Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The witch hunter general

We're driving back from Thaxted in a very heavy rainstorm. Where has our summer gone? My Mum told me earlier that the weather is due to pick up considerably from Saturday. It better had. I'm running out of reasons to live here. Speaking of which, a considerable number of my friends are currently looking into the idea of taking out dual nationality with various European countries. Ironically, everyone's scouring their family trees for immigrants! I'm told the City of London is exploring the idea of moving wholesale to Amsterdam, and that the Republic of Ireland might do very well out of Brexit in terms of British companies moving there and continuing to trade with Europe. We're going to be like the kids who live in the council house at the end of the fancy street! We won't even be able to afford stone cladding or crazy paving to make ourselves look a bit posher!

It was lovely to see the parents, and my Mum surpassed herself with an enormous cold collation. There were salads, quiches, cheeses, lovely rosemary roasted potatoes, and a choice of gooseberry pie or lemon roulade for pudding. Why say "or" when "and" is a perfectly lovely word...

We got stranded on the North Circular for an hour on our way up. I think it could well have simply been a build up of traffic. We crawled along. I was driving, got clutch foot and went into a tragic spasm which I couldn't control! London is broken!

On our way home, the country lanes were covered in curious, and somewhat eerie little low-hanging, but very well derided wisps of mist, which the car headlights kept lighting up. I couldn't work out what was causing the phenomenon. Those roads around Thaxted are incredibly spooky and atmospheric: if it's not strange lights coming from (one assumes) aeroplanes touching down at Stansted, it's funny ghostly creatures dancing about on the white lines in the middle of the road. These lanes were, of course, the stomping ground of Matthew Hopkins, the 17th Century witch hunter, who was responsible for the murder of 300 so-called witches in a three year reign of terror in the early 1640s. The methods he used to extract confessions were bizarre and utterly inhuman. Many of his practices resurfaced some fifty years later in Salem, Massachusetts, which, of course, is where the extraordinary play The Crucible is set. "I saw Goody Till with the Devil!" I've always thought the British witch hunts would provide a very interesting backdrop for a musical. Or perhaps, more appropriately, an opera. I don't know why I feel an operatic work would fit the bill a little better. Just as Arthur Miller turned the Salem witch trials into a giant allegory for what was happening to so-called communists in 1950s America, I wonder if it would be possible to make some kind of parallel which links what happened in Essex in 1642 to what happens to anyone in Essex in 2016 who is accused of paedophilia. Witch hunts will always happen. We always need someone to blame for the ills of society. I suspect Brexit will generate yet another set of victims. Yawn.

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