WHY do people write anonymous letters? Are they ashamed? Are they afraid? Do they realise that they can never be answered? Is it the activity of totally disinterested people who expect neither reward nor recognition? I do not know.
I get a few, and if they are interesting or wrong, it is very frustrating not to be able to reply with such courtesy as i can command.
Some intolerable pedant who does not know how to use a reference hook, or when and how creatively to misuse the laxitus
of the English language, or what is misprint, or the existence of alternative usages, has carefully corrected (sub-edited) a couple of Charterhouses and sent them' back to me. Clearly it was a labour of love — or the opposite.
I can imagine him, lonely, frustrated, rejected by his brethren, dusty about the shoulders and smelling of baked beans, with time to spare and a sense of overweening but frustrated pride. He shall be forgiven if he makes a firm purpose of amendment — and signs it.
Perhaps they should have a permanent exhibition of some sort in the vast brick crypt to the Lutyens cathedral which was never built. Liverpool Cathedral has electric points ready for flood lighting but not enough money to buy the lights. Admirable and rare housekeeping!
Westminster is our top draw — up to half a million visitors a year with a first-class specialist bookshop. But I fear that although a large proportion of its visitors come now in coach loads, the midday statistics are out of proportion with Anglican cathedrals.
It's almost unfair that the Mass rather than royal tombs should be such a draw. And this cathedral is made for lingering over.
The report is very insistent on having large, clear, multilingual notices telling people to pay up and to behave. Winchester brings moral pressure to bear for 25p at the entrance and quite right too.
Westminster Cathedral is still top discreet. But I do recnfibng ago, coming out of High Mass there and seeing Fr Michael Hollings standing with a plate at the ready under the great organ. I hastily changed a half crown into a pound note.
York Minster takes no chances. Its notice reads: "Manners and Custom — you will avoid giving offence if you keep as quiet as possible and refrain from smoking, eating or drinking in the Minster. We ask you to be dressed with decorum. Gentlemen, please remove your hats."
By the standards of this report, St Peter's in Rome is very well run even if it is hard to find the loos and the basilica bar is rather private.
If William had lost at Battle
PERSONALLY, I have always regretted the Norman Conquest. King Harold was a greater soldier than Duke William, and he was robbed of his deserved victory by foreigners blessed by the Pope.
At Stamford Bridge Harold had killed and defeated his traitorous brother and the King of Norway. He then had to take the army down to Senlac to meet the Normans.
What with being tired and having hang-overs, his small army were not at their best for the fight at the place in Sussex that is now called Battle.
But if the Saxon troops had obeyed orders and not broken ranks to chase a half-defeated enemy, if the alien arrow had not killed Harold, if their island civilisation had survived — then what would have happened?
England would have developed no sense of Godgiven superiority. Wales, Scotland and Ireland would be still separate realms of varying interest. There would have been no Reformation, because the Saxons would have topped the Celts in their loyalty to Rome.
The verbal arts of England would have been as majestic
as ever. The visual arts would have been rich and intimate and not given to giganticism. Foreigners would have been still more suspect.
The English army would have developed into the most formidable professional force in Europe and have been available for hire at fairly reasonable prices. Pride in achievement would have taken the place of pride in class. The Church would have been a Department of State.. England would regularly have beaten Wales at Rugby — unless they still had hangovers from beating Scotland, France and the Papal States (which would have been preserved by an English Crusade inspired by their inordinate devotion to the Papacy).
On the other hand, the food would have been healthy, plain and frightful, a mixture of roughage and protein. What passes now for football hooliganism would have been acceptable at Court.
Masses would have been interminable. There would have been a total democracy based upon regional parliaments, based upon local gatherings based upon family groupings, based upon awkward and eccentric individuals.
The United States would be Spanish because England would not have bothered. India would be a Catholic subcontinent because the Portugese would have had their way and Germany would have stayed disunited because the Prussians could never have faced the English in their steel, steam-turbine longboats.
The world would have been a better place led by an England devoted to RealMead served warm by enormous barmaids. It would have been patronising, a little uncouth, rich and rather vulgar. discouraging to immigrants except for those from Protestant persecution of which there would have been little.
Instead of building up an expensive and debilitating Empire with upper-class Anglo-Irishmen trained at Winchester and Irish peasants starved into a British Army by the same people, England would have been busy avenging, 0 Lord, its martyred saints and making a very good thing out of it. If you do not believe this, read this account by a cantor of the old Saxon Minster at Winchester called Wulfstan. This was the great church that preceded the Norman cathedral.
"Twice six bellows above are ranged in a row and 14 lie below. moreover, hidden holes in the 40 tongues, and each has 10 pipes in their due order. Some are conducted hither, others thither, each preserving its proper point for its music of the lyric semitone.
"Like thunder the iron tones batter the ear, so that it
may receive no sound but that alone.
"To such an amount does it reverberate, echoing in every direction, that every one stops with hand to his gaping ears, being in no wise able to draw near and bear the sound, which so many combinations produce.
"The music is heard throughout the town, and the flying fame thereof is gone out over the whole country."
Could anything sound more . .
English? What a natural predecessor for "Land of Hope and Glory", the Massed Bands of the Brigade of Guards and the Massed Mixed Choirs of Huddersfield wading into the "Hallelujah Chorus."
"These, by alternative blasts supply an immense quantity of wind, and are worked by 70 strong men, labouring with their arms, covered with perspiration, each inciting his companions to drive the wind up with all his strength, that the full-bosomed box may speak with its 400 pipes which the hand of the organist governs.
"Two brethren of concordant spirit sit at the instrument, and each manages his own alphabet. There are,