Labo(u)r Day Roundup

–The Catholic Herald has an article by Ken Craycraft in which he reviews the recent biography of Graham Greene (The Unquiet Englishman by Richard Greene). Here is an excerpt:

Critics and biographers are always looking for glimpses of Greene’s own wavering expressions of faith in his characters, a search with which Greene himself had sympathy. “I certainly would not attempt to hide behind the time-old gag that an author can never be identified with his characters,” he wrote to Evelyn Waugh after the publication of A Burnt-Out Case. “Of course in some of Querry’s reactions there are reactions of mine, just as in some of Fowler’s reactions in The Quiet American there are reactions of mine,” he continued. But, Greene insisted, “A parallel must not be drawn all down the line and not necessarily to the conclusion of the line … I wanted to give expression to various states or moods of belief and unbelief.” […]

Evelyn Waugh fretted that Querry was probably Greene’s most biographical character, and that he symbolised Greene’s abandonment of faith. I agree that there is more of Greene in Querry than any other of his characters. I don’t think Waugh was correct to see him as a symbol of Greene’s ultimate apostasy. On the contrary, Querry’s dogmatic insistence that he no longer believed was his own resistance to the incorrigibility of faith. Despite himself, Querry was, as the unsettled believer Fr. Thomas told him, “a good man.”

Graham Greene teaches us something about the complexity of faith, belief, and unbelief. In Greeneland, the utterance from the Gospel of Mark might be turned around, but it is still a legitimate, even if disconcerting, part of the Christian experience: “I don’t believe; help my belief.” Sometimes it’s on the margins that we find the deepest expression of Christian truth. The exploration of those margins—those Greenelands—is perhaps Graham Greene’s most important contribution to Catholic literature and Christian faith.

For a more detailed review of the biography, particularly as it reflects the friendship and interaction of Waugh and Greene see this link.

–The Daily Telegraph has posted an article about the traditions and present status of the English nanny. This is by Rosa Silverman and opens with this:

When Sebastian Flyte takes Charles Ryder to Brideshead for the first time, he introduces him to one of the most central figures in his life. Although ‘Nanny’ Hawkins has long since discharged her duties to the grown-up Marchmain children, she clearly remains a part of the family, now happily retired in the attic.

The scenario penned by Evelyn Waugh may be fiction, but it’s not so far from the reality of many with the means to employ a live-in nanny of their own. In an interview in next month’s issue of Good Housekeeping, BBC presenter Fiona Bruce revealed hers looked after her children for 20 years – a set-up that helped her juggle work and motherhood long into their teens – only leaving when her daughter Mia, now 19, finished her GCSEs. She remains “a firm family friend,” says Bruce.

If 20 years sounds like long service, it’s nothing compared with the stint some nannies put in. Veronica Crook looked after the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg from birth, helping to raise him and his four siblings, before becoming nanny to Rees-Mogg’s own six children. Crook will mark her 56th “nannyversary” with the family this month – an occasion they’ve previously celebrated at The Ritz.

The article continues and recounts several examples of nannies like Nanny Hawkins who remained attached to their charges after they had retired from nannydom. Many retained an emotional tie but none seemed to be living in a country house at the expense of former employers.

–Several papers have published stories on the occasion of the reopening of schools. The Times for example had a feature length article on a school in Wales that has proved an attractive choice for European royalty seeking university preparatory education for their children. This is UWC Atlantic College. The Times also posts a background story about its article that opens with this:

Welsh boarding schools conjure dour images of grey clouds, drizzle and windswept playing fields of the sort depicted in Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall (Cameron Charters and Arthi Nachiappan write). But UWC Atlantic bears no resemblance to the ramshackle Llanabba Castle, where Waugh’s hapless protagonist Paul Pennyfeather finds himself after been sent down from Oxford.

Known as the “hippies’ Hogwarts”, the private sixth-form college in the Vale of Glamorgan boasts royal alumni including King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Princess Elisabeth of Belgium.

Popular with parents who are diplomats, because of its international curriculum, the school is based at the 12th-century St Donat’s Castle, set in 122 acres of woodland and farmland on the southcoast. Its dining room was featured in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The castle was bought by William Randolph Hearst, the American newspaper publisher, in 1925. after he saw a feature on it in Country Life magazine. He renovated the 60 hectare estate and held parties with guests including Charlie Chaplin, John F Kennedy and George Bernard Shaw.

A few days later, Tatler weighed in with another story about the education of the Belgian Princess, also with a Waugh connection:

The glamorous daughter of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium, Princess Elisabeth, will follow in the footsteps of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hugh Grant and Benazir Bhutto. How so? For it has been announced that she will be heading to Oxford University in the autumn of this year. She’ll more specifically be pursuing the exact steps of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, John le Carré and Dr Seuss in her decision to to take up a place at the prestigious Lincoln College.[…]

Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported that the princess completed a written entrance exam ‘anonymously’ so that her position in Belgian society wouldn’t unfairly sway her result. Being offered a place is certainly worthy of celebration given Oxford’s small acceptance rate against the large volume of applications. Its popularity no doubt helped by its reputation as the ‘city of dreaming spires’ and depiction in the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

–The Daily Mail has published extracts from a new book entitled Seasons at Highclere. It will be published in the UK later this month. The author is Lady Carnarvon who is resident at that estate which was the setting for the TV series Downton Abbey. Here is a sample:

As the weather gets warmer, our thoughts turn to cocktails in the gardens with friends. Alec Waugh, the older brother of novelist Evelyn, claimed that he invented the cocktail party – and since Evelyn married not one but two of my husband’s relatives (nieces of the 5th Earl), I expect there were some memorable Waugh parties here. In fact, when something was especially good, Evelyn would describe it as ‘very Highclere’.

I do not recall Evelyn Waugh ever mentioning having attended any parties at Highclere with either of his wives. He once spent some time at the house of his first wife’s older sister. This was Oare House at Marlborough where her sister Alathea lived with her husband Geoffrey Fry. They invited the Waughs to stay there in October 1928 during his wife’s convalescence. And he was a frequent visitor at the family seat of his second wife, Pixton Park in west Somerset. But I don’t think he mentions having spent any time at that family’s other residences, such as Highclere.

–Finally, in another Daily Mail posting, Craig Brown reviews a new book by historian David Kynaston. He is best known for his three volumes of British history covering the post-war years up to 1962.  Brown’s review of this latest volume entitled On the Cusp: Days of ’62 opens with this:

In this short book – an interlude in his vast, ongoing history of post-war Britain – David Kynaston offers a snapshot of Britain in the summer and autumn of 1962, a time when the nation was, as the title has it, on the cusp, ‘a country where doors and windows were about to be pushed open a little wider’.

Old ways were set to be pushed aside to make way for a more egalitarian, more mechanised, less traditional society. With his eagle eye, Kynaston selects details and incidents that serve as emblems of larger shifts in the zeitgeist.

After considering several of the subjects Kynaston covers, Brown ends his review with this:

On The Cusp is peppered with sightings of the great and the good in their youth, before they became famous. Towards the end, an almost biblical litany of names, spread across four pages, charts what the young comets were up to way back then: Joe Cocker, 18, was working as a fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board; Sandra Goodrich, 15 (the future Sandie Shaw), was working at Ford’s in Dagenham; John Ravenscroft, 23 (the future John Peel), was selling crop-hail insurance to farmers in Texas.

The book ends on October 5, 1962 with the release of The Beatles’ first single and the premiere of the first James Bond film, Dr No, which Evelyn Waugh found ‘fatuous and tedious, not even erotic’.

At The Woodstock pub in North Cheam, only two people could be bothered to pay to see The Rolling Stones perform live, with a further four people outside listening for free. But whether the British people like it or not, a new age was about to dawn.

 

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