Surely Danny is jesting with us – isn’t he?

So, as you know, the southern election has been called (and not before time) for 11 March. This also means that Gerry, having decamped to the fresh pastures of Louth and East Meath, will have to vacate his position as West Belfast’s abstentionist rep at Westminster, having already stood down from Stormont.

This poses a few tricky questions, as noted by the Beeb’s indefatigable Mark Devenport. One is the technical issue that, whilst Gerry has written to Commons Speaker John Bercow saying he’s resigning his seat, he isn’t going to apply for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. Doubtless the Commons can deploy some procedural device to unseat the Dear Leader, but Mr Bercow is going to have to put his thinking cap on to figure out what that may be.

More to the point, though, is exactly who SF will pick as the party’s by-election candidate for one of the safest seats in the Commons. Amongst the Belfast Shinners, Alex Maskey seems to me to be the obvious choice – he has decades of hard constituency work behind him, is extremely popular with the party membership and has become quite an adept politician compared to the wee hard man he was in the 1980s. On the other hand, the “movement” may have someone else in mind. It’s certainly a plum position for whoever gets the candidacy.

But one name that didn’t come to my mind was that of this blog’s old mucker George Galloway. Yes, Danny Morrison is holding forth in next Monday’s Andytown News as to the desirability of running Gallows as a candidate, despite Gallows being otherwise engaged in Glasgow at the moment. There’s also the slight complication of George not being a member of Sinn Féin, which should theoretically disbar him from being the SF candidate.

We must also ask ourselves whether Gallows would be the representative West Belfast really needs. Regular readers will know that I’m far from being a paid-up member of the Gerry Adams Fan Club, but I’ll acknowledge that the guy does have a certain gravitas. Are the broad masses of the Falls Road really prepared for an MP who could, at a moment’s notice, vanish from his constituency only to rematerialise in some exotic setting, perhaps sucking up to a Middle Eastern dictator, perhaps impersonating a household pet on national television, or perhaps doing some even weirder shit that nobody could predict?

I’ll admit, George would be fantastic copy, and part of me sort of hopes that Danny is on one of his occasional kite-flying exercises. Sadly, I suspect Danny is just extracting the urine. And maybe it’s just the case that our staid political culture over here couldn’t cope with the Gracchus of Dundee.

Of King James, and Sid James

Now then, Radio 4 listeners among you will be aware that some few days ago the thinking person’s wireless station devoted a day’s programming to the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible, with dramatic readings taking place throughout the day. This led to the usual bitching and whining from the pub bore wing of the atheist community, but I don’t want to talk about Terry and Keith today. What I want to talk about, briefly, is language.

There’s no doubt whatsoever that the KJV is one of the great masterpieces of the English language. We use phrases from it every day, often without realising we’re doing so. Much the same can be said of the Book of Common Prayer – one may take issue with the late Archbishop Cranmer’s Zwingliite deviationism, but his command of language is magnificent. In both cases, it’s the fact that the text was designed to be read aloud, and in the solemn setting of worship, that gives the language its extraordinary power.

It’s tremendously sad that, despite the KJV and the BCP being enshrined in English law as the standard texts of the Established Church, they’re scarcely to be heard in that setting any more, outside of the great cathedrals and some old-fashioned rural parishes. The good old C of E, one records with immense regret, seems much fonder these days of what some wag – it may have been Craig Brown – dubbed the Sid James Version.

Why should those of us of a resolutely unreformed bent be concerned about such matters? I will tell you why. As you’ll no doubt be aware, the new translation of the Roman Missal…

What’s that, Sooty?

Oh. All right. Well, some of you may be unaware that a new translation of the Roman Missal is due to be rolled out this year. You may be unaware of this because the Bishops’ Conference has done bog all to prepare the faithful for its introduction, notwithstanding Uncle Arthur Roche having just bowed to the inevitable and mumbled something about doing so at some future point. And that is an interesting story in and of itself.

You see, the spread of “yo dudes!” liturgies in the good old C of E is by no means an isolated phenomenon. It has its counterpart in the dogged attachment of the Catholic hierarchies of these islands to the 1970 edition of the Roman Missal in its English translation. In some cases, notably in the liberal Protestant dioceses along the south coast of England, this is for ideological reasons, with the 1970 text being identified as “modern” and “progressive”. If you’re wondering how a forty-year-old translation gets to be the epitome of modernity, look no further than the psychedelic vestments favoured by certain bishops.

More often it’s political, as is often the case in the Catholic world where you have nine parts politics to one part dogma. Their Lordships are great believers in uniformity, and have a nasty tendency to come out in hives when faced with things that aren’t uniform, whether it be the Ordinariate or Summorum Pontificum or those nice young priests in the Polish missions who are now supposed to be acculturated into the much more successful English way of doing things. Which is why the 1970 text has got to be such a shibboleth.

Which brings me neatly to this week’s issue of That Magazine We Don’t Mention. In its capacity as the Magic Circle’s house organ, the Suppository has been a-moaning and a-groaning about the new translation for some considerable time now. It’s even at certain points got in some proper translators to argue aesthetics, but more often than not we’ve just had Bobbie Mickens overfulfilling his fulminating quota.

In this week’s editorial column, we have – conveniently enough – a reflection on the KJV anniversary, which then morphs into a whinge about the new Missal, getting in a sly dig at the Douay-Rheims translation on the way:

But the Catholic version… stayed as close to the Latin Vulgate as possible. It introduced English versions of Latin words, and translated obscure passages equally obscurely lest any theological nuances were lost. The Anglican translators, on the other hand, sought – not always successfully – to resolve uncertainties of meaning rather than reproduce them, and they preferred words of Anglo-Saxon origin to Latin or Greek.

Ahem. Anyone who’s ever done translation work, should it even be translating a passage of Cicero at school, will know there’s a constant tension between being faithful to your source and rendering your translation in idiomatic English. That can never be avoided. That said, I think this account of the Douay-Rheims is a little tendentious – as Bible translations go, it isn’t really all that difficult compared to the KJV, and what you lose in immediacy you gain in accuracy.

But let us return to the Peppermint Spinster:

Differences of approach such as those between the King James and the Douay-Rheims versions are still alive today. Like the latter, the anxiously awaited new Catholic Missal in English has put literal accuracy above sensitivity to language, which is why many are warning that the rendering will be clumsy. [Though the old Missal isn’t exactly Henry James, is it?] At least the translation at present in use, whatever its shortcomings as literature [Told ya!], tried to stay closer to contemporary speech patterns, as did the translators commissioned by King James.

You what? “Contemporary speech patterns”, forsooth. One may argue that the KJV is somewhat less stilted than Douay-Rheims, but any fule kno that the language of the KJV was archaic even for its time, and deliberately so. Such was felt to be necessary for a translation of sacred texts.

I realise this may seem a bizarre idea to metropolitan sophisticates. Yet, even in today’s London, one can go to a Byzantine Rite Mass in the company of Ukrainian Catholics. Is their liturgy in the street slang of modern Kiev? No, it’s not even in Ukrainian but in Church Slavonic. One may also think of the other Eastern Rite Churches who use Byzantine Greek or Classical Armenian or Coptic or Syriac; not to mention non-Christian religious communities using Sanskrit or Pali or Avestan or whatever you’re having yourself. The notion of a sacred language is well enough established in human culture that the use of an elevated register of the vernacular shouldn’t be too baffling.

We conclude:

The Church of England has moved away from an Authorised Version style of language in its own liturgy. It would be an ironic twist if the Catholic Church in Great Britain – perhaps in reaction to unprepossessing translations emanating from Rome – longed to go the other way.

I know what the first sentence means, but the second has me scratching my head a little. Ma Pepsi’s organ has been running endless defences of the 1970 Missal – has she suddenly gone off message so completely that she’s now advocating something along KJV lines? Even leaving aside the implicit English Catholic chauvinism of the “emanating from Rome” reference… Well, I could see adaptations of the KJV and BCP having some purchase in the Ordinariate, as is the case in Anglican Use parishes in North America, but I can hardly see it going down well with the Val Doonican nostalgics in the Bishops’ Conference, for whom it’s always 1970.

But no matter. You know I like to be constructive, so I’ll just leave you with a modest proposal. Those priests who have a genuine, principled objection to the new translation have a simple alternative to hand. If they don’t like the new English Missal, they can just use Latin. After all, under the terms of Summorum Pontificum a priest of the Latin Rite doesn’t need anyone’s permission to celebrate Mass in Latin. And I’m certain those bishops who are uncomfortable with the new English Missal could hardly object. Could they?

All your charity are belong to us

It’s rather difficult to write anything coherent about the Big Society, not least because other than Dave (and I’m not even certain about Dave), nobody knows what exactly it’s supposed to be. There is some not unattractive rhetoric about volunteering, which we’d all like to see more of; there’s also more than a sneaking suspicion that Dave is trying to get public services on the cheap by palming them off on the voluntary sector. Anyone looking for philosophical clarity is, one fears, looking in vain.

But murky waters don’t deter us round here, do they? There are still things that can usefully be said, and a good starting point is a recent pair of thought-provoking pieces by Ed West over at the Telegraph. One is on the failure of the coalition government to deliver its promised bonfire of the quangos, and we’ll return to this theme presently. First, however, let us ponder the fate of the YWCA.

Come on, you remember the YWCA. I mean, surely you remember these guys:

The reference is to the Young Men’s Christian Association, proprietor of establishments where a young man down on his luck can stay until he gets his feet back on the ground, as well as getting himself clean, having a good meal etc. The YWCA is the women’s equivalent.

Or it was until recently. You see, the British section of the YWCA (though not the international body) has just rebranded. And here’s the surprise. One may have expected, in this secular age, the “Christian” bit of the name to be ditched in the name of diversity. Less expected would be the YWCA ditching all four words in its name and adopting the cryptic title “Platform 51”. Presumably this is meant to better reflect its focus, although what “Platform 51” actually signifies is a mystery to me. Which may not be coincidental.

Ed explains:

In a sense the name doesn’t matter; what’s significant is how the charity has changed, and what it says about the nature of do-gooding.

The YWCA was founded in 1855 with the aim of providing spiritual and moral support to young women against the physical and moral poverty of the new cities, and it did this, among other things, by running prayer groups. In contrast today’s YWCA now “lobb[ies] for changes in the law and policies to help all women”, and its chairman is a former equality quango manager Helen Wollaston.

Indeed its brochure states: “We campaigned for the Equality Act to protect pregnant schoolgirls and teenage mums from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Young mums told us about their experiences, including being advised to leave school, not having access to a full curriculum and being stopped from sitting exams because they were pregnant. They are now legally entitled to the same education as anyone else.”

Well, quite. This may well be legitimate activity, it’s just a very long way removed from the founding principles of the YWCA, which is perhaps why the name change is fitting.

A remarkably similar story could be told about the National Council for One Parent Families, which these days operates under the auspices of Gingerbread, both charities having merged in 2007.[1] The National Council was originally set up in 1918 as the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child, as a response to the rise in illegitimate births during the First World War. Its purpose was to encourage a more humane and tolerant attitude towards young women who, let’s be frank, were treated in a very cruel way by contemporary society. While it too was a rather stern Christian-inspired charity, it did a commendable amount to help unfortunate young women, including encouraging the churches to set up homes for them, and helping to have adoption properly regulated for the first time.

Where this parallels the YWCA is that by 1971, when it changed its name, the National Council would have been virtually unrecognisable to its founders. Its concept of the unmarried mother’s state as an unfortunate one did not survive fashionable 1960s ideas of sexual morality; its charitable functions had been largely taken over by council social services departments; therefore, it reinvented itself as a feminist advocacy group, which concentrated on lobbying the government for very detailed changes to things like tax law and the rate of child benefit.

I pass no comment here on whether the old or the new versions are more legitimate. Both have been reflections of the prevailing culture. The interesting thing is the evolution over time. One side of this, of course, is mission creep, the occupational hazard of the do-gooder. That’s how Amnesty, since it dropped its ban on domestic campaigning, has developed a whole range of policies that have very little to do with Amnesty’s historic remit of supporting prisoners of conscience. But what interests me more is the changing relationship between the voluntary/charitable sector and the state.

This is something we’re familiar with locally in terms of the grantocracy. We can trace much of the phenomenon back to a pacification strategy developed by the Northern Ireland Office under Douglas Hurd and Tom King back in the 1980s. A key aspect of that was to counter Sinn Féin’s popularity in areas like west Belfast by funnelling development funding through agencies run by the Catholic hierarchy – a strategy so blatant that some local priests remonstrated with their bishops about being turned into political pawns.[2] Under the New Dispensation, and with US and EU peace money flowing in, this has reached the point where the peace industry is now the largest employer in the north.

One thing we’ve been able to trace through the peace process is what’s happened to the voluntary sector – or to be more precise, the funded community sector. We’re not simply talking about extravagances like building a huge new theatre in Newtownabbey. (There may of course be a great appetite for Brecht in Rathcoole, but it would surprise me greatly.) We’re talking about a situation where a small charity will get a grant, will then get a suite of city centre offices and some professional staff, and find itself spending much of its time advising the government on its specialist area.

This is where Ed’s lament on the coalition’s failure to significantly reduce the number of quangos is probably a bit forlorn. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that the Big Society will mean more, not less, quangos, and here’s why.

It’s not just that the structure of government in Britain probably requires a certain number of quangos (though there are certainly too many). More to the point is how we conceive of a quango. Classically, a quango is a government body hived off and given a semi-autonomous agency status. But what if it works the other way around? If a charity is largely funded by taxpayers’ money and spends most of its time and energy influencing government policy, hasn’t it become a quango in all but name?

It’s as well here to take the long view. The great flowering of charitable activity in the Victorian period took place in a context where the state was failing to provide even a basic level of care to its citizens who had been uprooted in the Industrial Revolution and were crammed into sprawling, poor, insanitary cities. Whatever the dreams of small-state libertarians, or the fears of those at the sharp end of benefit cuts, an out-and-out return to this situation is not likely.

We then see a development where after 1918, and particularly after 1945, Big State comes in to provide a safety net and obviates the need for a lot of the pre-existing charitable sector, which continues to thrive only in certain areas where the state either doesn’t intrude (animal welfare is a good example) or works through voluntary agencies (overseas disaster relief). Although, and this is important, there is no Chinese wall dividing the two.

Let’s bring in the material factor here. Over the past couple of decades, many charities have become increasingly dependent on public money. Lottery money, fair enough, is not strictly taxpayer money, but fulfils many of the same functions. On top of that, factor in direct grants from government departments such as the DCLG and DfID, local councils or, for that matter, quangos. One can’t blame often cash-strapped charities for taking what they can get (though bureaucratic processes favour better-off charities who are better at filling out grant applications), but obviously there are strings attached.

Let’s take another example, that of Stonewall. As you know, Stonewall cut its teeth as a campaigning organisation, though it’s long since won virtually all of its demands. It has also, under New Labour, become increasingly involved in what’s termed “policy development”. I know Stonewall is often criticised by the more agitprop wing of gay activism for becoming the government’s in-house gay lobby (to which one might add pointed questions about exactly how representative it is), but Mr Ben Summerskill and his associates might respond that they’ve exchanged independence for influence – such as having a scrutiny role over just about any government policy that might conceivably affect gay people. Now, Stonewall is not quite a quango yet – it still does independent stuff, and its state funding is outweighed by private and corporate donations – but we might look on it as a transitional form, like Archæopteryx.

So what does this mean for the quango state? I would argue, as a counterpoint to Ed, that the whole Big Society programme is likely to mean an increase, not a decrease, in the size of the quango state. Oh sure, there may be fewer bodies officially styled as quangos. But we’ll see more and more charities and voluntary bodies[3] which are funded to a greater or lesser degree by the state, do work on the state’s behalf, and increasingly come to function as quangos.

In days of yore, Marxist theoreticians used to talk about “state capitalism”, as an organic tendency of the state and capital to fuse. Perhaps, in thinking about how the third sector is going, we might have a category of “state voluntarism”.

[1] On the history of the National Council as a mirror for changing social attitudes, there is exhaustive detail in Peter Hitchens, The Abolition of Britain, Chapter 8.

[2] There’s an obvious parallel with New Labour’s largely unsuccessful attempts to counter Muslim radicalisation by writing cheques to people like Ed Husain.

[3] One bellwether to watch is Citizens UK, the umbrella group of largely faith-based charities that’s been very enthusiastic about the Big Society, notwithstanding its support from the arresting combination of the Catholic hierarchy and the trade unions.

West of the Tamar, down Camborne way

As regular readers will know, if there’s one thing I really can’t abide it’s scurrilous gossip. Also, I don’t have much taste for rural intrigue. So it’s something of a puzzle that I’ve taken to reading the excellent Cornish Zetetics blog.

The reason I bring this to your attention is that the admirable Zetetist has a strange and marvellous story to relate. As you’ll be aware, this week there is a by-election coming up in Oldham. This came about after Labour incumbent Phil Woolas squeaked home last May by 103 votes after a particularly nasty race-baiting campaign. However, it wasn’t the racism angle as such that caused a rarely-convened election court to unseat Woolas and bar him from public office. It was the court ruling that Woolas had made factually untrue statements about his Lib Dem opponent, something that is very illegal under electoral law.

Bear with me here. As I say, these election courts are very rare – the Woolas case was, I think, the first time in 99 years an MP had been thusly unseated – but apparently there could easily have been a second one down in Kernow. The Cornish situation revolves around the Camborne and Redruth constituency, and around two specific individuals.

This comely wench is Julia Goldsworthy, who until May was the Lib Dem incumbent for the seat, and the reason for a generation of spotty teenage boys watching Question Time. In a result even closer than that in Oldham East and Saddleworth, Julia was defeated by a mere 66 votes by this bloke:

This is Tory candidate George Eustice, who is an up-and-coming man and a prominent Friend of Dave. So, what was the issue here?

Last May, the Tories successfully broke the Lib Dem monopoly on parliamentary representation for Cornwall, the two parties taking three seats each and even professional Cornishmen Andrew George and Dan Rogerson seeing their majorities slashed. Mainly this was down to a Tory strategy of ruthlessly mining the second-home vote as a counter to the Lib Dems’ flirtation with Cornish particularism. But there were specific features in Camborne and Redruth.

In contests where the results were unexpectedly close in May, you can actually be quite specific about a lot of the reasons why. In Oxford, Evan Harris was defeated for a number of reasons but mainly because he wasn’t a very assiduous constituency MP, preferring to bask in the adulation of the skeptical hobby community in London. In Ashfield, my old friend Gloria de Piero barely scraped home in what should have been a safe Labour seat, thanks to a hyperactive Lib Dem opponent and popular revulsion at her predecessor Geoff “Buff” Hoon. The closest result of all, Michelle Gildernew’s four-vote victory in the Dreary Steeples, needs little explanation.

So what got young Julia into trouble? Possibly appearing on reality TV shows in skin-tight lycra didn’t help, but compared to the celebrity adventures of Lembit Öpik or George Galloway, she didn’t have too much to be embarrassed about. No, I think what did for Julia was her expenses. Some of these were quite interesting, notably her liking for shopping in Habitat, which may not have gone down well with the plebeian masses of Camborne and Redruth.

However, Zetetist reports that apparently the Eustice camp was putting it about that Julia had flipped her home. This was not the case – whatever about her other expenses, Julia was not a flipper. And it seems she was extremely annoyed by this, which could have made the difference in a contest this close. Word is that, following her narrow defeat, Ms Goldsworthy was incandescent with rage and lawyers were consulted.

So why have we heard nothing about this? I draw to your attention, merely as a matter of interest, that while this little spat was brewing down in Cornwall last May, Messrs Cameron and Clegg were hammering out a coalition agreement in Westminster. It would have been terribly inconvenient for them if, so early on in the coalition, Tories and Lib Dems had been tearing lumps out of each other in Cornwall. And either result would have been problematic for Dave and Nick.

Now, I am absolutely not claiming that there was an unadvertised provision in the coalition agreement for la Goldsworthy to be mollified. Not at all. Dave and Nick are honourable men, and I’m certain they would not resort to crude stroke politics, deploying their powers of patronage to solve a political problem. Nonetheless, it can’t have hurt that, purely by coincidence, Julia got a job at the Treasury as political advisor to Danny Alexander at a salary of £74,000 (some ten grand more than her basic salary as an MP) and subsequently was rather less incandescent with rage than she had been.

Isn’t it great when problems can resolve themselves in so convenient a manner, just by the random working out of coincidence? Isn’t life grandy and dandy?

A New Year message for this blog’s remaining reader, whereat your host rambles a bit

Hullo Brian, hullo Sue. You know, in a very real sense, what with it being the New Year and all, it’s as good a time as any to check in.

You’ll have noticed that this blog has been on an extended sabbatical. No, I’m not dead, just been doing other things. But I do notice that the absence of my golden words from the blogosphere has been overinterpreted in some quarters, which I suppose is my own fault for going on an unannounced sabbatical. Moreover, the occasional query as to when I was coming back has now become a minor clamour. So, while I usually avoid explaining myself, much less providing mission statements, here’s something by way of an explanation.

Running a blog with a regular – at times prolific – level of posting over an extended period of time can be tough, and it’s certainly time-consuming. It’s especially tough if you’re blogging individually, rather than on a group blog where you can slack off for a while and hide behind the work of others.

And you know, at times, the real world intrudes. There are times when family and work have to take precedence. I’ve also been involved in an extended writing project which, believe it or not, is not available on the web. This meant that, if I was going to get anything done, I needed to exert a bit of self-discipline and avoid the temptation to whack up a daily blogpost.

Besides which, the main purpose of this blog has always been to entertain myself, and provide an outlet for various rants. If anyone else got some value out of it, that was a bonus. There are two conclusions following from that. One is that, if blogging ever stopped being fun, I wouldn’t have much of a motivation to do it; and at times it’s got to be a bit of a chore. To balance against that, I am an incorrigible troublemaker, as if you didn’t know.

The second conclusion is that, this blog being mostly (not exclusively) a bit of fun, well yes, it could always be idiosyncratic and has often been tongue-in-cheek. Hence the blend of high politics, low culture, slightly risqué humour and straightforward whimsy. This is something that I think some readers have always appreciated, but has been lost on those who either didn’t get the joke or else were just congenitally hard of reading. For instance, I’ve been a constant disappointment to those leftist readers whose idea of a good political blog was one that produced large quantities of stentorian Marxist-Leninist agitprop. Why they didn’t simply go elsewhere instead of hanging around the comments box complaining and demanding that I write the sort of stuff they wanted to read, I’ll never know. I suppose it can be taken as flattering.

Something similar applies since I’ve been writing more on religious matters. Allow me to go into this in a little detail, if you will. I’ve never considered myself a Catholic blogger in the sense that, say, Jimmy Akin is a Catholic blogger. Jimmy does apologetics, and does so very well indeed. I’m capable of doing apologetics, but I don’t really have the temperament for it. Partly it’s a simple journalistic instinct of going where the interesting stories are, deploying whatever knowledge and insight I can bring to matters. And I can’t deny that the possibility of a CathoLeaks service appeals mightily to my mischievous side.

But yes, I am invested. I do have axes to grind. And my basic agenda isn’t all that mysterious. If I may briefly outline it:

  • I’d like to see good governance in the Church. One of the most frustrating things about Catholic affairs is the uselessness of ecclesiastical bureaucracies. Not merely in terms of the sexual abuse scandal – though that shines a particularly harsh light – but much more generally. Any reasonably informed Catholic knows that incompetence and maladministration are rife in the Church, and that there’s a serious leadership vacuum at the episcopal level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a utopian. I don’t demand that all of our bishops be inspiring leaders, competent administrators, intelligent theologians and articulate spokesmen in the public square. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that a few of them might tick at least one of those boxes. Cardinal Ouellet, please take note.
  • I’d like to see better liturgy. Again, I’m not one of these super-traddies who rejects the Novus Ordo and all its works and pomps. I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a bit of quality control. Fewer out-of-tune guitars, fewer tie-dyed polyester vestments, fewer earthenware vessels and fewer godawful Yoof Masses would be a start. And the Traditional Latin Mass (not to mention the rather beautiful Gaelic liturgy) to be made readily available for those who want it.
  • I have a low tolerance threshold for sectarianism. This may to some extent be a north of Ireland thing, in that I’m more sensitive to sectarianism and less willing to let it go by unchallenged. But the papal visit to Britain brought into rather sharp focus how Romophobic tubthumping has become acceptable, even trendy, in polite society and particularly in left-liberal circles. One positive aspect to that may be that an increasing number of Catholics are willing to speak up, rather than studiously pretending not to notice anything as their parents’ generation might have done.
  • Finally, attacking the hypocrisy of the Tablet is its own reward.

So, there you have it. Will I be coming back on a regular basis? I don’t want to make rash promises, but there is still plenty I’d like to say – plenty that needs to be said, and that I’m not sure anyone else is rushing to do. People keep asking me when I’m coming back. Titus Oates has been having much too easy a time of it in my absence, and I’d hate to think that Ma Pepsi having the Tablet office swept for bugs was all in vain.

Besides, like I say, born troublemaker and all that. So watch this space. And for those of you who’ve hung around, and especially those who’ve left positive feedback, thanks. It really does mean a lot.

Rud eile: I really shouldn’t have to say this but evidently I do – if you’re going to leave comments, play nice. It’s never been an ambition of mine to own my own bearpit.