Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Suffering - the tie that binds

The Salvation Army has set up (paid****SEE STARRED COMMENT BELOW) hot drinks and snacks to ease the agonies of those lost in the Heathrow Time Warp. At first glance this hardly seemed to fit in with social welfare provision, the SA’s raison d’etre. Do those hopping off to sunny beaches and expensively smoothed pistes deserve our charitable instincts? Then, fatally, my thoughts turned from the general to the particular.

Four or five years ago Mrs BB and I contrived a Christmas ski-ing holiday in Cervinia with the whole immediate family, a party of eight. A very rare event, unlikely to be repeated, and something we can look back on fondly. But suppose it had all ground to a halt in that modern-day Slough of Despond – the airport departure lounge? We were lucky. And the SA is probably right. The middle classes are not immune to despair.

ALL GOD's CHILLUN When I saw a rat insouciantly climbing the central support of the bird table we stopped putting out bird food. But today a blackbird, fluffed up like a ball of knitting wool, poked sadly round the snow on that empty shelf. The service has been resumed. If the rat returns, so be it.

INNER PULSE Lucy recently posted a list of 49 exhortations, observations, indulgences, what- have-you, that I suppose help define her passage through time. The first was: Don’t forget music. I was reminded of my mother who abhorred the idea of playing music while she read, but embraced it while working – notably as she ironed. Today Radio 3 droned out a Kodaly cello sonata as we belatedly decorated our living room, hardly Christmassy but a little warp to add to the woof. (Note: MSWord’s style guide hated that last bit).


DuchessOmnium said...

Ah, I heard the SA were giving out free drinks to those queuing at St Pancras for the train. Clearly an example of what the economists call price discrimination.

The rats scurry up the pole to my tray feeder. I don't begrudge them the seed, but they are digging great tunnels through my little towpath garden, tossing my bulbs here and there, and that's war. I have bought a solar powered sonic rodent deterrent with packaging that shouts, "DOES NOT HARM THE ANIMAL IN ANY WAY." I am not a savage.

Sir Hugh said...

I send a donation every year to the Sally Army. Whether or not one agrees with their religious standpoint they work at the sharp end, and a painfully sharp end it is. It calls for very special and caring people to contribute in that environment - this is humanism at its best. Even though they are promoting religion they are not discriminatory or preaching hellfire and damnation to the unconverted.

Sir Hugh said...

May I be permitted a second comment (as a fellow aristocrat) in response to Duchess Omnium? I knew someone who had problems with herons taking fish from the pool. They were persuaded by a garden centre to purchase a lifelike, mock heron, supposedly to frighten off the intruders. Next morning, looking out of the window, my acquaintance saw a real heron attempting to mate with the artificial one.

herhimnbryn said...

Ah, a rat on the bird table. However, I bet you have never had a possum in a bird bath?

Happy Christmas BB.

Barrett Bonden said...

DO(Thank goodness you didn't adopt the blogonym Baroness Omnium): I may have libelled the SA at Heathrow. Apparently a sort of marquee has been erected there to accommodate the waiting sun-seekers and the SA has erected its own tent-cum-stall within. I only got two seconds' glance of this and money appeared to be changing hands. However, brief reflection on the nature of capitalism red in tooth and claw suggests that Starbucks, et al, within the terminal would object if the SA undercut their prices and the SA would hardly dare to charge Starbucks prices. So perhaps the sustenance is free.

Rats. Alas I cannot pretend I opted for the technology that gently dissuades when I first saw the rat in the summer. Now I feel terribly ashamed. I tried to engage Mrs BB in my observations ("It's fur glistened with health; it was quite plump.") but I knew my duty was to act the stern Jahweh out there.

Sir Hugh: I fear I'm ambivalent about the SA. I understood that the social wrecks who turned up for dinner were subjected to God commercials as they ate. Possibly this is another libel but I lack the brass neck to find out the truth.

HHB: My experience with possums in Pennsylvania was first aural (Ricker-Rocker, Ricker-rocker, Crash) then disturbingly visual as next morning I surveyed the overturned garbage bin and the well-distributed rubbish it had once contained.

Avus said...

Like Sir Hugh, the Sally Ann gets a donation from me each year. I cannot add more to his first post. I have helped on their nightly London "Soup runs" in the distant past. There was absolutely no proselytising (unless you count a cheery "God Bless")

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: I have had dealings with the SA throughout my professional life: initially picking up "paras" from them for the weekly newspaper, latterly interviewing their chief accountant in connection with an article about how the SA finances the meals it provides to down-and-outs (a much more interesting subject than that might sound). The SA is two things: an admirable and determined source of services to the poorest in our society, and a simple-minded bunch of envangelists who are best left to themselves unless you delight in listening to jargon-ridden monologues.

It's an hour since I responded to Sir Hugh and more evidence supporting the crossover between the SA's two selves has drifted to the surface of my memory. It concerns a TV programme in which a reporter followed a down-and-out who ate free at a SA Temple (I think that's what they call them) and was required to join in the hymn singing and listen to a sermon thereafter. Given the alternative (ie, perishing in the snow) I would under the circumstances have sung lustily, and often do sing hymns voluntarily when preparing my brunch. My only comment on this practice is that it takes the form of a transaction, rather than an act of disinterested charity.

Rouchswalwe said...

I'm reminded of the 2002 Kaurismäki film, The Man without a Past, in which the SA figures prominently. Though I see them as taking advantage, I was impressed that they fill bellies before the schtick is delivered. Most evangelists around here intrude upon one's privacy and then have the nerve to demand a handout to line their own pockets.

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS): I think the other way round (ie, the schtick falling on empty bellies) would have been counter-productive but far be it from me to assist with their methods. Speaking of the SA in movies I must cite their star performance in Guys and Dolls. In particular Stubby Kaye singing:

And the people all said: siddown you're rockin' the boat...
Or the devil will drag you under,
By the flashy tie round your wicked throat.
Siddown, etc

Barrett Bonden said...

**** All: I think I was wrong to suggest the SA were asking for payment; the most likely explanation is they had a collection box into which contributions were voluntary. Here's a letter in today's Guardian:

"Interesting to note how the municipally owned airports such as Manchester and Liverpool have coped with the big freeze, while Heathrow has excelled itself as an example of our superbly run private sector. Relying on the SA to provide assistance to those waiting seems to illustrate perfectly the Tory recipe for the country's future - let people lap up a little charity while big business preoccupies itself ludicrous bonuses for incompetent managers.
John Strongman Manchester

Strongman's letter would have been despatched before the British Airports Authority head announced he would not be taking his bonus for 2010 and that his company had allocated £10m for the purchase of extra snow-clearing equipment.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: They were raccoons, not possums, Mrs BB tells me. But what the heck, furry mammals somewhat larger. You get the idea.

The Crow said...

I've had opossums and raccoons in my bird bath. It sits on the ground underneath the downspout where it catches rainwater and snowmelt, plus the occasional bucketful of city water from me in the dry spells.

Local cats and the odd dog or two who pass through my yard will lap at the bath, as well. Very few birds, though...can't imagine why that is.

There was a story in the Gettysburg Times a few days ago about a gold coin deposited in the SA collection bucket. The coin was worth $1,400(US), and this was - coincidentally - the 14th year a gold coin was placed in a SA bucket in that area. Sure hope the article doesn't spark a rash of SA bucket robberies!

When daughter and grandson were displaced by a fire several years ago, the SW helped with food, clothing and gas money.

Happy Christmas, all!

FigMince said...

Here in Australia, the previous Liberal (right of Tory) government 'privatised' the job-finding aspect of its welfare services by dumping it on charities including the SA.

Currently, The Salvation Army Employment Plus service constitutes 27% of the SA's activities, while 57% of the organisation's entire income now comes from government funding.

I'm not sure if the people who seek jobs through the SA's service have to sing hymns during the process.

Barrett Bonden said...

FigMince: I'd certainly disrecommend singing hymns during the job interview.

Hattie said...

I read in The Independent that Heathrow is run by a private concern with headquarters in Spain. That seems like a very bad idea.
Rats! We have wonderful avocados. When they fall on the ground, the rats nibble them a little and leave the rest. Well, we kill three or four of the little bastards every other week or so, but they keep on coming. They are furry and all, but it's them or us.
All I think about the SA is Major Barbara. That's how much notice I take of them.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: The gold coin story shines light on an odd aspect of human frailty: the giver has chosen to be anonymous and yet feels it necessary to engage in ostentatious gesture. A banker's draft would ensure anonymity and would be a more secure way of contributing to the SA's coffers.

I hadn't heard about - or, more likely, had forgotten - about your daughter's disaster. I am interested to know whether the SA required any form of quid pro quo.

Hattie: BAA, the owner of Heathrow and other UK aiports, is a public company and was acquired in the conventional red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalistic way by Ferrovial. Spain and Britain are in fact members of the EU and so it's a bit like a North Dakota company acquiring the assets of a South Carolina company, although for all I know there might been even bigger ructions if those two cultures were brought into a critical mass.