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Listen to this fantastic, tiny! radio feature about “Parson’s Pleasure, a male-only nude bathing place on the outskirts of Oxford.” Sexuality, solidarity, prejudice, privilege and poshness all mingled together. Gorgeous. (The episode about the the New Cross Fire is also incredible.)
Nothing changes: “The first known printed advertisement in English, The Pyes of Salisburi —which was not, sadly, a puff for Salisbury pies but for a book of religious services—was printed in 1477 by William Caxton himself; he claimed ‘The Pyes’ was ‘good chepe’.” (Winston Fletcher)
I love the Olympics. It’s incredibly easy to feel connected to - and responsible for - an athlete from ‘your country’, even though that’s such a weird and tenuous construct. Whenever I feel a tear forming during a medal ceremony I think of this bit of Jan Morris. She’s right, of course, but also, we want to belong. I love re-enactment societies.
“Today you can qualify to play for the rugby team of a nation if just one of your grandfathers happened to be born there, even if you have never been to the place, even if you speak no word of its language – a qualification almost as absurd as Nazi definitions of Jewishness. One day the very idea of nationality will seem as impossibly primitive as dynastic warfare or the divine right of kings; first the unification of continents, then the global rule of the almighty corporations, like institutions from space, then perhaps space itself and finally plain common-sense will reduce it to a hobby for antiquarians or re-enactment societies."
Just before the pandemic we went on holiday to Florida. It was wonderful. But it was disconcerting. Miami seemed in denial. About everything, frankly.
I remembered, from when we lived in the States, that all over the Midwest you’d see these signs about Tornado Shelters. And what to do if one happened. They’d built their lives in places of obvious danger, but they were facing up to it. They had a plan. It seemed, to outsiders like us, that Miami was equally close to disaster, to being drowned. But there was no public acknowledgement. No signs about ‘what to do’. This amazingly written article gets at some of that denial.
“If a young Robert Redford ever fantasized about giving up a few degrees of handsomeness just to be tall, it was this man that he pictured.”
“I liked all of them. They were a charming bunch. They had been born this way. That’s how they’d gotten jobs on the front lines of capitalist hypocrisy, while those of us who sucked at lying were hiding in the trenches, smoking cigarettes, writing letters home about how miserable we were.”
“Full disclosure: I live in a town in rural Northern California that could burn down to the ground literally any day, and I’m thinking about buying a house here.”
Flying home from that holiday, I felt like I should never get on a plane again. Hopefully I won’t.
Similarly, in a way, a little bit of Madness Is Better Than Defeat by Ned Beauman:
”As is the case for many men of his age, it took a big scare to make him realise that he might have only a few years left on this earth and it was time to stop neglecting the parts of his life that really mattered to him. So he resolved to start going into the office on Sundays and Christmas Day, too.”
Stay safe. Don’t go in on Sundays.
(There are 711 of you. 711 was George Washington’s number as part of the Culper Ring, a network of spies active during the Revolutionary War.)