Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Irish Sea

Standing on Whitehall, waiting for the arrival of my bus into work, I glanced over towards the Houses of Parliament, and could see the Union flag fluttering atop them in the chilly, moderate breeze. My thoughts turned towards Northern Ireland, where the ongoing fights over changes to the demonstration of loyalty to the crown are again bringing pain and anger to the streets. It's very difficult to understand exactly what drives the loyalists in Ulster. What makes them so rabidly pro British, and what is the nature of this strange love for the mother country?

There is of course the cliche of Paisley and his picture of Brenda on the wall, so clearly it must have something to do with the symbolism of the English monarch which does it for them, rather than whichever crowd of thieves is inhabiting the grand buildings along this famous old street at any given time. It occurred to me that history can be a Very Big Thing, that many people see the invisible thread linking them to their distant past as clearly as the sun in the sky. Somewhere in the mind's eye of the bowler hatted sash wearer is the Battle of the Boyne, King Billy riding triumphantly to rout the Papist devils and burn their houses down.

It is difficult to fully comprehend all aspects of this long distant past, and it is often a mistake which we all make, assessing a historical past from the point of view of a modern sensibility. However, in common with much of current events reporting, things are rarely as they appear on first reading. Having read a (very) little about 17th Century politics, it does seem ironic that William of Orange was actually supported by Pope Alexander VIII for his own nefarious ends - the relative microcosm of Irish religio-political struggles overshadowed by those of the wider world. How little, one could say, cared the Holy Father for his Catholic flock; how little King Billy for his Protestant subjects. Now, as we stand staring at history in the making, do we see anything different? Old Ratzenberg may bring his funny car over to the Emerald Isle for a bit of a hand waving session, but that's about it. Never mind the paedophilia, eh Your Holiness? Similarly, I can't see Lizzie crying in her gilded cornflakes over the parlous state of the average estate dweller in the Ballybeen.

Now on to Loftus Road for... For what? Mario's swansong, hat-trick and a red card before he goes back over the sea for his pasta and future? Let's be honest, this has got a City win all over it. Or will it be a dour 0-0, 'Arry's buses parked firmly across the width of the pitch and Merlin fouled every time he starts one of his little darting runs? No Kompany to stem the threat of Sweep, declining though his power may be, and we run the risk of conceding. City humbled by the bottom team, who were knocked out of the Cup by MK Dons at the weekend. It could be any of those things.

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