Wednesday, 19 January 2011

st wulfstan's day

St Wulfstan is a little known  saint.  Bishop of Worcester and one of the few to hold on to his position after the Norman invasion.  He had Worcester Cathedral rebuilt and was canonized in 1203 because of the miracle cures that took place at his tomb. Apropos of nothing, really but 19th January is his day. It's somehow vaguely fitting to what is to follow, I suppose.

Sometimes Blogger doesn't work quite as well as it thinks it does.  I have on occasion tried to leave comments on other blogs and have been unsuccessful.  Sometimes, they are too long, perhaps?  Not sure.  Anyway, I have included Kent's response to 'the home service' within the main body of this post for several reasons. Firstly, it is a thoughtful response, but also because it throws up an interesting area of debate*:

 . . .I don't know what is going on w/ Blogger, but I've attempted several times today to leave a comment that appears, but then when I refresh the page it disappears. I've had this problem once before in the recent past while trying to leave a comment on another of your posts. Hunh?

Anyway, here's the text that I tried to insert into your "the home service" entry.

I won't take offense, Dave, as I rarely do. Nor do I intend to give any.
This issue seems to be one that resurfaces frequently, no matter who the traditionalists might be. In my neck of the woods, central Virginia, there are quite a few "traditionalists" aka Locals, who are still fighting our Civil War, now 150 years in the past, and long forgotten by the populace at large. And when the "traditionalists" of South Carolina want to fly the flag of Dixie on the state capital building, it's for reasons of "Heritage, not Hate."

My favorite Samuel Johnson quote:
"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

I watched the SoH video(s) and went in search of a context and found this thoughtful take on the song, which I too thought somewhat soggy and anthemic.

I'm not much of a flag waver, but somehow understand the feeling of being under siege. (Beyond-middle-age-white-male-downsized-by-economy blah blah blah.) I'm not writing anthems about it - but I probably should be!

Commenter Nate on the above mentioned post summarized it well:
"But it’s not so much about losing and regaining English roots, or Scottish roots or whatever, as about retaining our roots as human beings generally. That, if anything, is what we’re in the process of losing."

Hopefully the link works, although I'd better add the text as well:

BTW, I know nothing about this guy, simply found him through google. Hope you're feeling better soon. Having the woozies is no fun a'tall.
Thanks, Kent.  Interestingly, the song I linked is Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed by Show of Hands.  I'm assuming that Kent may not be the only one who found Roots instead.  AIG may also be seen by many as a clumsy anthem but it is timely.  Most political songs are written in anger - Neil Young's Ohio was successful for CSNY but the whole album Living With War by NY was much less successful and, possibly ill-advised. 

However, following some of the blogs and comments Kent has provided links for was worthwhile.  I recently found myself at a SoH gig in Ipswich and happily sang along.  I now find myself wondering about why these songs resonate with me so easily?  I'll have to think about this for a while.

One thing, though.  To me Roots is about losing one's culture altogether - we have lost plenty, good along with the bad.  I just wish English people (loaded term) - and I can't use the term "we" - could be happy celebrating our heritage much like the Scots, Irish and Welsh can.  This also includes all the other cultures that now make up our country. That includes Morris dancing, Maypoles and the many English songs that are seen as some cultural backwater. 

I am happy to listen to music from all over the world, use American guitars and watch American films (amongst ones from all over the World).  But at the heart of the song is a need to try to hang on to what we have.  Because of the way we're often made to feel about the Union Jack I have often supported the idea of changing England's flag to St Edmund's flag but for many that's a step too far.  There's a "why should we?" feeling.  Hence, the call to arms by Steve Knightley when he says "it's my flag too and I want it back" he means taking it back from the fascists that have commandered it especially since the bad old days of football hooliganism.

And finally, back to Kent's comments.  I went to Suffolk, Virginia about 11 or so years ago.  I was quite surprised that there was a palpable feeling that the Civil War wasn't over yet.  I found a book in a town library that looked suspicious.  It featured stories such as "How the Nigger got pink hands" and similar titled ones.  I and the person with me - a teacher from the other side of Suffolk (England) - were totally shocked.  But why?  It was an old book - should it have been burned? However, I still teach Of Mice and Men and the use of the term continues.  Frankly, I think it should stay as it is a book written in the 1930s and it is honest about how things were then.  I was surprised to read the other day that the term is now to be removed from Huckleberry Finn after some 117 years.  Revisionist history, eh?  

Whilst in Virginia I picked up a book called Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz which is a travelogue of the Southern States amongst "Hardcore Reenactors" much like out Sealed Knot.  Well worth checking out if it's still available.

* also, if you try to post a comment that won't show up, get in contact elsewhere 
Also, interestingly for some reason Blogger decided to add some labels - which is why Sandy Denny, wood burning stoves and Zen aren't mentioned in this post!!


Kent Wiley said...

Dave, thanks for reposting. I don't understand what it is about Blogger. Maybe you're right about the length of the comment being a problem. Or I wonder if when I take too long to compose (eh what? think about what I want to say?) a comment, it goes into outer space.

I realize I did stray from your original post about "AIG" to "Roots." You had mentioned them both, and the latter seems to have generated more comments. Generally the SoH sound is very attractive, and anyone writing political songs has to be given some credit.

The loss of tradition is something people the world over can relate to, what with the onslaught of worldpop culture, which might have had some gestation on Madison Ave. & Hollywood, but feels more like a multinational corporate juggernaut now. Max Headroom indeed.

Mike C. said...


I've already formulated my thoughts on SoH and Roots some while ago, so I'll just point to my old post:

I don't think I've changed my mind in the intervening year or so.


Dave Leeke said...

I must admit that I think the "Roots" problem is getting old hat. The "AIG" one is a current one. I think SoH just like getting up people's noses - and good luck to them I say!

They do have a great sound and it is quite seductive - acoustic (well, amplified) instruments with a real power.

SoH have recently released a cd of cover songs which features songs by Springsteen, Don Henley, Bob Marley among others. They are more than just a tub-thumping political band but as others have observed, their best songs are often thought-provoking and sensitive.

I think I'll draw a veil over this and go and watch Richard Thompson in Cambridge. First song on his new album? "The Money Shuffle" about . . . the same stuff "AIG" is. Oh dear, it must be a middle aged man thing.