Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Over the hills and far away

It has been a bit quiet here as I was up in Scotland for a conference. It was good. There were interesting presentations by old friends whom I have not seen for far too long and a chance to co-ordinate action against the cuts in England (they are not happening in Scotland, which maintains a more benign funding regime). The informal, well lubricated conversations over dinner were helped by sitting with people who I like and for whom I have the utmost respect.

However, all that was overshadowed by the night before. I had the chance to share a lot of drink with two of the best bloggers on the net. At times during the conference, whenever middle-class academic politeness dominated, I thought back wistfully to our raucous debates and wished people would sometimes let go of a little of their respectability and find some passion. Companionship, intellectual stimulation, and sheer fun with brilliant people, especially mediated by drink, always makes for a memorable evening. Just occasionally, something else occurs, a singular moment; a snapshot that you will never forget. That happened too.

At one point, already the worse for wear, I was standing over Adam Smith's grave, telling him to get off his arse and do some serious haunting of those who were carrying out abominations on the basis of a misreading of his work. As if to illustrate my point, the rough sleeper, sheltering from the bitter cold under the neo-classical portico of the church, gave us a resentful glance as we disturbed his peace. Our eyes met briefly. For an instant I was sober. What did I feel? Compassion? Distress? Anger? Relief at my own good fortune in life? I don't know. I turned around and went back to enjoying myself, tucking my conscience away in a drawer, like an unwanted Christmas gift.

We talked politics late into the night. On one thing we agreed. We condemned the self-congratulatory complacency of parts of a 'liberal-left' that cannot comprehend the significance of the grief of the bereaved of one who lost hope under Thatcher or the resentful look of a person, wrapped in bundles of rags, on a freezing night, outside an exquisitely beautiful 18th Century church.

7 comments:

Hey Nonny Mouse said...

17th century - just. Next time you can visit David Hume's burial tube

Terry Glavin said...

More from you please, Gadgie.

Hey Nonny Mouse said...

Adam Smith in better light

Larkers said...

You may have seen this?

http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20071203&s=brook

Will said...

Get a fucking move on!

days have passed now.

Post something new!

Part-timer fucker!

mikeovswinton said...

Ignore 'im, Pete, ee's not worth it.
(But do post something new when you feel like it.)

The Plump said...

I have a life Will - and a virus :-)