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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Narcissism, the Cold, and the Tube.

To stand outside doing practically nothing on a chilly morning at the end of November isn't a pleasant experience, especially as a moderate strength breeze from the Arctic percolates the winter coat I'm wearing and begins to chill the skin and penetrate my arm muscles to my bones. Then to add to this, I hadn't had a hot coffee for the last two to three hours, and I was longing for one. Then I was made further uncomfortable by an ailment in my left foot, the malady recognised as Plantar Fasciitis by my GP. This rather painful impediment to walking and even merely standing made the overall discomfort more intense, to the point when I called out to Wesley that I'm feeling unwell, and I need to return home. So much for the gym workouts from where the sharp pain from the heel to the ankle, had first began.

Wesley is an aspiring window cleaner, to whom I sold my business during the process of retirement. As he himself is not only self-employed, but as a company director, he also assign jobs to other self-employed window cleaners, forming a team of workers who can complete a housing estate within a day, where formerly, it took me five working days to complete the same area. Much of this is also due to the advanced technology of the pole system replacing the ladder, hence saving much time and effort, unlike the traditional cloth, bucket and ladder which was my trademark during 35 years of domestic window cleaning.

And so, how did I come to know Wesley? Some years ago I met him with his father at Coral Reef Sauna World. Back then, Wesley was barely out of school, and rather than further his education, he decided to work for his cousin in the window cleaning trade covering mainly commercial properties, including school premises. When his cousin suddenly died prematurely, Wesley took over the helm and was able to expand his business, which was based in Aldershot, a Hampshire town some sixteen miles away from Coral Reef Waterworld and my nearby home street. In the meantime, after their successful visit to the Grand Canyon at my recommendation, both Wesley and I began to attend the sauna every Saturday morning where I was able to mentor him on the trade. I did this with the intention of selling him my business, even with retirement still more than ten years away, I could still see it coming, and when the time eventually arrived, I was able to pass on a thriving business to amalgamate into his own enterprise rather than to see it pass into oblivion.

Therefore I often arrive to "supervise" the team when they work at my former estates, as well as having a cheerful chat with my former clientele. Usually I stay for the full duration until they are ready to pack up and go home, (usually between one to two o'clock in the afternoon) but this time it was different. As the chilly wind bit into me, I remember an incident which occurred several months earlier. I was looking outside my kitchen window to see and hear a forty-something year old dustman shouting a rebuke at the teenage recruit who appeared not to be committed to his work. That was quite a while ago, and I never saw the lad since. I can fully imagine the senior refuse collector at the end of his shift, approaching the Council offices to protest, This lad is of no use to us. Assign him to someone else or get rid of him!

Or at another case a few years earlier, whilst I was cleaning the windows of one house, the owners of the property next door was having an extension built. Whilst all the contractor's equipment littered the back yard, suddenly the builder shouted to his younger recruit, a man in his early twenties, I'm not paying you to sit down! I doubt whether the younger man had kept his job after that, since afterwards I saw the builder working on his own.

Echoes of my adolescent years! But at least I had the comfort of working indoors, protected from the adverse weather outside, and just about avoiding dismissal. But the attitude was the same, like the two recruits, I was small fry in an adult, fully masculine world. And whilst this week I was standing outside, watching Wesley getting on with his job, I was wondering what it would have been like as a young recruit at a building site, or at a roadworks, or a railway engineering works, or anywhere else in an all-male environment involving heavy labour outdoors in a biting wind, rain, snow, or for that matter, even scorching sunshine. And subject to teasing or even bullying, with myself being an easy target for the older worker to vent his own frustration, if not merely to poke fun at. I then desperately would have wished to go home, to settle on the comfortable sofa in front of the fire with a mug of coffee. Instead, I would have had no option but to remain at the site at the foreman's discretion - or, having taken enough, to leg it, knowing full well that my post is automatically terminated, along with its source of income. 

And so such is the fate of leaving school without any qualifications, as I did in 1968.

I guess it's "the grass is always greener on the other side" ethic cannot be truer than if, for example, a road had to be dug up in the middle of Oxford for a new pipe or cable to be laid. As the cold wind blows and my knees are knocking together as I attempt to carry a heavy tool to an older colleague who has told me to fetch it with a level of impatience, I'll be glancing at the historic beauty of the colleges around me which makes up Oxford University, with a crushing feeling of envy for every undergraduate who was successful enough at school for admission. Fortunately, by God's grace, I have never found myself in such a situation. Yet the crushing unfairness of life prevails, as I stood watching my business successor at work. Because it was only on the day before, when I was considering a sauna at Coral Reef, that I remembered a visit by Sophie Rhys-Jones, Countess of Wessex, to attend the official opening of Coral Reef Waterworld after two years of closure. 

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, is greeted at Coral Reef

Sophie is the wife of Prince Edward, the youngest of the Queen's offspring. Although I would never had recognised her if I saw her in the street, nevertheless her marriage to a member of royalty had made her a celebrity. And that, being ninth in line to the throne, they would never sit on the throne. Especially with the birth of William and Harry from Prince Charles, the Queen's firstborn and his wife Diana, then later, William's wife Catherine popping out one baby after another, had demoted Edward's position to the throne from third place to ninth at present, and that will fall to tenth after Catherine's third child is born. Then not to mention Harry's new sweetheart Meghan. Any babies popping out of her womb in the future will demote Edward's place even further.

And so Sophie Countess of Wessex was treated as full royalty at the official re-opening of Coral Reef Waterworld. With her was the Mayor of Bracknell with her team of civil servants. And an album of photos was posted on Facebook to commemorate the event. And at one photo was that of an on-duty lifeguard about to slide down one of the newly-installed tubes, and getting paid too, for the pleasure of showing off to the Countess. I had to laugh. Because standing next to the start of the flume was one of the elderly civil servants who was watching with apparent envy!

The officer on the left looks on with envy...

As I wrote two weeks earlier in my blog, Gone Down the Tube, it's the boy in the man wanting to get out and have some fun. As he stood there alongside the Countess, I could almost see his shadow climbing on to the inflated raft and then yell out as he pushes himself to full speed down the flume!

Oh, how life may seem unfair, if my own experience as a school-leaver had anything to go by. I suppose it's the matter of birth combined with circumstance. Because along with the Countess of Wessex greeted with royalty at Coral Reef Waterworld, there has been an announcement of Prince Harry's engagement with American girlfriend, divorced actress Meghan Markle. Being multi-racial as well, and an immigrant to boot - I wonder why there is a deathly silence hanging over such groups as Britain First, an anti-Islamic group who wants all immigrants booted out of the country. But I guess it's because Prince Harry also will never make it to the throne either, being sixth in line at present and falling. And here is what I find so ironic. Just today (Saturday December 2nd) the Daily Mail national newspaper had devoted six full pages on Meghan Markle, her background and her parents. Of all such tributes, one stood out above all, and that is Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, who "has an aversion to wearing a collar and tie". At least this fellow has something in common with myself.

It would have been interesting indeed, on how these far-right groups would have responded had Meghan Markle had married Prince William instead, who is destined to be King. Believe me, I would have loved to have seen any response coming from them. And staying with our beloved Daily Mail newspaper, only the day before I read an article by journalist Tom Utley. He criticised the Millennial Generation, including his own children, for voting to remain in the EU during the June 2016 Referendum, with their assumption of national friendship and unity along with freedom of trade and movement. Utley's rebuke and his support for Brexit was to do with its future economy. Nothing about patriotism. Not that Utley is anti-patriotic. Rather, he is very patriotic, only he dares not bring that up in his article!

The right-wing, Conservative-supporting Daily Mail newspaper constantly has its journalists writing articles in defence of Brexit. It is as if leaving the EU has fallen out of favour with the public, especially with our Government's struggle with the divorce bill, the issue of international trading, and the question of the Northern Ireland/Irish Republic border. So the newspaper keeps on defending Brexit as if on a verge of panic. But there is one word conspicuously missing from all of the newspaper's articles on Brexit. And that word is Narcissism.

In context, it means an exaggerated viewpoint of Britain and its people, based on its rich history of world conquest and imperialism, along with winning both world wars, entwined with the idea that the English are God's special people, exalted higher than all the other nations on Earth, and therefore deserving of special privileges and unique blessings. It is this national feeling that exalts the Royal Family to divine status, in effect replacing Jesus Christ with the British monarch as a bridge-builder between the people and heaven, very much like Roman Emperor Constantine did around 312 AD. There are a large number among the English population who are narcissists, quite likely a very large percentage. But they won't admit it, at least not in public. The Daily Mail is certainly narcissist, but it won't bring itself to admit it. As such, it's little wonder that even a minor royal, such as Sophie, who will never sit on the throne, is perceived as worthy to take part in a local ceremony with all the pageantry to go with it  - whilst there are many workers, faceless men who toil outdoors in the chilly wind, all aware of the "like it or lump it" attitude from their employers.

Meghan Markle with Prince Harry

The Brits devotion to their monarch reminds me of a story in the Old Testament. Here we read about the seer Samuel who was approached by the sons of Israel, begging for a king to rule over them and to lead them into war, whenever it's necessary. Samuel was grieved by this, and so he took the petition to God himself (1 Samuel 8). God then answered Samuel,
It is not you they are rejecting. Rather they have rejected me from being king over them, just as they have rejected me since the day I took them out of Egypt - verses 6-9. So God allowed them to have their way, and instructed Samuel to anoint Saul the son of Kish, a horse rancher, to be their first king.

With the possible exception of David, history has shown that having a king proved Israel's downfall. After the death of David's son Solomon, who himself had apostatised in his later years, Israel was split into two nations, Ephraim and Judah, each with their own king, who often fought against each other. All the northern kings were evil, primarily leading the people to worship foreign gods which involved child sacrifice. There were some good kings reigning over Judah, including Asa, Hezekiah and Josiah, but the majority were evil, leading their people to idol worship too. Eventually, things got so bad that both nations went into captivity to Assyria and Babylon respectively.

There is only one King, the only true King, Jesus Christ. And his claim as King is well deserved, for being God, he was the only one to have ever defeated death. No one in the whole of human history had ever done that. And because of his victory over death, he is ready, willing and able to give eternal life to everyone who believes. Now that is something to celebrate.


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