Saturday, 31 March 2012


Condign is a useful English word, meaning apt, appropriate, as in 'condign punishment' = fitting the crime. It is rumoured from Moscow that, following the arrest of the Pussy Girls for singing an anti-Putin anthem at the altar of the cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the congregations of two Moscow churches SS Cosma and Damian (Fr Alexander Borisov) and the Dormition(Fr V Lapshin) signed a petition asking the authorities to show clemency.The authorities, according to rumour, reacted with fury and have threatened to 'take over' both churches. Both incumbents, Borisov and Lapshin, were friends of Alexander Men whose free and frank priorities led to his death in 1990 at the hands, it is also rumoured, of those same authorities. I have suggested elsewhere that condign punishment for the Pussy Girls might be to serve in their church choir for a year. Then I remembered the scene in Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall, where the protagonist Paul Pennyfeather, a prep school master, finding himself towards the end of the novel in prison, communicates a message during the singing of the hymn 'Oh God Our Help in Ages Past':
All over the chapel the men filled their chests for a burst of conversation.
'Oh God our help in ages past' sang Paul
'Where's Prendergast today?'
'What aint you eard? 'e's been done in'
'And our eternal home.'

I laughed so much looking for this passage that I have decided to take the book on the train south today (for a funeral on Monday).

Lastly, I am delighted to report that my erstwhile mountain of books on the floor has melted to a mere couple of sorted piles. While shelving, I have found the strength to chuck quite a few. Some have gone to find new homes through the kind offices of Katherine Clemmens' Moffat Book Exchange, others have gone to Moffat CAN. In my haste to get the books onto shelves, I lowered my sights from attempting alphabetical positioning. This has resulted in a pleasing effect, whereby books in the same genre jostle as if at a disorderly and unlikely cocktail party. Looking just now along the rows for Decline and Fall, I noticed Rose Macaulay next to Gogol and Virginia Woolf next to Dostoievsky.

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