Three genuine signs posted on a wonderful website called Illiterate Britain. I once drove over one of those warnings painted directly onto the road; in nice, big letters it said SOLW...In this blogposting…
*A Brief History of Time
*The Cuthbert Gospel: Part Two
Now go forth and…
A friend recently reminded me of the clever joke built in to the name of the Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle - ‘Seven Stories’. Every work of fiction ever dreamed up apparently fits into one or more of the seven categories listed below - the basic ‘seven stories‘ of all fiction.
I’ve tried to think of a book I’ve read - fiction, of course - that doesn’t conform to these types, and can’t.
Unrecognised virtue at last recognised. It's the same story as the Tortoise and the Hare. Cinderella doesn't have to be a girl, nor does it even have to be a love story. What is essential is that the good is despised, but is recognised in the end - something that we all want to believe.
The Fatal Flaw. The ‘hero’ has every virtue and/or power imaginable - except one, which becomes his/her downfall. This is the basis for almost all classical tragedy, although it can be comedy too, as in the old standard Aldwych farce. Even Superman falls into this category!
The Debt that Must be Paid; the fate that catches up with all of us sooner or later.
That standard triangular plot of two women and one man, or two men and one woman. This, too, can be tragedy or high comedy.
The Spider and the Fly. Evil takes its time to trap and consume good.
6 Romeo and Juliet
Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy either finds or does not find Girl: it doesn't matter which. The sexes don’t matter much these days, either.
The Gift Taken Away.
I’ll be interested to hear from you if you think you’ve read a work of fiction that does not fit into any of these categories…
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
Kev has sent me this hugely enjoyable ‘brief history of time’...
A Sumerian invents the wheel. Within the week, the idea is stolen and duplicated by other Sumerians, thereby establishing the business ethic forever.
Wondering why the Egyptians call that new thing a Sphinx becomes the first of the world's Seven Great Wonders.
Britons proclaim Operation Stonehenge a success. They've finally got those boulders arranged in a sufficiently meaningless pattern to confuse scientists and historians for centuries.
The first calendar, comprising a year with 354 days, is introduced by Babylonian scientists.
Babylonians realize something is wrong when winter begins in June.
The world's first known money appears in Persia, immediately causing the world's first known counterfeiter to appear in Persia the next day.
Rome ends the practice of throwing debtors into slavery, thus removing the biggest single obstacle to the development of the credit card.
The Peloponnesian war has been going on for 27 years now because neither side can find a treaty writer who knows how to spell Peloponnesian.
Tens of thousands of Chinese labour for a generation to build the 1,500 mile long Great Wall of China. And after all that, it still doesn't even keep the neighbour's dog out.
Calendar manufacturers find themselves in total disagreement over what to call next year.
Buying property in Pompeii turns out to have been a lousy real estate investment.
St Patrick introduces Christianity to Ireland, thereby giving the natives something interesting to fight about for the rest of their recorded history.
Leif Ericsson discovers America, but decides it's not worth mentioning.
Lady Godiva finds a means of demonstrating against high taxes that immediately makes everyone forget what she is demonstrating against.
Arabic numerals are introduced to Europe, enabling peasants to solve the most baffling problem that confronts them - how much tax do you owe on MMMDCCCLX lira when you're in the XXXVI percent bracket?
The Inquisition is set up to torture and kill anyone who disagrees with the Law of the Church. However, the practice is so unChristian that it is permitted to continue for only 600 years.
1456 - An English judge reviews Joan of Arc's case and cancels her death sentence. Unfortunately for her, she was put to death in 1431.
THE CUTHBERT GOSPEL: PART TWO
As a result of my questions and comments in posting 291, Sid kindly pointed me in the direction of the Independent Catholic News website. An article there describes how the British Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) has ‘decided to sell the Anglo-Saxon manuscript known as the St Cuthbert Gospel to the British Library’.
It goes on to say that ‘the £9m sale price has been agreed with the advice of Christie’s’.
Father Kevin Fox said that ‘the British Library will ensure that the manuscript is available for people from around the world to view, either directly or online: ‘People will be able to see the Gospel set among the Library’s other treasures of the Christian faith and of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic art.’’
As for the questions I asked about its provenance - they are answered, too. ‘The book passed into the hands of a private collector after 1540 when the Cathedral priory [at Durham] was dissolved. By the 18th century it was in the possession of the 3rd Earl of Lichfield, who gave the book to Canon Thomas Phillips. He in turn donated the book to the Society of Jesus in 1769; they have owned it ever since...
From 1979 the Gospel has been on loan to the British Library where it is regularly on public display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. The British Library, as a national institution with outstanding expertise, is uniquely placed to house and conserve the Gospel.’
I found this article deeply unsettling. Firstly, because, in order to make the Jesuits look charitable, it is peddling a half-truth. The sale of the Cuthbert Gospel has only been ‘agreed‘ with the British Library if the Library can come up with the requisite £9m. If it can’t, it is my understanding that the Jesuits will sell the Gospel to the highest bidder.
All that stuff about everyone being able to see it in its proper and most appropriate setting is mere blather. They’re going to sell it - whether to the British Library or not. They want their pound of flesh. They just don’t want you to know that.
Even worse, though, is the fact that they’re selling it at all. After all, they did nothing to earn it. They didn’t even buy it themselves. It was given to them. Why can’t they conform to the teachings of the man whose name graces theirs and simply give it back? It would generate far better publicity than they’re getting at the moment.
I think, though, that I am being naive. To expect an organisation called the Society of Jesus to behave in such a generous, charitable and deeply Christian way is obviously expecting a little too much.
Our Grand Summer AGM will take place at 1100 on Wednesday 24 August at the Tanfield Railway. It’s a great venue with lots to see, take photographs of and talk about.
And it offers a rare chance to meet Neville, who works there and who is the greatest living historian of British comedy I have ever met (but that’s only because I’ve never met Roy Hudd). His Norman Evans and Sir Stanley Unwin are to die for.
If you’ve never been before, why not screw your courage to the sticking-place and come along? Why not put your better judgment to one side and take the plunge? After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
So - be bloody, bold and resolute. Sweep aside all other considerations, like poverty and debt, and make your way to the Tanfield Railway. You won’t regret it. At least, not very much.
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