if it were what it claims to be.
But as the amoral mouthpiece of commercial greed and globalisation, it prefers to see us scurrying from workplace to shopping centre every waking minute of every waking day.
Relaxation is a few hours of drugged sleep, preceded by a bout of ‘entertainment’ thickly laced with advertising and propaganda. Then it’s back to getting and spending.
Even atheists have begun, in recent years, to see the virtue of gathering weekly to read and hear poetry, think, sing songs and celebrate the joys of being alive. And there’s also this simple point. If you want a day free of work, you must expect others to have the same privilege.
If families are ever to gather, then that free day must be on the same day of the week for everyone.
And if that means a lot of things are closed, it’s a price worth paying.
A world without a proper day of rest is like a landscape without hedgerows, trees or landmarks, a howling, featureless wilderness in which we incessantly seek pleasure because we cannot find happiness.
Farewell to fiery Yanis, a reminder of how politics ought to be
There’s something enjoyably piratical and breezy about the ousted Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, riding off on his motorbike with his lovely wife for a post-resignation beer.
These scenes, and Mr Varoufakis’s general irreverent and non-servile behaviour, remind me of what I once found attractive about politics.
It’s also worth noting that the Syriza government in Athens has pretty much done what it promised voters it would do, and has fought its corner with nerve and style, and with a fair bit of the patriotic feeling that has been missing from British politics for quite a while.
Perfect ending: Yanis Varoufakis rides off with his wife Danae Stratou after exiting the Finance Ministry in Athens
Yanis Varoufakis is mobbed following his resignation
Perhaps it’s time for me to change sides again. It’s a joy to see Europe’s Leftists, from Guardian writers to Greek politicians, finally realising that the European Union is a German-dominated imperial bully.
Maybe conservative patriots should now infiltrate the Left, its media and its political parties. There’s more future there than there is in the dehumanised, passionless, corporate wastes of Cameronism.
It’s quite obvious that the Left-wing candidate for the Labour leadership, Jeremy Corbyn, is a principled and uncorrupted real human, quite unlike the bland cybermen and cyberwomen he is standing against, whoever they are. I hope he wins, not because I think he’s a loser but because it would be good to have someone in front-rank politics who knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, as Englishmen are supposed to do.
A combination of fiery Leftism and Ukip-type patriotism could be the very thing to sweep away the So-Called Conservative Party which represents nothing except the careers of its MPs and the interests of its donors.
In Greece, an alliance of Leftism and patriotism demolished the rich established parties in months. I’ve wasted years trying to do it the other way. Well, the last time I owned a motorbike, it ended badly, but I’m thinking of getting another one.
Facing the truth about a legend
Now at last we have absolute confirmation that Graham Sutherland’s ruthlessly honest portrait of Sir Winston Churchill was indeed burned because the great man’s wife, Clementine, couldn’t bear to look at it. You can see why. It’s not flattering. But no good portrait is flattering.
Now at last we have absolute confirmation that Graham Sutherland’s ruthlessly honest portrait of Sir Winston Churchill was indeed burned because the great man’s wife, Clementine, couldn’t bear to look at it
By the time it was painted, Sir Winston, like the country he had led, was failing, weakened by disappointment and fearful of the future. The picture showed that truth. We still do not like to admit it.
I seldom agree with the Children’s Commissioner, whoever he or she is, but Anne Longfield is absolutely right that children in care should not be shoved out to fend for themselves at 18.
Being ‘in care’ is pretty terrible, but it’s the only stability these poor, abandoned teenagers know. And 18 is a ghastly age.
I remember Harold Wilson giving me the vote and telling me I was an adult when I was 18. I spent the next three years showing him how wrong he’d been. Not that he took any notice.
How can students be expected to pay for their time at university, an increasingly impossible burden?
Here’s a wise suggestion from a reader, Mrs Sylvia Langley. Offer them the chance to look after the elderly in care homes (or their own homes).
In return for doing this, their fees could be reduced or even cancelled altogether. In my view better still, idealistic young people could regain contact with the old, who are rapidly becoming a separate and despised minority, the Untouchables of our time and place.
I see the plans to expand grammar schools in Kent have been strangled by lawyers, as I always thought they would be. But why are we still messing about with this?
Thousands of parents want new grammar schools, all over the country. The only thing that prevents this is a brief, easily repealed clause in David Blunkett’s 1998 School Standards Act.
But there’s no sign of that. The new So-Called Conservative majority is more interested in relaxing the laws against foxhunting, which is obviously so much more urgent than a good education for children whose parents aren’t rich.