Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas Greetings from Streonaeshalch

Snow lies over the town and surrounding fields, and the various footpaths and cart tracks display evidence of past traffic. The North Sea is still unaffected by the cold, and the tides continue their rhythm undaunted. Frost has provided the snow with a crunchy crust; for the first time for many years we're faced with the prospect of a white Christmas.

Of course, Christmas is a normal working day here in Northumbria; the feast is observed by the faithful, who at the close of the day attend the services and masses celebrated by the monks in the Abbey on the cliff top.

The Witangemot is refreshingly silent; the politicians have returned to their sumptuous homes in their own parishes to engage in the customary drunken debauchery expected of the godless and unprincipled.

Beeby See and the other soothsayers chunter on relentlessly about nothing, recycling things they've already told us ad nauseam; the working men wind up at the mead parlours and alehouses to drink away the cares and preoccupations of the season. Some of them are hideously sick afterwards. It's not pretty.

 The Vikings keep themselves to themselves - apart from the occasional bearded ranter (aided and abetted by the wealthy éminences grises who control the Witangemot and the soothsayers, no doubt) who attempts to placard to the Christian Saxon world that Christmas is evil. Whatever.

Against this backdrop I would like to wish you a very happy Christmas and a wæs hæil.


Caedmon writes:

Hello. My poor cat is exhausted after a great deal of activity, and he has fallen asleep by the fireside. Not merely content to catch birds and small rodents, he also has this insatiable curiosity about the structures of human society and the vainglory that accompanies it. He has some wild and silly ideas at times; I do hope he hasn't been troubling you with his forthright opinions. Ever since he was a kitten he has been rather eccentric - but he's a great - if not rather loquacious companion. Nevertheless, he has a good command of holy doctrine; he has been catechised and holds to the orthodox Christian faith of the holy catholic church. I just wish he wasn't so enamoured by the fripperies of popular culture..

Well, I must attend to my herds, which need to be fed and watered - and thereafter to the services of the Abbey. God bless you all, and a very Happy Christmas - and many blessings for the Feast of the Blessed St Stephen.


Wednesday 22 December 2010


In view of all the foetid air that proceeds from the orifices of the Witangemot, Beeby See and the other soothsayers, it seemed fitting for me to compile a new creed or cat-echism for those who are undiscerning and gullible enough to hang on their every utterance:

I believe in fairy stories.*

I believe in the integrity, wisdom and beneficence of the Witangemot.**

I believe in the sacred right of politicians to reward themselves lavishly for their labours whenever they like. At everyone else's expense. Everyone else who is ungrateful can go hungry and get lost.

I believe in the inviolable sacredness of Taxation. It is a privilege to pay it and a Good Thing for the benefit of all.

I believe in the Divine Right of King Alhfrith and his dynasty.^

I believe that the Municipal Costumed Thugs are solely committed to pursuing the evildoers to bring them to justice. They are good people. Really. No joking.

I believe that all Vikings must be accommodated into society and their beliefs preferred accepted. At all costs. Whatever.

I believe that Christmas should be jettisoned in favour of the Viking Yultid festival - we mustn't offend them with references to the Incarnation of Christ. That would be a criminal offence.

Vikings who are zealously committed to their Edda writings and beliefs are a potent danger to Anglo-Saxon civilization, but they must be encouraged to remain in the Kingdom of Northumbria.

I believe that Elderly Ladies who allow their dogs to drop intestinally-evacuated adornments on the streets, Litter Louts and Graffiti Artists are criminals who should be dealt with most severely.

I believe the Cuts to public services are the greatest crime to humanity since the last one. Whatever that was. Pigeon psychologists are a vital asset to the economy and should be re-employed immediately.

I believe in the sense of justice and fairness of the Moots. They are not there to make money. Ever.

I believe in Santa Claus. I saw him after I chewed a Magic Mushroom last year. I swear. Honest.

I believe in man-generated Global Warming.

I believe in the honesty and impartiality of the soothsayers - most especially the respected Beeby See.

I believe that the pontifications opinions of experts and scientific sages are to be trusted above commonsense and accepted as definitive. For all time. Whatever.


* I am reliably informed that Beeby See relies heavily on the services of fairies, so their accounts must be valid.
** The expenses scandals were merely accounting errors made by politicians under considerable pressure.
^ I don't know if he has a left - I haven't looked.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Cat Stands Corrected

I have to eat my words. With a great deal of regret, I am obliged to state that I was completely wrong to doubt the prevailing orthodoxy regarding Climate Change.

Why the change of tone? You might well ask. Well, it would appear that a Climate Change expert has spoken and diffused all doubts concerning the veracity of Climate Change. They have dissipated like the morning mist that hangs upon the clifftops of Streonaeshalch (actually, it's still there this morning - sorry about the faulty metaphor).

Bishop Georges Moonbat (despite his foreign-sounding name, he graces these shores) is the world's leading authority on this fairtytale phenomenon, and within the hallowed portals of our beloved soothsayers he explained that this severely cold winter weather we're having here in Northumbria is a direct consequence of Global Warming. The currents of hot air (Note: these are not the halitosis-ridden or intestinally-fragranced vapours of Beeby See's varied exhalations) have driven the temperate weather away and have diverted it to the Azores, allowing cold Arctic air to anoint this Kingdom with frost and snow. No, really. Whatever.

I - a mere cat - can only stand in awe and reverence at the erudition of this expert, and the words of sublime drivel wisdom that drop from his chops lips. How could I doubt him?

But while I don't want to cast any aspersions on this man's formidable intellect and education, there are still nagging questions that just won't go away. How does our esteemed Bishop Moobat know? What is the basis for his authoritatively confident explanation? Has he been carried up on the wings of eagles, and shown the explanation from above? Or has the Almighty had a quiet word in his shell-like, and imparted some esoteric piece of knowledge and given him the task of passing it on the the rest of the world? And how exactly does lighting more bonfires and kilns and forges make the weather colder?

I wonder if the Bishop has been taking magic mushrooms? I understand this is what the shamans did in the old Saxon religion before Christianity came to these shores. The fly agaric gave them insights into a wonderful world that strangely vanishes when the effect of the mushrooms subsides. Funny, that.

Perhaps it's not the mushrooms. After all, the soothsayers invariably wheel out these experts when they want to prove something to the more reflective members of the populace who otherwise might question what they hear.

Hmm. I wonder who pays Moonbat? Perhaps that's the more significant question to ask. Oh - and I retract my earlier statement.

Monday 20 December 2010

Climate Conference Apprentice

I hear that one silver-haired member of the Witangemot Supreme Governing Council - a certain Húne - known as 'Horehound' - has been to some exotic location in Ultima Thule for an expensive drunken orgy conference dedicated to the eradication of Global Warming. For the benefit of the readers who might be blissfully unaware of this matter - this is a scare-story put about by soothsayers like Beeby See and the Witangemot which has been designed to frighten the public with apocalyptic stories of sea levels rising and enveloping poor frightened little polar bears. This - so they tell us - is because human beings have been lighting too many home fires and bonfires; blacksmiths and potters are particularly guilty of this, owing to their need for fires in their kilns and forges. The net result of this is that the amount of soot and other noxious gases released into the atmosphere is causing the temperature of the earth to increase. Whatever.

As I look out on this frosty landscape here in Streonaeshalch, I can't see for the life of me what they mean. I'm sure that there must be some reasonable justification for this story, but since the puddles here are frozen solid, the cattle troughs are full of ice and nobody ventures out into the freezing cold unless really necessary, I'm at a loss to see why they are so confidently asserting this. Since it comes from Beeby See and the Witangemot, it must be based on fantasy. The desired outcome for the political and soothsaying illusionists who put on stage plays for the unreflective members of the population is - wait for it - Money! They will raise lots of money by imposing additional taxes, leaving a population in poverty - and in fear of their lives should they be tempted to light a fire on a winter's day. I know how it works. Whatever.

I've been watching the entertainment known as 'The Apprentice' lately. Last night was the Final, when Father Simon the Cowl Aellan the Sugardaddy chooses between the two remaining contestants for the coveted prize of a place in his workshop. I would dearly love to get Húne and his other fairy-tale spinners into Egbert's pottery, coat them in glaze and shove them into his kiln - and shout, 'You're Fired!' Caedmon thinks that's very unChristian of me - but I keep telling him that's what happened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego in the Book Of Daniel. I suppose Leo's cage is an alternative. Daniel knew about that, didn't he?

Friday 17 December 2010

Bites, Blights and Human Rites

There's never a dull moment here in Northumbria. As soon as I adjust to a feline existence and settle down to hunting a tasty mouse like all cats are wont to do, I find that hear some piece of gossip from the soothsayers that stirs the curiosity in me, and gets my claws itching.

Yesterday - or was it the other day? (I'm finding the days rolling into each other like drunks), I heard that some foreign visitor to these Anglo-Saxon shores was permitted to remain in this country. Nothing unusual in that, you and I might say. But what makes this of particular significance is the fact that this specimen of erstwhile humanity has been guilty in the past of some execrable offenses against young and vulnerable human beings. The Moot which dealt with his case should have immediately sent him back to his country of origin, but they decided - against their better judgment - that he should serve his term is jail over here in Northumbria. Since his release - having served his debt to society along with elderly women who've allowed their dogs to adorn the footpaths with logfish of various hues and textures - he has applied for a permit to remain in Northumbria. Perhaps he finds this place more convenient for his offenses. Perhaps the jails are nicer. Perhaps he loves the Anglo-Saxon sense of tolerance and fair play which the soothsayers are constantly banging on about. And he has been granted his residency. He is free to re-offend in our beautiful country. Why? Because of the Human Rights Act, which was approved by the Witangemot to bring Northumbria into line with the Holy Roman Empire (which is neither holy, Roman nor an empire). Are some humans complete idiots?

I'd be delighted to arrange a meeting between him and my mate Leo; he's held in a cage for no greater offence than being a large and hungry cat with a big shaggy mane and a thunderous miaow. I would cheerfully arrange for Father Simon the Cowl or Brendan the jovial Irish monk to administer the last rites to the miscreant. Whoever let this nasty piece of work remain in the country could also be well served with an encounter with my big friend. I'm always ready to provide a service to my fellow-creatures - especially those of the cat family. If only I could open that cage door...

Thursday 16 December 2010

Trading Places

Beeby See and the other soothsayers have been relentlessly turning the handle; the usual litany of doom-and-gloom about Witangemot-directed cuts - and the apocalyptic desolation they're naturally bound to cause - is the standard diet the Northumbrian people are being fed - along with yet more alarmist stories about the forthcoming freeze. Yet more global warming is on its way by courtesy of the Arctic.
For my part, I simply couldn't care less; there are times when I must confess, I find human business tedious and simply.. well, boring. As a domestic moggy, I shouldn't even be occupying myself with the concerns of humans - and the streams of nonsense and bull business that accompanies the matters of politics and soothsaying. I can see the cant, the posturing, the treachery and the insincerity for what it is, and I know (unlike most of the human beings here) that it's all an elaborate stage show, meticulously organised to occupy and preoccupy the majority - and furnish them with the illusion that the Witangemot are their dearest friends, paying excessive taxes is their privilege, and that as subjects of the Northumbrian Kingdom, they have some democratic control over their governance and their own lives. Whatever. I could cheerfully spend all my time wandering around the fields and the cliffs that overlook the North Sea, hunting mice and birds - and hanging out with Leo and my smaller feline buddies. I don't really need this human biz.
Nevertheless, there's usually just enough of this nonsense to provide a glimmer of amusement. The other day, Edweard The Milliner - the Dear Leader of the Redistributionist (Red) faction and leader of King Alhfrith's Loyal Opposition - publicly invited any disaffected members of the Liberationist faction to join the Reds. Caedmeron - the Most High Autocrat of the Trees (and Pre-Eminent Minister of the Witangemot Supreme General Council) invited disaffected Reds to join the new 'progressive' Tree faction. Clegge - the Cheer Leader of the Liberationists and Deputy Pre-Eminent Minister of the Witangemot Supreme General Council - invited disaffected Trees to join the Liberationist cause (whatever that actually is). As a result, there was a remarkable scene in the Witangemot, whereby disaffected Liberationists left their seats to join their Red brethren on the opposite site of the Witangemot, disaffected Reds deserted the ranks and moved over to the Tree faction, and disaffected Trees moved over to the Red rabble on the opposite side. The soothsayers warbled on about it for hours; it was great business for them. When I heard that this was happening, I suggested to Caedmon that they should carry out this process to the accompaniment of music - and remove a seat when the music stops. If that were done on a regular basis, the Northumbrian financial deficit could be halved, since there would be fewer politicians to draw salaries and their lavish expenses. He wasn't impressed - but I have no idea why. It sounds perfectly sensible to me - and it would make Witangemot more relevant  entertaining for the masses.
I'm going over to see Simon the Cowl and suggest it to him. I'm sure he'll love the idea, since he'll get the royalties from the music.

Monday 13 December 2010

The Exit Factor

Now that the Card has won The Ð Factor, things have settled down in the Kingdom of Northumbria; the broken glass has been swept up, the costumed thugs have been assigned to their usual duty of persecuting litter-droppers and elderly ladies who allow their dogs to adorn the streets with brown decorations. The young rioters have all gone home and returned to their customary habit of lying in until noon. It's been quite a time.

One fresh area of controversy has come to light, however. According to Beeby See and the other soothsayers, an elderly priest from Ultima Thule has been invited by the Anglo-Saxon Defence Band to come to Lea Tun in Mercia and address the anxious  residents concerning the evils of the Viking religion. In recent times this priest threatened to burn the Eddas - the Viking holy book. This would have been a very provocative act - one that would severely displease and enrage the Vikings, who hold its writings with fervour and reverence. Violent attacks against Saxons and their churches could well have resulted if he'd decided to carry out his threat.

The Witangemot Domestic Secretary of the Lib/Tree administration - May Trees - is thinking about preventing the old priest from entering the Mercian kingdom. He should not be allowed to come. He must not be heard. His views are obnoxious. He will stir up hate against the Vikings. He is a troublemaker. Whatever.

When I heard this from the soothsayers, I asked Caedmon about it. What did he think? He told me that when he was a young man, people's views and opinions were heard and respected - even if they were contrary to received opinion. But he said, "Nobody thinks any more - they just recycle opinions that others have made for them." As he left to attend his herds, I reflected on what he'd just said. So much of what I've seen and heard bears this out.

Thought and tolerance have made an exit from the land. I think I know why - and the Witangemot politicos are a significant part of the problem. With this in mind, I went to May Trees' huge dwelling and, mustering all my intestinal fortitude, I left an exit message of my own on the doorstep. I couldn't parcel it in an envelope of soil because the doorstep was swept clean (as you would expect for a Domestic Secretary). So I just left my statement as it was. What else can a cat do..?

Saturday 11 December 2010

The Rigged Riot Factor

Things are tumultuous here in Streonaeshalch and in the Kingdom of Northumbria. It appears that  The Ð Factor is rigged. A contestant from the show - a portly Irishwoman with a loud voice - lost her place in the running following a poor vote and promptly disclosed this devastating piece of information to the eager soothsayers, who - in characteristic fashion - have disseminated this news throughout the Kingdom.

The consequences have been catastrophic; myriads of young people have been rioting on the streets and creating wanton damage, and hundreds of costumed municipal thugs have been mobilised on the streets in an attempt to contain the rioting youngsters. Reports of disturbing conduct have filtered through; one child was seen urinating on a municipal monument, and another was seen climbing it and hanging from it like a drunken monkey. Thousands of groats' worth of damage has been reported.

In one incident, Prince Ethelbert and Princess Cartimandua were besieged by a rabble of youths demanding vengeance. Understandably, the nobles were alarmed and dismayed by the outburst. So was I; it simply wasn't necessary. The ordinary people of Streonaeshalch have been very unhappy with the turn of events.

The Witangemot have announced a state of emergency - which gives their costumed thugs free license to apprehend and beat up anyone they wish - whether innocent or not. Needless to say, many scores are settled during such exigencies...

Simon the Cowl and Brendan the Monk have gone into hiding; the organisers of the contest are in fear for their lives.

I can't help feeling that there's more to this than meets the eye. I wonder if this is yet another example of events being manipulated in order to suit the nobles, the King and to achieve some devious objective?

Tonight's show is going to be very interesting - if it's allowed by the Witangemot to proceed. I hope the Card'll win.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

The Hard Cell

As well as the current obsession with the weather, the soothsayers are gabbling about the latest proposals by the Tree/Liberationist alliance concerning prison reform.

This whole issue is naturally saturated with the usual irony that permeates Politicoland. During the campaigns for the Great Count (where the sticks of voting members of the populace are counted from the respective bins of the faction candidates), each of the politicos took great pains to reassure the electorate that their faction would press for firm penalties against the miscreants and ne'er-do-wells who infest Northumbrian life. Thieves, robbers and other felons would be incarcerated. End of story. Full stop.

In reality, the prisons have been filling up at such  an alarming rate that the amount of available space for up-and-coming offenders is running out. Offenders are having to book their offences in advance. Prisons are now being crowded with people who have publicly used inappropriate language, or have been overheard to have voiced their concern about the excessive amount of attention and resources lavished upon the Vikings and other minority groups. Criminals - including elderly ladies - who have dropped apple cores in public spaces, or allowed their dogs to leave brown statements on the streets have been filling the cells at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Needless to say, the hardened killers, violent robbers and other villains have treated them with particular disgust, causing all manner of tensions within the prisons. Riots have been reported to have broken out, and some felons have been in fear for their lives. Beeby See has told us, and the other soothsayers have also joined the chorus. O tempus, O mores.

The Witangemot Supremo Clerk for Justice is a rotund buffoon with a dismissive, devil-may-care manner. He has decided that it would be in the interests of Northumbria (and justice) to allow the fly-agaric dealers, the bandits and the violent to be released from prison early so that the real criminals - the fly-tippers, the dog-foulers, the unlicensed cat owners and the public airers of unorthodox opinions - can serve their sentences and pay their debt to society. Magistrates at the Moots have been told to send the violent offenders on special courses so that they can become diversity co-ordinators and fish quota accountants. No kidding.

Needless to say, many ordinary people (when they're not occupied with The Ð Factor and the tittle-tattle surrounding it) are very alarmed and angry about this. Once again, a faction has broken its promises and has back-pedalled on a solemn pledge. It all looks so familiar - like the Liberationists, who before the Great Count took an oath declaring that they would never increase schooling fees. Of course, the Reds are shouting the odds about it all like drunken oafs. But the present administration is only continuing what they'd been doing for years.

As I see it through my green eyes, the biggest criminals are the puppets who dance and sing in the Witangemot. They have neither the moral insight nor the spheres to stand up and oppose this nonsense. They are paid well for their services. They can swan about, busy with their own importance - but I can see right through them. And even Caedmon - usually more concerned with sublime and eternal things - is starting to cotton on to the idea that these idiots are not the Lord's instruments for righteousness after all. When authority rewards the evil and punishes the good, something has gone terribly wrong. Where's the prison? Inside the cell - or out?

They all need a dose of Leo. I just need a strategy to get him out of that cage...

Monday 6 December 2010

Wintry Discontent

The cold spell continues apace with temperatures plummeting. It's all good industry for Beeby See and the other soothsayers, who are telling us that this is the worst winter we've had - at least since the last one.

One thing that causes a great deal of complaint is the roads. They're usually gritted with salt, so that the horses and carts can pass through without difficulty - thus allowing the business of trade to continue. In the previous winter however, the various local towns and villages were caught out by an extended cold snap and ran out of their salt supplies before the winter was over. The furore from the public was understandable, and local aldermen were upbraided for their sloppy management. This year the local municipalities have been prepared; vast quantities of salt have been brought through the year by pack mules from Cheshire, and stockpiled for the snow. Though this is the case, most of the roads are still not gritted, and carts are getting stuck on glass-like ice patches - much to the annoyance of the travellers. The aldermen are doing what local officials always do - denying that there is a problem. We have plenty of salt. All roads are being regularly gritted. Services are able to continue without let nor hindrance. Whatever.

I'm only a cat, and we don't normally take an interest in the affairs of human beings, but for some reason I was born with an extra degree of inquisitiveness, and I can spot bull turds when I see and smell them. Things are not running smoothly any more. I've noticed it in the limited span of feline years I've already had - and the ordinary working people also know it. The old men who drink mead and play dominoes are forever lamenting the passing of better days. And I know that this isn't merely a longing for the 'good old days.' Things are getting worse - I can feel it in my water. But the illusionists are doing their utmost to reassure us that things are getting better all the time.

Why is it getting worse? I have a sneaking suspicion that the nobles and the big money men are behind it. They pay for the Witangemot puppet show, where displays of theatrical behaviour are put on to entertain the doltish masses - and to perpetuate the illusion that there is something happening and that they have the peoples' interests at heart. The soothsayers are being paid handsomely to entertain the people with lies, distractions and scare stories.

When I wander out to take the air, I see the children, excitedly sliding on the ice. That's what's happening here: Northumbria is on the slide. Downwards. And I know why - but nobody (except Caedmon) believes me; after all, I'm only a cat. What do we know?

Thursday 2 December 2010

A National Tragedy

I've just heard that it has been announced that Northumbria will not be hosting the forthcoming Holy Roman Empire Football Competition. This is a tragic day. The soothsayer Beeby See has announced a day of mourning, and the good people of Streonaeshalch are looking very dejected. The bells of the Abbey are tolling mournfully, and the goatskin flags and banners are flying in the snow at half mast.

So, where is this momentous competition going to take the place? Oddly enough, it will be in the Kievan Rus. King Borislav the Magnificent has enchanted the Football Committee and persuaded them to choose that great wilderness of a place. I wonder if it was through the carrot - or through the stick? What a strange coincidence in view of recent developments! Life's like that, isn't it?

The Criminal Kingdom

Well, amid all the gloom-and-doom reports from the soothsayers about the snow and cold weather (attributed to global warming, which, we are told by Those Who Know, has been occasioned by the excessive use of bonfires and home fires by careless humans), a little ray of sunshine has emerged.

This little interval of light relief is connected with the disclosure of private correspondence and the substance of private conversations that I mentioned the other day. Yes - like the weather, it's an issue that rumbles on at a relentless and monotonous pace.

It would appear that some high-ranking official described the Kingdom of the Kievan Rus as a 'criminal state'. Shock and horror. The soothsayers have confidently told us (and they should know) that it's being run by a cabal of predatory gangsters and thugs who have - over a period of some years - jostled each other into positions of power, authority and wealth within that vast realm. If what we're given to understand is correct, there are no rulers who operate according to the principles of honesty, integrity and kindness.

What has caused the soothsayers to twitter all the more is that the aforesaid correspondence is also associating Borislav the King of the Kievan Rus with the same gangsters. So a kingdom that is powerful and influential within Christendom is actually a vipers' nest of thieves and murderous brigands. They are exploiting the poor through protection rackets under the guise of taxation and terrorising them with the sword. They are seizing lands and driving the original inhabitants out - without so much as a thank-you. They are milking the land of its natural mineral and vegetable resources and making a lot of money for themselves on the back of it all.

As a consequence of these disclosures, King Borislav has been obliged to unequivocally declare that he has nothing to do with such people. His Kingdom is a model of righteousness and integrity, and he has never compromised his good name. Whatever.

It makes me snigger behind my paw. The irony is exquisite and delicious. It's almost as entertaining as The Ð Factor ! I wonder how long it's going to be before our own King Alhfrith is going to have to publicly deny that he's power-mad, on the take, beating serfs with rods and entertaining floozies when the Queen isn't around? When is Caedmeron going to have to stand up in the Witangemot and publicly declare that he has never run a protection racket, broken a promise or sold magic mushrooms to small children? When is the Redistributionist leader - Edweard the Milliner - going to look his fellow humans in the eye and say with a straight face that he has never danced with the Devil? And one question keeps revising my feline cranium and it won't lie down: what makes everyone imagine that Northumbria is any different to the Kievan Rus? Are they eating the mushrooms?

I visited Leo in my travels yesterday; I like to see a cat whom I can admire and respect. Although he's in his cage, he's quite happy. He has plenty of meat, and his noble owner seems to like having him around. But I get the distinct feeling that Leo is biding his time, waiting for something. If he ever gets loose, he'll sort these petty despots out. And it won't be pretty.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

A De-Christianised Christmas

The snowy weather continues here in the Kingdom of Northumbria; the soothsayers have been bleating incessantly about the disasters which are unfolding in the cold. They're such cheerful souls; I'd love to let my pal Leo free and introduce them to him: that would put their pessimistic world view in a new perspective! The more I think about it, the more attractive the idea becomes. I'm sure Leo would love to meet them, too. He has a hearty appetite - which probably explains his halitosis problem. I'll have to recommend fish to him - perhaps he needs a change from raw meat..

One piece of gossip that has been coming to the fore is that Caery - a previous Archbishop of Canterbury - has launched an initiative to help Christians bring back some self-confidence - especially at a time when the Witangemot factions have been doing their level best to change the culture and de-Christianise the Kingdom. The latest example of their insanity is the instruction that Christmas is no longer to be called Christmas. To me, the whole idea is barmy - as is the reason that these dunderheads give for the policy. Their fatuous rationale is that they want a fair and egalitarian Kingdom where minorities like the Vikings can feel that they aren't being excluded by the Christian majority or offended by the Christian religion. I know a few Vikings who have settled around here, and the idea of Christmas doesn't cause them to burst into tears or leap about in paroxysms of rage. In fact, they have their Yultid festival around the same time, and I know that they like to get the best of both worlds. They also respect the Christian faith - although they worship their own gods. How do I know? - Because I've seen them and gatecrashed some of their gatherings. Although they like to come across to the Anglo-Saxon majority as a bunch of sombre sword-wielding thunderers, they're actually good fun - and - contrary to popular opinion - they don't spitroast cats over an open fire. If that were the case, I don't think I need to say any more..

The problem is not the Vikings. The real troublemakers are the Witangemot illusionists and puppets, because they've managed (through the substantial inducements of their wealthy paymasters) to grease the soothsayers' palms to make sure that they parrot out the same old tedious egalitarian drivel and scare stories. I suppose they think that if they tell people often enough that Christianity is a Bad Thing, they'll eventually believe it. Some are doltish enough to be taken in by it all. For my part, I would love to see the Abbess Hilda dealing with these people. She wouldn't take any prisoners. Caedmon says he wouldn't wish the Abbess on his worst enemy - and I believe him.

So - what of Christmas and Christianity? Well, I don't see any change here. The monks carry on their services and prayer. Christmas is still a time for contemplation of the Redeemer's birth. Politicians and their fanciful agendas come and go - but some things are permanent and immovable because they're divine in origin. Caedmon and the monks aren't bothered. Frankly - neither am I.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Snow Business like Show Business

Since I last posted, a thick blanket of snow has descended upon Streonaeshalch, and the countenance of the entire landscape has changed. Even St Hilda's Abbey looks beautiful on the top of the cliff, and the monks are wearing habits of heavier grade wool to keep themselves warm. The soothsayers are talking as if they've never seen snow before, and the prognosticators are telling us that this cold spell will stay with us for another week at least - but it might stay for the rest of the year. Apparently it's because of global warming - humans have been burning too may bonfires, and the resulting generation of smoke is altering the temperature of the climate. Whatever. Naturally, we're being regaled by the customary tales of woe: schools closed down, people trapped in their homes under several feet of snowdrifts, the stiff corpses of frozen stoats and badgers, businesses that have been bankrupted because of lost trade - all the usual stuff. It keeps the soothsayers busy - and entertains those who are dumb enough to hang onto their every word.

Another great disaster is the disclosure of many hitherto secret conversations between representatives of the kingdoms of the Northumbrians, the Mercians, the people of Wessex, the East Angles and the Jutes. If we're to believe what the soothsayers are so authoritatively telling us, the transcripts of all kinds of conversations between their politicians have been revealed to all and sundry. The resulting embarrassment of those dignitaries whose private conversations and correspondence have been disclosed is presented to us as tasty morsels of delightful gossip. For example, one senior Danish administrator in the Mercian Danegeld referred to the eldest daughter of the King of Wessex as a 'slapper' - much to everyone's amusement. The soothsayers have told us with a straight face that this could well occasion an international incident, and blacksmiths are being advised to beat ploughshares into swords in preparation for the coming Armageddon. I asked Caedmon what a 'slapper' was - but he wouldn't tell me. He's such a sobersides at times - I'll try to remember to ask him again when he's had another cheeky mead. I promise not to drop dead from the passive drinking fumes.

Are these disclosure stories true? The jury's out, but I'm pretty sure that it's just fodder to entertain and preoccupy the masses; after all - who pays the soothsayers and keeps them in a job? As for the real entertainment business - the Waggoner and the Weasel have been summarily dismissed from The Ð Factor'. That's good enough for me.

Friday 26 November 2010

The Great Passive Danger

The soothsayers - and those who pay them to talk their addled drivel - have been at it again. They've recently announced that hundreds of thousands of people are dying as a result of passive drinking.

For the sake of those who don't quite understand this, I'll explain. The imbibing of alcoholic refreshments is a pastime that has been part of human life since the dawn of time; even the ancient Egyptians brewed ale as they built the Pyramids and flogged their slaves. Even squirrels, sheep and rabbits like to nibble at the occasional fermented apple and get a bit jolly; it makes life more enjoyable - well, at least until the morning after. I laughed myself silly when I saw a hung-over goat with his horns stuck in a tree trunk after a drunken session the other day. Cats like myself don't bother with such things; we just like to get stoned on catmint. Mmmmm - I'll hold that thought...

The problem is that once people have had a sip or two of ale or mead, their breath starts to exude alcoholic fumes. I can always tell when Caedmon has partaken of a cheeky mead or two; when he gets home he lavishes me with more than the customary attention, and tends to be a little more uninhibited and noisy in his conversation, and the fumes fill the room. I haven't told the Abbess Hilda about this. She would be most displeased.

So, what's so sinister about alcohol fumes, you might ask? If the soothsayers and their sources are correct, these vapours have a deleterious effect on those who share the same atmosphere as the drinkers. Since alcohol is a toxin which is lethal and severely addictive, people are taking ill and dying. They're dropping like flies. On the streets. Every day. The gravediggers are having to work overtime, and the priests are being run ragged because of the relentless number of last rites they have to administer - and the subsequent funeral masses they have to take.

I wandered through Streonaeshalch earlier, and I must say I haven't stumbled across a human corpse yet. I'd have expected to have seen heaps of them by now - if the soothsayers' accounts are to be taken at face value.

I went to see Leo to ask his opinion about it. Leo is a new friend I met while I was wandering around the home of one of the wealthy nobles a few weeks ago. He's a cat - but he's enormous, and he has a shaggy mane. He's kept in an enormous cage, and his owner feeds him sides of raw meat. Lucky thing. He's a nice fellow, but his breath smells positively awful. And I don't get too close - even though we're in the same branch of the animal kingdom; he can get rather enthusiastic with his huge paws and teeth.

When I told him what I heard, he said it was news to him. But if I could help him get out of his cage, he'd happily go to town and take a look; if there were any dead bodies, he would gladly help clear them up. I really believe that he would as well.

I thought better of Leo's suggestion, however. I feel sorry for him because unlike me, he isn't free to roam as he pleases, but somehow, I don't think it would be a good idea to let him loose - except perhaps in the house of Beeby See and the other soothsayers who talk such guff. I'll have a think about that...

Thursday 25 November 2010

Hasn't Anybody Noticed Yet..?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but once more in Streonaeshalch we've received reports from the soothsayers that young people have been meeting in various towns in droves to protest at the increase in their education fees. These had been announced by Caedmeron and Clegge and their government owing to the vast deficit in the Kingdom of Northumbria's finances. In places, these gatherings have turned ugly, as children have exhibited the kind destructive behaviour I've come to associate with the human race. Even Feaxede the fox doesn't do such wanton damage - and he's a vandal par excellence. He loves to leave headless chickens around the place like some untidy teenager. The rioting youths have damaged property and torched buildings; scuffles have broken out as the municipal thugs have tried to contain and control them.

On the face of it, the young people have good reason to be angry. After all, before this present Tree/Liberationist alliance administration came to office in the Witangemot, Clegge himself made an unequivocal pledge to the Northumbrian people that his faction would on no account support any increase in education fees. So there's been a complete volte-face on the part of the Liberationists. Nothing new there; promises and pledges from politicians are like vapours - but less tangible.

Naturally, the Redistributionists (Reds) are putting on a display of their own infantile style of theatre, and trying to make some political capital out of it all - their impudence is breathtaking. The  financial catastrophe that the Kingdom is allegedly encountering is a direct result of the years of their own reckless and feckless profligacy. Even Caedmon - who is normally a placid and saintly man, not normally given to intemperate language - has described them as thieving degenerates and spendthrifts.

As a cat, I can afford to ignore it all. Quite frankly, I don't give a rat's backside. But what does bother me however is that the people of this realm are so chronically forgetful, shortsighted and dense. Any fool in the animal kingdom will tell them that whichever faction - or factions - run the Witangemot makes no difference to the actual business of government. What's a government without a litany of broken pledges and discarded principles? I'm quite sure that Judas Iscariot would have made a fine politician. Actually - the Church should make him the patron saint of politicians. It would be so fitting. I'll have a word with Caedmon about it.

One of the monks told Caedmon that he actual word 'govern-ment' appears to come from two Latin words: guberno (to rule) and mentiri (to lie). Hasn't anybody noticed yet?

Tuesday 23 November 2010

The Royal Wedding Announcement

I've heard today from the soothsayers that the happy couple - Walthelm and Gytha - have announced the date of their wedding; it's going to be on the 29th April next year. Such excitement abounds here in Streonaeshalch!

I then began to wonder what I could do to provide them with a bottom-drawer present to help the couple as they prepare for their nuptials. I asked Caedmon for some ideas, but he was most unhelpful; he doesn't summon a great deal of interest with the affairs of great and the good - unless they happen to be clergy in the Church or men of letters.

So I went for a stroll, and during my perambulations I happened across Feaxede, the local fox, who'd been on a foraging mission in the local dump. (He and I have a cordial relationship, and we often help each other on a quid pro quo basis, since we have various tastes in common.) Since he depends upon human habitations for a lot of his business and food intake, he was quite keen to join in the spirit of things. He told me that there are lots of interesting things that we could choose from, and led me to the tip from which he'd just emerged.

After some considerable time of looking and sniffing around, I came to the conclusion that the couple might not need a worn-out shoe or the bony remains of a chicken carcass. They've probably got thousands of them already, and besides, they don't want for anything, do they?

Anyway - what on earth am I getting so excited about? They don't give any thought to a white cat, so why should I bother with them? They're only nobles, after all. I much prefer the excitement and hullabaloo of The Ð Factor'. It's such a shame that the page boy got heaved out so unceremoniously. How do the Waggoner and the Weasel manage to remain in the competition?

Monday 22 November 2010

The Do-do Principle In Action

Well, life in the Witangemot puppet show certainly gets lively these days. A distinguished young advisor to the Tree/Liberationist alliance has been given his marching orders - despite having been hailed as a guiding light when he was first appointed. I heard that he publicly stated that we've never had it so good here in Northumbria; he also made reference to the 'so-called recession.' So, why did he get the heave-ho from Caedmeron? With one accord the soothsayers are saying that he was a very haughty, nasty fellow who was talking bombastic nonsense. Of course we're in a deep financial crisis, they say. Look at the numbers of hovel improvement pack inspectors, fish quota accountants and cat registrars who are now out of work. This is a calamity of unparalleled proportions.

As I wander through Streonaeshalch in this lovely corner of the Northumbrian realm, I can't say that I've seen any vestige of the doom-and-gloom that the soothsayers are talking about; everyone around here lives modestly and works hard. The baker is still making bread, and the butcher is still selling meat for those who can afford it. All the rest are eating fish, which is cheap and in plentiful supply. Caedmon still feeds me fish that he gets from the market by the harbour. The innkeeper is still selling mead and ale at exorbitant prices. Despite the fact that they have 'The Ð Factor' and similar fripperies to entertain them and boost their morale, I can't say the humans are badly off. Nobody's actually starving. Perhaps the sacked young adviser was telling the truth. Telling the truth in public can land you in the stuff that happens: Caedmon told me that when I was a kitten, and I've no reason to disbelieve it.

It would appear that the financial calamities that have beset the Northumbrian populace have also been occurring elsewhere; over in Ireland they've had to rely on the Holy Roman Empire (which is neither holy nor Roman) to help bail them out of yet another financial crisis and to bring them into a state of subjection. One of the monks at the Abbey is Irish, and he's heard regularly from his relatives over there, so I get plenty of updates. Isn't it strange that things can change so quickly - and all from the public pronouncements of some play-acting political leaders? Caedmeron let the mouse out of the bag when he said that the smelly brown stuff happens. Over here - and over in Ireland it's been given every encouragement to happen. And I know who's making sure it happens. They can fool other humans - but they can't fool a cat.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Smelly Brown Stuff Happening

At an awards ceremony last night, Caedmeron - the beloved Leader of the Tree-Liberationist alliance government - is reported to have responded to a question by saying "Sh*t happens."

I can only marvel at the sublime profundity of such a response - and the depth of thought and accumulated wisdom that gave rise to it. I've indeed found this maxim to be true; inevitably I find that it "happens" whenever I visit my kitty tray or a patch in the garden for some colonic relief. I hastily bury the outcome, since it's neither fragrant nor pretty. Caedmon certainly doesn't like it either; my scatological offerings usually prompt some wry word of protestation. I sheepishly slink out of the room, and in a state of exhilaration brought on by the release of my bodily endorphins, I joyously bound around the hovel and finally collapse in an exhausted heap, and take a welcome nap.

Stercus accidit, as the Romans used to say before their language became a liturgical fossil. But who exactly makes it happen? Is it the result of some inevitable natural processes, the outcome of the providential hand of the Almighty, or is it merely chance?

As I ponder over my recent discoveries in the realms of Witangemot, human political life and the sordid labyrinth of intrigues that surround it all, I've come to conclude that - despite the fact that there's always an element of uncertainty in the world - there are those who make it their interest to make it happen for the ignorant and hapless majority.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

The Royal Engagement

Well, amid all the gloom and doom traded by the soothsayers concerning spending cuts, the Viking threat, the financial problems of Ireland and the usual puppet-theatre knockabout of the Witangemot faction leaders, we've received news which - dare I say it - even eclipses the glory of 'The Ð Factor'. Prince Walthelm and his female companion Gytha have announced their intention to marry. The royal wedding will take place sometime next year, and I can already hear the potters, merchants and moneylenders rubbing their hands with glee. This is going to guarantee them work and business for months. As they say here in Streonaeshalch: 'Every clod has a silver lining'.

Oh, the joy of it all! The soothsayers have been cooing about this like doves possessed by some frantic spirit; they've talked incessantly about it for hours. I'm sure there are more momentous and weighty matters that they can pronounce and pontificate on - it's starting to get monotonous.

One of the most influential soothsayers is known as Beeby See, but many refer to her as 'Auntie.' Since I'm only a cat, I'm not privy to information regarding the whereabouts of the aforesaid prince and his intended - and Caedmon is rather vague about these matters. So I came to the conclusion that the next best option would be to bring an engagement gift to Beeby See herself. She could then deliver it to the parties concerned.

Last night while Caedmon was writing, I decided to visit Beeby's luxurious dwelling and creep in through the front door unnoticed. The air was cold and the moon was bright in a cloudless night sky, and I excitedly made my way through the streets. I was so apprehensive of the idea of bringing them my gift that I actually felt quite ill. Nevertheless, I presented my offering at Beeby's large and malodorous feet. She wasn't even aware of my presence: she was so busy holding forth to the various hangers-on who were dancing attendance upon her.

Having disgorged the entire contents of my stomach on the mat on which she stood, I quickly withdrew and returned home. I feel so much better now.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

The Northumbrian National Faction

As I observe the present day with my feline eyes, I never cease to marvel at the sheer idiocy and unreasonableness that is rapidly engulfing the human institutions here in Streonaeshalch, and in the Kingdom Of Northumbria as a whole.

As I've previously mentioned, it came to my realisation (and I don't miss a trick - it's a feline thing) that the political landscape of this 7th century kingdom is dominated by the wealthy and powerful - although by a hidden hand. The instruments of government through the Witangemot talking shop are constructed to create the illusion that the ordinary people have some measure of say and control over their governance. In reality, the representatives of the people are no more than stooges of their wealthy paymasters, and they put on a wonderfully theatrical display of political animosity to fool the populace. They are paid well for their show, but most people don't even see this..

I've also mentioned the Vikings - a generally peaceable minority group over here, who stubbornly stick to their own religions and customs - despite living in a largely Christianised Anglo-Saxon community. The soothsayers have regularly spread scare stories about them. These state that the Vikings pose a clear and present threat to the Anglo-Saxon way of life; allegedly there are those among them who'd think nothing of going beserk and killing innocent people - and themselves - in the cause of their god Odin. Supposedly they believe that they receive a hero's reward in Valhalla when they die as warriors for their cause. At the same time, the Witangemot are passing laws in the name of 'equality' and 'diversity' that actually favour the Vikings more than the indigenous residents.

The hysteria about Vikings has been intense; as a reaction against this, some Northumbrian people have formed their own factions in the interest of preserving the Anglo-Saxon identity and culture. The main group is called The Northumbrian National Faction; they've existed for a few years. Caedmon tells me that when they first came into being, they were tolerated by the soothsayers and the people as a whole - rather in the same way that a parent might indulgently or patiently tolerate a noisy or disruptive child. But in recent times the mood towards them has changed. They are now demonised as a group of bigots; their views aren't given houseroom by most people, and they're dismissed as Anglo-Saxon supremacists without so much as a discussion. This caused me to wonder. Why have attitudes changed so much in a comparatively short time? Why are people not even willing to listen to them? Is it really true that they aren't worth listening to?

With this in mind I hatched a plan; I told Caedmon that I would be away for a few days, and I left the hovel and wandered through the town, attracting attention from cat-loving children who stopped to give me the obligatory fuss. Of course, I obligingly purred to their satisfaction. I hung around the street corners and listened to people in the fish market until I found someone whose views I could identify as being consistent with those of the Northumbrian National Faction. It was a large fisherman called Ulric; he was grumbling about the Witangemot -  and the factions who were caving in to the demands of the Vikings for more concessions. Summoning my charm-offensive strategy, I rubbed against his ankle and miaowed loudly. I laid the 'poor pussycat' act on as thickly as I could. He naturally relented and took me home to his own hovel - much to the delight of his children. I made myself at home, tolerated the benign but rough treatment from the youngsters, and listened to conversations between Ulric and his wife Freda. After a few days of eavesdropping on their conversations - and those with visiting friends - I had a clear picture of what they thought. There was something of a hostile edge in their attitude to the Vikings, but for all that, they were reasonable and God-fearing people who were aggrieved that their thoughts and feelings were dismissed out of hand by the majority because of the prejudice that had been spread against them. They'd reached the same conclusions as I had; the Witangemot was rigged - like a loaded dice. They also suspected the hidden hand of the nobility.

After a few nights of free board and lodging (and fish suppers), I caused an upset by scratching one of the children and in view of my unpopularity took the opportunity to slip away and return to Caedmon's place.

For some reason those words '..divide and rule' still come into my head. I think I know why.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Disorder In The House

In the last few days since my previous posting, things have turned quite ugly among the humans here in Northumbria. Of course, as a cat I can sit in complete and contented detachment from it all, go to the woods on hunting expeditions for mice and birds, and enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of the cliffs in the fresh sea air of Streonaeshalch. And that's what I do. After all, I'm a cat - why should the tedious affairs of humanity be of the least concern to me?

But I have to admit it: my natural curiosity and enquiring mind leads me to investigate the worlds I inhabit. Cats live in two worlds; their own is the primitive hunter world of stealth, tooth and claw; the other sphere is the cuddly kitty world of the fireside-hogging, chair-adorning, miaowing moggy. So my return back to warmth, shelter (and a wonderful fish supper) at Caedmon's hovel is where both these worlds overlap. And Caedmon never fails to tell me what's going on - whether I want to hear it or not. I just sit sagely and slowly blink at him.

It would appear that the educated young men and women of Northumbria have been rioting on account of the Witangemot's decision regarding the cost of their tuition. A vast number of them assembled in York - the capital city of our realm - and some of the mob caused a great deal of damage to the headquarters of the Tree Faction. They also raged against the Liberationists, who are in a ruling alliance with the Trees. The city was barely able to muster enough men to keep order. While I understand their frustrations, I find it difficult to accept their justification for violent and destructive behaviour. That's not the way of cats; only human beings are capable of such folly.

Now in previous times, the authorities would have caught the offending parties and dealt with them severely; many young people used to be executed for crimes - so much so that one Saxon king expressed concern over this during his reign. But nowadays, there's scant regard for the law and issues of justice by anyone (with the exception of Caedmon and the God-fearing monks and worshippers at the Abbey). The Witangemot seem to be happy enough to make legions of petty laws and collect revenue from fines through the moots.

But it's not the Witangemot that should be bearing the brunt of the young peoples' ire: I know for a fact that the bodies that seemingly wield authority in this kingdom are nothing more than hirelings of the wealthy nobles. They play a part like actors on a stage. Frankly, I've seen better performances on 'The Ð Factor'. They do the nobles' bidding, speak the right words, receive their monetary rewards and retire to a life of luxurious indolence.

 I came to this conclusion through observation, listening and reflection; these young people are supposedly highly intelligent and educated, but their anger is tragically misdirected. They've allowed themselves - and their perceptions - to be manipulated by the Witangemot and the soothsayers. So, who's really stupid - me? Or them?

Monday 8 November 2010

The One-Eyed Viking Viper

I have to admit it - I'm flummoxed, despite the fact that my feline eyes have been opened to that bizarre human charade called 'politics'.

It hasn't taken me too long to work out that the 3-faction system in the Witangemot was created by the wealthy nobles to make the gullible Anglo-Saxon majority think that they're actually participating in the day-to-day running of the Northumbrian kingdom. That's straightforward enough - even a missing lynx could work that out.

I've also figured out that the hidden rulers are perfectly happy to use all kinds of tricks to keep the majority of people in a state of uncertainty; the financial cutbacks and the terror threat from the Viking hordes are sufficient to keep the people preoccupied with illusionary crises rather than thinking about how they can make things better for themselves. They also resort to using entertainments like 'The Ð Factor' to keep the people distracted; it's the old Roman 'bread and circuses' trick that Caedmon told me about. All this makes perfect sense to me.

So why am I so puzzled? Well, it all started with a troublesome Viking priest who settled here in Northumbria some years ago. He sailed the sea from Norway and married one of the local Anglo-Saxon girls. As he settled in to life on this side of the North Sea, he started to cause trouble among members of the Viking community over here. Vikings are very zealous for their old Norse gods and legends, and at present, very few of them have adopted the Christian faith of the Anglo-Saxons. While there are minor rumblings of resentment by the local Anglo-Saxon people about them, most local people are quite happy to let them follow their ancestral religion - as long as they don't try to enforce it on the host community. But there are small factions among the Vikings who believe that it is their responsibility before Odin to bring the entire world under the yoke of the Valhalla religion, and this particular man has been very much at the heart of this. He has been thrown out of his religious community and subsequently has set up his own, and is surrounded with a coterie of wild-eyed fly agaric-munching followers. They breathe fire and slaughter against all the Christian Anglo-Saxons, and their rhetoric is as high as the midden dump in midsummer.

He's a strange man; for a start, his name is Erik Bloodhook, which is weird enough as it is. He has a long black beard and only has one hand and one eye; his missing hand is replaced by a sharp hook - hence his name. Legend has it - according to the soothsayers - that he lost his sight and his hand in a bloody battle with the Bulgars, but I've heard that his hand was actually removed by executioners as a punishment for theft of ladies' undergarments from washing lines. Those Vikings are known to dispense rough justice.

Erik has been renowned as an orator among his friends, and he frequently whips them up into a state of religious fervour by his fiery rhetoric. I'm sure that the sacred mushroom and mead have their part to play in this, but they would strenuously deny this. The consequence of his ravings is that young Vikings are inspired by him to take violent action against the Anglo-Saxons, who they refer to as 'infidels'. Boats were burned at quaysides, and various houses were torched in the name of Odin, Loki at alia.

The local authorities decided that he was too much of a nuisance, and so they seized him and threw him into a prison cell. They decided to strip him of his adopted Northumbrian nationality and send him back to Norway in a longboat. The problem was that the Norwegian Vikings didn't want him either, so he has to remain over here - where he can continue his religious ravings unhindered.

What puzzles me is why the Northumbrian authorities have let him get away with his rabble-rousing and bloodthirsty rhetoric for so long. They could have solved the problem a long time ago – but they didn’t. I’m forced to the conclusion that they need him – and his kind – to provide them with some excuse to  get away with things they couldn’t otherwise do. I’ll watch with interest…

Tuesday 2 November 2010

The Cat's Unanswered Question

I've given a lot of thought to the business of the Witangemot here in Northumbria. For a start, I'm very suspicious about it, because my feline intuition tells me that all isn't quite what it appears. Although there are 3 main factions who supposedly represent the people, I have a sneaking suspicion that they're all controlled by the same hidden rulers. When I overheard those 2 wealthy nobles in the wood talking about '..divide and rule', that confirmed my suspicions.

I realise that I don't have the intellect of a human, but we cats are shrewd, and we like to weigh things up. So - I ask myself: what exactly is government for?

As far as I can see, it exists to serve the interests of those who really run the show - which is the wealthy nobility. They handsomely pay for all kinds of perks that the Witangemot rulers seem to enjoy.

It also appears to exist to spread alarm and panic whenever appropriate, by means of the many soothsayers who seem to enjoy similar favours and prosperity to the rulers. This has the effect of keeping the ordinary Anglo-Saxons in a continual state of anxiety about their livelihood, money - and those terrible Viking infidels, who pose a clear threat to our way of life if they invade our shores in great numbers.

It also loves to control the people and order them about by means of petty rules it imposes on the people in the Kingdom. Since they're already anxious, they readily comply with and accept whatever the Witangemot and the soothsayers tell them.

It loves to extract money from the people through excessive taxation - which it then uses to spend on lavish entertainments and employment for its friends and hangers-on and pointless projects and committees.

What benefit is the Witangemot to the people? Caedmon says that it exists to restrain evil, maintain order and ensure that evildoers are appropriately punished. But I don't like to tell him that from my own perspective, they seem to make it their business to do the exact opposite. They seem to reward the scoundrels, and make life burdensome and unpredictable for the law-abiding.

Perhaps I'm missing something. But then... am I?

Monday 1 November 2010

The Great Terror

Although I'm only a cat, I've come to realise that those who really rule this Northumbrian kingdom behind the facade of the Witangemot and the 3 factions are more than happy to use scaremongering tactics to keep the Anglo-Saxon people worried and distracted.

As I've mentioned before, the Vikings are often held up as a threat to our Anglo-Saxon and Christian way of life. They have entirely different values from us, and they worship a foreign god; their religion dominates their entire way of life. They are reputedly ruthless in battle, despite the fact that they wage their warfare in the name of a supposedly compassionate deity called Odin - who seems to rely on them to do his dirty work for him. We have a few communities of Vikings already here in Northumbria, and they're generally very industrious, polite and quiet. I met one of their cats once - he was a friendly fellow once he withdrew his claws from my face.

The other day, some wreckage was found on the beach a few miles up the coast from here; the remains of Viking weapons and ship's timbers were found by a young man as he walked on the beach. Immediately there was uproar, as the word was passed around by the soothsayers - who are renowned for their loyalty to their mysterious paymasters. With one voice they immediately told the Northumbrian people that this was a portent of a great invasion, and that great courage and vigilance was needed by all. Consequently the ordinary folk are in a perpetual state of agitation, and the consumption of mead has risen sharply. (By the way, the soothsayers have also lately told the people that mead and ale are severely dangerous and destructive, so it's safe to predict that the price is going to increase within a few weeks.)

Caedmon told me that he's seen it all before; he and the monks at the Abbey aren't too concerned. He says that even if the Vikings do eventually come in force and take our land, the Lord God is in control - and they'll only do what He permits them according to His sovereign will. He also thinks that if they do come, it will be God's way of disciplining the Christian church and the Anglo-Saxon people.

He's probably right (he usually is), but for my part I haven't forgotten those 3 words of those nobles I heard in the forest: "..divide and rule.." Maybe the Vikings will eventually invade us; there are lots of stories from all over the place of raids and incursions into our territory. If they do arrive, I hope they deal with those duplicitous people who really run the show around here and give them a good hiding. I think they deserve it.

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...