Wednesday, 10 February 2010

"Lord, how ugly"

I’ve just had my hair cut near Warren Street station and to quote Pepys (from 17th September 1666): “Lord, how ugly I was yesterday and how fine today.” The bloke who did the chopping seemed to take a huge amount of pride in his work. Perhaps because I complimented him on his fine tattoos! Whatever the reason, it feels rather like every hair on my head has been individually styled! All for £7.

Just had a meeting with the main man at BBC Manchester. The Lancashire project is now confirmed, which means I can describe it briefly. The idea is to create 7 songs about the seven massive tower blocks in Rochdale, collectively and locally known as the Seven Sisters. Each song will feature someone who lives in one of the tower blocks and it’s looking like we’ll also be forming a choir of people from the town who'll take part in some way. The aim is to create something a bit darker and edgier than my usual community musical films, which is a challenge I'm more than happy to embrace. All good.

I see the government is once again mooting the idea of a referendum on whether to change our voting system. Highly predictable and utterly transparent. This is only happens when the Labour Party thinks it’s in their best interests. It bubbled up as an issue just before the '97 election and was swept aside when Tony Blair rolled in with a majority you could weigh. No doubt if the Conservatives marginally lose out again this time, they’ll express an interest in electoral reform themselves. But, of course, by then, unless it’s a hung parliament, Brown will have decided that if it aint broke we shouldn't try to fix it with proportional representation. Shame, ‘cus it is broke and I’ve always wanted to vote in a referendum! Obviously not on anything that allows people to bring out their inner fascists, but I would like our voting system to change. A whopping majority in Parliament is only ever interesting if you have a Prime Minister who's brave enough to use it to bring in a whole set of sweeping reforms. Blair had his opportunity in '97, but decided that staying in power at any cost was far more important. In retrospect, you’d think he’d have been a bit bolder. By the end he'd decided he could walk on water, and the voting public didn’t seem to mind. Even being a war criminal didn’t get him kicked out of power.

Speaking of crimes, Pepys was in court 350 years ago today. He was representing the absent Mr Downing in a case against one Mr Squibb. Unfortunately for Downing, the case went in Squibb’s favour and Pepys was ordered (randomly by the jury) to pay £10 damages, oddly reduced to 12 pence upon the protestations of the entire court. Not a bad reduction in cost for an unruly crowd intervention.

Monck was still parading around London like a purple peacock, exercising his powerful muscles, yet tactically not making any real decisions. Perhaps he’d learnt his negotiating skills by studying that other great procrastinator, Elizabeth 1st. If in doubt, do nothing and smile a lot. It’s nevertheless fairly clear that by this date, the whole of London, if not England (if it made any difference to them), wanted a free Parliament. The current “rump” parliament, a trimmed-down version of a proper Parliament, teaming with Cromwell’s glove puppets, was universally despised. Cynical ballads and crude satirical sketches lambasting them were in almost constant circulation. The old pagan customs, May Day and such, were returning, fashions were becoming more flamboyant and the theatres were reopening. They'd even started forecasting the weather again; previously banned by Cromwell's regime. None of this was going to be given up again in a hurry. A free Parliament would surely bring back so many royalists that the return of the monarchy in the form of bloated Charles 2nd was inevitable. Cromwell had failed.

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