So it’s Sunday again. You know Sunday – the day with the “sinking feeling”. Children dreading the Monday coming; workers not wanting to think about the return to ungrateful and short-sighted managers, and so on. You know, Sunday.
Just now I was drawing the curtains. It’s late of course, and it is summer. It has in fact been a glorious summer. Spoiled mostly by the facts that weather is now no longer “forecast” – rather it is “reported”, which I think defeats the object of the exercise. Reporting the weather is tittle-tattle after the event – that tittle-tattle that was itself a one-time excuse for old sweety-mouths of both sexes to appear at the door when they fancied a nosy at a) what you might be having for the tea or b) what next door were up to last night “Did you ‘ear ’em?” or c) what your white washing looks like and whose were those really big knickers? etc etc
Weather forecasts were important, not news. News is reported and not a forecast, it is just the selected highlights of something that has already passed.
Another thing that has spoiled the summer has been the repeated emphasis in the most ignorant manner of the unmentionable and mostly by the unspeakable, who are only unflappable because they are unbelievable and never unscripted. Yes, okay then: We are in the end of the Quaternary Ice Age. Yes we are in an Interglacial Period. So let’s have it right: we are not idiots. We need (if we are to discuss this at all) to have people discuss it who have a vocabulary of more than two hundred words. The subject (yes, you all know what it is) needs to be discussed with adjectives other than “big” and “massive” and verbs other than “warming up”. There are people out there with plenty of education who can take multisyllabic words and phrases. So please stop trying to ruin the summer sun by saying that the planet is going to be shrunk the way of a pork sausage left too long in an oven, and this by the end of the week. It is ignoble and improper to frighten children and moreover, to deny them their right (as our hope) to put things right, to learn to be resourceful and to solve problems. We should care about the coming generation now, not two generations hence.
But back to the plot.
As I drew the curtains, I thought of the old people. The ones who used to come here. When in the glorious evenings of summer sunshine, with the gentle eastern wind stirring the wheat in the fields, they sang their gentle music to a concept invisible and the sound escaped through the sash windows.
No choral society this but a chapel choir, in a village somewhere, singing of love and better tomorrows; of kindness and helping one another to survive the cruelties of life in a country without welfare. For they were the Primitive Methodists.
At that time, people who came along to a Primitive Methodist chapel on a Sunday did so because they also came along on most other days in the week too. They came to talk, and to meet and to effect changes. The children of the Primitive Methodist Sunday Schools (before compulsory education) came there to learn to read and sing. But, the Primitive Methodists were different. They also taught people to write.
Teaching children to write was really something. It allowed children to learn to express themselves. And to do that right well and succinctly. Moreover, the classes also admitted adults, who late in life also learned to write, and express themselves in the same accurate and succinct way.
This was a big departure from other denominations at the time, who only taught their members and their children, to read. Of course, this was a noble gesture. But let’s face it, if you can only read, it means that you can only be told what somebody else thinks. If you are taught to write, you can wield a pen, and the pen (according to Edward Bulwer-Lytton) is mightier than (find out and finish the sentence).
But now we are not in the age of chapels, and people learning to read and write in the village. We don’t want that now, do we? That would never do. No, we have been taught fundamentally that we all want to be detached, in detached and soundproofed homes, where we don’t really have to mingle with the neighbours. We don’t want the village educators. They might smell funny. They might have the wrong labels on their clothes. They might not even have a car. Their teeth might not be cosmetically pure.
For in our pursuit of the Garden Village, our own picket fence or privet hedge, in our move away from streets and terraces, and in our aspirations to move to live separately, we have fallen for “it” hook line and sinker.
There is no community. Therefore there is no collective thinking and planning. There is no anything at a collective level. Just a load (term used advisedly) of people who live separately, apart, and aloof, all choosing (so they think) and all the time, all they are doing is being told what to think because they have never been given the chance to work out first for themselves and then, collectively what it is that is good for the community, and what is best for many.
I look back at the rural poor, and their many pennies and occasional shillings that were collected to maintain the County Hospital, and hoping that they would never have to go there.
So on this night, I thank that history which was once The Present, or if you will, Modernity, for giving us Temple, Beveridge and Tawney. And if you don’t know who they are, you maybe need to read a bit more. And sharpen your pencil and fill your pen. You are going to need them.
One thought on “On a Sunday?”
A very spot-on article. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about educational priorities and how the Primitive Methodists distinguished themselves from other denominations in this regard. It is so very true that today’s world is well, in my view, like everyone is a spinning top, going round and round in their own microcosm space- whirling along for the ride, but ultimately the spin will turn into a wobble and then as modern folk say, “crash and burn”. Or just crash and stop. Die. Whatever you call it. Kind of sad, really. When instead of swirling in our own tight, exhilarating sphere we miss what is going on in all those other tops a-twirling. I mean, couldn’t we at least twirl in tandem? Better yet, do the tango? But no, we have been sold on it is a “Me World”, and that is all that matters. But the proof is in the writing. Once people begin to write, perspective broadens- for none of us is born to think alike. And isn’t that what we want? The freedom to think, yes independently, but also because of what others before have thought. And written. And gleaned. And christened. And springboard. And created. The village can help. The village can care. The village can love. And the village can swing open the door and exclaim, “Go, forthwith!”