It has not been the best of days. It started with the government U-turn scrapping the cuts to top-earners. I mean talk about removing the incentive for us workers to get on and better ourselves financially through hard work and perseverance. I expect what will probably happen now is we will just remain as the slackers that the PM had suggested we were in her much discussed speech from a few years back. Much discussed in the sense that its existence really only emerged recently, now that Liz, 'I went to primary school in Paisley, you know,' has reached the apex of the Tory Party.
But wait, it got worse, at least for me anyway. My wee dog decided to carry out her ablutions directly outside a shop, and not any ordinary shop, it was a bookies that she in her infinite wisdom decided would be the ideal spot to leave her poo. I am sure I detected a wee glint in her eye as she did so, in the knowledge that I would be left to clear up the mess, as the clientele, made up of unlucky punters, scowled at my efforts. As far as I am aware, being met with dog waste on the doorstep is not a signifier of good luck, so I scooped up the mess as quickly as possible and moved on.
It then started to rain. Naturally, I was ill-prepared for such an eventuality and so was in a hurry to get home from our afternoon walk, only to be met at regular intervals with, what I began to imagine, were strategically placed groups of pavement hogging, slow walking cliques travelling at miniscule pace and spread out at least four abreast. I made them aware of my displeasure in the traditional Scottish sense, by indignantly huffing and tutting as I moved alongside and past the culprits. That will have given them something to think about, for sure. My mood by now was becoming darker as the problems piled on, though I hoped I might have at least seen the worst of it. But no, as it turned out...
As I was getting nearer to home, I decided to pop into a local supermarket. I won't name it, but will simply identify as the one in Morningside with a car park on its roof. Anyway, naturally Daisy can't go in, so I tied her up to one of the number of dog stations – the only one which was accessible, as the others had (they always have) outdoor products stacked against them, rendering them unavailable for the designed purpose.
Very much daunted, I continued toward home. It was then that I experienced what surely must be the epitome of the Morningside attitude: a charity shop with a sign, I kid you not, stating in bold lettering 'Donations by appointment only'. In the smaller print, it was explained that they were currently fully stocked with bric-a-brac, clothing, etc. Written in such a high-handed style, it displayed that entitled attitude you might only find in this particular suburb of the capital.
I have been giving a bit of thought as to what might have made me pick up on so many negatives on this particular day and cannot honestly say I have an answer, other than perhaps being influenced by a really serious dilemma which had passed through my mind that morning, as it does on a regular basis. Can I, as a 61-year-old male, still get away with wearing turn-ups on my quite narrow jeans?
Language these days is really tricky. I can understand why the PR man for a double act I saw called An Octave Apart suggested I change drag chanteuse
in my review to New York Cabaret star
because the person was not a man in drag. That may be true in New York but on the London stage where traditions are different, someone in a dress with a man's voice is in drag. However, I obliged because people are allowed to be called what they wish to be called although I did like the word chanteuse
as the songs were very well sung. There was no problem with the other performer because he is a well-known counter tenor.
Sometimes it can be very interesting to be enlightened as to why some words are wrong. Writing about Jonathan Freedland's 'play' at the Royal Court – Jews in Their Own Words, a series of interviews he conducted performed by actors – I used anti-semitism to describe what it was about. I got asked by the publicist if I minded omitting the hyphen and write one word and, as I couldn't see what the difference was, agreed. I haven't used the word or words in the past but hyphenated was how it came out and must have been how I learned the word. However, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which came up when I did what one always does – googled to find out the difference – argues that by using the hyphen I was suggesting there is something called semitisim and therein lay the problem.
As for Freedland's play, the leading and not so well known Jews he interviewed had a lot to say that was very interesting indeed about how society treats Jews, as did the run through of past treatments with which the evening began. The obvious names came up – the Jews in Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens – and there was a look at the past and then that illuminating testimony from some well-known and not so well-known Jews he had collected.
The piece was inspired by a row that followed a play the Royal Court staged in which a crooked financier was called Hiram Fink – the cast had reservations but it took time for the theatre to act and change the name to Henry Finn so this was a kind of atonement for past sins. Freedland's look at the past of English Jewry included the medieval treatment of Jews and the legend that they drank the blood of children killed for ritual ends. It was widespread all over Europe and still persists in places but the horrifying thing is we invented it – or at least the English did. I had known about Jews being persecuted and hanged in the Middle Ages for just that crime – I did, after all, read history at Glasgow University a long time ago – but what I did not know was that it originated in these islands.
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