There is a problem with blogs. We bloggers try to keep our posts short, but in making them concise it is easy to give the wrong impression. I think this happened with my last blog, “I’m Back Because I Can’t Stand Sham”. I was trying to explain how I sometimes try to imagine how I would explain some aspects of modern life to my father, were he still alive. He fought all through WW1 and writing about him has emphasised what a different world we inhabit now.
In that blog I mentioned a man called Freddy McConnell. He is someone presenting with either complicated and complex problems or, at the other end of the scale, a tissue of lies.
So, let me reassure readers that I’m not a full of hate bigot and I do have compassion — a lot of it — for anyone finding themselves in a perplexing and difficult situation.
What is worrying me about Freddy McConnell and his baby son is the utter unreality of it all. Common sense has flown out of the window.
I would have nothing against Freddy if I met him – say at a play group – with his beard and moustache, and I would have no trouble calling him Mr McConnell and describing him as ‘he’ and Daddy. I have the evidence of my eyes and, in any case, I wouldn’t want to be rude or hurtful. There is no harm in being courteous in any merely social situation, particularly if surrounded by small children and other parents. This will surely happen frequently as Freddy Jnr grows
But, and it is a big BUT, Freddy was a woman when she gave birth. At that stage she had been registered as a man but had stopped transitioning in order to conceive. So the truth has already been mucked about with and feelings had already trumped facts. It wouldn’t just be stupid, it would be every shade of wrong to change the law so that Freddy appears as his child’s father on the birth certificate and there is no mention of ‘mother’. There’s also the problem of the biological father. Freddy is not a hermaphrodite. Even if he were he couldn’t impregnate himself. The donor of the sperm with which Freddy got pregnant may be just a name or a number but biologically he is the child’s father and to change the law in order to make Freddy the father — the only parent — is another whopping lie.
Two other points in this Freddy saga concern me.
He went to court to claim anonymity because he says forcing him to register as the child’s “mother” breaches “his human right to respect for private and family life.” Where is his respect for truth and honesty?
National newspaper editors wisely challenged the order after McConnell featured in a documentary film and a newspaper article about his journey to parenthood. Not much anonymity there.
This is a photograph few men will recognise but many women will immediately identify with it. Except that most women in this situation would be without their trousers. I suspect it may have been posed for the film.
According to The Sun newspaper Freddy McConnell wants his child to be the “first child in the world to legally have no mother. Why? Where is the benefit to his son there? Except to make him an object of curiosity.
Changing the law of this land in order to perpetrate a lie is to take the highway to chaos and confusion.
“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”
Walter Scott was so right, as society will soon discover to its cost.
I stopped writing blogs ten months ago. I popped back to comment on Curry and Churchill but that was as long ago as January and February. Now, however, I think there are things I must say or I shall burst!
I gave up blogging for two reasons. I seemed to be saying the same things in slightly different ways over and over and getting nowhere. Every time I grumbled about something that seemed to me wrong or stupid something even worse happened.
I thought I could find something better to do with my time, so I did. I decided to tell the story of my father’s experiences in Flanders, Greece and Palestine during the First World War. (Yes, I really do mean my Father and not my Grandfather.)Inevitably, I have also been trying to look at the modern world through his eyes, like this item from The Sun on July 16th.
How on earth would I begin to explain to my father the convolutions and complications involved with a woman who changes to a man and then goes back to being a woman so that she can have a baby – father unknown – and then demands that the law of the land is changed so that he can be registered as the father. Since children need a mother and a father perhaps he should be registered as both — although that is still a lie, because he isn’t.
Let’s get back to my father and my memoir. Everyone knows the horrors of the trenches; most people have heard of the disaster that was Gallipoli; but Palestine? That was something to do with Laurence of Arabia, wasn’t it? Well, yes – he was there, along with many thousands of assorted troops from Britain, France, Australia and India, as well as local Arabs.
It hasn’t been an easy task. While I was describing the first couple of years of his training it was often quite amusing There was plenty of frustration but also a lot of fun. When “Tubby” moved to France in 1916 telling the story became emotionally much more difficult. My father was a small, quiet, very gentle man. The thought of him in the trenches was horrible. Soaking myself in eyewitness accounts and sorting through endless photos day after day left me feeling like a chewed rag.
Then he was sent to Salonika. He’d never talked about Flanders and I had no idea he’d ever been in Greece. This was a strange discovery and very interesting. The whole story became even more fascinating when he went to Egypt.
From there he walked all the way to Jerusalem, interrupted by some rather nasty battles along the way.
In this photo, dated 9th December, 1917, the Mayor of Jerusalem tries to surrender the city to two British Tommies of the London Regiment.
Then he returned to Flanders just in time to win a medal, about six weeks before the Armistice.
I began by telling the story for the family — it’s a wonderful example of how a very ordinary man came to do extraordinary things. Now I’m wondering if it could find a wider audience, because people I’ve talked to are amazed to hear about this “other” war. At the moment I’m struggling to edit the fourth or fifth draft so perhaps I’d better finish that first.
My father was not a churchgoer. He pooh-poohed everything to do with the Church of England,mainly on the grounds of hypocrisy. He saw hypocrites everywhere and wanted nothing to do with them. The antics of the present Anglican church would have proved how right he was to be wary. On the other hand he would have been horrified to know that these days you can lose your job just for quoting from the Bible.
He wouldn’t have understood “unplatforming” or “safe spaces” either. Foxholes and dugouts were safe spaces for him. He was fairly left wing and delighted in discussion and argument where facts mattered and you could give as good as you got in verbal battles. If I’d tried to tell him that nowadays feelings trump facts he’d have thought I’d gone raving mad.
That is what has encouraged me to begin blogging again.
I don’t want you to get the impression that the book I am writing is unrelieved gloom. Tubby and his mates found plenty to laugh about. In this little scene they are in the Judean Hills in early 1918. They are almost at the end of the supply lines and food is short.
These hills are what stopped Richard Lionheart and they did their best to stop us, too. For most of our route there was a precipice on one side and a steep hillside on the other. It was a long, arduous trudge, with my pack feeling as though it were gaining weight with every step I took. Finally we reached the crest of the first range of hills and descended into a valley and to a village called Enab. This place looked closer to paradise than anywhere we’d been in months. The hillsides were wooded, covered with orchards of olive and fig trees or terraced for vineyards. There was even a monastery, where wine was made. Not that that helped the troops much; the officers had most of it before it ran out! Here we stayed for over a week. Needless-to-say, paradise was an illusion. The trees were bare of fruit and the torrential rain not only soaked everything, but seriously impeded the camel convoys. A camel’s feet are designed for sand, not mountain passes. Heavily laden as they were they kept slipping and sliding on the wet, rocky tracks and too often these falls caused serious and even fatal injuries. After a few days “Someone” found 2,000 donkeys from “Somewhere” which were much more sure-footed on the steep rough slopes. Sometimes miracles still happened!
The extra supplies they brought in were desperately needed, mainly for the transport animals. We were utterly exhausted so we stayed in our bivvies and groused. There was quite a lot to grumble about. ‘I don’t want to grumble,’ Charles said, ‘but I’m bloody cold. As well as food I wish they’d issue us with some winter woollies. It would have been bitterly cold last night, even if I hadn’t been soaked to the skin.’
‘Thank God for the socks I got in one of those parcels,’ I said. ‘My boots have had it.’
I stuck out my feet in front of the other three, showing how the sole was coming loose on one boot and the toecap was flapping on the other. ‘Don’t be hard on them,’ George said. ‘Think where they’ve been. First the desert, then the sandhills around Jaffa, then the Palestine plain and now these bloody foothills. No wonder they’re falling to pieces.’ ‘Not as bad as the animals,’ Lanky piped up. If he worried about anything it was most likely to be about the four-legged troops. ‘D’you know,’ he paused, looking solemnly around at us. ‘The horses have been on half rations for nearly a month.’ ‘So’ve we,’ said Charles. ‘They didn’t get oranges and things when we did,’ Lanky insisted. ‘Those really bucked us up, remember. One transport bloke told me some of the horses have been trying to eat the leather of their harnesses.’ ‘I wonder if they’d like my boots,’ I said. ‘Better hang on to them,’ George said. ‘You may be glad to have them to gnaw on yourself soon, by the look of you.’ I looked around at the other three and I could see what he meant. The truth was, like the horses, we were all half starved. The three of them returned my gaze, then George said, ‘Look on the bright side. Far fewer flies and bugs around now.’ He grinned and his face was transformed. That at least was true, though the cold and wet seemed to have no effect on the lice.
He was a great man so everything about him was larger than life. He drank too much. He smoked too much — even though those cigars were often unlit. He had unacceptable views about non-white people.
He also had enormous courage, faith in the people he served as a politician and was prepared to tell the truth no matter how unpalatable.
“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
Imagine anyone having the guts to tell us something like that these days.
I can remember seeing him. I was taken to the Victory Parade when I was seven and I saw Mr. Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with the Royal Family. Aged 15 I can remember being in a cinema in France. When Churchill appeared in a newsreel there was a burst of applause and cheering.
So, all you, who think you are valiantly fighting for justice and liberty, don’t get too cocksure of yourselves. You need to begin looking at things from the ‘Both/And’ perspective.
The solid rock of Snowdon
Can’t you see how limited and illiberal your ‘Either/Or’ attitudes are? Things are almost never strictly one thing or another. Certainly a rock is a rock, solid as the Snowdon Range which I can see outside my window. So was the sand in the Conwy Estuary which I can also see if I turn my head.
Sand on Conwy Estuary
People are always ‘Both/And.’ Good and bad. Saint and sinner. Hero and villain. Straight as a die and as crooked as a corkscrew. Right and wrong — all together in the same package.
Please remember that, you who are so sure you are all right, and the rest of us are all wrong. Don’t be so loud in your condemnation of those with whom you disagree.
All you tinpot little heroes, don’t try to stop free speech in order to silence the villains. You may think you are rocks today but you could well be mere grains of sand tomorrow.