Since starting my Substack series ‘Beyond the Wings’, two of the authors quoted have died. Hilary Mantel passed suddenly on September 22,, and Barbara Ehrenreich on September 1. Both were of advanced age, and left behind phenomenal bodies of work, but I hope this isn’t the start of some kind of Kev-curse.
I also re-recorded ‘The Great British Indie Song’, having tweaked the lyrics several times over the past eighteen months:
The miscellaneous cover was ‘Resistiré’, a Spanish classic by Duo Dinámico:
For the past two years, most of my working hours have involved teaching English to Chinese housewives. But unlike in my terrible twenties, I now appreciate what a great gig it is.
I have taught dozens of hours of lessons for IELTS, the English proficiency test that helps foreigners put native speakers to shame. I am also now teaching guitar at a school in Bury. Through what is certain to be a long and brutal winter, I hope to get as many teaching hours as possible.
During the upcoming Sober October, on top of the usual work and projects, I expect to finish another English song, one last Chinese song, and a new skit.
Every nation has something that makes it look insane to the rest of the world. For the U.S it is guns, for the U.K it is monarchy. Like Pakistan, which I mentioned last month, Ireland has historically defined itself by its relationship to its larger neighbour.
Reactions in Ireland to the British monarch’s death this month ranged from profound grief to schadenfreude. But her legacy in Ireland is a complicated one.
Most reasonable people nowadays should be learning to value nations while being repulsed by nationalism. In ‘Black Lamb and Grey Falcon’, Anglo-Irish author Rebecca West observed:
The little boys looked noble and devout as they recited. Here was the nationalism which the intellectuals of my age agreed to consider a vice and the origin of the world’s misfortunes…..Intense nationalist spirit is often, indeed, an effort by a people to rebuild its character when an imperial power has worked hard to destroy it.
In her own bizarre way, Queen Elizabeth II represented her nation’s character more profoundly than any elected politician. Even most republicans had a sneaking admiration for her sense of duty and tradition.
In a world that is becoming more delocalised and contemptuous of its roots, it will be interesting to see whether her replacement – a divorcee with a lot of contentious opinions – can keep the monarchy going.