Lundy can be faintly seen above the horse box sort of thing – click on the image to see it more clearly. My new phone takes better photos than my old one – note that Lundy is about 12 miles off the coast of Devon, so that’s a good 30 – 40 miles away across the Bristol Channel, perhaps as much as twice the distance across the narrowest bit of the channel. It’s a pity that there isn’t a ferry to North Devon from Pembrokeshire, even if only a passenger / bike one. The highest point on Lundy is 469′ – and there’s a very pleasant pub on it – The Marisco Tavern, visited some years ago and great for my elderly mum who had walked most of the 469′ to get to the village. The island is mostly an undulating plateau. It’s also got a wonderful church that looks like it should be in a commuter belt in Surrey, odd indeed.
I read, very recently, William Morris’s News From Nowhere - his socialist, indeed communist, utopia. You can read it for free, as is appropriate for a socialist utopian fantasy, by downloading it from Gutenberg in various formats. Fascinating and, as is usual with utopias, neither believable nor making much logical sense. It certainly is worth reading, if only for its portrayal of a odd sort of faux medieval communism where people have got seriously into arts and crafts. Well, it’s a nice idea. Crime and punishment have faded away since without property there can be no theft. And amazingly, people live in rather palatial houses without anyone expropriating houses that they take a fancy to. Everyone seems a bit unreal – full of kindness, goodness and, mostly, patience. Religion seems to have faded away. Indeed, it’s evident that communism is religion since it’s only by an advanced act of faith in some sort of natural human goodness that emerges when the shackles of capitalism are removed (you remember how it emerged in Russia and China, wonderful wasn’t it?) that the picture makes any sense. It reminds me of the old saying that socialism / communism is a Christian heresy – takes a Christian belief in the original blessedness of creation but removes the transcendental stuff and the negative bits about original sin (unless it’s taken as the sin of property). That’s perhaps unfair applied to the old methodist style socialism which kept the transcendental stuff, the form of socialism that I feel most attracted too and has, I guess, little, and diminishing, presence in the current Labour party.
I noticed a book by Roger Scruton whose title – News from Somewhere – is obviously a response to Morris’s book – with Scruton’s emphasis that the problem with Morris is that the utopia is precisely that – a nowhere, with no roots in any actual communities that might make neighbourliness and kindness possible. So far Scruton, who seems to have improved over the years (some of his earlier essays do not impress me), has given an excellent account of the process of settling into a community in Wiltshire. So far, so good. I’m also reading Domby and Son (yes, Gutenberg free book again) which certainly does make you feel that wealth generally does corrupt and that anyone with any heart would have spent all their money on doing good works.