Putting one’s House in order
It’s very wintry here in the French redoute du Sloggeur. The good news is that it’s been thawing nicely all day. The bad news is that very old former hunting lodges are slow to catch up with such news.
Over the last week, it’s been like those student years all over again: constantly turning on the oven’s gas taps for additional heat, and running through the hallway areas where it’s what my mother used to call “rather fresh”. Two years ago, we had the roof fully insulated here. I am eternally glad about that, because without it, recently I would’ve frozen to death while (on the roof) large flocks of birds would’ve been seen in shorts, basking in deckchairs and discussing the benefits of global warming.
But I do love this house so much. Its history alone is enough to engender my eternal devotion. Originally owned by the local Comte in the 18th century just prior to the revolution, its name is based on the initial function: as a storage area of hunted meat using salt. At the same time, however, it was a dual usage domicile in that M. le Comte used it to exercise his rights of droits de seigneur: that is to say, getting his pick of such local female peasant talent as might take his fancy. The past is another country, they do things differently there.
The tradition set by the aristocrat (whose neck survived 1789 intact – a noteworthy achievement) lived on, and in the 19th century the house was known as La maison des sept démoiselles, which – while sounding terribly romantic – translates roughly as Seven Whores House.
We all love a little ill-repute in our backgrounds, except politicians and priests. Only politicians want us to believe that they never got things wrong, never get things wrong, and never will get things wrong. Only clerics want us to think that they never did things wrong, never do things wrong, and never will do things wrong. This may help explain why, when these two professions got together six centuries ago, we had the Spanish Inquisition. And now the ‘Arab Spring’ is producing politicians who are Islamist, we are going to get still more mad violence….and incalculable rigidity of thought.
The perversion of an originally good idea knows no bounds.
You can tell this by the way Nick Clegg says he sort of knew about Lord Rennard’s naughtiness, but not specifically what it was. This is Slick Nick’s way of saying, “I’m not a total prick, it’s just that I wasn’t sure what especially horrible thing he’d done.” Well sure Nick, we can all get behind that.
You can also tell it by the way the Catholic Church keeps pretending that using the adjective ‘inappropriate’ might somehow be a half-decent substitute for the phrase ‘grossly unacceptable moral turpitude’. Thus Cardinal O’Brien resigns because his habit of cruising among younger priests on the off chance of some seriously great bum action has regrettably come to light….but that all comes down – apparently – to nothing more than something inappropriate. What does that make Sachsenhausen, the Gulag Archipelago, and the Black Hole of Calcutta I wonder – inept?
Euphemism is one of the many curses of our age. What we need is some euphemasia. But while we’re waiting for that, here’s a thought for you to take to bed tonight. There are myriad types of human social institution where the very real and pressing need is to put the house in order. My house here may well be less than perfect, but it is in order to the extent that it will always offer an acceptable trade-off between character and function.
My feeling on this dark February night is that the same cannot be said of the Vatican, the Houses of Parliament, the US Congress, the European Commission, Buckingham Palace, the Anglican Synod, and the African National Congress.
Perhaps the main thing all of them need is roof insulation with the ability stop the escape of hot air. But probably far more likely is that the occupants need to curb their flatulence, stop abusing the protection offered, and instead accept that the Barbarians are at the gate….and will sack the place unless something of substance is done very soon.
Tomorrow is my 65th birthday, and the date from which I am entitled to get some money back from those occupants. Woe betide any of them who fail me.