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Amaryllis: What the Dickens??

When I was a small girl, there used to be on television a short children’s programme called Hector’s House. This was in the days before children had their own programme channel, their own television in their own rooms. Hector’s House was the last children’s programme of the day and was shown just before the early evening news. This meant that a parent, usually the father, (these were still the dark ages, the mother would be doing her duty in the kitchen), would end up watching this particular programme with the child as he waited for the news – it was good quality time and although I don’t remember my father being particularly taken with Hector’s House (Hector was, in a very modern way, rather at the mercy of his wife ZsaZsa and the busybody frog, Kiki), I do remember that he was a great fan of The Magic Roundabout…
 
Anyway the thing about Hector was that he was not the most intelligent of dogs and after the cat and frog had run rings around him, he ended the programme with a catchphrase that usually ran along the lines of ‘what a big silly Hector I am’ and everyone loved him and forgave him his faults. I was reminded of this when reading about Diane Abbott’s disastrous interview regarding Labour’s proposal to recruit 25,000 new police officers: when asked about the cost of such a proposal she lost the plot and the figures completely and will neither be allowed to forget nor be forgiven for such a disastrous handling of the situation. I can’t help feeling that if she had just shown a bit of humour and humility in the interview, she might have got off with less approbation. After all we are all human and fallibility is part of the human condition and he who throws the first stone etc etc.
 
But she didn’t, and politicians generally don’t. They will never admit fault and very rarely apologise for their mistakes as the unfulfilled pledges and promises of Brexit have shown. And their most unappealing characteristic is their hypocrisy! This led me to think of Dickens who has such a colourful array of villains of all sorts and sizes. There are the villains such as Quilp who positively revel in their wickedness and don’t pretend to be other than they are. There are historical reports of people sobbing in the street as the death of Little Nell was finally revealed but I am sure not a few privately admired such dedication in removing such a tediously pious young person and only regretted it took so long…
 
Then there are brutish fiends such as Mr and Mrs Squeers and Bill Sykes and their opposite, the cold and calculating Mr Tulkinghorn and Ralph Nickleby who prefer to keep their hands clean and let others do their dirty work.
 
But I think the ones whose downfalls I anticipate with most relish are the hypocrites: Mr Pecksniff, Thomas Gradgrind, Uriah Heep who simper and preach about justice and humility and are so convincing they end up convincing themselves. This appears to be the school to which most of our politicians ascribe… how to deliver sermons on what is best for the many whilst delivering for only the few. Only this time the irony is that they walked away and our downfall is Brexit.
 
My book of the week is The Sport of Kings: you may need a magnifying glass to actually read the tiny print or ruin your eyes as I have probably done but it is worth it and leaves a lot to ponder. I have also just read the new Elizabeth Strout, Anything is Possible, which is another beautifully quiet and tender novel.
 
Our new display is ‘Wicked Women’ featuring Lady Macbeth of Mtensk – the film is very good too!

About Amaryllis

 

Amaryllis is our bookshop blogger.

 

Her pen name is taken from Alice Thomas Ellis’ Other Side of the Fire, which is unfortunately and scandalously out of print. One of the funniest bits in the book is the bodice-ripper that one of the characters is writing and the female - who slays the men with one toss of her raven locks and one glance from her fiery green eyes as she strides among the glens, faithful wolfhound by her side - is Amaryllis! And the name just seemed to suit so here we are.

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