Richard Pierce

Life, Politics

Day 219

When some of us, even in the early days of the now 12-year Tory rule, said that the Tory cultural war was not just aimed at left-wing culture but at culture in general, especially when they started closing local libraries in 2011, we were called extremists, told that we were exaggerating, that the Tories were just aiming to balance the books of the Arts and Humanities. I even lost a really good friend who had been instrumental in enabling M and me to relay to our boss that we were in a relationship because I called the Tories fascists. And where are we now? We’re even further down the road of this cultural vandalism these Tory governments have been engaging themselves in. The path that party is now treading is not just one which aims to emphasise the superiority of white, British, right-wing culture (see Gove’s abolition of all but English texts in the English curriculum, and many other instances which space constraints prohibit me from listing) over non-white, diverse, questioning, and protesting left-wing culture (the things these right-wingers describe as “woke,” always a compliment in my eyes), but one of seeking to eradicate all culture from British life. Totally and utterly.

The Tory massacre of culture in UK is no different to the destruction of Palmyra, one of the most important ancient cultural centres in the world, by a terrorist organisation some years ago. It is an attempt to level to the ground everything that questions the status quo, the rapid move towards a fascists one-party state. Witness the declaration by Rishi Sunak (one of the least generous of  all Chancellors of the Exchequer) to phase out degree courses which don’t “improve students’ earnings potential.” This would mean an end to Arts & Humanities degrees, and spell an end to the already fading vision that going to university is all about education, and not about making money. It would strip away from universities (and schools) the ability to educate children in subjects and texts which question traditional history, which question the state of the world as it is (under any colour of government), and would make sure that schools and universities were driven only by profit motives, not by altruistic purposes, turn them even more into those machines which produce the cannon fodder for the Tory view of industry and subservience. Imagine that. And we were exaggerating in 2011? And, for balance, Truss is proposing other (but similar) measures to hobble universities. And they are both supporting the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill currently in the House of Lords which does the exact opposite of what its title says, and seeks to curb universities’ powers to stop right-wing and hate speech from being spread in their campuses throughout the country. Imagine that.

Just for those who think I’m being alarmist, and that these policies, on deeper scrutiny, might not be another extension of the Tory war on culture – good policies must be able to stand up to the slightest scrutiny, they have to make sense at the simplest level, they should not need in-depth study to prove they make sense; and none of these policies make sense except to the far-right British Fascist Party the Conservative Party has now become.

In less threatening and apocalyptic news – I managed to chisel away the concrete block by the garage door which had threatened to rip the exhaust from Madge, the Spitfire, when I first tried to put her in the garage. And what I thought would be a job for the hole afternoon turned out to be a 5-minute job (because I am such a beast of a man, of course.). And M, the ever-practical, even more beautiful when sweaty M, spent hours turning the messy drive into a work of art, discovering a paved area where we thought none was, so that our bins (all four of them) have somewhere out of the way to live. The joys of domesticity in a time of right-wing extremism!

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 172

‘Of course,’ Katharina says. ‘Nothing can shock me any more.’

‘OK, then,’ Aggie says, and she thinks she can hear that her Polish accent has broadened again in the half an hour they have been back here, shrugs the thought off, because it can’t be a bad thing. ‘Although my instincts tell me everything’s fine, we’ll do that. And we’ll start at the top of the house. My domain.’ She smiles, mainly at Lilibet. ‘And I haven’t got anything to hide.’

She leads them up the staircases, all the way to the top floor, where the door to her room is open, as she left it, reaches in, turns on the light, steps into her sanctuary, with the bed, apron still neatly folded on it, barely big enough to be classed a double.

‘That’ll be cosy later,’ Lilibet whisper in her ear, almost making her jump. Lilibet steps up to the desk, looks at the books, but doesn’t touch them, smiles, nods her head. ‘Culture,’ she says. ‘Not that I would understand any of them.’

‘I’m sure you’re being too modest,’ Aggie says, sounding, to herself, stilted and overly formal. She wants nothing more than to close the door behind the two of them, Lilibet and her, and to sink onto the bed in an embrace, and make the room even more of a sanctuary than it already has been. But she can’t.

‘I never had any time for real education,’ Lilibet says, sadly, and turns her back on the desk and the window, turns back again. ‘They’ve just turned the lights on the cathedral off.’

Aggie looks at her watch. ‘That’s about right.’ She shrugs. It doesn’t really matter right now, although she can feel that familiar restlessness building up in her stomach, the one that compels her to wander across there to see that the cathedral hasn’t disappeared. Later. On her own. This first night back.

They make their way back down to the floor on which the three bedrooms are congregated around the bathroom, everything still exactly the way it was when Aggie, Zak, and Anna, left the place empty. She show them the deserted bedroom that, for a short time, was Zak’s prison, then the other guest room with its huge double bed.

‘We can have a room each, Nan,’ Marit says, a smile of happiness on her face, like she can’t believe the luxury she’s walked into.

‘Let’s let Aggie decide on that,’ Katharina says. ‘She may have different ideas.’

‘The bed in the other room might need changing,’ Aggie says, and her mind is again full of those rustling plastic sheet sounds she used to hear before all this began. Was it Cassandra eliminating enemies, or Valentine and Cassandra making people disappear, and Cassandra just playing along so Valentine wouldn’t get suspicious? ‘Zak spent a night in it.’

Katharina raises an eyebrow. ‘Alone?’

‘Of course alone,’ Aggie says. ‘I locked him in after he’d tried to attack me in the cathedral.’

‘Everyone seems to have attacked you,’ Katharina says.

‘You haven’t,’ Agie says.

‘Except for the poison she nearly gave you,’ Marit says, eyes still glittering.

‘A bagatelle,’ Aggie says, and rolls the word round in her mouth. How far she has come from the girl in the village who couldn’t talk.

‘I thought that was a French loaf of bread,’ Lilibet says, laughing, shoots a wink at Aggie.

‘That’s a Dad joke,’ Marit says. ‘Did Robert tell it to you?’

‘Come on,’ Aggie says, ignoring the joke, stands aside to let Katharina step into the room her daughter shared with Valentine. ‘If you can find anything in here that I couldn’t, I’ll be surprised. And grateful. Because I’ve been through it with a fine tooth coomb.’

Katharine rubs her hands together. ‘Then I shall have to aim to surprise and delight you.’

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