The biggest day of the year is almost upon us, and many adults will be behaving like anxious children wondering what their present is going to be. I am referring, of course, to the New Year’s Honours list. I expect each recipient of a suggested honour must keep it to themselves until the day comes, and until that day comes there may be a fear that a promise made may be a promise broken. I quite like the idea that Theresa May may have promised a few score peerages to swing a vote on something or other. They will probably have to wait a bit longer.
With the exception of a couple of Tory MP alleged sexual transgressors, who both had the whip restored in order to vote for May in the recent no confidence ballot, one power of conferment May does not have is the ability to pardon convicted criminals. This is a power El Trumpo has and may feel obliged to use quite extensively in the not too distant future. I wonder, if May did have that power, who might receive an absolution? The list naturally would have to include some posthumous pardons, and perhaps it could start with Maundy Gregory, who the Tories paid handsomely to get him out of the country after the various honours scandals of the 1920s and 1930s. Gregory took with him enough dirt to sink many a peer – not all Tories, I hasten to add. There’ll still be quite a few ‘nobles’ who owe their titles to Gregory. I wish they could all be named. And shamed.
Reggie Maudling, whilst never convicted nevertheless suffered a trashed reputation in the wake of the Poulson scandal should be included too. He was once tipped as Prime Ministerial material. Theresa should restore him to the pantheon of Tory heroes. In more recent times, perhaps now that Jonathan Aitken has made his peace with God and is doing wondrous works he should have his criminal record expunged, and perhaps Neil Hamilton too – not that he had a criminal record – but surely he set an example in the world of political disrepute, earning his spurs to become known as the Tories’ leading sleazeball. In these Brexit burdened times, they should have him back in. Anyway, I’m going to cut this particular line of thinking short. It’s Christmas.
I’ve just been on my annual culture trip to Holland, which involves traipsing (at pace it has to be said) around various art galleries in The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam (see Perambulations: Geementmuseum, Stedelijk and Museum van Beuningen appearing shortly). I feel so relieved I can still use a queue at passport control which says ‘EU.’ It moves faster. I suspect come the 29th March next year the Dutch border police (or Polite as I misread their name) will look upon Englanders with a slight look of pity. I know what. I’ll just bung ‘em five euros to get me through faster – they’re foreigners aren’t they?
I find leaving Rotterdam’s Europort in the darkness quite evocative. On the starboard side there’s a long spit with a regular if infrequent array of dim lights, and the occasional navigational beacon. Half way along this lonely windswept, desolate and isolated tongue there’s a notice that’s illuminated like a pub sign. It looks quite romantic. But there’s not many pubs called ‘VHF 3.’ The only drink in this spot would be a few gulps of saltwater followed by oblivion. On the other side it’s a different story. The sparkling necklace of one of the world’s largest oil refineries glitters in its resplendent jewellery, at night the industrial wasteland puts on its own lightshow, a riposte to the handful of dim, rotating wind turbine blades which are in this landscape but semi-useless assuagements. I wonder what Mesdag, ‘the painter of the North Sea’ would have made of it all, had he lived a hundred or so years later.