Getting Hung

How would  you feel about getting hung tomorrow morning?

Or, was all that money we spent on the Fuinary Intention wasted?

There’s an old saying that nothing concentrates the mind more than the prospect of getting hung in the morning. Maybe that’s why there is such a universal gloom about the prospect of next to nobody being able to afford their current lifestyle by Christmas. You all know the stats.Prices rocketing. Politicians talking a lot but not doing enough to make much of a difference. It’s not a game, many will go hungry, some will die.

Now I have no glib solutions, but the crisis is upon us.. We are talking about the next few weeks, not decades. Now like I say I haven’t a clue, but let me tell you a story about a monumental mistake I made half a century ago that cost a fortune in the hope that maybe something can be learnt from it.

I am not suggesting I have solutions, only hoping to facilitate  discussion.

In the late 1950s my Father, a noted priest, bought an old remote  Manse for a couple of grand. Fuinary Manse wasn’t the family home, it was a Victorian Manse where an ancestor had lived for twenty odd years as a tenant, all be it on the site where his Dad had also lived, also as a tenant. It had no running water or electricity and my Mother loathed it which put an end to any idea of it being a holiday home. It was livable in in a bothy kind of way. Rotten windows. Slates falling off the roof. You could have a bath but the water was brown. He tried to rent it with little success. His heart wasn’t in it, well it was, but not his logic. He needed a hundred grand to fix it and he didn’t have it.

In 1975 I was twenty three and had just joined Friends of the Earth whilst he had just become the first green member of any parliament, I think, in Europe. He was eighty.

So here was the plan. We would install an exemplary, ecologically responsible, family in the Manse and turn the steddings into a hostel. Folk could come and either work for their keep amongst the family in attempting to live what might now be termed a low carbon lifestyle or pay a daily fee. It would be like a small college for slow living.

It was hardly original. The steadings already had accommodation for itinerant workers who had worked alongside the Minister on his farm for hundreds of years. It was more revival than innovation and it might be argued that much of Scotland’s culture was based on the gaelic values of its highlanders.
But I made an arse of it. He, at eighty, was too old to deliver the project. I wasn’t up to it. We shambled along for two or three years largely due to the excellence of the resident family,  the plan was abandoned the house is now derelict.
Do I regret it? Sure. Today such a project would seem perfectly reasonable, then it was seen as being a bunch of daft middle class hippies thinking there was political significance in growing lettuce in a muddy field in the highlands. The charity commissioners knocked us back . One civil servant  asked George if he had ever heard of the Iona Community, which he had founded, he said he had nearly suspended  his pacifism. It would have been good if I had got my act together and delivered the project rather than wandering off, I think if memory serves , to work as a deck hand amongst the ice flows of Finland. Of course part of the motivation was to save our old house, but there was idealism there too. I still believe the concept was sound.
But now here I am a bald old seventy year old spending much of my time looking for my readers and like so many old buffers I spend a lot of time trying to re-invent my past  to make sleep easier and wonder if we were indeed onto something and that maybe now as we all face being hung before Christmas and that there are may a few cake crumbs to be sieved and nibbled from the tumble down mansion.
But now here we are on the brink if economic chaos and with no viable strategy for global warming. . What am I saying? How should we be reacting. Not sure really. Even if I won the lottery I doubt I would sink the million needed to save the Manse, which is now an anachronism, but as for that core idea of bringing more people together to care and share and live a bit more simply so that others , and indeed themselves, may simply live. Well maybe it wasn’t so stupid.And isn’t.
Maybe we should be prioritising building communities. After all everyone sitting in their own homes just isn’t going to cut it. Folk are going to die, either through freezing or hunger..
Having a shot a digging a tunnel in our cells  would surely  be better than just waiting to be  hung in the morning. Not that I mean to be controversial. Perish the thought

Comments (10)

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  1. Mark Bevis says:

    My version of “digging a tunnel in our cells ” is contemplating just disconnecting voluntarily, as I have never paid by direct debit anway, and buying a couple of portable rocket stoves with the money instead. For £150 of the estimated upcoming monthly bill I could buy 15 long-lasting battery powered torches and have them around the house. I can dig a coldhole in the cellar to replace the fridge, or just bury the thing down there. reset the body clock to wake just before daylight starts, sleep more when it’s dark. I work at home anyway, so painting and hand writing would be done in daylight, I can do type the work at the library, the rest of my work is outside anyway.
    Might be worth it just to get ahead of the game, as in John Michael Greer’s ‘Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush’

    Is it practical? Dunno, but carrying out the thought process is I think an essential survival mechanism as this civilisation comes to an end.

  2. Alistair Taylor says:

    Yes, bring people together to care and share, and live more simply. You are on to something there!
    The simple joys of community.
    We could grow vegetables and make soup. Have convivial gatherings, and enjoy life.
    What’s not to like?

  3. John S Warren says:

    Forgive me; I do not intend to hang you out to dry – but meat is hung, humans are hanged.

    1. 220827 says:

      …as per the old story…

      Winston Churchill and his wife were touring a bomb site in the East End of London during the Blitz. One of the women, who was picking through the wreckage of her house, looked up and spotted him. “Oi, Churchill!” she shouted, shaking her fist at him. “Warmonger! You should be bloody well hung!” “Oh, he is,” Mrs Churchill returned, smiling coyly, “he is.”

    2. Niemand says:

      Boswell cites Johnson in the Life as the originator of the hanging line. It was in reference to the impending execution of clergyman William Dodd, convicted of forgery in an effort to clear his debts.

      Johnson was asked by Dodd’s friend, Lady Harrington to help and as Johnson did not approve of his pending sentence (as did many – the jury opposed execution and 23,000 signed a petition pleading clemency), Johnson wrote a ‘Speech to the Recorder’ at the Old Bailey, and once convicted, a sermon, ‘The Convict’s Address to his unhappy Brethren’, that Dodd was to pass off as his own when he delivered it at Newgate Chapel where he was incarcerated. Johnson was most insistent in letters to Dodd that he did not reveal the deception.

      When the quality of the writing was later queried by one Mr Seward (presumably a relative of Anna Seward, the ‘swan of Lichfield’) as being too good for Dodd, Johnson said: ‘Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully’.

      It was all in vain and Dodd was executed on 27th June 1777. According to Johnson ‘he died with pious composure and resolution’.

      1. John S Warren says:

        The brilliant anatomist and surgeon John Hunter, brother of the great anatomist, physician, surgeon and teacher William Hunter, attempted to bring the hanged corpse of Dodd back from the dead. It is thought Hunter attempted to use the new scientific discovery of electricity to achieve the miracle. It failed of course, but it added to Hunter’s notoreity in London, in spite of being King George III’s surgeon (his house in London became the model on which Robert Louis Stevenson based ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’).

        In a brilliant insight Hunter may have been trying to apply an early form of defibrillation on Dodd, over 150 years before its first successful application in medicine, in the US in 1947. Hunter was well known for his remarkable and strange experiments in pursuit of medical knowledge. This experiment would be foolish if attempted on someone with a broken neck, but Hunter knew from his work (he and his brother were the leading anatomy teachers of the time); that most hangings in England were botched; the death arose very often from a long and painful strangulation, in the spectacle of a public execution in the eighteent century. The more relaible measuerd ‘drop’ was only introduced in executions much later.

        The Hunters came originally from East Kilbride. William Hunter’s outstanding museum, book and art collections are now in Glasgow University, and John Hunter’s museum is held by the Royal College of Surgeons in London. John Hunter’s birth is still celebrtated by the College every February. He is remembered as ‘the father of English surgery’. The general methods of eighteenth century medicine – like much else of the period – are difficult to reconcile with modern values.

        1. Niemand says:

          Fascinating John and I agree it sounds like an early attempt at defibrillation.

          Hunter gets one mention in the Life (p. 1234) in a letter Johnson wrote to Joshua Reynolds after Hunter’s death in 1883. Reynolds was the (first) president of the Royal Academy and Johnson was recommending Mr Cruickshanks to replace Hunter as Professor of Anatomy. He comments that ‘his qualifications are very generally known and it adds dignity to the institution that such men are candidates’. Boswell’s footnote comments, ‘let it be remembered by those who accuse Johnson of illiberality that both were Scotchmen’

          1. Niemand says:

            Actually I realise now Johnson and Boswell were referring to John Hunter’s brother, William.

          2. John S Warren says:

            William Hunter was a major figure in the Ryal Academy. He taught the eighteenth century Acadmecians. and the famous painters of the day, anatomy; and he was much admired. Rowlandson has some biting, witty cartoons on the subject.

            William Hunter was a clever, cunning, profoundly influential anatomist. His reputation lies in relative, and undeserved obscurity, although eigtheeth century anatomy comes with some very difficult and suspect moral baggage. His influence on medicine was probably greater than anyone in the medical profession in its scope and comprehensiveness, in the eighteenth century.

            Hunter was also a very circumspect, cautious but serious influence on the development of ideas pointing toward evolution and even natural selection, through his students: especially his brother, whom he taught, and WC Wells who wrote the first paper that outlined the concept of natural selection, in 1817 but published by Wells only posthumously; the short paper, remarkably was about selection in mankind; which Darwin declined to do in the ‘Origin of Species’ over forty years later, so difficult was the ‘taboo’ to address.

          3. Niemand says:

            I have certainly heard of Hunter now you mention him but with no detail in my mind. And the link to anatomy and painting makes sense of Johnson writing to Reynolds as it confused me a bit. William died in 1783 of course, not 1883 as I said. I find the 18th century a fascinating period generally.

            And all this from Maxwell saying hung when he meant hanged!

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