Archive for December 7th, 2007

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Did Scrooge have a point?

7 December, 2007

Going home on the last train from Glasgow Central last night, the young woman opposite me raised her head from where it was slumped against her boyfriend’s shoulder and vomited over the floor in front of me, missing my favourite party shoes by a fraction.

Nativity plays are on the wane, panto stars in Norfolk are banned from throwing sweets into the crowd for fear of litigation and – surely the ultimate absurdity – Historic Scotland has banned candles from being lit in Glasgow Cathedral, also on Health and Safety grounds (I’m not an historian, I admit, but electric light is a fairly modern invention: the Cathedral has stood since the 13th Century and appears to have coped with candles fairly well for 800 years).

Modern Britain: unrepentantly drunk and obsessed with Health and Safety.

 Add to that the fact that most people seem to start Christmas in November and consider Advent to mean ‘time to start Christmas shopping’, rather than time for reflection, and you could be forgiven for saying ‘bah humbug’ to the whole thing.

Except, except.

I was invited to the Cancer Research UK Concert in Glasgow Cathedral last night at the very last minute, to replace far more important guests who had had to drop out. The invitation came via a tenuous Conservative Party connection, and was extended to my husband. As HRH the Duke of Gloucester was attending, I had to provide a quick bio on self and husband, for security purposes.

It was a wonderful evening, with a drinks reception first, then the Concert, followed by a truly sumptuous dinner in the Crypt.

We had been allocated seats in row seven, but, just as we were going into the Cathedral, I was told that we were now in row three, right behind the Duke, with a fabulous view of everything. The concert captured my attention from the outset, so it was only mid way through that I began to wonder why I, as a last minute invitee, and a Nobody to boot, should have been given a position so close to the salt. Then it struck me: the compliment wasn’t for me as a newly-selected PPC, but for my husband, as a serving officer, and for me as a Service wife.

Conscious perhaps of the feelings expressed by soldiers that the people of this country don’t really understand or appreciate the sacrifices they are now being called upon to make, Cancer Research had found time in the midst of its last-minute arrangements for this high-profile, hugely important fundraising event to make a public show of support for our Service personnel and their families. We were their representatives last night, but the message was for all serving soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families.

As a Service wife, I was touched beyond measure. And that is surely the true spirit of Christmas.

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Schadenfreude should be avoided

7 December, 2007

“You haven’t updated your blog since 25th November,” said my neighbour to me at a charity dinner last night. He was mildly unimpressed by my lack of output, but I was delighted to discover someone who actually read it, apart from my husband and my brother-in-law.

 Apologies to anyone else out there who might read my wandering thoughts on a regular basis: I spent last week travelling between Paisly, Lochgilphead and Edinburgh, arriving home regularly after 10 pm, and this week I started my new job. Working full time again has meant a return to my old habit of falling asleep in front of the News and stumbling to bed, with little enthusiasm for sitting at the computer until late into the night.

 If I subject myself to closer scrutiny, however, I admit that I have been conscious of a slight reluctance to tackle the subject that has dominated the headlines recently: the Donations Scandal(s). 

Oh, I can’t deny that I have watched the Prime Minister’s discomfiture with a small degree of satisfaction (although I’m willing to bet that Tony has been hugging himself with glee at the headlines), and anything that could remove patronisingly ueber-politically correct Harriet Harperson from our television screens just has to be A Good Thing in itself, but I have watched Ms Alexander’s troubles with less satisfaction.

There are two problems with Schadenfreude (apart from the fact that we don’t have a word for it in English): as well as being a deeply unattractive quality, it can rebound on us later. I have only recently been selected, and, to my certain knowledge, any donations I have received to date have been from fully paid-up members of my local Association (for which I am very grateful!), but who knows what murky secrets lie in the undergrowth of party funding?

Are all of our politicians satisfied that they have checked the source, personally, of every single donation that they have ever received? Have they, perhaps, as Wendy did, trusted others to do so properly and in accordance with the law? She may well have signed a thank-you letter, but I took two letters into a meeting for my Boss to sign this week; letters she had looked at in draft, which she then signed hastily, while continuing with her introductions around the table. She didn’t read them again.

I am willing to bet a large sum that one of Wendy’s assistants shoved a couple of ‘bread-and-butter-thank-you-letters-to-donors’ under her nose, while she was talking to someone else, and asked for her signature. None of this excuses her breaking the law, but it might well explain how it happened.

We should all be a little wary of throwing stones, as I suspect that there are politicians out there from all the other parties who are living in glass houses.