Friday, 7 October 2011

Why optimism is needed in the coming Armageddon.

When I was four a telegram from my father arrived unexpectedly in the Nursery. Sent from his Fleet Street office, it informed me in no uncertain terms, that the time had come for me to put away my infantile toys and embark upon the adventure of  what is nowadays, rather faddishly referred to as 'education'.

Within days I had been dispatched to St Aethelred's Preparatory School in Muffings-on-the-Crumpet with a formal contract counter-signed by father's solicitor, agreeing (on my part) to not apply for leave (or 'pocket money' or chattels pertaining thereto for a period of 9 years) or until such time as I had mastered Horace.

Later one appreciates the sacrifices one's parents have made. At the time, rather selfishly perhaps, the grey barbed wire topped walls, ice cold baths at day-break and 20 mile cross country runs in ill fitting plimsolls conspired to fill one with feelings of misery that today make one shudder at one's youthful spinelessness.

Thank heaven's for Miss Jenkins. Miss Jenkins was one's Matron. Some years later her career in Matroning was to end spectacularly when her involvement with a Geography teacher called Boggis, who got his 'kicks' from batting toads while naked, made the centre pages of the now (sadly) defunct News of the Worlds.

But this was before that. A more innocent time. And Miss Jenkins was a wondrous cure for all of our schoolboy weaknesses. Whether one had scraped an elbow, or suffered 'frost bite' in the dorm or lost a knee cap in the scrum, Miss Jenkins' approach was the same. She would gather one up, push one's head firmly into her chest and mutter sweetly 'There, there Pet. There, there. All will be well.'

It was not unknown for boys and even some of the Masters, to self-inflict a 'blighty' in order to receive this treatment. There is, after all, something very primitive about being comforted. In recent days I have often thought of Miss Jenkins and her approach to crisis management and how similar in many ways the PM was in his Matron-like address on Wednesday.

Like many of you, I have suffered most dreadfully in the crises of the last few years. One's share portfolio is at 2008 levels, the second gardener has had to be 'let go' and the weekly lunches at Claridges with my old chums William and George have been cut back to once fortnightly affairs consisting largely of 'house' wine and the 'set menu'. But at each calamitous junction - just as the worst has seen to be on top of me - I have summoned up an image of Miss Jenkins - stroking my hair, adjusting my glasses and whispering her words of reassurance.

This is not the fall of Rome. Nor is it the Blitz. It is not the Battle of Stalingrad, or the shambles of Waterloo. It is a great deal worse - and the PM is absolutely right to tell us that now is the time for optimism, resolve and gold futures. As this terrible crisis worsens and Western Civilization collapses around us, I would exhort you all to find a Miss (or Mr) Jenkins - to nestle close to her (or his) chest and be comforted by her (or his) empty words of reassurance.

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