Rules of the Road



When I have read enough of the Internet to get really and truly paranoid, I start to wonder whether Catholics in Britain are not rather a bit more like Amish people, Plymouth Brethren or the Charedim – or maybe we should be.

I was wondering this a bit today and then fortuitously read this post by Lisa Graas on the ‘wedding-cake’ issue and the Arizona legislation on religious freedom. One thing stood out for me: ” I don’t have to understand, for example, the Amish religion to brake for the Amish carriages on the highway.”

This to me gets to the heart of the matter and reminded me of what I was thinking when I wrote about Catholic Social Cycling. We have no Amish people  in this part of the world – but plenty of different faiths in an area in which a little common-sense and respect goes an awful long way. Also, quite a bit of riding horses on busy urban roads!

The same matters of prudence, courtesy and respect come to mind when reading about the case in which a man with slight social disabilities challenged someone riding a bicycle on the pavement. He was promptly punched and then died.  The perpetrator is now in the jail, as they say.  A dreadful knot of tragedies: a dead son, a grieving mother, a young man in prison – from a moment of rage, a breaking of small but important rules, a lack of love.

I think, on the wedding-cake issue, that courtesy, respect and freedom are inseparable and that they work both ways. This is a very, very old British tradition – and has been fought over ( and remains fought over) for centuries, though macro- and micro-means.  It is not perfect, because people are not.  (And, as an aside, another current scandal reminds us that the days when we thought throwing everything into the air and somehow gaining a perfect world were sadly misguided – see ‘Harman/NCCL’). I do not like any sort of bad and unjust treatment of anyone for any reason, but I could not care less if someone refuses to let me stay in their bed and breakfast – that’s always been a little bit hit-and-miss for reasons other than sexuality, after all. (I remember staying somewhere with someone with an Irish surname back in the day and our reception was weird and frosty, to say the least. We shrugged our shoulders and lit on out.) I would not bother any of our very varied local businesses about what they do and do not sell – if diversity is our strength, as we keep being reminded, then let’s let diversity ( and ourselves) have some space.

I think I wrote somewhere before that some years ago those Sunday morning hungover lie-ins used to be rudely shattered by the Sally Army band marching down our road. Good. I wish they had continued. Years ago, I also shared a hostel room in a Muslim capital city with some people whom I can only describe as ‘retentive’ and authoritarian.  They wanted to find another place to stay because the call to prayer disturbed them in the morning. Good luck with that, we said laughing, good luck with that…

We really don’t have to pass even more laws, do we?  As Mrs Patrick Campbell sort-of  famously said, I couldn’t care less what people do, as long as they don’t frighten the horses….



Amish Buggy – image rights here

Salvation Army Band – image rights here.

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