Saturday, 27 April 2019

Forcing a Rethink

For years my mother has been trying to persuade me that I should sell my little house in High Wycombe and transfer my property portfolio to Dorset. There isn't much connecting me to Wycombe anymore, certainly, nothing more than a couple of friends and a residual affection for the Museum where I used to work, but so long as my house continued to be let there was no compelling reason to sell it, either. It isn't the house I used to live in: I sold that in favour of a slightly nicer one a mile or so away while I was at St Stephen's House. The agents I've always used are a small independent local company from whom I rented before I bought my own place, and over the years I've watched the couple who ran it and with whom I used to deal gradually take a seat further and further back in the firm. I told myself for a long while that my signal to sell would be when they finally retired.

What with one thing and another, though, I decided to move in advance of that and at least think about selling the house. This is not least because (forgive the middle-class topic) property is declining in value in Wycombe and rising in West Dorset where I would like to live one day. Curiously I kept overhearing conversations in which people discussed moving that way themselves, and eventually decided I would act - at least when my current tenants move out. I wrote to the agents to tell them, even if no sale was imminent.

And then, strangely enough, yesterday I had a letter from Mr & Mrs Bennett to say they were, in fact, retiring and had sold their interest in the agency to another local firm: their connection with the company would cease completely in a couple of months once everything was tidied up. The staff are staying on, but the atmosphere had already changed and the new owners are themselves a smaller brand within the gigantic LSL Property Services. How peculiar that my decision and the Bennetts' should coincide. I've written to them to say thank you for their service over the years. 

I have a streak of deep sentimentality in my makeup which I know makes me want to hold on to things, people, and organisations, after the conditions which made them genuinely important in my life have moved on. That shapes even what is basically just a commercial relationship between a landlord and a property agent. It's a silly thing, perhaps, but not entirely a bad one.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

All About Eve: soundtrack by PJ Harvey (2019)

We were quite surprised when PJ Harvey’s soundtrack for the West End production of All About Eve emerged so quickly, less than two months after the show opened and not much longer after the reverential documentary about the composition of the soundtrack broadcast by Radio 4 – so reverential, in fact, that had its subject not been the humble person we know her to be it would almost have been unbearable. As it is, she plonks at her piano in her London flat apparently unaware of the adulation swirling around her. In contrast to PJH’s previous three studio albums, which took years to put together, the gestation of All About Eve has been a mere handful of months if you accept her statement that she began talking to play director Ivo van Hove about it late in 2018. The play, in fact, is still being performed, and I suppose having the music out at the same time makes sense in marketing terms.

PJH’s involvement in scoring theatre goes back to 2009 when she provided two items for Ian Rickson’s production of Hedda Gabler in New York, a show which flopped badly although nobody blamed the composer; Harvey worked with Mr Rickson again on his version of Hamlet at the Young Vic in 2011, on Electra in 2015, The Nest in 2016 and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in 2017. All of her output for these plays was incidental music or themes with one exception: a song – or maybe songs - written for Vinette Robinson to perform as the maddened Ophelia in Hamlet, accompanying herself on a lute. It’s a shame that only theatre attenders have ever heard any of this material; someone from who went to see Electra described Polly’s themes as ‘sounding like a Morricone-ish Western placed in Ancient Greece’ and although you can hear snippets on Youtube it would be well worth experiencing the whole thing. So this is the first extended score she has produced, and the first time she’s felt it worth putting out to the public.

PJH describes the score as opening out of the inclusion in the 1950 film of All About Eve of Franz Liszt’s 'Liebestraume', though typically from that one source she spins a variety of quite different pieces of music. There are also two complete songs written for the main actors, Gillian Anderson and Lily James, to sing, attempting to capture the characters’ emotions at particular points.

'Traume' is slightly reminiscent of Ryuichi Sakamoto, but the bigger influence lurking behind All About Eve is Mica Levi whose acclaimed scores for Under The Skin and Jackie PJH has expressed admiration for in the past. It would be hard to describe even the 10 instrumental pieces as ‘incidental’ music: like Levi’s work, despite being often abstract and arrhythmic (although, I would argue, less monotonous than hers), they are strongly flavoured and I can understand why some critics felt the score was a little overwhelming.

However, as always, Harvey is her own woman. The main tone across the whole score is a combination of the gentle and the baleful, heard most clearly in the six pieces which are organised around simple piano chords: they exploit very carefully the contrasting qualities of those chords in a way which strongly recalls that eerie masterpiece from 2007 White Chalk, but with more muscular and conventional orchestration around the keyboard work. ‘Descending’ and ‘Ascending’ form a pair, though the second doesn’t have Kenrick Rowe’s dramatic drumming to power it along, like the first. And the songs are a separate matter again. Gillian Anderson’s ‘The Sandman’ is an appropriately dreamlike waltz, but not a very comforting one: you get the impression that the Sandman is not someone you really look forward to encountering: ‘the Moon appears/One thousand fears arise’. Meanwhile, Lily James’s song, ‘The Moth’, is a great Goth pop track, swirly, romantic and deliciously melancholy. It could almost have been written by – wait for it – All About Eve, and I wonder whether that’s deliberate Harveyan mischief. Harvey sings backing vocals on both songs and thereby manages to make them sound almost exactly like herself anyway.

‘I’ve always loved stories’, says the singer on her website about this album, but the non-specificity of the songs demonstrates that although she claims merely to be illustrating musically the text of the play, she’s actually using it as a point of departure to somewhere else – her customary approach to any source material, going right back to her Biblically-inspired works of nearly thirty years ago. All About Eve marks a breathing-space, an exercise, though in preparation for what I doubt Harvey herself knows yet.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Bible Broadcast

It was a bold decision by the BBC to broadcast the whole of the Book of Psalms over the Easter weekend. I wonder what led to it. I only heard one chunk, as the beautifully orotund voice of Jeremy Irons rolled its way around these ancient words, filtered through the vocabulary of King James I's committee of translators. 

The programme had taken the decision for Mr Irons to read the word selah every time it occurs, and although this put him in the company of Diamanda Galás who also does the same when she uses Psalmic texts it is nevertheless a bit weird as nobody really knows what selah means. It's probably a musical instruction ('pause for reflection', the Amplified Bible renders it) and could mean anything from 'rest here' to 'play a twiddly bit'. Solemnly reading it out is like all the musicians in an orchestra shouting DIMINUENDO when it appears in the score, and hearing Mr Irons trying to invest it with some emotional content is bizarre.

In fact the whole exercise was slightly bizarre. It is true that the Psalms contain 'some of the most beautiful poetry in the Bible' and 'a whole range of human emotion', but when they are recited in church they are smoothed by plainchant or Anglican chant, or just read at some distance from the feeling they are trying to embody, quite flatly. Reading them with the emotion put back in, acting them, sounds most odd, especially when what you're reading is the language of the Authorised Version, heightened and unfamiliar at this distance of four centuries. As Jeremy Irons all but gnashes his teeth and weeps his way through these ancient texts, they sound all too often like the ravings of someone not-quite-hinged.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Spotted Sacrifices

What a lot of church there has been this Easter Day. All the services had similar gates to last year, though there were fewer communicants at the main 10am mass, with lots of infrequent attenders (including one family making what I think is their first visit in about seven years) who received blessings at the altar rail instead. We sang the Regina Coeli, blessed two new icons, and Roy the verger rang the bell 93 times for the Supreme Governor's birthday. I'd thought he would do it as we were finishing the service, but to my surprise we all stood and listened. It took quite a long time.

Months ago we managed to dent the old Victorian silver flagon we use for communion. It was sent for repair to the jewellers, and though we received it back in great excitement we quickly discovered it leaked. The jewellers were most apologetic and had another go. The leaky joint is now repaired, but for a couple of weeks there have been mysterious spits and spots of wine appearing on corporals, and at the Dawn Mass this morning the linens looked as though they'd been used to staunch a wound: it seems there's something wrong higher up the flagon, so that when it's full an upper joint is now leaking. Jill our sacristan sadly bundled up the soiled altarcloth she'd only put on the altar the day before, and arranged for Gordon, the head server, to collect her tall glass ewer as a stopgap later on in the morning. 

It was the glass ewer I used to prepare the table at the 10am service. The last chalice was filled when a drop of wine, just one tiny drop, fell from its lip in what seemed to be slow-motion until it spattered onto the pristine linen of the nave altarcloth. Jill wasn't there. I waited until the church was empty and took it away to launder in penance.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Picking a Cause

"We should hand the world over to the teenagers", commented a friend sharing the latest speech by young Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg. I thought of the ones whose rubbish I'd picked up from around the church this sunny Good Friday afternoon, and reflected how little I'd relish the prospect of very much at all being handed over to them apart from litter-pickers.

Perhaps the solemnity of the day promotes melancholy reflections, but it wasn't just that liturgical influence. I have at least two friends who've joined Extinction Rebellion's protests in the capital, and wondered what, if anything, I should do about it myself. Hornington has an active XR group: I could lie in the main road in Swanvale Halt for a bit with a sign saying 'Down With This Sort of Thing', or picket the garage. I know them in there, anyway. Perhaps I should blockade the one I don't use.

The litter in the churchyard and the other bits I picked up on my journey home from the Liturgy of the Passion of the Christ brought home how hard it is to imagine thorough change. Quite a proportion of human beings show a strange psychological resistance even to picking up after themselves when a serviceable bin is three feet away, let alone engaging in the degree of radical sacrifice that the science suggests will be necessary to keep human society functioning at all. And here in Britain, where the public seems agitated but not really willing to give anything up for long-term climate security, we're doing comparatively well in cutting our carbon emissions, down nearly 50% since 1990 thanks mainly to destroying the coal industry and heavy manufacturing; yet, sixth-biggest economy in the world the UK may be, we contribute a tiny amount to global carbon emissions, and it's hard to envisage the US or China shifting much, whether by 2025, 2050, or 2100, by which it will long be too late. By the end of this century (and I am increasingly glad I won't see further than the middle of it) it will become very likely that there will be wars over migration and access to resources, and that those wars could be fatally destructive, quite apart from the heating of the Earth reaching self-perpetuation by then. It all looks strikingly similar to the picture painted in the Book of Revelation, funnily enough, so perhaps this is it: perhaps these are the conditions preparatory to the End. I suspect the chances of modern society surviving the next two centuries are small, and those of human beings making it through in any form no better than 50-50. I'm already starting to think differently about the babies I'm baptising, and what they may face over the course of their lives. 

Naturally the matter has arisen in discussions among people I know on LiberFaciorum, and though I am not normally easily shocked I have been perturbed by the ease with which extremely violent language comes to hand. People should be shot, hanged, maimed. These are not strangers using these terms: these are souls I have known for years, acquiring apparently a new rage, resentment, and scorn. It was this that persuaded me my role should not be campaigning on the climate, but promoting the standard, unexciting Christian virtues of love and sacrifice, and the will to understand the truth. Whatever happens to us, human beings will need those, and, the crucified and risen one shows us, they are at the heart of all things. 'One God-ground deed endures/When this ring of diamond-and-gold is dust.' Or when we all are.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019


I am not at all sure my wildflower patch is going at all well. There is quite a bit of grass on it now, but I suspect with regret that this is not the 'nurse grasses' which will shelter the wildflowers that will emerge next year, but just the same coarse grasses that were there before.

This is why it is gratifying to welcome the occasional new plant that appears in the garden, quite without me doing anything at all. I can't tell whether the bugle will appear this year, but instead I have had an entirely unexpected patch of yellow archangel emerge. Lion's Snap was its name in Somerset once upon a time, Snuff Candle in Wiltshire, and Weasel's Nose in Dorset, a title apparently taken up into its scientific name of lamium galeobdolon, the second part of which means 'weasel stink'. A slander: it resembles the weasel in neither scent nor appearance, which my photograph does no justice.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Recent Catherines

On a day when one of the greatest churches of Christendom burns, posting a few images of my patron saint recently discovered on my travels is a distraction. The first two come from St Nicolas in Guildford.

On the west wall, behind the great Gothic font cover, there is a mural of an array of saints. Very oddly, as you can see, it's painted directly onto the brickwork. Catherine's wheel is picked out in gold and the whole thing has a very amateur look to it - as with the church as a whole, I've yet to discover its history. That's St Agnes you can glimpse to Catherine's right, holding her lamb.

I knew about the mural, but on my visit was surprised to find a second depiction of the saint further along the church. 1890-1910 is my guess for this.

A couple of weeks ago I also found my way to All Saints' Carshalton (of which more on another occasion). Among a variety of amazing fittings, there is a sumptuous organ loft decorated with a frieze of saints, and Catherine can be found among them, too.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

We All Tend to Concentrate on the Wrong Things

In my mind, I had always given Pope-Emeritus Benedict some credit regarding the issue of clerical abuse of children. I had the impression – from somewhere – that the then Cardinal Ratzinger had tried in vain to persuade St John Paul II that the Church really needed to do something about it but that his efforts had foundered on the rock of the pontiff’s disbelief that anything much was wrong. When Ratzinger became Pope himself, he did at least begin the process of facing up to what had been happening. But his latest intervention is jaw-dropping. It’s a blank rewriting of history so barefaced you wonder what can be going on in his mind.

The letter, or essay, was written, says Benedict, as a result of thinking what, as former Pope, he ‘could contribute to a new beginning’, and with the approval of the Vatican was published in Klerusblatt, a newsletter for mainly Bavarian clergy, a little while ago. Translations then appeared on Catholic websites.

Now, Benedict’s mental background is profoundly affected by the 1960s: as a seminary professor he at first welcomed the signs of change in society and religion and then saw them, as he judged, go sour and malign. His entire subsequent career can be seen as a response to that experience of being wrong. So it is not unnatural that when considering the history of clerical sexual abuse of children he assigns a key role to that epoch: ‘Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms. The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence … Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that paedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.’ At the same time, Benedict avers, Catholic teaching suffered its own ‘moral collapse’ that rendered it incapable of responding to these challenges. The Second Vatican Council and the movement around it tried to dispense of natural law as the basis for Catholic morality and instead attempted to rely only on Scripture, an understandable but doomed mission which took decades to be reversed. The attacks on the authority of the Church over moral matters, Benedict goes on, forced it ‘to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake’. Finally, he describes how he and Pope John Paul tried to reform a Canon Law whose ambiguities previously allowed liberal bishops in the US to resist attempts to discipline clerical child abusers, recasting the crime as one against the Faith itself as well as about the harm of individuals. He doesn’t allege that those liberal bishops were being unco-operative because they approved of criminal priests, but suggests they were committed to a ‘conciliar’ model of Church authority, and therefore resented intervention by the Vatican.

The story allows the Pope-Emeritus to swipe at his favourite targets, ones shared by many other conservative Catholics. I can’t comment much about the accuracy of his characterisation of the trends of Catholic theology and canon law over fifty years, but a mere glance at the wider history is probably sufficient. And a mere glance is all that’s required to lead to the facile but telling point that clerical and societal abuse of children goes back a long way before 1968. Benedict is not a stupid man, and we must presume not an insincere one, either: therefore that he argues along these lines suggests that, despite what he says, he just hasn’t been paying attention all these years. And while it is true that there were voices raised in support of, for instance, the abolition of the age of sexual consent in the UK, they were only ever marginal voices. The rest of society remained convinced that sexual acts between adults and children were wrong: the general reaction to the UK Paedophile Information Exchange demonstrates that well enough. For Benedict to claim, without any qualification, that paedophilia was generally considered ‘allowed and appropriate’ from the 1960s onwards, is quite breathtaking. He wants us to accept that somehow all the things he complains about affecting the Catholic hierarchy – doctrinal confusion, faulty process, epistemological inexactitude – meant that the Church of Jesus Christ found itself incapable of dealing with a thing that society, wicked, devilish, fallen society, a society Benedict says had turned away from God, still managed to regard as wrong. In the real world, of course, the world outside the ex-Pope's head, the Church knew it was wrong too, it just didn’t do anything about it. Society at large didn’t do anything about it either, probably for the same sorts of reasons - disbelief, not regarding the problem as serious enough, unwillingness to face the consequences of exposure. To these the Church added its own convoluted excuses, none of which had anything to do with the matters Benedict discusses. I suppose a theologian and philosopher is naturally biased towards seeing theology and philosophy as the cause of every issue, rather than political or institutional factors, or even sin.

Half the article is not about the past at all, but a thoughtful attempt to rescue the idea of ‘the Church’ from the damage it has done itself, to restate the possibility of love, truth and holiness notwithstanding what has happened. ‘The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people, that all righteousness is only displayed on the outside’, says the Pope-Emeritus, and the task of Christian people, and of all human beings, is not to despair because of human sinfulness. ‘I live in a house’, Benedict goes on, ‘in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.’ There is a humility in this, recognising that the Church is inextricably connected to institutions and structures, but that they are not its essence: the Church subsists essentially in human experience and interaction. Benedict’s attempt to say, basically, ‘it wasn’t our fault’ shows that he doesn’t understand the past, but we would do better to excise that analysis, and concentrate on his hope for the future.

Thursday, 11 April 2019


Sometimes the church office computer allows me to send emails; sometimes it refuses. Yesterday morning it was being recalcitrant, so in the spare half hour before the communion service at the sheltered housing block nearby I phoned a couple of people to sort out Easter home communions. My second call, to Thora, revealed that she was sat anxiously at home unable to do anything. The man from the chemist's had called by with her medicines, and, as she couldn't remember the number of her keysafe, made her laborious way to the door and passed him the key through the letterbox. Once all the excitement had passed, Thora found that she'd dropped her litter-picker, which she uses to pick things up, on the floor and couldn't reach it (if she could, she wouldn't need it in the first place). One response might have been, "Well, you wait for the carer to arrive in a couple of hours, that'll teach you", but that wouldn't have been very pastoral. I know the number to Thora's keysafe, and reckoned I could get round to her house and back in just enough time to make it to Burring House for the service. I did, picked up her litter-picker, and arranged a time to bring her communion.

It didn't seem like the core of a clergyperson's work, and it isn't. But thinking about my time with Bill in the hospital the other day I reflected on the way back from Thora's that not just death but old age, certainly, is also very often a battle, and whatever we can do to assist people in that situation is effectively standing alongside them in the heat of the battle. It may not feel very much, but, cosmically, perhaps it's more than we imagine.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Church Crawling Round Guildford Centre

Within a walk of less than a couple of miles around the centre of Guildford, you can visit as wide a variety of churches as you can find anywhere. My stroll a few weeks ago began at St Nicolas, an old church which began acquiring a Catholic tradition in the mid-19th century. That combative High Churchman JM Neale once applied for the living, but the Bishop of Winchester decided Mr Neale was too dangerous a man to have in his diocese; John Monsell, an Anglican Catholic hymn-writer on a more modest scale than Neale, did end up incumbent of St Nic's, and oversaw its rebuilding, dying while actually inspecting the works (accounts differ as to how). Now St Nic's presents a fairly consistent image of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism, though with some additions and alterations over the years. Unusually, though, it's the west end which is the more sumptuous, mosaic and painting providing a backdrop to a towering Gothic font-cover. 

I'm not sure yet of the date when the nave altar was installed. The point of interest is that it has triangular legs, a Trinitarian theme which is picked up in the motifs of the floor. 

Not far away, St Mary's is now shared with the Methodists, and its churchmanship is a bit indeterminate. It trades more on its antiquity, and there are some vistas which - despite the sense of clutter around the building - provide a sense of monolithic drama.

The grandest church in the town centre is Holy Trinity, an old church rebuilt in the 18th century as a typical Georgian preaching-box and then remodelled in the 1890s. It's gathered a variety of artworks over the course of the last few decades, but its great surprise is the openwork iron screen which spans the whole east end and which was installed in 1909 - a reja, they'd call it in Spain. 

The wonderful Byzantine east end dates to the 1890s, and while the church now has a moderate Catholic tradition (there are icons about and the Sacrament is reserved), the east end hints at more. The predella behind the high altar, installed in 1948, has a space for a tabernacle - and remember, this is not some off-the-wall back-street Anglo-Catholic church but nothing less than (at that time) the pro-cathedral of the Bishop of Guildford. It shows what was acceptable in the Church of England by that stage.

To the north of the town centre we find a different style: the churches here were daughter establishments of St John's Stoke Park, whose tradition was more evangelical. I was lucky to get into Christ Church (they were setting up for a concert) although I have to say there wasn't a lot to see. 

Meanwhile, St Saviour's not far away is one of the great hothouses of the Guildford Diocese. The church does have a monumental sort of grandeur and though I was surprised it hasn't been reorientated to face one of the long walls, in fact that would work very awkwardly here. It has the carved wooden reredos we have come to expect to find in High Victorian evangelical churches, although curiously there's a marble block inserted between the reredos and the mensa.

But at St Saviour's the old church is an adjunct to the rest of the plant. What you see when you come in is the reception desk - the corporate HQ model of church! You do get Love, though, as you can see through the office glass.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Swanvale Halt Film Club: Footprints on the Moon/Le Orme (1975)

It took me a while to discover how I had found out about Footprints on the Moon, a reasonably obscure little Italian thriller sometimes known by its other title, Le Orme. By a process of elimination I worked out it was in Jonathan Rigby's history of Continental horror film, Euro Gothic - not that there is much horrific about the movie, and it's far more psychologically unsettling and inconclusive than most of the other films that tome features. Its Brazilian star, Florinda Bolkan, was apparently so affected by the filming that the weight fell off her, and there are places where she indeed looks worryingly skinny, appropriately for a character undergoing such emotional derangement. It's slow, episodic, and beautifully filmed, the old bits of Istanbul (apparently) and its environs standing in for the fictional island of Garma which Alice, a Portuguese translator working in Italy, is convinced she has never visited and yet where everyone recognises her. The version I saw (via Cinema Paradiso) is distributed by Shameless Films who seem to specialise in mid-1970s horror (I think I will avoid most of the rest of their output including the notorious Flavia the Heretic in which Bolkan also stars). Perhaps that's why the lipsynching seems to be ever-so-slightly awry: at first I switched to watching in Italian with English subtitles until I realised the actors were, in fact, speaking English. There are a couple of short scenes which apparently only exist in a dubbed Italian tape, and which, having been copied back in, appear grainier than the rest of the film. If anything that only adds to the weirdness.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Seeing Differently

It was when I noticed the headmaster's bald pate shining as though he had a sort of halo round his head that I realised something was up with my eyes. That was when I was 16, and since then my 'spec spec' has altered a bit as my eyesight has changed. Over the last couple of years I've found the small print of the Missal we read from at the midweek mass easier to use if I take my glasses off to do so, and depending on conditions that's also the case with the Sunday hymnbook. This is no more than one can expect with advancing age, of course. Very recently, though, my right eye in particular seems to have altered so that its focal range now covers only a couple of inches, and annoyingly a couple of inches which don't coincide with the ones the left one can cover. I can manage for the time being, but doubtless the optician will pick it up the next time I go and perhaps advise a new prescription.

The odd effect of this change, apart from the mild inconvenience, is a psychological one - that, with or without my glasses, the world hardly ever appears completely clear. It's as though I no longer have access to things as they truly are: a strange distance has opened up between me and reality and I can no longer be completely sure what things in themselves are. It's as though I am suddenly more separate than I was before from the landscape through which I move; it becomes a place in which I am a little less at home. Perhaps that, too, is a facet of aging.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Hosanna to the King

As ever the children provide a counterbalance to the general discombobulation of things. Whereas last year the weather was sunny and bright, this time we were standing round the churchyard in the cold while Mr & Mrs Norelake unloaded their friendly donkeys and led them in for the procession initiating the Infants School Palm Service. But their journey up the A3 had been uneventful and securing them a place to park along the street was unwontedly unproblematic.

In the background you can see the great rhododendron bush which adorns the churchyard, and which is so glorious this year it almost baffles the sight.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Fantasy Pasts and Possible Futures

Here in liberal-ish West Surrey there is little Brexit nastiness beyond the sense of disorientation and helplessness endemic in the air. Mind you, many of my friends think they're safe from it in London, and this is not the case. Just after the Referendum S.D. heard two elderly souls at a Pimlico bus stop talking about how great it would be when there was £350M a week more to spend on the NHS, 'and then' (said the man conspiratorially), 'then we can send all the darkies back'. ('Because that's where all the darkies come from, Romania' commented Ms Formerly Aldgate at the time). Another friend was in an East End café on the day Britain was originally supposed to have left the EU, and after she returned from the counter with her coffee, which she had no option but to ask for in Italian-accented English, she was treated to a loud conversation between the man who served her and another customer about how there would be a civil war unless 'all the foreigners' were made to leave. But don't imagine it's just the non-white, non-native residents of these islands who aren't wanted in some areas of it. The BBC the other day spoke to locals in Chatham (where I used to live) who suggested that Scotland should be independent and anyone who voted Remain should be deported there. 'England for the English!' - as though no English person could take a different view. So, in some people's eyes, I have no place in the country I and my ancestors, stretching at least five long centuries back, have called our home.

Picking over the ruins of this horrible landscape would probably bore you as much as me, though I will say it's rich indeed that a Prime Minister who chose to divide her people into 'citizens of somewhere' and 'nowhere' now, at this late and dire hour, wants to bleat about togetherness and union. There are so many other ways this could have been done.

Remainers have their fantasies, of course. The Ode to Joy stirs the imagination with thoughts of liberty and international solidarity: 'Alles menschen verden bruder', indeed. Yet in practice the European Union is a flawed organisation of flawed beings, corrupt and remote and - if you're Greek - politically brutal, in ways that its ideals just throw into ironic relief. But at least this is a noble fantasy, and it's noble fantasies that drive human societies forward, provided you're aware of the distance between what you desire and what currently exists.

Backward-looking fantasies are different. 'The EU always cave in at the last minute', 'these will be the easiest negotiations in history', 'all our existing trade deals will roll over', 'other countries are lining up to do business with us' - all these falsehoods, whether deliberate or simply delusional, have at their heart a misconception of Britain's place in the world, and behind that, I increasingly find listening and observing, is World War Two. It's the constant reference point to which people locked in this dream return. 'We'll be all right,' said the man in the club in Chatham to the BBC, 'we managed in the War'. We are going to find that the world is a harder and colder place than we imagined, and that most of the rest of it doesn't care what happened seventy years ago, and increasingly treats with impatience and contempt Britain's insistence that Winston Churchill bought us a kind of eternal free pass to everything, when it thinks about it at all.

If there is anything positive to look forward to from this dreadful time, it's the death of fantasy. But I am not sure how we get from here to there, or what scars may need to be torn open before we do.