At the End of the Day

‘The lights will go dark across Britain at 11pm on August 4 under Government plans to mark the centenary of the First World War’ the Daily Telegraph tells me. If this is to signify the cruel darkness in Man’s nature that resulted in four years of utterly pointless slaughter, then I’m all for it. But my fear is that the newly revived Etonian playing fields Party will attempt to turn the event into some kind of ghastly celebration of The British Fighting Man.

There is nothing to celebrate in it being an accidental time-based century since millions of deluded young men went off to have their lives ended, limbs removed and faith shattered in the trenches of The Great War…the risibly named (at the time) War to End All Wars. The only thing I marvel at in 2014 is the stoicism with which English, French, German, Russian, Austrian, Australian, Canadian, African, Kiwi and assorted other believers went off to prove through killing that God was on their side. As a limerick shortly after the Versailles treaty noted:

God heard the embattled nations shout/Gott straffe England/God save the King/God this God that and God the other thing

My God said God/I’ve got my work cut out

My paternal grandfather Alfred Aloysius Ward was gassed and captured in 1916. I asked him in the 1970s what his chief emotion was on being shipped off to a prison camp, and he said without hesitation, “Relief”. On arriving in Bavaria one Saturday evening, Alf heard the German sergeant say “Step forward all Catholics”. The order seemed ominous, but grandad stepped one pace forward with three other blokes.

The next morning, a Sunday, the sergeant led his flock of three down to the village to hear Mass and receive absolution. Afterwards, he suggested a few biers at the local hostelry.

As Alf recounted many years later, “The next weekend there were twenty-four Catholics in the regiment”.

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Anyone for a bit of conscious uncoupling? I remain an enormous fan of Gwynneth Paltrow, but I continue to despair of the celebrity desire to turn everything in their lives into a crypto civilised ethico-angst meaningful experience. I applaud any attempt to shield the kids from intrusive tabloid speculation, but FFS…enough is enough already. Why the psychobabble?

It seems they are retaining wholeness in separation. They’re consciously splitsville, according to a statement on Paltrow’s website. They’re co-parenting too. I am dying of boredom and choking on my vomit.

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Three years of accidental Hell can change one’s appreciation of existence. Three hours of hard labour can make a day worthwhile. Three minutes of rose pink and slate-grey sunset can make a day.

Life is not like Forex. Its currency is omnidirectional. You can be rich and see nothing, or poor and appreciate everything. This is not an excuse to tolerate poverty. But it is a damned good reason to be suspicious of materialists.

Earlier at The Slog: Greece gets the bailout it was never going to need