12 November 2008

Mr. Gradgrind Runs the Cemeteries for Bath and Wells

Thanks to Arbroath, we have the news that the diocese of Bath and Wells has ruled that one cannot put garden gnomes in its cemeteries:

A spokesman for the Diocese of Bath and Wells said: "There is no such thing as a real gnome so why should we have such unnatural creatures in churchyards?"

Plastic flowers are also out, though indeed there is such a thing as a real flower. Also, no teddy bears. Inappropriate. Tacky.

Clearly, that there are no real gnomes -- according to the spokesman; I don't agree, really -- is not the problem. The problem is the issue of taste. Garden gnomes are not dignified, I gather, and hence inappropriate amongst the grieving. The dead, I think, are not the concern here, really; presumably they've got other things to think about.

What I'm most cheerful about, in this controversy, is the way that the spokesman for Bath and Wells has fallen into the role of Mr. Gradgrind. Not a good place to be.

(And if you can't remember your Hard Times,* here's a bit of Mr. Gradgrind's philosophy:

"You are to be in all things regulated and governed," said the gentleman, "by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it. You are not to have, in any object of use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact. You don't walk upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in carpets. You don't find that foreign birds and butterflies come and perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds and butterflies upon your crockery. You never meet with quadrupeds going up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls. You must use," said the gentleman, "for all these purposes, combinations and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are susceptible of proof and demonstration. This is the new discovery. This is fact. This is taste."
*If you came by this post earlier, you will have seen that I called Hard Times Bleak House, which it isn't. They've both been on my mind lately; that's my only excuse!


Scott said...

You'd think that someone from a nation as old and storied as that would be a wee bit more accepting of the idea of The Folk.

There is an excellent version of Mr. Gradgrind in the "Bindings" issue of Gaiman's Books Of Magic. This one is more intense, though, as he's a manticore that kills belief. Just as pedantic, but soooo much more menacing.

CarlBrannen said...

You might enjoy this exhibition of name calling in the theoretical / mathematical physics industry, which manages to descend to accusations of sock puppetry and just avoids the edge of seriously insulting racial name calling. Might make you appreciate Literature. Or maybe not.

Along that line, my recently submitted paper is in review only 2 days after I submitted it. I'm optimistically taking that to mean that the editor didn't find anything horribly wrong with it.

And I've got tickets and will be there for the full time you're in ABQ. Life is so short...