Out, damned Spotty

The Field - - Howard’s Way -

As the coun­try finds it­self un­der­go­ing a pe­riod of reap­praisal, Philip Howard finds that some things do come out in the wash

EV­ERY now and then life throws us a curve ball, which we com­pre­hen­sively miss. Some­times it is a biggy, such as death or di­vorce – or, in the case of the Eng­land foot­ball team, the next game. My own Ar­maged­don was a cou­ple of years back when my won­der­ful wife died at the age of 56. Af­ter the ini­tial dev­as­ta­tion there was a pe­riod of re­trench­ment, reap­praisal and then re-ex­am­i­na­tion of my life. Specif­i­cally, was I to be a vic­tim, es­chew the risk of ever be­ing so badly mauled again, or should I, in the words of the Jerome Kern song, “pick your­self up, dust your­self off, start all over again”.

It ap­pears we are still in the woe and angst stage of the Brexit fall­out. Though as some­one who has never loved the Euro­pean fed­eral project but voted re­main – at least my chil­dren are still speak­ing to me, which is not the case with quite a lot of my friends – I am now ques­tion­ing my choice of pals. Im­me­di­ately af­ter the re­sult I re­ceived a phone mes­sage from my friend Mr Jones. “Now, ’Oward, the meek ’av in­her­ited the earth.”

My son came back from a month in The Me­trop­o­lis with L’oiseau, his French girl­friend. He had been earn­ing some corn work­ing in the new boulan­gerie her par­ents have opened in the Ful­ham Road and was stunned by the sheer vit­riol and ag­gres­sion of racist abuse be­ing hurled at them and their staff fol­low­ing the Brexit vote. I hope we have not re­leased English Na­tion­al­ism, one of our least at­trac­tive facets, out of the bot­tle as it will be very tricky to get it back in again.

I had sent a hor­ren­dously trite text to my chil­dren af­ter the re­sult, telling them to re­mem­ber this mo­ment and learn from it: you need to en­gage, lis­ten and deal with peo­ple’s gen­uine con­cerns and not just dis­miss them as big­otry. This was to counter all the po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and odium that they had been heap­ing upon me. Es­pe­cially about mi­gra­tion, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and deal­ing with Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ism. “Ac­cept it, Dad, there is no al­ter­na­tive,” I was told. It ap­pears there is. “Your gen­er­a­tion have ru­ined us,” they shrieked back. I coun­tered with a pal­pa­ble point that had their gen­er­a­tion both­ered to get out of bed and vote in­stead of or­gan­is­ing their next orgy on so­cial me­dia, then all would have been well. Game, set and match, Dad.

But what a mess we have got our­selves into. Our po­lit­i­cal masters are stag­ger­ing around with knives stick­ing out of ev­ery ori­fice. It’s a bad job when Theresa May, who has al­ways given me the hee­bie-jee­bies, ap­pears the only hope. I sup­pose it could be worse. We could have got Roy Hodg­son. So it is reap­praisal time. Let’s hope the Euro­peans do the same.

The other per­son I am aware of who is un­der­go­ing a pro­found life re­struc­tur­ing is the man who col­lects our hol­i­day-cot­tage laun­dry from Shor­tridge. The Me­dia Queen had been up for a few days walk­ing the Ro­man Wall and had brought The Spot­ties, her two un­govern­able dal­ma­tians. No deer, sheep, pheas­ant or child un­der three is safe from the Spot­ties, or, in­deed, my sec­re­tary, Caro­line, who is pho­bic about dogs. Around lunchtime we no­ticed that only one Spotty ap­peared to be rav­aging the be­go­nias, so a cry went up. An hour later he had still failed to ap­pear. Search par­ties were dis­patched but I thought I had bet­ter in­form Caro­line that he was not safely in­car­cer­ated. I found her on the phone. I whis­pered that we had lost a Spotty but she raised her hand to shut me up and con­tin­ued.

“So, you are the Shor­tridge de­liv­ery driver… Yes… and you picked up the laun­dry from Na­worth an hour ago… Yes… and you are in Dum­fries… And you have just opened the back of your van and a dal­ma­tian has jumped out… Yes, I think that is our dal­ma­tian…”

An hour later he re­turned, sit­ting bolt up­right on the front seat next to a trau­ma­tised Scots­man who, I fear, was also re­assess­ing his future ca­reer.

Only one Spotty ap­peared to be rav­aging the be­go­nias, so the cry went up

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