Chestnut tree in front of Beverley Minster – winter

People yearn for simplicity and clarity – it was ever thus. Now in the confusion surging round the whole question of Britain’s departure from the European trading group, many just want something clear-cut to happen and are fed up with what seem like unending quibbles and quarrels between MPs. However, this crucial decision will affect the future of a nation for decades to come. It also brings into question the way British democracy works.

By a significant majority, the personal view of MPs is that Britain should remain in the EU trading block so that the nation can avoid having to pay tariffs and trade more freely and profitably. It is significant that Mrs Thatcher, when Prime Minister, was wise enough not to call a referendum on whether to re-introduce capital punishment. Instead, it was dealt with by a parliamentary vote from each MP according to conscience and defeated. A referendum would probably have decided in favour of capital punishment. On Brexit, then, should MPs vote according to what they consider is the best way to ensure future prosperity for the nation by remaining in the European Union, or follow the will of their supporters if they voted to leave? Should MPs be mouthpieces for the massed will of their constituents or act according to their conscience in the light of their experience – and risk being deselected by their party? They would then have to stand as independent candidates or seek another career. That takes courage. The group of Independent MPs who have done this risk their future in Parliament.

The simple point is that most think we should have the right to control our frontiers. But who then would do the necessary work that Britons do not wish to do? There are no robots yet to make hospital beds or pick fruit effectively. Most of us, when in need, prefer a human helping hand. The time may come for robots, but we need to deal with now.

Simplicity supposedly implies speed, efficiency, and better outcomes, with profitability a high priority. So-called minor interests are swept aside by the thunderous current of implied ‘prosperity for all’. It can also imply a simple mind bordering on the stupid.

In any discussion of last century’s experiences of dictatorship, inevitably Mussolini is quoted as getting the trains to run on time. I grit my teeth and add that they have done so, more or less, in Italy for many decades now, as much as they do elsewhere, but myths have a long life.

The sun is shining, the air sparkles, gust blow scurrying clouds by. A girl passes combing her long hair. Earlier a man jogged by in shorts. A woman, walking immersed in her little screen, has a bare midriff. Simple. Sunshine means strip off the boring impediment of winter clothing for sun, fun – and an elusive tan.

As the old saying goes:

Ne’er cast a clout

Till March is out.

Clout used to mean a garment, then an area marked out to aim at, or a clod of earth thrown at something or someone, leading probably to its slang usage of ‘having influence’.

Are we clogged bylaws to ensure our safety? The horse chestnut tree in front of the Minster once provided gleeful ammunition for schoolboys to play conkers. They bored a neat hole through the horse chestnuts and threaded string through it, securing one end with a knot so the conker didn’t slip off. The game was to try and hit your opponent’s conker and hopefully crack it off its string. That is now deemed too violent and has been discouraged, if not quite made illegal.  Two boys were swinging on overhead branches as they ran down the sharp slope into a small abandoned chalk quarry. They both happened to fall, one breaking an arm, the other a leg. Should swinging on branches be made illegal?

Westwood – chalk quarries are in the distance

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