Piglet’s expense account

Interesting times and not the best of them – I’ve had a couple of profound shocks to the kind of template to my rather eclectic belief system. The first was the discovery (thanks to my better half who is a big A.A Milne fan) that Winnie the Pooh and his fellow forest dwellers were all stuffed animals – toys that Christopher Robin was projecting his rather lonely scenarios upon. I was labouring under the illusion (for god knows how many decades) that they were actual animals! I’ve never noticed the stitched seams or Eeoh’s pinned on tail. Growing up in England with Australian parents the notion that small bears, small piglets (and Piglet has a kind of marsupial kind of nose) and kangaroos (okay the donkey was a bit left of centre) lived in a large forest seemed perfectly plausible. In fact the idea that they were actual animals was far more attractive to me as a child as I harboured ambitions of being a zoologist, or the very least an entomologist. I was surprised at the extent of my disappointment at this epiphany, perhaps even more disturbing was the psychological adjustment I had to make re: the character of Christopher Robin himself. Suddenly he now appears to me like a deeply isolated lonely only child reduced to acting out little plays with his stuffed toys in a large back garden. That’s a whole ocean away from talking with the animals. Then again Dr, Dolittle was another huge favourite book of mine and the ideas, and the fantasy of travelling across the bottom of the sea in a giant translucent shell of a friendly giant sea snail was up there with sitting for hours in the cupboard surrounded by smelly old raincoats eyes squeezed shut convinced that if I only willed it for another half an hour Narnia would open magically before me. C.S Lewis has a lot to answer for in terms of kids going through traumatic divorces wanting to escape. And I guess I should thank my lucky stars that at least the forests and talking animals of A.A. Milne were still pristine back then, because I can tell you as a wily street-wise 6 year old there was no way I was going to believe in talking stuffed toys. Magical kingdoms beyond the back of the wardrobe yes, talking lions yes – but again, I never realised Aslan was Jesus until I was thirty – which was one of the advantages of having secular left-wing parents. Which brings me to the next great getting-of-wisdom that is currently sweeping through the zeitgeist of the British Isles. And that is the scandal involving politicians of every persuasion claiming illegitimate expenses, the never-ending-story The Daily Telegraph has exploited to jack up their flagging circulation (nice to know there is absolutely no political bias or loyalty in the media).
Don’t get me wrong, I also think it’s inexcusable that a politician can claim for a duck island (a version of Eeoh’s twig house no doubt) or the upkeep of a moat, and even more extraordinary, for mortgages long paid off. But I also think we are living in perilously volatile times, and I fear the only people to benefit out of this expose are the extreme right and extreme left, with, maybe hopefully a few votes going to the Green party. The level of disillusionment in the general public is extreme. Remember the English have not had the hope of Obama, and I fear might even galvanise the normally complacent middle class into political action.. Revolution is not a British tradition – unless you count Cromwell but remember Royalty was finally re-instated. The best outcome would be that the whole parliamentary system is revised and, in my opinion, they bring in compulsory voting. A system that exists and operates very well in Australia. I also think they should introduce this in the US. It means everyone (who registers, which you have to do at eighteen, but I do know a few Australian anarchists who never registered and so deliberately stay off the grid) has to vote – or be fined. It also means everyone to a greater or lesser extent has to engage politically. It’s a way of offsetting the apathy that comes out of complete cynicism and having a party elected from a record low number of people actually voting. Failing that there’s always the option of sitting in the wardrobe wishing for Narnia. See you in there.