Grant us rest

I was working in Denmark last week. Ryan Air from Stansted to Aarhus, missed the Monday flight as the parking zone was already full. Got the Tuesday flight and then straight into a meeting in Silkeborg. Friendly chap, your Dane. Very straightforward and honest, it seems to me. On Wednesday evening I went out to look at the stars after dinner and got chatting to a Dane who was having a smoke. We compared notes on Danish society and I pontificated that Britain has more private wealth whereas Denmark has more public wealth. He said “We (Danes) are happy when even the poor can get health care”. That seemed to me the mark of a civilised society. In Britain we seem only to be happy when we can get something for ourselves. Even then, we are not really happy.

Got back on Friday afternoon then up to London in the evening for a pre Christmas dinner with some work friends. The Imperial China in Lisle Street. Leicester Square very busy. As I rode the escalator down into the tube I looked at the hundreds of people squeezing their way around and it struck me that I was one of the few who were older than 40.

I moved to London in 1986 and I think in those days the consumerist revolution had not yet swept across Britain. London was not so crowded and the infrastructure had not been modernised. On my first Saturday in London, I hopped on an old Routemaster bus and keenly remember the excitement as this post war icon rattled and shook it’s way down Threadneedle Street.

In those days London was like a massive playground for me. Something weird and interesting around every corner. Boozers, museums, markets. Oxford Street at Christmas, thousands of books at Foyle’s, the 100 club for a late drink. I loved to stand on the corner of Oxford Street and Charring Cross Road and watch the people. Dalston was a place I felt at home. – “But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away, An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay”….. Hmm… perhaps that doesn’t quite work but the sentiment is the same.

Arrived in Brighton about 1am and walking briskly down the hill I found myself drinking Guinness in the Quadrant. Late licensing laws are, at least, one change for the better.

On Saturday night I watched Talking Heads on BBC2. This is a series of monologues written by Alan Bennet and this one was Thora Hird playing Violet in Waiting for the Telegram. This was extremely good. Violet is an elderly woman in an old people’s home. She has been told that soon she will be receiving a telegram from the Queen. Her mind drifts back to the days when a telegram meant the death of a young man in the first world war She’s had a stroke and can’t remember words. Talking to a male nurse she gets a bit sad and  says: “Don’t get yourself …..Like when you don’t come home, back, khaki and poppies”. It’s her birthday and she says:”They kept saying that a few more years and I’ll be getting the……”  and she forgets the word……..”lad comes on a bike, folks stood at the door weeping…. – Telegram!”

On Desert Island Discs this morning Baroness Scotland selected Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu. I’ve heard this before but never figured out what it was. With troops in Afghanistan and the economy in recession, and not withstanding my devout agnosticism, the words seem very appropriate as we come up to Christmas.

Kind Jesus,
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest.

Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sins of the world,
Grant them rest
Everlasting.

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