Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Harridan

Oh, dear me! Things are getting very heated in the Kingdom of Northumbria at the moment. A previous member of the Redistributionist governing faction (Reds) was Mildred The Harridan; over the years of the previous administration she had expended a great deal of energy trying to make sure that Northumbrians were fair to each other, and all had equal opportunities (which - to my feline mind - appeared to be an equal opportunity to be as disadvantaged, poor and ignorant as everyone else). Consequently, everyone had to be extremely careful what they said, for fear that they might be overheard by spies and reported to the authorities. Great woe and disaster awaited those who fell foul of these laws. It was therefore an offence to say anything that might be considered offensive to others, so any resident Viking settlers were protected from the good-natured jibes of the Anglo-Saxon majority. The Vikings were free to be as insulting as they liked towards their Saxon neighbours however, so this occasioned a great deal of resentment from the local indigenous Anglo-Saxons (which I suspect was the purpose of the law in the first place).

I asked Caedmon what he thought about this, and he considered it to be well-intentioned but chronically stupid, since it ended up giving more rights to the minorities in the area than the overall majority. That's hardly fairness, is it? I agree with him.

The controversy blew up because of a speech the Harridan made recently to faithful Reds up in the North. She compared a certain auburn-haired member of the ruling Liberationist/Tree alliance with a red rodent. This immediately and naturally brought down the charge of hypocrisy from the alliance people. I was delighted by the delicious irony of it all and chuckled behind my paw, but I didn't share my amusement with Caedmon, as he tends to take things rather too seriously. Needless to say, the soothsayers cackled and wrung their hands in glee, since it gave them lots of rumours to spread and comments to make.

It reminds me of a verse from the Book of Proverbs that Caedmon has quoted on occasion: "Wisdom has built her house, and foolishness by her own hands tears it down." Not that there was much wisdom with Mildred the Harridan in the first place..

Friday, 29 October 2010

Caedmon and the Atheist

Since there's a regular number of travellers to the area who lodge with Caedmon, we're privileged to see all kinds of wayfarers. Some of them come from the south of the country and have distinct Saxon accents. One such traveller passed our way the other day; he was a man in his late fifties, and from his appearance and his manner, even I - a mere cat - could tell that he was a friendly, prosperous and well-educated fellow. His name was Eormenwulf, and he certainly was talkative. Caedmon is also a keen conversationalist, so a variety of topics came and went in the stream of dialogue. Inevitably, the subject of religion arose. Now, that's hardly surprising, since we're in a land which was Christianised by the Romans when they ruled here, the Irish monks like Columba - and also by Saint Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Although vestiges of the old pagan ways remain in the Anglo-Saxon culture, by and large there's a general acceptance that there is one God, and that His Son Jesus Christ came into the world, was put to death by human beings, rose from the dead 3 days later, and then some weeks afterwards was taken up into Heaven. What took us by surprise was the vehemence with which Eormenwulf scoffed at the Christian faith. Even I pricked up my ears from my fireside dozing when he began to speak this way. I'm glad that the Abbess Hilda hadn't heard him - she would have forgotten her Christian charity..!

So, what was his argument? If I remember correctly, he put forward the idea that religion was the reason for the trouble with the world. People are rational, and by using their faculties of reasoning they can easily deduce that there's no God, and that there's no need for religion - it's just an emotional prop for men and women to support themselves with; they should stand on their own two feet. I was horrified - and Caedmon certainly hadn't been expecting the tirade of anti-Christian argument that proceeded to pour from Eormenwulf's lips.

Nevertheless, despite Caedmon's simple upbringing, he's a very thoughtful man, and he was able to ask the atheist the following questions:

If you believe that there is no God to have faith in, why should you then believe in reason? Haven't you simply swapped one God for another?

If reason is supreme, who then defines it? One man's reckoning is not the same as the next one's, no one has a claim to supremacy, so everything's on the table, but nothing can be agreed.

Since God is (and sets) the standard of moral behaviour because He is holy, what standard of right and wrong can an atheist live by? Eormenwulf can't expect anyone else to be trustworthy if it's no longer a moral imperative..

There were other points that Caedmon raised, but I've forgotten them; it was an intense conversation. Not surprisingly, Eormenwulf's answers didn't actually meet the questions, so the resulting conversation became circular and futile. I fell asleep.

When Eormenwulf left us the next morning to continue his journey, I noticed the following slogan embroidered in fancy script on his horse's blanket. It read: 'There probably is no God, so get on with your life'. Caedmon commented to me what a strange man he was - and what outlandish ideas he had. I suggested to Caedmon that Eormenwulf was actually a theist: he just wasn't an honest one...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Rune-y Tunes

It's not only the politicians who are the subject of conversation in the town. I've heard a lot of people - mainly men - talking about Wade Rune. I asked Caedmon who he was; he told me that he's a young man who plays a team sport with a pig's bladder called football. He's a very wealthy young fellow, because he plays for one of the best-supported teams in the Northumbrian kingdom - Madcaster United. Even the accursed Vikings have heard of him.

Why are the townspeople talking about Wade? Seemingly it's because he recently played a different kind of game with Madcaster United's Pictish manager MacFergus; he indicated that he didn't want to play for the team any more. This created an enormous hoo-ha with the soothsayers, who immediately concluded that he would go and play for Madcaster Town and so they proceeded to pronounce doom on United, placing it under the most abominable curses. But the crisis didn't last very long; Wade Rune has changed his tune and generously agreed to continue to play for Madcaster United, and everyone has breathed a huge sigh of relief. Well - not everybody. Rune was wealthy before this took place, and he's going to be even richer now. The Streonaeshalch men are very resentful of him, since they still have to work hard for very little; Rune only has to fart, and he's already generated thousands of groats.

I think it's great. Rune can afford to buy a kingdom if he wants to - and a cat sanctuary for poor moggies who have fallen on hard times. I've heard that he's very keen on old kitties..

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Cat And Dog

As I wander around Streonaeshalch on my quest for knowledge, fun and food, I wander into various neighbourhoods. Apart from the inevitable and often painful challenges from other cats who resent my presence (although I mean no harm), I find my perambulations most revealing. I overhear conversations between working men in the fields, building sites, workshops and the alehouses (the fires are very warm and welcoming this time of year) and the women doing the housework, the breadmaking and the weaving. Inevitably I hear a lot of conversation about the Witangemot leaders, their tribal factions and the latest policy issue. What I find so revealing is the sense of animosity that exists between the supporters of the various factions. Many of those around the town who support the Redistributionists expend a great deal of energy and bile criticising the ruling alliance of Trees and Liberationists - and imputing to them the worst of motives. Conversely, the Trees' supporters are equally disparaging and venomous about the Reds, whom they regard as a self-serving clique of losers, whose sole wish to share their misery with the rest of mankind. Liberationist supporters seem to fall into two camps: those whose philosophy leans towards the Reds, and those whose loyalties are more allied to the Trees. There are some interesting exchanges of views between them..!

This sense of animosity is very intense. On various occasions I've witnessed fights breaking out between Reds and Trees - usually as a result of a little too much mead and ale. But what dismays me is the incessant name-calling and the tendency these people have to hide behind tribal loyalties. Why don't they talk to each other instead of childish posturing? Nobody actually thinks about their cherished ideas. It's almost as if they all get someone else to do their thinking for them..

Today I think I came to realise why this posturing and animosity is such a part of human culture here in Northumbria. It happened when I wandered off my usual circuit and ventured into into the woods. While sitting on an oak tree branch looking for a hunting opportunity, I saw two horsemen approaching. They were evidently wealthy men; their clothes were more colourful than average, and they wore golden rings and scabbards inlaid with garnets and gold ornamentation. They were evidently taking a break from hunting wild boar, and they were slowly riding, deep in conversation. Only three words from one of them reached my ears before I disappeared into the undergrowth: "..divide and rule." Then the penny dropped, and I understood.

Monday, 25 October 2010

A Cat's Eye View of the Franks' Rants

A recent lodger at our hovel has told us that the kingdoms of the Franks are all in uproar. He told us that the Normans, Gauls, Franks et alia are angry that their masters have decreed they should work in the fields for a few years longer before they rest from their lifetimes' labours on their pittance. The rulers claim that they have a Money Crisis, and Cuts are necessary. Sounds familiar. They certainly don't stand for any nonsense in Frankland; they're refusing to work, and obstructing the roads in their thousands.

It's a pity that the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and resident Danes don't get fired up in the same way over here in Northumbria. They don't seem to realise that their own rulers are taking advantage of them and exploiting them whilst providing them the ' Ð Factor' and sundry other entertainments. The Franks are a lot better off, yet they seem to be more aware of the games their leaders are playing..

But it was a good 'Ð Factor' last night. I'm sorry about the contestant who lost his place, though.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Yet More Cat's Cut Conundrums

I'm getting concerned about the alliance of the Trees and the Liberationists, who are now running Northumbria and making these Cuts. I've no illusions about the previous rulers, the Redistributionists; despite their rhetoric about fairness and fair care and shares for all, they and their friends seem to have been the main beneficiaries of their previous rule.

But now we're being supervised by a combination of 2 seemingly opposing factions. The Trees are led by Caedmeron - a smooth-talking, well-educated man with a polished Saxon accent. His party seems to represent those of the population who want to stand on their feet and make their own way in the world without the need for the top-heavy apparatus of artificial jobs and empires. Ordinary Trees regard the Reds as wasters and scoundrels; the Reds insult everyone who doesn't agree with them and label them 'fascists' and suchlike.

Caedmeron is a smooth operator, that's for sure, but there's something strangely familiar about him, and he troubles me. The Liberationists are led by a man called Clegge, who not only resembles Caedmeron, but even talks like him. I've never fully figured out what his faction stands for: it all seems rather vague to me. They seem to cherrypick their favourite policies from both the other factions. Historically they've never carried much clout - until now.

This alliance is now going through the books,announcing cuts to the public purse - and the Reds are snarling uncontrollably like rabid dogs as they see their empire being whittled down. As I observed before, they're accusing the alliance of sheer nastiness - having conveniently forgotten that the Big Money Crisis happened on their watch. There's a lot of talk about fair cuts for all by the alliance - but everybody's very unhappy, and the soothsayers are talking about a coming apocalyptic desolation as everyone feels the effects of the axe. A lot of ordinary people are grumbling about these cuts as if they've already happened.

I remember before the Voting Day that the Trees made all sorts of great promises, but since then, many of these have strangely evaporated. The Liberationists also muttered some promises which they've since had to abandon.

But there are still some questions that keep coming back to me. Why do ordinary people - who work hard and live honestly - have to pay for the misdeeds of the Moneylenders? Did they ask the Moneylenders to make the stupid decisions that led to the Big Money Crisis? I don't think so. My master Caedmon has never gone to a Moneylender and I don't know anyone who has. So why are the common people having to pay? And why aren't they asking this question among themselves? Is it because the ' Ð Factor' distracts them from asking these questions? I wonder.

Here's another question that keeps bothering me: if the Witangemot is under the supervision of the Monarch Alhfrith, why didn't he do something to intervene for his people and prevent this catastrophe from getting worse? He didn't even bat an eyelid...

And I've just remembered - it all comes back to me. Caedmeron reminds me of a man who called round to see Caedmon a few months ago. He was selling household goods - pots and pans - and Caedmon bought some from him, because he was very well-spoken and appeared to be educated and trustworthy. After the man had gone, he soon found that they were shabbily made; the pots cracked on their first use in the fire, the pan handles broke and the pans leaked.

I know I'm only a cat, but I get the distinct impression that things are very cosy in the Witangemot. I think there's a lot of drama and playacting between the various factions, but they all seem very happy together. They all look very well looked-after...

Of one thing I'm sure - the Moneylenders and the Monarch are aloof from it all. They still have their balls, their banquets and their sumptuous feasts - despite the hardship facing everyone else. I wonder what's really going on?

Caedmon's calling me for lunch, so I must go. Fish today - yummy!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Cat's Conundrum

The more I think about what has been going on in the Witangemot, the more puzzled I get. Since Caedmon explained to me about the 3 tribal factions, the leaders, the Moneylenders, the Great Debt and the Cuts, more unanswered questions come to me.

For example, I've looked at the Redistributionists. I was told that these people were committed to a fair and equal redistribution of resources to all. Now, to my feline mind that sounds great. We're all equal beings in the sight of our Great Creator, and everyone should live to help and care for each other. Caedmon feeds me and keeps me entertained - and everyone should be as blessed as I am. When I first understood Redistributionism, I was very much in favour of the Big Red Idea.

However, when I watched what the Reds were actually doing when they were in power, I began to wonder if they were quite as sincere about their philosophy after all. For a start, the most prominent Red leaders were very good friends with the Moneylenders - who certainly don't have the slightest intention to redistribute their wealth around Northumbria. Now I'm not against the idea of friendship, but this was a strangely convenient arrangement. It was noticeable that senior Reds were starting to get very fat and living luxuriously. For sure they weren't getting their prosperity from the wages they earn from their Witangemot duties. So, where was it coming from? This is one of the many questions that puzzle me.

Furthermore, I noticed that that the Red leaders were more preoccupied with building new empires than ensuring that the poor and poorly were looked after. Even so, they were eager to hand out gifts and money to those in the towns and villages who were too idle to work for an honest day's wage. They created new jobs for their fellow Redistributionists; there were all kinds of strange new trades and professions appearing. But these jobs weren't actually making or building anything or improving the lives of the needy people in the communities. There were fish quota counters, who would descend upon each fishing boat that came to the harbour to unload; there were legions of officers, administrators, consultants and diversity coordinators. They paid for spies to scan the streets so that everyone was assiduously watched. I heard that they were frightened that Viking religious fanatics disguised as Angles might come and launch a surprise attack on us all in the name of Odin. I can't say I was convinced. Was this what Redistributionism was really all about? It just didn't add up.

I came to the conclusion that it wasn't about redistribution at all - it was about power, money and control. At least, that's how I see it - but I'm only a cat: what would I know?

Now the ruling junta is different, and the Reds are ranting and railing against the Cuts. Too right, they're mad: their dear friends are losing their un-jobs. But why are they bleating about fairness? I can't see why they think they have the sole claim to that. Come to think of it, do they have any…?

I'm going to go hunting and catch some mice. These things are doing my head in!

Caedmon's Guide to Cuts for Cats

There's been a lot of anxiety and upset in Streonaeshalch and the Abbey in this last couple of days. From what a simple moggy like me can gather, it all started with the local tribal leaders.

Caedmon explained it to me like this: under the rule of Alhfrith, the local leaders who represent the towns and villages of Northumbria are divided into 3 separate tribal factions. They meet to discuss their policy decisions in the Witangemot - a place where the wise meet, theatrically posture, shout inanities at each other and purportedly conduct the business of governance under the watchful gaze of the monarch.

The present ruling junta is an alliance of 2 of the tribal factions who were forced to join forces in the absence of an overall majority of sticks cast in favour of one group on the last Voting Day.

The previous faction to rule - the Redistributionists (known as Reds) had incurred a vast amount of debt because the Moneylenders had made some imbecilic errors which led them to the brink of bankruptcy. To help them avoid penury and disgrace, the Reds kindly borrowed a vast amount of money to help the Moneylenders, who were so grateful and deliriously happy at their rescue that they held lavish feasts and congratulated themselves on their astonishing successes.

What nobody talked about before the last Voting Day was how this money that the Reds had borrowed was going to be paid back. All of the factions made various great promises of a better life for hardworking people, but the Debt was never mentioned. Lots of people commented on this - and this could be the reason why no faction gained an overwhelming majority of sticks in the Great Count.

When the Trees and the Liberationists took office, the enormity of the debt gradually came to light. After much speculation, the alliance gave details of the cuts in expenditure that would be needed to ensure that the debt was paid off. Many people are going to lose their jobs - most of these having been specially created by the Reds during the years they had been in office in order to further their influence and curry more votes. So legions of street sweepers, hovel improvement pack specialists, seagull trainers, tree surveyors, dormouse psychologists and other valuable tradesmen are out of a job. The Reds are up in arms about it and are accusing the Trees and the Libs of being plain nasty. They seem to have conveniently forgotten that they - along with their Moneylender friends - were the cause of the original problem.

But there's something I don't understand, and Caedmon doesn't know the answer, either. Who do they owe this money to? Nobody breathes a word about that...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cat's Ð (Eth) Factor

I've been so excited about the Singing Contest. I went and told my feline friends about it, because I know they all share my enthusiasm for music. Ro (my red coated pal) was very interested, but Scead and Wann, my grey and black friends weren't so keen at first. That disappointed me, as I know for a fact that they have excellent singing voices. Nevertheless, they all turned up last week at the Contest to see what I'd been telling them about. Because of the abundance of warm laps, entertainment and pie crumbs on the floor from the audience, they were thrilled to have been there. Result!

Then I had a brainwave. It came to me one night as I was curling up to sleep (it's funny how the best ideas come to you when you're tired): why don't we get together as local cats and practise singing? I think we all have a rare gift, and it would be a shame for it to go unnoticed. Unparalleled glory could await us if our gifts were recognised by the humans.

So I shared the idea with them - and to my surprise I found that they all were eager and willing to have a go. So we went to a secret place in the woods and - having agreed an anthem known and loved by us all - we practised. We soon found our various parts, each of them fitting with our own vocal register. After several days of practice, we all concluded that we'd reached a level of competence that would qualify us to enter the Ð Factor. But how on earth could we communicate this to Father Simon the Cowl?
Scead had a great idea. He said, "Let's sing to him tonight - we'll put on a special performance! That way he'll notice us." We thought that was a stroke of genius.

So - at the appointed hour we assembled outside Father Simon's window. The moon shone brightly in the trees, and the peace of the night afforded us an ideal backdrop to display our collective and individual talents. At the count of three, we opened our mouths and started our song. Ro started with the melody, and one by one, Scead, Wann and I lent our voices to the air in respective counter-tenor and baritone parts. Oh, the joy of raising our voices in song! The strains of our anthem overwhelmed us all with such sublime happiness as we sang in praise to our Creator and His works. The melody reached a point where it changed key to G sharp from D - a particularly moving part of the song - when the window opened suddenly. The next thing I remember was a gush of a vile-smelling liquid wetting my fur with an icy cold thrill. I don't know what it was, but it had a vaguely familiar aroma about it..

Needless to say, we all scarpered rather quickly, cleaned ourselves vigorously and decided that despite the sacredness of our anthem, perhaps human ears weren't so delicately tuned for our subtler melodic offerings.. but it hasn't put me off attending the next Ð Factor contest, though.

The Ð (Eth) Factor

Every year in Streonæshalch there is an autumn Song Contest called The Ð Factor, running for a period of several weeks until Christmas. It is now so well-established in the calendar that it has become one if the high points of the year. Solo singers and groups (and even hopeful mature ones) descend upon the Abbey from all over the country in the hope of being among the fortunate finalists. Some singers are downright awful, but are so hopelessly deluded that they imagine that they are guaranteed success. It's very sad - but strangely fascinating at the same time.

The contestants appear and sing and dance before a panel consisting of the Chief Judge - a priest called Simon (nicknamed 'the Cowl'), a jovial Irish monk called Brendan and 2 erstwhile female singers. There is also a sizeable audience consisting of monks and nuns, the local townspeople and hordes of visitors from outlying districts of Northumbria. Much mead is consumed at these contests, and a merry ambience fills the hall. The monks are more restrained in their mead intake; they know what awaits them from the Abbess Hilda if they over-indulge and make fools of themselves…

The rules are simple: the contestants take their turn to sing a song for the judges and the audience. The panel pass their opinions on each contestant’s performance, and the members of the audience vote on their favoured contestant. The singer with the least votes drops out of the contest each week; this process is repeated weekly until the last - and favourite - contestant remains. In the event of a tie, the panel has the casting vote. Thus a winner is selected for his or her singing prowess; the rewards for the performer are substantial, as fame and fortune awaits the winning singer or group. However, I suspect that it’s more than talent that informs the decisions of the voting audience and the judges; it’s not very often that an elderly, overweight, spotty or unattractive contestant gets very far in the rankings – despite the talent he or she may have.

And oh, the emotion of it all! Each year we are greeted with the sight of jubilation on the part of those contestants who have been selected for the next round - and floods of hysterical tears from those who are eliminated. The failed female contestants also weep inconsolably. I ask myself: is there a void in their lives? Or is this pure theatre? I can't make my mind up.

And how do I - a mere cat - know about these things? I know because I sneak into the hall when the proceedings are about to start and park myself in the welcoming lap of a friendly member of the audience. There's no shortage of hosts to choose from. It's a great arrangement: I keep his or her lap warm, and I get a fuss and a ringside seat. I love it!

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about the Ð Factor, though: Caedmon refuses to have anything to do with it. He believes it to be cheap and vulgar entertainment for the masses, and instead of going to the Contest, he sits in the candlelight at home and composes his spiritual poetry. On this issue, he and I don't see eye to eye. For all this, I have a sneaky feeling that Caedmon has a great deal more talent and will be far better known in future generations than any of these songsters will ever be.. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Deja-Vu Defection

I hear from the monks at the Abbey that a parish in Kent has decided to go over to the Roman fold. That's such a pity, but I suppose I can see their reasons; things in the old home church are such a mess. But what goes round comes around; the same sort of thing happened here in Streonaeshalch a few years ago. There was a huge conference here between the 2 different factions of the Christian church in England; the bigwig bishops of the original Celtic churches gathered to discuss issues with those representing the Roman church (who were the new kids on the block). Caedmon tells me that the Roman theologians presented more convincing arguments that the Celtic ones, and since they won the argument, the Celtic bishops complied, conformed and danced to the tune of Rome thereafter.
But just because the Roman bishops had a better argument doesn't necessarily mean that they were right. Even my feline logic tells me that. Perhaps the Celtic bishops were intellectually and theologically unprepared for the Roman argument. Perhaps they thought along different lines from their Roman counterparts. They should have known their Bible doctrine better and stood firmly upon it. But it's too late now: no use crying over spilt milk.
I hope the Kent parish will be all right and that they won't regret their decision..

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Out Of The Chilly Pit

Caedmon is a hospitable man; he receives many a weary traveller into his home to provide food and shelter for them overnight. This is wonderful for both of us, as we often put up people who have journeyed many miles, and over the fire we hear many tales of faraway places. Most of the lodgers are traders, sailors, builders and other craftsmen. Of course I curl up around the fire, pretending not to listen, but what I overhear is truly fascinating. They say that travel broadens the mind; as for me, I only move around within the area of the Abbey, but wayfarers have broadened my mind a great deal. Caedmon doesn't go very far away, since he can't afford to on a herdsman's wages, but he did once go to visit the Bishop of Jarrow after word had reached him of his poetic prowess.

Last night we had a guest called Godmaer, who told us that in a distant land - which sounds rather cold, as it's chilly - some miners have been trapped in the bowels of the earth for weeks. They'd been digging for valuable ores when a fall of earth trapped them deep underground. They’d been trapped in the darkness for weeks, but they were supplied food and drink through a small hole, which had been bored into the ground for them. It now appears that all is not lost - there have been men at the surface who’ve drilled a deep hole wide enough to reach the men, and they’ve started to bring them out with a long rope.

On hearing this, Caedmon commented that this is a wonderful picture of divine redemption, and quoted the words of the Psalmist: "He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay. And He set my feet upon a rock, making my footsteps firm." He said it must be like being born again, and I agree with him. What must it be like to be in the darkness for so long and to come out into the daylight and back to life on the surface?

But there's one man among those miners who won't feel quite so wonderful. He'd been playing along two women before the accident, and his guilty secret - like him - has been brought to light... Oh, the folly of humans.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Prince and the Paupers

I'll have to admit it - I just don't understand human society. To be sure, I admire them for their ingenuity - and for the kindness that most of them show to us kitties. But for all their wisdom and intelligence, why do they insist on being dominated by other humans? I hear the hushed reverence in the tones in which the local people, the monks at the Abbey - and even Caedmon - refer to the local potentates.
We cats don't have other felines to lord it over us; we're territorial animals, and if some cat turns up on the scene with ideas bigger than his (or her) station, we just stand our ground, bare our teeth, hiss, spit and growl - and the offender usually slinks away. Occasionally we may get a scratch or a torn ear for our troubles, but we air our differences and consequently everything finds its own equilibrium. Often the bitterest enemies become the firmest friends after such encounters. The Abbess' cat and I had a stand-off once, but now we go on hunting expeditions together.
But not so with humans: oh no! They have someone to rule over them, demand their allegiance and their money through taxation. They also expect people to fight for them. Yet these rulers live in opulent habitations with their families and hangers-on, while their subjects continue to live in their hovels. Why? It beats me - but then, I'm only a cat.
Only the other day, I heard that a prince from such a family has been on a visit to a faraway place where many of the humans live in dreadful poverty. He was so impressed by what he's seen that he's declared that he supports the idea of living in poverty, because it creates wonderful communities where people live in harmony. Caedmon says that they also continue to live hard lives. There's nothing that unites more than a common adversary or adversity. Of this I'm quite certain - this prince won't take a leaf out of his own book and live in such a place; he'll go back to the comfort of his fine food, his hounds and his lackeys, and his subjects will continue to reverentially gush over him. Pah! Example is better than precept. I wish I could convince Caedmon..

Friday, 8 October 2010

Wading Through The Toxic Sludge

Caedmon was telling me in one of our recent fireside chats that there's something very nasty going on in a faraway country where the Huns live. Apparently, a large lake full of poisonous filth has burst its banks, and a great deal of land has been enveloped in the evil stuff, which has spread at an alarming rate throughout the countryside. He has been told that it has also entered the mighty river Danube as well. I feel so terribly sorry for the people and their cats. What on earth are they going to do? I do hope that nothing like that ever happens in Streonæshalch. I don't think that the monks at the Abbey are doing anything that would cause such damage to the environment. At least we have the sea nearby - which is more than can be said for the poor land-locked Huns.
On another note, I've also been reliably told that a rather clever lady has been temporarily removed from her position as an educator of children. This is because she had the effrontery to stand up before a political conference somewhere in the Anglo-Saxon realm (Mercia, I think) to berate those princes and their miserable underlings who misrule the schools and make sure that poor children remain as poor when they leave school as they are when they first start. From the furore that her honesty has occasioned it appears that she's had to wade through an awful lot of toxic sludge herself. Caedmon was told this by a visitor this morning, and the monks here at St Hilda's Abbey are very upset. They teach our local children too - but they do so out of concern for their betterment and their Christian education. Caedmon says that these wicked princes have been peddling the vilest heresies, and they don't tolerate anyone who contradicts them. It sounds like the 'pride of life' that the worthy Apostle John talks about in one of his letters.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


My master Caedmon is a good man, and being a herdsman (which is his day job), he is kind to animals, and he treats me well. He often shares with me titbits of fish and meat from his plate - which pleases me no end. He also gives me freedom to go out of the hovel and roam the fields, looking for unsuspecting mice and birds, so I get the advantages from both handouts and from my own endeavours. There is a certain frisson to be gained from catching my own prey and eating it; I feel that I've achieved something, and it's really what I've been created to do.

However, there is a large number of cats in the neighbourhood who are so accustomed to getting their food from their owners that they can't be bothered to get off their arses and forage for themselves. Consequently they are fat and unhealthy, owing to their lack of exercise. I detect that this is attributable to an unhealthy measure of dependence on their masters and mistresses for their food and home comforts. But Caedmon has told me lately that things are having to change; the landlord has incurred substantial debts, so to help defray these, he is going to have to put up the rents for the householders (and hovel dwellers). In turn this means that my fat feline friends are going to find that their rations are going to be correspondingly cut. So what are these cats going to do to supplement their diet from now on?

If they think that they can come to me for advice as to how to hunt for their own food, they've got another think coming..