Last night I had some very strange dreams indeed. I think my mind is starting to readjust to the looming spectre of having to live in what someone else has decided to call a ‘new normal’; sharpening itself so I can sharpen myself in turn. There’s nothing to get you on your toes quite like a sharp dose of reality but why that sometimes has to be underlined with a warped, surreal mesh of your own subconscious, in the middle of the night when you are at your most vulnerable, is quite beyond me. What’s worse is that these dreams and the even more bizarre, borderline nightmarish snippets that followed were all about regret – people with whom I have lost touch, places I may never go to or have and wished I hadn’t, things I have not been, or might not be, strong enough to prevent. Things I have done that were, as is appropriate on this forum, plain stupid. The fact they wrapped up with me running naked through a stranger’s back garden while a gang of louts stripped my abandoned wallet as I watched helpless did not offer me much of a rise-and-shine mentality. Which is why I’m telling you about it. I thought you might care.
Regret is something that hangs particularly heavily over the world at the moment. Regret is as poisonous as it is powerful. We regret both the events that have happened and those that have not. Regret is an easy emotion to give in to. It is also a very easy emotion for others to suggest you should avoid, and strange that often those who should regret the most instead regret nothing. I would hope that as I creep closer to death, some day far from now (or far enough that it isn’t, like, tomorrow) that I won’t lie there blubbing out all the things I wish I’d done or not done, though I do know myself well enough to easily see me doing just that. One thing I won’t regret however is never having had the chance to soak up the atmosphere at ‘The Last Night Of The Proms’, and if such good fortune persists until that dying moment then a glow of gratitude will more likely be suitable. In case you’ve not been following the news there were rumours that our staid little BBC had considered plans to scrap, or at least tone down, the finale of ‘TLNOTP’, the bit where a collection of twats with flags sing ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ in a surge of national pride, bombastic unity and collective dickness. To some it is the highlight of the musical calendar, but personally I’d rather eat glass.
The reason The BBC have thought about making these adjustments is partially because of the links to slavery and all things Christian empire building that those aforementioned orchestral erections have wrapped up in their core. The news has been prodded rigorously from both sticky ends of social media, suddenly making ‘TLNOTP’ something of an opinion bait spit roast. The movement that wants to wipe out history, in an effort to pretend that bad things didn’t happen and hope that everything going forward will automatically be different, were delighted to hear that such nationalistic displays of slavery love would be snuffed out with immediate effect. On the other hand there is another group of proud British John Bulls that seem to believe the climax of ‘TLNOTP’ represents some crowning display of all that is fine and right (‘right’ as in correct, I think) about celebrating the glory of empire, regardless of the fact that ‘the empire’ now consists of next to nothing and is very likely to get even smaller before too long. Both these groups are, for one reason or another, wrong.
You see what really needs to be recognised is that yes, the end of ‘TLNOTP’ should be lopped, not specifically because of its links to slavery but because it is an embarrassment to the nation. It joins a long list of items that no longer do us any credit or offer any sense of real value, first and foremost of which is our current Prime Minister, who is unsurprisingly a massive fan of all that bloat and pomposity and apparently has enough time on his hands at the moment to say so. Perhaps instead the songs should be read out in classrooms, very slowly, and explained in detail so new generations can understand what they really mean; that would be useful, and certainly much more useful than just cancelling them to be replaced by any episode of ‘Call The Midwife’. ‘TLNOTP’ is essentially a white, upper-middle class ticket for the tasteless few who have enough cash to secure one. Watching those flags wave and the tears well up at some faded hurrah for a hope and a glory that we haven’t seen in a long, long time is now not much more than waving a flag for desperation and regret and the vanished possibility of our past saving us from our future. That’s why it is crap and that’s why it should go; not because the statue topplers alliance could do with a good nights sleep.
There is a line that says we should stop being embarrassed about our past, but embarrassment is the wrong word. Embarrassment is what you get when you skid in dog shit or your trousers fall down in the queue at Aldi. Instead we should be collectively ashamed of some aspects of our past, but we should also remember to be equally proud of other events and people and acts. Not having a puffy cheeked crowd sing along to those songs in The Royal Albert Hall won’t be a tragedy but instead a real demonstration of a society that can show it is more equal than the one it refers back to. It is a class thing, not a race thing, that should be addressed and seeing all those wittering tits in their Union Jack waistcoats will be as good a sign as any that anything can change. As for slavery and other bleak deeds from history well like it or not they happened, and The Proms shouldn’t be responsible for bearing the burden for that. Incidentally – I like being British and on the whole I like Britain, for all its faults, but I’m now imagining that my recurring dream was being stuck at ‘The Last Night Of The Proms’, wearing a plastic Union Jack bowler hat and being shouted at by someone called Jonty. Now that really does sound like a nightmare worthy of regret.
G B Hewitt. 26.08.2020