It has been fascinating to be able to watch the EU Referendum debate as it comes to a final conclusion from the distance of 11 thousand miles. I left the UK for New Zealand in 1974 just after Britain when the UK joined the Common Market in 1973. I was about 33. I am classed in NZ as an immigrant, at first as a Whinging Pom not so much by the native Maori but by the previous UK immigrants who had stamped their destructive mark on The Land of the Long White Cloud by cutting down all the indigenous forests and rearing lamb and dairy for the homeland.
With hindsight, I do not think that the Brits who voted so enthusiastically to join the EU over 40 years ago would do so today but this seems to have come as somewhat of a shock to the Remain Campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour Leader whose name escapes me..... Jeffrey Corbyn and the Elite of the EU whoever they are. Why aren't the Brits falling over themselves to remain in Europe? Many other leaders from all over the world can't understand it either, President Obama, Angela Merkel of Germany, President Hollande, World Trade Organisation, International Banks, Big Businesses, a plethora of other notables even the Pope all consider Leaving the EU would be a bad thing for the UK and in fact a disaster for it.
To begin - after David Cameron did his renegotiation of UK conditions for Britain remaining in EU all seemed to go to plan and the Remains looked comfortably ahead. This was relatively easy to achieve as they have the press on their side. All they had to do was to tell the locals how to vote. For example, The UK Guardian, a bastion of the liberal media came out in favour and in fact, nearly every article published was and still is in favour of remaining in EU. It also favours immigration of any kind, no unfavourable comments allowed as I found out to my cost when my sense of fair play promoted Brexit the Film. I got your comments will be moderated red exclamation mark! which to be fair the Guardian has promised to remove but has yet to do so. The BBC, The Times, all publish pro articles so what is the problem? Well, the problem is that this Elite and it is an Elite just doesn't understand the British Middle or Working Class. They don't get us at all.
Suddenly out of the blue ten days before the vote things have changed! The Opinion Polls were given a jolt as for once the Outgroup has taken a small lead. Something has gone horribly wrong. Even David Cameron has said he needs to try harder. He doesn't realise with his background of privilege and help from his non-tax paying father Cameron has no idea of what or whom he is dealing with and really neither has anyone else who is not native British.
So what exactly do the British want that the EU hasn't supplied? The Elite appears to think the Leavers are behaving unreasonably and if the Brits don't toe the line dreadful things are going to happen to them Look what the EU has given them, wonderful cheap holidays, the chance to live abroad in a pleasant climate, no visas, cheap mobile phone charges on the way, and regulations from pillowcases to kettles. Also, some lucky firms have the safety of tariffs, quotas and more regulations to stifle the competition and Trading Agreements with other countries are in the offing ..... perhaps. etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The British are like naughty, ungrateful children.
It may come as a surprise to the UK Establishment and the EU and the rest of the world that the deal being offered by the EU at the moment may be the best ever but the Brits don't want it. They prefer life without the EU thank you very much. The Romans must have experienced this lack of enthusiasm too. Rome gave the world central government, roads, aqueducts, peace and even citizenship if a man served most of his life as a Roman Soldier and yet the plebs were always revolting. Even Bread and Circuses didn't seem to please. The ancient Brits preferred the Dark Ages possibly still do. he only way to get them into the Middle Ages was to invade and kill them off. William the Conqueror did a great job in 1066. Killed an awful lot and enslaved the rest. Invaders sort of does this.
The British learned to be wary of Greeks bearing gifts and kept invaders at bay for centuries. Even when they had to have a foreign King as they had killed their own in 1642, they were happy to have one as long as the king did not meddle in politics. This is still the same today. The British do not like being invaded and now they feel they were invaded by stealth. It is not politically correct to say this is happening in many parts of Britain but an invasion it is. The native British have slowly been displaced over 43 years and although they may not say so they do not like it. Nobody would but the Elites think this is OK. No would you mind but you will take is not a good idea.
The EU and Elites do not realise that the British are not like the rest of Europe. Britain is an Island Nation and we stopped letting our betters tell us what to do in about 1215 with Magna Carta. The British didn't like being taxed by Elites then and they don't now. They don't like faceless bureaucrats telling them what to do. Any whiff of a poll tax and a revolt is certain and the Brits usually win. Even Maggie Thatcher could not get the poll tax accepted although it is good for many people.
Then nothing gets a group of people angrier than being sold a pup. In 1973 the Brits were sold a Common Market with all the benefits of a free market, not a political union where any rule or tax can be inflicted upon them by faceless Elites most of who do not speak English as a native and who have very expensive tastes like the arts, and school fees for children, and special shopping centres where they can indulge every whim which the Brits have to pay for without a chance to say Hey wait a bit explain please.
If you sell a concept like the EU you better deliver otherwise the natives will revolt. On the whole, the EU has not delivered for the UK may be to the Elite, who can see remaining in EU as a perk for life but not to the rest of the population who have mostly seen their jobs disappear abroad. The British Working Class are very special, they stood up to The Kaiser and Hitler but they have found themselves side stepped in favour of foreigners who are considered more worthy in their own country. Slowly without being asked the British working and middle classes have seen the world they fought for disappear and something very different emerge which they might have accepted if they had been asked but they weren't. New Britain has just arrived, especially in London, which is now no longer British but a Corporate City not of the natives choosing. London was a down to earth, gritty town, aged by fogs and bombs. It was a working city but today it looks like a fantasy theme park all blue, white and gilt glistening in the sun with a huge fairground Ferris wheel to boot. Lots of pretty toy soldiers and a Royal Family to make other countries who haven't got one, jealous.
One very British trait is that of fair play. The British like to play the game by the rules whereas other cultures like to win no matter how like sneakily introducing a political union with lots of rules without being upfront about it. The Brits don't mind losing as long as it is fair. Brits will give any foreigner a fair go but the foreigner has to play fair and meet the Native Brit a bit over halfway and this is difficult for the EU to grasp.
Immigration was not in the original deal. Immigration was a problem even from the Commonwealth but after an initial shock, the Jamaicans integrate very well Britain needed men to reconstruct Britain after the war. The first immigrants from the commonwealth had a basic knowledge of British culture and soon slotted in. They tried to integrate but the Asian immigrants were different. They didn't. It was too difficult so multiculturalism and all its problems were allowed to happen. If Britons had known that they would have to host millions of immigrants from Europe as well the first deal would never have happened.
But according to the British Elite and EU, the working and middle-class Brits should be embracing this opportunity. Well, I have news for them, on the whole, the Brits loathe it. The young who never have known any different may at first. They like the sound of living and studying abroad for free even though the reality may not live up to their expectation. They too are sold the dream of A free Europe only to find that they have been sold a pup when the jobs and the lifestyle fail to materialise and they find themselves pushed out of there home area but hoards of immigrants who eat up all the resources.
Now they are told to stand by for Turkey's 70 million to be given free access to Europe. Is it any wonder that they feel afraid. The Elite will go on living in their glass castle in Brussels telling us all to get on with it safe in the knowledge that they cannot be voted out. We know best. Well, they don't. The working class and now middle-class Birt just wants a quiet life, a house, a secure job, a couple of kids and enough spare cash to enjoy themselves with people like themselves. They are not interested in learning or fitting into a new culture in their own country. They do not see why they have to.
Being told what to do and how to think and being patronised by We know Best is just not going to work. Threatening people who have very little that things will get worse doesn't help either. The average Brit is wonderful in a crisis, very inventive, very hard working and if given the chance creative. They will start new industries and shops but not if they are forced into conformity by rules, rules, rules and they see people cheating the system.
So what could the EU Remains have done better? For a start, The EU should have listened to British grievances, taken them on board and offered something instead of nothing. Cameron was made to look foolish. If the EU wants Britain IN as it now says it does it should have offered something. The UK is afraid of mass immigration, it has small landmass compared to Germany or France and the UK is full up. It needs a breather for the immigrants to settle in and adapt to a secular society that has equality for women and does not like killing animals without stunning. That simple act would possibly have been enough. The British would have known that the EU had heard the problem and cared. As it is Britain knows that nothing is said or does will alter the EU as it stands.
Once the Brexit campaign swung into action pointing out these facts it is not surprising that they have succeeded in persuading the working classes that staying was perhaps not the right answer this time. Britain is quite capable of standing on its own feet. It has done so since 1066. They have put up with this Brussels nonsense for 43 years show that they have given it a go and now it is time to leave. It is time to take back industry and fisheries, reclaim our heritage take a deep breath and start again without being patronised by an Elite who does not think we can rule ourselves. We did once and now and we can do it again.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
2013 is the centenary year of Benjamin Britten's birth and it seems that it is open slather on his character. Everyone is having a 'go' and I find it all fascinating. I have been fascinated by Benjamin Britten ever since I saw his Opera 'Gloriana' at Covent Garden in 1953, Coronation year when I was just 10. I still have the programme.
You either seem to hate Britten or love him, there is no middle way. Books and biographies official and unofficial have been published each with more startling revelations than the past, unknown young loves appear mainly male and little boys are interviewed on their relationships with the composer. There is one particularly vicious web site that is quite outspokenly hostile and even a TV documentary on Britten's failure as a composer. The list goes on and on and yet Britten is still an enigma. What exactly makes the man tick?
I have been a bystander on the Britten scene since 1953 but to my surprise, in 1958 I became more than a bystander as I was employed by the English Opera Group to play Mrs Sem in the first production of Noyes Fludde. Unknown to me I was a success and became a Britten favourite. Unusual as I was a girl and for the next five years I was part of Britten's scene, not Aldeburgh's scene as the Aldeburgh set did not see me but I was there and I got to know Britten rather well.
It has taken me years to piece my experiences together but as everyone else has had a go perhaps it is my turn and this is how I explain the dark side of Benjamin Britten. Well at least it is food for thought and you never know I could be right.
The key to Britten's major work is his sexuality. It dominates everything he wrote.
Benjamin Britten the son of a Lowestoft dentist was a talented child who had the misfortune to be born into the middle class in 1913. This meant that at an early age he would be shoved off to an English Upper-Class boarding school, all male of course and from then on deprived of all-female company. The male precept of the period was 8 is a good age to cut the umbilical cord. Britten never recovered.
The British Public School of the 1930s has a lot to answer for. Boys who are segregated from the opposite sex and who have no other way of meeting girls fall in love with masters and other boys. This is a common occurrence and when the boys grow up usually they meet young girls of eighteen and all is well and put all that behind them.
Britten didn't. The young adolescent girl meeting period was left out. Britten was unlucky because he did not go to university but a music college and girls were not around as orchestras liked boys! Then he was attractive and was taken up by the WH Auden set and was probably bewitched by them. Gays definitely have more fun. Being a wonderful pianist he was soon captured by a tenor Peter Pears. Singers at that time were always on the lookout for an accompanist as it is cheaper and oh so useful and Pears never let go.
There is no doubt that Britten was unsure of his sexuality at that time and really for the rest of his life. Although bombarded by his gay peers he refused at first to submit and it was only after a few years and much courtship that Pears got to do the deed in the USA. Pears was gay and had many partners and this is when it is thought he gave Britten syphilis. Once Pears had Britten, Britten was trapped.
Up until 1964 homosexuality in the UK was a crime even with consenting adults in private. You went to prison if you got caught and many did. Pears had this hold over his partner. If you leave me I tell! They were stuck with each other. Unlike a marriage, there was no divorce. Britten and Pears had to live together whether they liked each other or not.
Artists write about what they know so Britten wrote about the darker side of male relationships. All his operas are centred on this theme. It is as if he were taking revenge on the all-male world in which he lived and thrived for preventing him from experiencing heterosexual love which he craved but has never consummated
Every part Britten wrote for his supposed lover Pears was a villain or a simpleton, a tyrant, a child abuser, a closet paedophile, a traitor. If Britten loved Pears he had a very strange way of showing it in the parts he wrote for his paramour. In the first opera, Peter Grimes is a child abuser and murderer and the list gets worse and worse.
It has only just been admitted that the partnership was more of a business arrangement than a love match. For long periods Britten and Pears lived separate lives only coming together when work called. I could have told you that.
It is in his masterpiece 'The Turn of the Screw' a novella by Henry James that the key to Britten's sexuality is revealed. It is there for all to see. 'The Screw' is based upon the sexual choice a male child is forced to make. The child has to choose between the homosexual love of a manservant and the heterosexual love of a naive, sexually innocent governess. The child cannot choose and loses his life either physically or metaphorically.
For child insert the name, Britten. It is Britten's problem. Britten is known to be bisexual although this is not widely appreciated. Many musicologists feel that Britten reached his peak with this opera and decline set in ever after. Britten's 'Screw' is a masterpiece to homo/ hetero erotic love with a dose of paedophilia included. Never has the seduction of a male child sounded so good. It is beautifully and touchingly described and remember artists write about what they know. Britten knew.
From then on the Britten and Pears romance faded. Peter went on to other loves and Britten became celibate and bitter. The eroding partnership was never made public. Britten never came out in his lifetime. He wanted to be considered normal and he would have sued anyone who said otherwise. It was only three years after his death that Pears made the announcement.
Personally, I think Britten came to loathe Pears and that is why the parts for Pears got progressively nastier till the last opera 'Death in Venice'a cruel depiction of a dying man lusting after a young pubescent boy when Pears went on record as saying that 'Ben is writing an evil opera and it is killing him.'
It is not known if Britten ever experienced physical heterosexual love. He never got the chance. Britten was too well guarded. Britten certainly loved Galina Vishnevskaya and I know he liked me a lot and although Rita Thompson will never admit it Britten liked her too, banishing Pears to the USA.
Britten always loved looking at young boys whether he followed through is not known. Maybe his young groomed conquests are just too nice to say but if my experience is anything to go by Britten would have controlled himself. It is as if he had the classic Peter Pan complex about being a young boy forever and never grew up and pleasing himself by inviting children to the wonderful world of 'Aldeburgh Never Never Land' to make an opera. A case of arrested development pas excellence.
There is no doubt Britten loved men but he could have loved women too if given a chance, he wasn't and he made do with young boys.
My theory is that Britten's main tragedy is that of Miles in his masterpiece. Britten was just unable to choose and for him he had to live on in bitterness and disillusionment wondering what he had missed, hating his partner and taking horrible revenge by writing despicable roles for him for the rest of his life and regretting that he was never able to write an opera about heterosexual love.
I liked the man. He was one of my admirers, a notch on my belt, he had everything I wanted but too old. Pity he did not meet me when he was 19 or even 30! But it was too soon for me and too late for him. But Britten did give me my career and place in posterity and for that, I am extremely grateful.