I’ve always had a soft spot for Pinocchio.
I learned to tell lies very well by a young age. I calculated that the risk of being found out was worth taking. One of my clearest childhood memories is of sitting next to my dad as we drove home from school. I must have been about six.
“I learned something which made me very sad today, Carys” said dad.
“I learned that you had told a lie.” Gosh I thought, that’s nothing to be sad about, I tell them all the time.
I had been raised to be extremely modest. Nudity didn’t exist, my body something deeply shaming.
So of course it was a catastrophe for me when at school we were told to strip down to our vests for the sports lesson. I told Mrs Robinson, my teacher, who had big pearly earrimgs, that I had a cold. I couldn’t possibly do sports, and so was permitted to sit (safely in my pullover) on a bench in the hall and watch my classmates running round in their underwear.
Unfortunately for me, my dad had another role: he was the headmaster of my school and so of course when Mrs Robinson told him how sorry she was about my cold, my fate – on that day at least – was sealed.
Don’t worry, somewhere in the course of growing up I decided that lying is not a super idea, and that I wanted to be the sort of person that other persons could trust to be reliable and truthful.
So when I write this blog, I do my best to write authentically, honestly and truthfully. When I tell stories or give information in my lessons, I have done my best to establish what the facts of the matter are, have tried to understand the background. What a huge responsibility it is, to pass on information which others trust.
Which brings me to Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.
Many years ago I showed my students a TV programme where Johnson explored his family background. It was very interesting indeed, we all enjoyed the show and – to my everlasting shame – many of us fell for Johnson’s bumbling persona.
Later, in the Brexit debacle we took a look at the role Johnson had played in the Leave campaign, including misrepresenting the EU to British newspaper readers over many years, together with the shadowy figure of Cummings whose Brexit slogan “Take back control” spoke to so many British hearts.
Now my poor old country finds itself with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Europe, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit just around the corner and a Prime Minister unable or unwilling to fire a ‘Special Advisor’ who broke the rules. Politicians who tell bare-faced lies, journalists more interested in their own careers than in taking those who sought high office to task.
This week, New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern was filmed continuing an interview during an earthquake.
A post on twitter:’ That wasn’t an earthquake. It was all of us in the UK stamping our feet asking her to come and take over our country.’
Sometimes when I’ve written the blog, or prepared a lesson I wake in the night and realize I made a mistake – a wrong comma, a wrong date for Prince Rupert of the Rhine – and I get out of bed and turn on my computer and correct it.
And now the United Kingdom is being run by men and women who dissemble and lie, don’t read their briefs, use ‘the Science’ to justify their own mistakes, a foreign secretary who didn’t know how important Dover is for trade, and a Special Advisor who chose to test his eyesight – possibly damaged by Covid-19 – by driving for an hour to a local beauty spot – with his family. And then sitting by the river there. On his wife’s birthday.
Like many of my countrymen and women I can’t understand how it came to this, and I don’t know how it will continue.
On May 8 1373, a dying woman in Norwich had a series of visions. She didn’t actually die until 1416 and by then had become famous as Julian of Norwich, and was an anchoress, a woman who chose to live her entire life in one cell. People came from all over the place to ask her advice and her blessing. She is thought to have been the first woman to write a book in English which has survived.
She wrote: ” All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
On days like today, watching those British politicians who are telling lies and behaving like charlatans it’s hard to imagine anything or anybody being well for the foreseeable future.
So I look in my garden, watch the squirrels, eat freshly picked strawberries and remember a hymn we sang in school assembly. I absolutely hated it, the stupid tune trudged along and I often got in trouble with my parents when we sang it in church as I sang it ‘naughtily’.
I was as good and as practised at singing hymns naughtily as I was at lying.
In 1980 that changed when John Rutter, a British composer, composed a new tune for it. It is so beautiful. Here it’s sung by the Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral and when I listen to it I can imagine that all manner of things will be well again.
Sooner or later.
The Cabin Fever Part