Sunday, March 29, 2009

Animal Farm

Sunday Times Blunders?

Wandering around all day, mostly in a daze, I get these great ideas for a blog.

Then I forget them when I get busy doing something else.

I'm sure I had three this week and then promptly forgot them. Never mind. In these trying times I just wait for the Sunday paper to arrive and something will turn up.

Sure enough – an article about T.S. Eliot and his involvement with George Orwell's Animal Farm.

According to the Sunday Times, T.S. Eliot was once a director of Faber and Faber and wrote a scathing rejection of Orwell's Animal Farm in 1944. The book was later published by Secker and Warburg. All quite interesting in a literary, intelligentsia kind of way. Also, as I recall – quite wrong.

I fancy myself an Orwell scholar. At least in so far as I know a lot more about him and his work that the average Joe on the street. I taught English Literature for 30-odd years and taught Animal Farm for examination on many occasions.

Amongst the pile of relevant work sheets explaining Orwell's photosynthesising form of socialism, bordering on Trotskyism, I had a very useful and entertaining video featuring the cartoonist, Steve Bell, among others discussing Orwell's work in general and Animal Farm in particular.

According to the Times, Eliot wrote to Orwell in 1944 saying that he thought the books “view, which I take to be generally Trotskyite, is not convincing.” And Eliot wrote, “After all your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm at all without them: so what was needed (some-one might argue) was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”

My recollection is different.

I remember quoting the above statement pointedly to children studying Animal Farm. I remember extracting it from the video presentation, because it seemed to me to sum up very nicely the difficulties Orwell encountered with the literary elite and the inherent difficulties in using a fable format to preach about communism. But, according to the Times, the letter is “one of many private papers made available for the first time by his widow Valerie for a BBC documentary.”

One of us is entirely wrong.

I'm going to find the video. I kept them all when I took early retirement. I'm sure I've got it somewhere.

The Times is going to get a very nasty letter – or I will be confirming that I need the newest drug treatment for Alzeheimers quick!!

Clarkson Does Football

Top Gear!

Jeremy Clarkson, when not acting as the peoples' choice for PM, writes for the Sunday Times.

He's now on my team where football is concerned. He says:

“Over the years I have argued that football is a stupid game in which 22 overpaid nancy boys with idiotic hair run around a field attempting to kick an inflated sheep’s pancreas into some netting while an audience of several thousand van drivers beat one another over the head with bottles and chairs.”

Better put, perhaps more witty than I, but without a doubt the most succinct description available for the unwashed masses who inhabit football stadia at weekends and the idiotic game they support. Clarkson rocks.

Point one from Jeremy: “Nor could I understand how someone from Tooting could possibly support, say, Manchester United, a team sponsored by those hateful bastards at AIG and made up of players from Portugal, France, Holland and, in the case of Wayne Rooney, Walt Disney. Where’s the connection? What’s the point?”

So true. The idiots who insist they must have a day off to watch a Man Utd game on TV really are gormless skivers.

And on the day when Jade departed for a politically correct rendezvous with some Indian deity - “And as for those people who can’t cope if their team loses. Give me strength. If you get all teary-eyed just because someone from Latvia, playing in a town you’ve never been to, for an Arab you’ve never met, against some Italians you hate for no reason, has missed a penalty, how are you going to manage when you are diagnosed with cancer?”

I particularly enjoyed his take on some of the more inane antics of the crowd at football matches:

“The other advantage of being there is that on television the microphones are positioned so you can’t hear the chants. I’d heard, of course, about this mass spontaneity over the years, usually when a team is playing Liverpool. “Sign on. Sign on. With a pen in your hand. Cos you’ll ne . . . ver get a job.” Or: “The wheels on your house go round and round. Round and round. Round and round.”
There are others too. Plymouth Argyll refer to any team they play as northern bastards. Then you have the Charlton fans who travelled down the M4 to Reading recently and, having failed to think of any suitable abuse, came up with: “What’s it like to live in Wales?”
The Chelsea fans topped all this last Sunday with a nonstop song, the lyrics of which were: “F*** off, Robinho. F*** off, Robinho. F*** off, Robinho.” I joined in wholeheartedly, even though I wasn’t entirely sure who Mr Robinho was and why I wanted him to eff off so much.”
Jeremy's experience reminded me of the first live football match I ever saw. Charlton Athletic v Colchester Utd a the “old” Valley in the 1970's. It was Easter time and a bumper crowd of about 300 were on the terraces. Terraces where you could comfortably fit the residents of Milton Keynes and have plenty of spare room. Because the crowd was so small you could hear exactly what the players were saying to each other and, more importantly, to the match officials. It only took me five minutes to realise that football is a stupid game played by morons who have all the charm of a spitting camel and the wit of a word that sounds like wit but starts with the letter S.
Experiences after that include two cup matches at Norwich City. First a game against Liverpool. John Barnes was playing. He'd just been heaped with lavish praise in the media for the wonder goal he scored against Brazil in an international match. Norwich fans response? They “invented” a chant that went: “He's black, he's bent, his bum is up for rent, Johnie Barnes, Johnie Barnes.” Barnsie smiled at the crowd.
Next a game versus Tottenham Hotspur with the “fountain”, Paul Gascgoine, in their team. Fan's chant? “You fat bastard!” Gazza smiled.
Last word to Clarkson.
“After the game I was taken to the Chelsea dressing room so that I could admire all the players’ penises – many were very enormous indeed. I talked to Roman Abramovich, who was charming, and Lampard, who, having just run around for 90 minutes, still found the energy to get the entire team to sign my boy’s Chelsea shirt. I don’t do that for kids who come to the Top Gear studio and I’m supposed to be the public-school-educated toff.
So there we are, then. I am now a football fan. I know this because in one afternoon I learnt I’m not a football fan at all. I’m a fan of Chelsea. Chelsea are the only team that can play. Chelsea players have by far the most impressive reproductive organs. Stamford Bridge is my church. The men who play there are my Gods.
In short, I have a team, and that’s what’s always been missing. Because I was born in Doncaster.”

Clarkson for PM.