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An Elegy

Last weekend we christened the youngest Englishette - Saturday night was spent preparing the house, surrounded by family with the Last Night of the Proms on in the background. I went to bed happy, full of good wine, food and love and the tunes of great traditional music still ringing in my ears.
On Sunday I walked out to see what the archaeologists were finding and seeing how people have lived and farmed here for at least three thousand years. Later the family gathered in the stone built church, some of it a thousand years old, to welcome my daughter into The Church of England, in the same font her sister and brothers, her cousins, her uncle and I were baptised. Her name joins ours on the wall beside the "Roll of Honour" and family monuments dating back through the centuries. More wine and laughter followed.
This morning rose bright and clear, the air cleansed by yesterday's rain. The hedgerows are rich with fruit, elderberries, blackberries, sloes, hips and damsons. The rich soil is being turned after harvest to be planted again. Nowhere is more beautiful. By I was depressed and saddened - I felt almost stateless.
I have never hunted and never wanted to. The Commons banning it came as no surprise; so why did it upset me so much? I think it was the final realisation that the traditional world my ancestors and I grew up in has been humiliated and destroyed for the sake of a short term political advantage by a bunch of shits.
I suddenly had a feeling that this was no longer my England, that the Vichy regime controlling us had stamped down on us just once too often. And that the point of the forthcoming protests is not about changing this particular law back; we want our country back, and if we can't have it - well fuck them, we will just enjoy the mayhem as revenge.

Comments

Your description of life in England brought a lump to the throat and a tear to my eyes.
I was born in Thomas Hardy country in 1941.
We had the 'misfortune' to have to live in Hull but each year made joyful trips to Gran's cottage.
We walked the hedgerows to St. Mary's on Sunday for the service,they( the hedgerows were full of hazelnuts(Filberts) gran called them, and wild stawberries -life so different to the frenetic life of to-day, sometimes recaptured in part with some of those wonderful English TV productions that occasionally slip in between all the American
junk.
Life was not more perfect I suppose at the core, but we had time to grow up more slowly and smell the wild primroses and blue bells before the real world caught up with u. But we seemed to have more time to dream and imagine.
Thanks for the memory
I dream of having one visit before I grow too old but then frightened that I could not bear the changes.


Rosey
Australia

You broke my heart with this piece, Tim. Even though I am an American (and much too savvy to watch the "American junk" on television...that is for the barely sentient), I feel heartache when something beloved is lost. 'Course, the stuff over here is a lot younger than your stuff, Tim.

But, if this is any help to you, I fully believe the England you love will always exist. Too many people love it.

Just start kicking their butts come election time.

Who could deny that this is a wonderful picture of Englishness. Yet itís very much a minority experience; just one of a great many equally English cultures.

In order to survive itíll depend on the tolerance of a great many others and must learn to show tolerance in return. It will also need to learn to accept criticism and change. Just as the English Muslim community (a larger minority) must accept womenís rights, so the this community must accept that visiting great suffering upon animals for fun is wrong.

Stephen,

But the case isn't proven that it is wrong. Even if it is, those wankers in parliament didn't even bother to make the case, because this never was about foxes.

Besides the very fact that you equate people whose ancestors have lived in this country since before the Norman conquest, and are taking part in an activity that is just as old, with one of Britains most recent, and least assimilated, immigrant groups shows why just so many of us feel like foreigners ourselves in todays Britain.

The fact that a fox suffers greatly in being ripped apart by hounds for the pleasure of their owners is not in dispute.

Those who feel like foreigners in Britain today, experience such feelings because they subscribe to a myth of monoculturalism. England is, whether you like it or not, a multicultural society. At 15 I moved from London to a small village and could not have felt more foreign. Yet both my village and city lives were English and there are great many more forms of Englishness.

There is no doubt that Tim describes a very English scene. Yet as he himself admits over here, www.anenglishmanscastle.com/archives/000875.html this rural community is not sustainable and depends on government handouts. If this was a typical English existence, England would be bankrupt. Timís world depends on the good will of the sustainable English cultures. And long may it thrive within the bounds of decency.

James should try to come to terms with his alienation by accepting that others are different. We canít all be country bumpkins.

James was born in Africa, lives in the heart of one of Britains biggest cities, works in one of Britains most cosmopolitan professions and is a city boy to the soles of his shoes. He wouldn't know one end of a horse from another.

Your arguments are arse about face, Stephen. The hunting lobby is not trying to stop anybody doing anything, while the antihunt lobby exists solely to stop huntmen hunting. In this context at least, you are the anti-multi culturalist and I an flying the flag for cultural diversity.

You assume, in your foolishness, that my alienation is a product of my monoculturalism. It isn't. It's a product of my deep sorrow that, as a country, we seem to have forgotten the importance of liberty; that democracy is about more than just electing our dictators, it's about individual people having the freedom to live the lives they want with the minimum of government interference. It's that interference that leads to monoculturalism, not my opposition to the ban on hunting.

On your first point, it's not enough to argue that the foxes death is unpleasant. You have to prove that the alternatives aren't worse. The government isn't banning the killing of foxes. Presumably they are now going to be shot, poisoned or snared. Poisoning and snaring are awful deaths. Foxes are small and nocturnal, so shooting isn't that easy (or given the death of that young lad last week, particularly safe). There's going to be a lot of septic, limping foxes dying painfully in the bushes who aren't going to be any better off than if they had been chased across a field and ripped to pieces.

The real clue to your misanthropy is your use of the word 'pleasure'. This never has been about foxes. It's always been about the motivation of the people who do it. The anti hunt lobby doesn't care about how foxes are killed, as long as people don't have too much fun while they are doing it. Those foxes are going to pay a high price for your self righteousness.

Well said James.
Sad, sad, sad.

It isn't about foxes - it is a mere aside that hunting with hounds has proven to be a great wild animal management scheme - and haven been attacked by animals I can assure you the great adrenalin rush masks any pain.
(On another point - my complaint about the subsidy system is that it prevents real enterprise flourishing - look at New Zealand where the removal of agricultural subsidies created a buoyant farming industry. The countryside shouldn't want or need handouts.)
No, this is at one end Monboit's "Class war" or at the other ignorance pushing its lifestyle as the only one and crushing dissent.
The attack on the rural community is a whole raft of diktats, of which the hunting ban is only one, and it is close to destroying one of the great cultures of the world. One that has produced many great men and women, much art, music, literature, fashion (where do you think the ubiquitous suit came from). And one that is still being lived in liberty and freedom by many people (many more than the 1.5 million Muslims in the UK, to answer another point.)
Let us be honest - if this was a far away country and the community was of brown skinned people, the Guardian would be up in arms about the destruction of their culture.
Eventually the banners will have worked their way down the list until they reach Kosher and Halal slaughter methods - these are widely recognised as being sub-optimal in terms of animal welfare compared to "conventional" slaughter methods. The excuse for allowing millions of animals this unnecessary suffering is it is cultural or religious. Whose side are you going to be on then?

A fox is a fox - a wild animal that eats other wild animals and visits much pain and suffering upon other such lesser animals. That's Nature. Hunt it with dogs, or shoot it with a gun, or leave it alone as it tears and eats the flesh of other beasts. To attempt to especially insure or otherwise emphasize it's survival and treatment against the face of Nature and her own depredations, simply because of a Political stand regarding the 'style' of its discreet, animal, life event-arc, is perverse.

Well said.

I've never hunted or even sat a horse, but when I moved to the sticks (from inner city) I decided I wan't going to try and drop my culture on the people whose culture over centuries had made the place so nice to live in. There's a reason why (say) Down Ampney is nicer than Penhill, or Dumbleton nicer than Hester's Way.

Alas this government (and others) has shown over the years that violence and protest work. That's probably because in the case of Sinn Fein/IRA they were sympathetic or at least ambivalent. Self hating liberals may have less compunction about using the big stick on conservative Englishmen. So it could get unpleasant. And don't expect the European Court or Liberty to step in. Human rights are for 'them', not for 'us'.

What will be necessary is for funds and support systems for the families of those who will inevitably be imprisoned - the sort of thing Noraid did so well over the years. I hope the Alliance are thinking about that.

The issue is not as complex as you like to pretend.

Cultural diversity is about freedom: the freedom to choose a lifestyle. So if you claim to value freedom you should also value diversity. But that doesnít mean that everything in every culture is good or that every culture is compatible with every other culture. For example, we tend to put the rights of individuals before culture especially in when it comes to womenís rights.

In talking of nature, Keith has fallen for the naturalistic fallacy. This is actually an urban myth; the idea that because something is natural itís good, better and right. In this context heís arguing animal suffering is okay because itís natural. But human death and suffering is equally natural. To work against human death and suffering is to go against nature (and equally futile). So the idea that going against nature is wrong is nonsense.

Our relationship with animals has always seesawed between traditionalist Judeo-Islamo-Christian ideas that the beasts are, like the rest of nature, resources to be exploited and humanistic ideas that, at the extreme, argue for almost equal rights. I donít go as far as the latter, but with the latest research showing animals are capable of emotions that that Judeo-Islamo-Christian axis has always claimed (without evidence) to be exclusively human I welcome a value system that seeks to minimise animal suffering.

So we have two worthy values Ė cultural diversity and the minimisation of animal suffering Ė in conflict. But thatís easily resolved. We simply rank them in order of priority and the minimisation of suffering comes first.

People on the back foot in a debate often make up stuff about their opponents. While Timís to be congratulated on the open and stimulating way in which he enables discussion, he falls foul when it comes to kosher and halal slaughter methods. Defraís Farm Animal Welfare Council has recommended a ban. However, Tony Blair (who fails to vote on fox hunting and enjoys watching cruel sports when abroad) is unlikely to allow it to be pursued for reasons that have nothing to do with the principles involved.

None of which alters the fact that foxes will suffer no less under the new legislation. You're wrong even under your own value system because you are prioriting limiting other peoples cultural diversity above that of minimising animal suffering.

"People on the back foot in a debate often make up stuff about their opponents"

Well quite, that's presumably why you accused me of being a mono-cultural country bumpkin

Okay James, so youíre not a country bumpkin. Sorry!

Nevertheless, youíre still wrong. The ban will reduce (although not eliminate) animal suffering and this trumps the argument that preservation of hunting helps cultural diversity. Another benefit is that it enforces the concept that killing and inflicting suffering for fun is wrong and with that the humane value system.

The ban will not destroy the culture you seek to preserve (unless fox hunting is its only defining feature). I think youíll find that with the hunts gone, country life will remain just as unique. This continued uniqueness will prove the cultural diversity argument to have been without merit.

I'm not sure why I fall foul by asking a simple question?
Kosher and Halal slaughter increase animal suffering - they are allowed because they are a mainstay "culture".
So why won't all the principled backers of a fox hunting ban which they claim increases animal suffering and is the mainstay of a culture, campaign to ban it? Or is it it is because they can insult freely the English Countryfolk but dare not campaign against Jews and Muslims?

But, Tim. Those of us who are consistent (as I've said already) do back a ban on halal and kosher. And we have the support of many in Defra.

Stephen , I glad to hear it, whilst I may gently disagree with you on hunting, my anger is directed at the inconsistent and hypocrites who count no the cost of what they do...

As far as I can tell, someone's fallen for the hip and urbane mythos of multiculturalism saving the world, rather than diluting it to a tepid and tasteless people-stew. I don't believe Nature has the quality of bad, good, or better, either - that's anthropomorphism. There is however the inevitiabile visit of Death, and among Nature's creatures Pain and Suffering are equally a given - what I'm saying is, it's just a fox.
If you feel so much for it, it's your Welfare State - prioritize: provide it food and shelter from the rain and cold, health and dental for "Wellness," and frisky Foxettes for it's pleasure. Sheesh.

I think Stephen could learn a lot by reading Willaim Faulkner's short story "The Bear." It is set in the Deep South of the US, but it illustrates how hunting was more than just about killing animals - it was facing up to a task of protection and test of manhood.

I dont know much about this particular issue, being way over here on this side of The Pond, but I think the more egregious aspect of Stephen's post is his arrogance and condescension towards those who apparently have a finer appreciation for the history and identity of the English.

Stephen, every word you wrote speaks of your apparent view that you think you know better, yet in having read Tim's blog for some time, he has a great deal more knowledge about England than you do. All you seem to care about is punishing people for having a tradition that YOU think is the realm of 'country bumpkins.' What a typically elitist city attitude! "I've been forced to come out here, so I'm going to SHOW these country bumpkins how stupid they are for not being like ME."

Stephen, you would do well to take note just how afraid the politicians are now of the "country bumpkins" in America...and we retain much of the English sense of freedom and stewardship. The elites disparage us ALL the time, especially those of us in the South, but we hold our fire until the right time.

Tim, to put it in the more popular vernacular : YOU GO, MAN!!!

Oh, yes, and I also wanted to say Congratulations on the baptism of your daughter. May the Lord shine upon her face and protect her from all evil!

Our relationship with animals has always seesawed between traditionalist Judeo-Islamo-Christian ideas that the beasts are, like the rest of nature, resources to be exploited and humanistic ideas that, at the extreme, argue for almost equal rights. I donít go as far as the latter, but with the latest research showing animals are capable of emotions that that Judeo-Islamo-Christian axis has always claimed (without evidence) to be exclusively human I welcome a value system that seeks to minimise animal suffering.

What beautiful politization of religions you make! The pathos of propoganda! You ALMOST had my sympathy until you 1) lumped Islam in with Judaism and Christianity and 2) went so far as to call it a POLITICAL entity. "AXIS"?!? OH PUH leeeeeeez!!!

And if you dont stand for either the 'traditionalist' means of wildlife management and 'anthropomorphizing' of animals, where DO you stand? What is YOUR solution? So far, I have only seen you offer bitch-slaps of condescending names and a distinct separation of yourself as being 'more correct' than the host of this blog.

Tim, please pardon the language, but I write this in a mood of deep anger.

Banning fox hunting has fuck all to do with saving foxes or sparing them pain.

It has everything to do with circumscribing the property rights of a certain class of people. Put simply, it is a cheap political ploy against a minority -- most Brits don't, and will never hunt, so the landed classes are an easy target.

It is also part of a concerted attack against the nation's most long-held institutions, and one of many attempts to turn Britain from a nation of tradition into one of post-modernism, where everything "old" is suspect, and only the rootless "new" is worthy of support.

Maybe classless warriors like Mr. Newton think they can disguise their ulterior motives with camoflage like attacks on kosher and halaal foods (and who the fuck gives THEM the right to decide how people should prepare their food, anyway?), but no one is fooled.

Perhaps Brits, with their famous tradition of tolerance, are too close to the tree to see the forest, but from Over Here it's pretty damn plain what's going on.

And it sucks.

Well quite. For a perceptive and brutal analysis of the ideology that underpins new labour read Mark Steyn's

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2004/09/21/do2102.xml

To be fair to Stephen he clearly hasn't much time for country bumpkins, believers of urban myths, Christians Jews or Moslems, so he's clearly not narrow in his bigotry.

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