Some things are well worth recording, saving, savouring, preserving for future generations, others better forgotten as soon as they are spoken.
Into the latter falls President Obama’s outrageous intervention in British matters in his idiotic remarks about the effect which Brexit might have on a trade deal with the US. He ought to remember that in its 47 years of existence the EU has never negotiated a trade deal with the US (nor with China, nor anywhere else worth trading with); and that Chile and Switzerland, for example, have both negotiated vastly more trade deals than the EU. And anyhow, what a nerve to come here and threaten and blackmail our electorate. He’s the outgoing President, so let’s just try to forget his insolence.
What a great week it’s been for things truly worth remembering and treasuring. Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, and her record as our longest ever reigning monarch was beautifully marked on Thursday last in every way, including a moving and memorable debate in the House of Commons. Even life-long republican Jeremy Corbyn made a loyal address, and there was something rather wonderful about Winston Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, wiping a tear from his eye as he proclaimed ‘God Save the Queen.’
Then on 23rd April we celebrated both St George and England, and appropriately enough both the birth and the death of William Shakespeare (in 1564 and 1616 respectively). “And you, good yeoman, whose limbs were made in England, show us here the mettle of your pasture…. Follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry ‘God for Harry, England and St George.’ Greatness and immortality of a true kind. Being born in 1564 made the Bard 46 years old in 1611 when the King James Bible was printed. Go to Psalm 46 and count 46 words from the start to find the word “Shake” and 46 words from the end to find “Spear.” Aged 46, Psalm 46, 46 words from beginning and end. Is that a truly immortal hint that Shakespeare, who was in the King’s service at the time, had a hand in the translation? Perhaps.
I had a hand in longevity myself this week, when I led a campaign to overturn the House of Lords decision to cease the age-old tradition of recording Acts of Parliament on vellum. Vellum, calf-skin, lasts for up to 5000 years, the archival paper with which they wanted to replace it, only two or three hundred. All the great documents in history were on vellum. Magna Carta would not have survived until Henry VIII, had it not been on vellum. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Lindisfarne Gospels, Domesday Book would all have disappeared centuries ago were they not on vellum. The St John’s Gospels put into the coffin of St Cuthbert in the year 687 can still be read as clearly today as when they were written, and still handled safely by historians. I was glad to see off the cultural vandalism of their Lordships by a large majority after a Commons debate on the matter on Wednesday.
Our culture and history, the weft and warp of our national life are made of such things. President Obama’s foolish words will be a short foot-note on a piece of paper which last no more than a few weeks.