Black Death at Stony Stratford

I came across this last night.

THE Black Death may have been eliminated 500 years ago, but it’s coming back to Stony Stratford this weekend.

King Henry VIII and his entourage will come face to face with ragged villagers, their skins covered in the sores of the plague. It will also involve a number of other historical figures, who have travelled through the town over the years, including Queen Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of the Princes in the Tower.

That’s this weekend. Tomorrow. It’s next weekend that the smokers are arriving, with their prematurely aged faces, and their persistent coughs, and their thirdhand smoke plague. They haven’t been eliminated either.

Stony Stratford is an old coaching halt. Its pubs are old coach houses. And probably have been ever since the Romans came clattering in their quadrigae down Watling Street and over the Ouse, beside which it sits. Henry VIII (at right) came through regularly with his retinue on his way to Grafton Regis, a few miles north of Stony, where his grandmother was born, and where he spent many summers. In fact, quite possibly him and Anne Boleyn would sometimes stop off at the Cock or the Bull for a jar or two of ale, and a game of skittles, to press the flesh and have a bit of a laugh and a natter about this and that with the villagers. Maybe he’d even regale them with a few cock-and-bull stories from his Boulogne campaign, how he’d thrice escaped death by a hair’s breadth, godstrewth aye. And perhaps they’d remember how once, as Harry waxed more eloquent, he took out a pipe and stuffed it with a herb captured, he said, from a caravel on the Spanish Main, and set it alight, and Mrs Prune came down from upstairs to demand to know what the divvil was the henbane stench, and it was killing her, and Pardon Your Majesty but verily it will kill thee too ere next Saint Swithun day. How could they forget? Tongues wagged about it for years after.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage was there too last week, doing much the same. It’s the place to be these days. It’s pretty much the centre of the universe, in fact.

It’s an almost iconic photo. Old Harry would have envied that jacket.

He was very quick off the mark, I thought. You obviously weren’t going to see David Cameron or that Miliband cove or whoever leads the Liberal Democrats sitting on a bench in Stony Stratford in a smoking jacket with a packet of Rothmans. They wouldn’t be seen dead there.  It would send entirely the wrong message. The last people an aspiring politician wants to be associated with these days are dead-beat smokers and drinkers and fat people. No, you want to be seen standing next to rock stars and polar bears and healthy people with perfect teeth and permanent smiles.

I say ‘whoever leads the Lib Dems’ in the broadest metaphorical sense. Nobody leads the Lib Dems. And nobody leads the Labour party. And nobody leads the Conservative party. Because there are no leaders in those parties, but only followers. They’re all followers of fashion. The job of a politician these days is to Spot the Fashionable Trend, the bandwagon that’s got momentum, and then climb on board it. It’s what David Cameron did when he embraced Climate Change/Global Warming and was snapped standing next to a melting glacier a few years back. And when he quit smoking. Or at least appeared to quit smoking.

Tony Benn once said that politicians were either signposts or weathervanes. And as far as I can see, they’re all weathervanes these days. In fact Tony Benn was a bit of a weathervane himself, in a leftie progressive sort of way.

And, who knows, maybe Nigel Farage is too? Maybe he’s simply seen which way the wind is beginning to blow in the shires of England, and has trimmed his sails accordingly. If he’s right, he’ll quite likely be the next Prime Minister of Britain. Or the one after that.

But if he is right, and he’s caught the changing mood, you’ll know soon enough, as the Westminster pollsters and focus groups read the runes and draw the same conclusion. And then there’ll be an discreet photo in some not-so-obscure mag showing David Cameron ordering a beer in a bar in Stony Stratford, tie undone, maybe a hint of stubble on his chin, and a cigarette in hand. It’ll look like it a casual holiday snap, but it will have been carefully choreographed, posed, primped, backlit, highlighted, and selected for publication from dozens of other shots. And the week after that there’ll be a photo of Miliband standing in an office corridor in Milton Keynes, talking to some aides, and pensively drawing on a pipe. And then the week after that the Lib Dem whoever will show up with a cigar. They’ll have all begun to subtly re-position themselves.

Not yet, of course. But one day.


About Frank Davis

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10 Responses to Black Death at Stony Stratford

  1. smokervoter says:

    If he’s right, he’ll [Nigel Farage] quite likely be the next Prime Minister of Britain. Or the one after that.

    You’re describing the fulfillment of my wildest political dreams there, my friend.

    It starts with Ron Paul defeating Barack Obama is 2012 and the libertarian-tinged Tea Party wing of the Republican party now controlling both houses of congress. Smoker John Boehner continues as House Majority Speaker. Referring to the upcoming grotesque warning labels on cigarette packs: “This is a boneheaded idea,” Boehner said. “How much is enough? How much government do we need?”

    How and why could this come about? It all hinges on the smokers voting 20 million strong for Ron Paul and all candidates who run on a crush-the-Nanny State platform. This time around, the youth vote splits, maybe even leaning towards Mr. Paul. Combine that with old guard conservatives who would never vote for Obama under any circumstances and I could see a narrow victory. As a Texan he might even pull in some of the Latino vote like Bush did.

    Simultaneously, your Coalition falls apart, new elections are called and your smokers, still on fire from defeating the nannies of Stony Stratford, decide it’s finally time to pile on en masse with the UKIP. (About 5 million by my crude estimates) They become the third party and kingmakers in a Coalition with your Tories. Farage eventually eclipses Cameron in popularity with his superior personality and a growing disaffection with the EU scheme.

    Nigel Farage in London and Ron Paul in Washington D.C. become close friends a la Thatcher and Reagan. Hand-holding, paternalist government becomes outmoded and people start saying “What were we thinking?” about the previous two bubble-wrapped decades launched by the Clintons and perpetuated by the Blairs.

    Unthinkable? Like a Black man ever becoming President or Tony Blair going from Cool Britannia rockstar status to friendless, discredited outcast? Stranger things have happened.

    Geez, I’m really sticking my neck out here. I know that Thatcher/Reagan and Blair/Bush is highly controversial territory, but Farage/Paul would really be the cats meow to me. Chop away.

    • churchmouse says:

      ‘How and why did it come about?’

      The rampant leftism, which is present even in the GOP. It’s all based on protection/safety and entitlement (easy money! – think Cloward-Piven Theory from Columbia University, which increased welfare rolls dramatically in the late 1960s – early 1970s, then spread to other states), etc.

      I could see it gradually creep in when I was at university in the US in the late 1970s. Westerners have been conditioned over the past 70 or 80 years, since the Communist Party started infiltrating various organisations (unions, schools, media, the arts). I have a few posts on this coming up next week (not a plug, Frank, and my sincere apologies), but there is a concerted effort in place against the individual and for the ‘collective’.

  2. ChrisB says:

    If he’s right, he’ll [Nigel Farage] quite likely be the next Prime Minister of Britain. Or the one after that.

    I’d love to see it but he’d best be quick.

  3. Leg-iron says:

    By the next election, the drinkers will be denormalised too. Add up all the smokers, drinkers, fat people (now defined as anyone who doesn’t look like a stick), those who actually like to eat pot noodles and fish fingers, and you’re soon talking real electoral clout.

    None of the main three parties want any votes from any of them.

    • smokervoter says:


      Over here it’s mainly the smokers and the fatties on the hot seat, they give drinkers a big pass because that would remind everyone that Prohibition was such a horrendous, unworkable failure. But banning tobacco and double cheeseburgers apparently is a whole different story – this time around they’ll get it right.

      When is the next election, 2015? Can that much pent-up hostility simmer for that long?

      • churchmouse says:

        I take your point (and agree), but it won’t be long before Prohibition will have been long forgotten. How much history do state school students in the US get and of what sort? There are moves afoot (which started a couple of years ago), to begin US history at 1877 (so, post-Revolution and post-Civil War). It would not surprise me if Prohibition were eliminated from 20th century history and the 19th century temperance drive strongly emphasised instead.

  4. See you there
    gonna be a good day out

  5. Junican says:

    Regardless of what anyone might say, the USA is too far gone along the road to prohibition. By prohibition, I mean anything at all that ‘the powers that be’ wish to prohibit. By ‘the powers that be’ I mean any group or group of groups which have access to and control of access to the media. For example if it were possible for a person to prove beyond doubt that tobacco smoke IS NOT THE CAUSE OF LUNG CANCER, that person’s ‘proof’ would be rubbished, even it it were true. Also, that person would be attacked without mercy.

    “There is a consensus”. No….there is only FORCED consensus.

  6. Paul says:

    Frank Davis: And, who knows, maybe Nigel Farage is too? Maybe he’s simply seen which way the wind is beginning to blow in the shires of England, and has trimmed his sails accordingly. If he’s right, he’ll quite likely be the next Prime Minister of Britain. Or the one after that.

    Probably not, but Farage – and politicians like him – will increasingly become the voice of lots of people. The disenfranchised, the pissed-off, the fatties, the drinkers, the smokers, the people who get abused in the street just for being who they are.

    All that needs to happen is that these people need to be encouraged to vote, to get that bit of fire in their belly to go out and vote. Once that happens, it’s all over.

    Which is why they will keep Farage as far away from ordinary people as possible, or will demonise him if they can’t do this, or will categorise him as “Tory Boy”.

  7. Pingback: Banquo’s Ghost | Frank Davis

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