Thursday, 27 May 2010

England, blessed with Rhyme and Reason

Here in Britain, our bright new government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, or ‘ConDems’ as the Daily Mirror has so aptly baptised them, has been announcing all sorts of exciting new initiatives. One of these – perhaps a bit more Con than Dem – is to make sure that schools again start to teach poems by heart. This is presumably because of the abiding love of poetry that has been inspired in so many by reading reams of Walter de la Mare as a child and being able to recite ‘The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold, and his something and something and something and gold’.

Equally they want schools to teach lists of the Kings and Queens of England. Being able to rattle through them in the right order is clearly the kind of accomplishment without which civilised life is barely imaginable.

Note, by the way, that this really does mean England, so that James I is always the first, even though he was the sixth King of Scotland of that name. Also the list starts with William the Conqueror as no-one wants to have to tangle with difficult names like Aethelred, Athelstan or Edward the Confessor. We just write the Anglo-Saxons out of the picture and pretend that history only started when the Normans came blundering in without knocking.

As it happens, I can do the first eight, because I’ve never been able to forget ‘Williy, Willy, Harry, Ste, Harry, Dick, John, Harry three’. You can imagine what comfort this gives me. I can’t count how many times it’s been useful to me, but that’s only because zero isn’t a counting number.

Meanwhile, our government – or, again, the Con part of it at least – would like to do away with the Human Rights Act. Obviously, no-one really needs human rights. Just learn to recite ‘Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII’, and we’ll be able to proclaim with every ConDem in sight, ‘the snail's on the thorn; God's in his Heaven – all’s right with the world.’

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