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The vicar of the small ancient church is everything I would want a vicar to be. He is slightly portly, bewhiskered with a curly white beard that clings around his face, and eyes that twinkle with humour and intelligence and a generous mouth that smiles most of the time. When he takes the hand of a child for the first time, they are happy to accompany him, and he knows where the Easter eggs are hidden. When he walks down the aisle to begin a service, everyone smiles in eager anticipation. When he blesses us we feel peaceful. When he teaches us we feel fed. He has five parishes to juggle, hundreds of parishioners to single out, and he does a wonderful job moving from busy family services to contemplative evening services of chants.
He began his sermon with the story of a girl – he called her “Jenny” – who grew up in a family which, by her own admission, was happy and loving – with birthday parties, family holidays, and outings all together. It was a family to which, as she grew up, she began to feel she never quite belonged. As a teenager she began testing her parents, pushing against the boundaries, trying cigarettes, moving on to alcohol, staying out late, sometimes all night. Her parents struggled to deal with her, trying everything they could think of, but the more they tried to show her love, the more she pulled away. She started taking drugs, dropped out of school and jobs, left home, lived in squats. The parents tried to help her with counselling, tough love, rehabilitation. Nothing worked, but they still kept on trying. Several years later Jenny sorted herself out and wrote that she felt that she was unloveable but her parents love for her told her otherwise, so she thought that she had to be free of that love in order to be the unloveable person she believed herself to be. So she did everything within her power to stop them loving her. Only much later did she realise that she needed their love more than she needed anything else in the world, and she learnt that nothing that she had done, nothing that she could have done, would have stopped her parents loving her.
The vicar likened her behaviour to our behaviour in relation to God. He described how we throw everything at God, we blame God for not rescuing us, for leaving us where we are, we lose faith in God, we set out to destroy God, we trust in material things, we are quite sure we can manage by ourselves. Good Friday and the crucifixion of Jesus symbolises all the rubbish that we throw at God, all the damage that we seek to do to God, how far we want to be from God. And Easter Sunday and the resurrection shows us that even after all that we have done, God is still there, regardless.
It was early on a snowy Easter morning and yet the box pews were full. After the austerity of Lent, the church looked beautiful with wide boxes of daffodils, forsythia and yellows chrysanthemums on every window sill and on the font, and big snowflakes falling the other side of the tall diamond lozenged windows. We began by singing “Jesus Christ is risen Today, Alleluia”, a 14th century Bohemian latin carol, one of the last to be written before the Reformation, and ended with “Thine be the Glory” sung to a tune composed by Handel in 1747.
One of the blogs I read is one man’s efforts to preserve his family memories and cultural history for his children and wider family. I enjoy the many posts he has written about the warm, loving relationships he shares with his family of origin in its many extensions, but I often feel as if I am standing outside in the cold, looking through a frosted window into a sweet shop crammed with delights that I will never taste.
Last weekend we had guests to stay, one of whom has a similarly extended family, with three sisters and a brother who share a loving bond that extends to each other’s children. She happens to share half an ethnic and cultural background with the writer of the blog though I do not think this is much more than accidental. I watched her buying presents for her small nephew on whom she clearly dotes, and, again, felt as if I was looking into a different world.
My family of origin is a long way removed from the descriptions they both paint of fond uncles and devoted sisters and loving parents.
Though I am happy that the lives of these friends have been filled with so much familial love, I have to actively brush away my own sadness that floods over me. Comparisons are always invidious, but I would have loved to have such a family. Though nothing I can do can make that happen, there is everything to play for with my own husband and children, and small hopes of retrieving sibling relationships over time.
Tiny gestures of kindness, or unexpected observations of a parent and child interacting sometimes threaten to overwhelm me. A few months ago a teenage skateboarder broke his arm falling of a wall in front of us. I took him to hospital with his friend and suggested that he phone his parents as he needed an operation immediately. He spoke to his father who told him he would drop everything he was doing and meet him at the hospital. The closeness of his relationship was evident from the way in which he spoke to his father, from his tone of voice, and it moved me to tears of envy and sadness inside. Sometimes my sadness temporarily blocks out the happiness I do feel for those who enjoy the relationships I have coveted.
Much longer ago, a tiny gesture of kindness from the Greek mother of a friend, wiping away some food that I had dropped on to my blouse, made me long to be mothered. Sometimes I feel like stealing some of the sweets from the sweet shop before I remember that they are not mine to steal.
I hate feeling sorry for myself. Yet part of allowing myself to feel the pain is a process of accepting that not everyone is blessed with a happy family and childhood and that, for those of us who fall into that situation, our hope lies in overcoming that beginning and creating our own families where the qualities we were denied are in abundance. In the absence of our own role models, we have to resort to books and the patterns of other more successful relationships we see around us, and to our own instinct. This powerful internal voice tells us insistently how things should be, and we aspire in that direction. In allowing the pain to come in, having fended it off for so long, I know that I also allow in the possibility of a happy family for myself.
Often those families we create will include our friends who stand in for the extended families we do not have. Our friendships become important to us in a way that I suspect they never are for those who have large, happy families.
I also hope that, knowing what it feels like to be standing on the outside looking in, that my own little family might be generous enough to offer some of the love we have to those who, like me, did not get enough when they were too young to do anything about it, and that in years to come we might have created enough happy memories for our own children to fill several blogs.
Melyvn’s Bragg’s programme on Soren Kierkegaard, part of the “In Our Time” series is not only a very clear introduction to Kierkegaard, but a thought provoking bridge between philosophy and Christianity, and a meditation on the nature of Christ.
Jonathan Rée, Visiting Professor at Roehampton University and the Royal College of ArtClare Carlisle, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of LiverpoolJohn Lippitt, Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Hertfordshire
Is it impossible to prove a negative?“The claim that negatives cannot be proved is beloved of theists who resist the assaults of sceptics by asserting that the non-existence of God cannot be proved. By this they hope to persuade themselves and others that at least the possibility remains open that a supernatural agency exists; from there they make the inflationary move from alleged mere possibility to not eating meat on Fridays. They are, however, wrong both about not being able to prove a negative, and about not being able to prove supernatural agencies exist and are active in the universe. Seeing why requires a brief refresher on the nature of proof.Proof in a formal deductive system consists in deriving a conclusion from premises by rules. Formal derivations are literally explications, in the sense that all the information that constitutes the conclusion is already in the premises, so a derivation is in fact merely a rearrangement. There is no logical novelty in the conclusion, though there might be and often is psychological novelty, in the sense that the conclusion can seem unobvious or even surprising because the information constituting it was so dispersed among the premises.Demonstrative proof, as just explained, is watertight and conclusive. It is a mechanical matter; computers do it best. Change the rules or axioms of a formal system, and you change the results. Such proof is only to be found in mathematics and logic.
Proof in all other spheres of reasoning consists in adducing evidence of the kind and in the quantity that makes it irrational, absurd, irresponsible or even lunatic to reject the conclusion thus being supported. This is proof in the scientific and common-sense meaning. The definitive illustration of what this means, especially for the use that theists would like to make of the myth that you cannot prove a negative, is Carl Sagan’s “dragon in the garage” story, which involves the teller claiming that he has a dragon in his garage—except that it’s invisible, incorporeal and undetectable. In response to which one can only ask— if there’s no way to disprove a contention, and no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that something exists?No self-respecting theist would go so far as to claim that “you cannot prove the non-existence of God” entails “God exists.” As mentioned, their point is merely to leave open the possibility that such a being might exist. But Sagan’s dragon dashes even this hope. For one can show that it is absurd, irrational, intellectually irresponsible or even lunatic to believe that fairies, goblins, the Norse gods, the Hindu gods, the gods of early Judaism (yes, there were several: go check), and so endlessly on, “might exist.” It would compound the felony a millionfold to grant this and yet insist that one’s own (Christian or Muslim, say) deity “nevertheless” exists or might exist.For a simple case of proving a negative, by the way, consider how you prove the absence of pennies in a piggy-bank.”
Sir Christopher Greenwood was paid about fifty thousand pounds to advise the British Attorney General in relation to the legality of going to war in Iraq. In turn, and without fully disclosing the advice from an outside source, the Attorney General advised the British government that going to war with Iraq would be legal.
Memorandum by Professor Christopher Greenwood, CMG, QC
THE LEGALITY OF USING FORCE AGAINST IRAQ.
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY
1. This memorandum reviews, in summary form, the international law arguments regarding possible military action against Iraq. It does not deal with considerations of United Kingdom domestic law. While I am aware that a draft Security Council resolution is currently under discussion in New York, this memorandum was prepared without my having seen that draft.
2. For the reasons set out in this memorandum, I believe that military action against Iraq might be justified (depending on the evidence of Iraq’s weaponry and intentions) on the following grounds:—
- (1) if the UN Security Council adopts a fresh resolution authorizing military action against Iraq and any conditions set out in that resolution are met; or
- (2) under existing Security Council resolutions on the basis that the Security Council considered that (a) Iraq is in material breach of those resolutions and (b) that breach constitutes a threat to international peace and security in the Gulf area. This would not require a fresh Security Council authorization of military action; or
- (3) under the right of self-defence if an armed attack by Iraq against the United Kingdom or one of its allies was reasonably believed to be imminent. This would not require any action by the Security Council.
In my opinion, international law would not permit recourse to force against Iraq on the basis that the United Kingdom and its allies were still engaged in a “war” dating back to 1990-91 (a different argument from (2) above), on the basis of any theory based on the notion of a “war against terrorism” or on the basis of a “doctrine of pre-emption”. I have set out my reasoning on all of these points below.
3. The possibility of military action in 2002 has to be seen in the context of the actions taken by the UN Security Council and by a number of States, including the United Kingdom in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. That invasion, which was a flagrant violation of international law, was condemned by the Security Council in Resolution 660 (1990), which required Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. In common with most of the subsequent resolutions on Iraq, this resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and its provisions were therefore legally binding on Iraq.
4. When Iraq ignored the requirement that it withdraw, the Security Council adopted a series of further resolutions, including Resolution 678 (1990) by which the Council—
- “Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Govt of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in para 1 above, the above-mentioned resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.” (Emphasis added)
The reference to “all necessary means” was clearly understood to be an authorization of military action. The passage emphasised shows that that authorization was not limited to the liberation of Kuwait but included an authority to use all necessary means for the purpose of restoring peace and security in the area.
5. Following the end of the fighting in March 1991, the Council adopted Resolution 687 (1991). That resolution referred to all of the earlier resolutions on Iraq, including 678. In paragraph 1 the Council—
- “Affirms all thirteen resolutions noted above, except as expressly changed below to achieve the goals of the present resolution, including a formal ceasefire.” (Emphasis added)
Resolution 687 did not repeal Resolution 678. That resolution remained in force to the extent that one of its objectives, namely the restoration of international peace and security in the area had not yet been achieved.
6. Resolution 687 then laid down what the Council considered Iraq had to do in order to ensure the restoration of international peace and security in the area. The Council required that Iraq—
- “unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:(a) all chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities related thereto;(b) all ballistic missiles with a range greater than one hundred and fifty kilometres, and related major parts and repair and production facilities.” (paragraph eight)
7. In addition, paragraph 12 required Iraq—“not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon usable material or any subsystems or components or any research, development, support or manufacturing facilities related to the above.”
8. As a means to achieving this partial disarmament, Resolution 687 also required Iraq to submit to intrusive weapons inspection initially by UNSCOM and the IAEA. The details of this requirement were set out in Resolution 715 (1991). Other provisions of Resolution 687 required Iraq not to commit or support any act of terrorism and not to permit any terrorist organization to operate from its territory (paragraph 32).
9. Iraq formally accepted these requirements but Resolution 687 is legally binding because of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, not because of Iraq’s acceptance of it; it is not the equivalent of an agreement.
10. Iraq has never complied with these ceasefire conditions and has repeatedly been found to be in breach of the requirements of Resolution 687 regarding international peace and security. See, for example, Resolutions 949 (1994), 1060 (1996), 1115 (1997) and 1137 (1997). In 1998 the UN Secretary-General drew up a Memorandum of Understanding with Iraq regarding weapons inspections. The Security Council then, in Resolution 1154—
- “stresses that compliance by the Government of Iraq with its obligations, repeated again in the Memorandum of Understanding, to accord immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to the Special Commission and the IAEA in conformity with the relevant resolutions is necessary for the implementation of Resolution 687 (1991), but that any violation would have the severest consequences for Iraq.”
11. In fact, Iraq continued to violate its obligations; see, eg, Resolution 1205 (1998). After yet another attempt to resume inspections, UNSCOM reported to the Security Council on 15 December 1998 that—
- “As is evident from this report, Iraq did not provide the full co-operation it promised on 14th November 1998.
- “In addition, during the period under review, Iraq initiated new forms of restrictions upon the Commission’s work. Amongst the Commission’s many concerns about this retrograde step is what such further restrictions might mean for the effectiveness of long-term monitoring activities.
- “In spite of the opportunity presented by the circumstances of the last month, including the prospect of a comprehensive review, Iraq’s conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in either the fields of disarmament or accounting for its prohibited weapons programmes.
- “Finally, in the light of this experience, that is, the absence of full cooperation by Iraq, it must regrettably be recorded against [sic] that the Commission is not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it by the Security Council and, thus, to give the assurances it requires with respect to Iraq’s prohibited weapons programmes.” (UN Doc. S/1998/1172, pp. 7-8)
12. This report was followed by the withdrawal of the UNSCOM inspectors and US/UK military action (Operation Desert Fox).
13. SCR 1284 (1999) replaced UNSCOM with UNMOVIC and required that Iraq allow UNMOVIC unrestricted access. Iraq, however, has refused—until September 2002—to permit UNMOVIC to operate within Iraq.
III. ACTION UNDER A NEW UN SECURITY COUNCIL MANDATE
14. There is no doubt that the Security Council has the authority under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to adopt a fresh resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. Chapter VII gives the Security Council that power if it determines that there is a threat to international peace and security (Article 39) and that military action is necessary to deal with that threat (Article 42). The Council has already determined, in Resolution 687 (1991), that the removal of certain types of weapon from Iraq is necessary for the restoration of peace and security and that, to date, Iraq has not complied with its obligations in that regard.
15. In my opinion, it is clear that military action taken in accordance with a fresh mandate from the Security Council would be lawful. Like all military operations, it would, of course, have to be conducted in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, 1949, and other applicable rules of international humanitarian law.
IV. ACTION UNDER THE EXISTING SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS
16. Nevertheless, I do not believe that a new resolution expressly authorizing military action is necessary as a matter of international law. In my opinion, the authorization to use “all necessary means” contained in Resolution 678 (1990) (quoted in paragraph 4, above) has not been terminated by the Security Council. The imposition of a ceasefire by Resolution 687 (1991) suspended hostilities and thus suspended the authority to use force but Resolution 687 reaffirmed Resolution 678 (see paragraph 5, above) and thus left open the possibility of further military action to achieve the objectives of Resolution 678 in the event of Iraqi violation of the ceasefire terms.
17. Contrary to what is frequently suggested, Resolution 678 was not solely about the liberation of Kuwait and the authorization to the coalition to use force went beyond the goal of liberating Kuwait and authorized military action for the purpose of restoring international peace and security in the area. Resolution 687 (1991) then determined that the restoration of international peace and security required the partial disarmament of Iraq and (separately) its renunciation of any involvement in or support for terrorism. Resolution 687, paragraph 1 affirmed Resolution 678 except to the extent that the other provisions of Resolution 687 expressly changed Resolution 678. The text of Resolution 687 contains nothing which expressly (or impliedly) indicates that the Council either considered that the mandate contained in Resolution 678 had been discharged or that it could not be relied upon in the event of Iraq continuing to pose a threat to international peace and security.
18. It is, of course, true that Resolution 678 is now nearly twelve years old and was almost certainly not intended to remain in force indefinitely. But the fact that it is still relevant today is due solely to Iraq’s persistent violation of its obligations under Resolution 687. The effect of some of those violations (primarily those in respect of disarmament) is that the threat to international peace and security which Iraq posed in 1990-91 has continued until the present day.
19. On that basis, it is open to the Security Council to determine that Iraq continues to be in breach of the ceasefire conditions in Resolution 687 and that that breach involves a threat to international peace and security which peaceful means have failed to resolve. The effect of such a determination would be that the authorization of military action in Resolution 678 would again be rendered active. That would not necessarily require a Security Council resolution. It could be done by means of a Presidential Statement (which would require a consensus in the Council). Moreover, a resolution stipulating that Iraq must take certain steps by a prescribed date could (depending on its wording) mean that the Council was determining that failure by Iraq to take such steps was a breach threatening international peace and security.
V. MILITARY ACTION IN SELF-DEFENCE
20. Article 51 of the UN Charter provides that—
- “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by members in the exercise of this right shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
It was in the exercise of this right that the United Kingdom took military action in Afghanistan in October 2001.
21. The question is whether the right of self-defence under customary international law which is preserved by Article 51 of the Charter would justify military action against Iraq on the basis of a threat of armed attack. In my opinion, it would do so if the threat was of an imminent armed attack but not otherwise.
22. Although Article 51 refers to the right of self-defence “if an armed attack occurs”, the United Kingdom has consistently maintained that the right of self-defence also applies where an armed attack has not yet take place but is imminent. A large number of other governments (including those of the USA, France, other NATO States and the former USSR) have espoused this view. It also has strong support from commentators. Thus, Judge Rosalyn Higgins (writing before her election to the International Court of Justice) has said that—
- “. . . in a nuclear age, common sense cannot require one to interpret an ambiguous provision in a text in a way that requires a state passively to accept its fate before it can defend itself. And, even in the face of conventional warfare, this would also seem the only realistic interpretation of the contemporary right of self-defence. It is the potentially devastating consequences of prohibiting self-defence unless an armed attack has already occurred that leads one to prefer this interpretation—although it has to be said that, as a matter of simple construction of the words alone, another conclusion might be reached.” (Problems and Process (1994), p. 242)
The same view has been taken by Sir Humphrey Waldock (81 RC (1952-II) 496-8), Judge Schwebel (136 RC (1972-II) 478-83), Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice (92 RC (1957-II) 171), Sir Robert Jennings and Sir Arthur Watts (Oppenheim’s International Law, 9th ed., 1992, vol. I, p. 421) and Sir Derek Bowett (Self-Defence in International Law (1958) 187-92). Waldock, Schwebel and Jennings are all past Presidents of the International Court of Justice.
23. I accept that other writers, notably Professor Ian Brownlie (International Law and the Use of Force by States (1963) 257-61), have taken the contrary view but, with great respect to them, I believe that the view expressed by Judge Higgins and the other writers quoted above accords better with State practice and with the realities of modern military conditions.
24. Nevertheless, the right of anticipatory self-defence is quite narrowly defined. Ever since the United Kingdom-US exchange in what has become known as the Caroline case in 1837-38, the right has been confined to instances where the threat of armed attack was imminent. In my opinion, that still reflects international law and, in so far as talk of a doctrine of “pre-emption” is intended to refer to a broader right to respond to threats which might materialise some time in the future, I believe that such a doctrine has no basis in law.
25. In assessing what constitutes an imminent threat, however, I believe that it is necessary to take account of two factors which did not exist at the time of the Caroline. The first is the gravity of the threat; the threat posed by a nuclear weapon or a biological or chemical weapon used against a city is so horrific that it is in a different league from the threats posed by cross-border raids by men armed only with rifles (as in the Caroline). The second consideration is the method of delivery of the threat. It is far more difficult to determine the time scale within which a threat of attack by terrorist means, for example, would materialise than it is with threats posed by, for example, regular armoured forces. These would be material considerations in assessing whether Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United Kingdom or its allies.
26. If Iraq did pose such an immediate threat then, in my opinion, military action against Iraq for the purpose of dealing with that threat would be lawful. The degree of force used would have to be proportionate to the threat and no more than necessary to deal with that threat (including preventing a recurrence of the threat). In addition, the use of force would have to comply with the separate requirements of the Geneva Conventions and other applicable rules of international humanitarian law.
V. MILITARY ACTION ON OTHER GROUNDS
27. In my opinion, the other legal grounds which have sometimes been advanced in discussion as a basis for military action against Iraq are unconvincing.
28. The suggestion that, because Iraq has violated the terms of the ceasefire embodied in Resolution 687 (1991), any of the coalition States which were engaged in the hostilities of 1990-91 would be justified in resuming hostilities seems to me to be based on a pre-1945 view of international law which cannot prevail against the clear language of the UN Charter. Violation of a ceasefire does not in itself justify reversion to military action today unless the original legal basis for the use of force remains in place. Accordingly, the United Kingdom might be entitled to resort to military action on the basis of Resolution 678 (1990), under the conditions set out above. It does not have an automatic right to resume belligerency simply because it was a party to the 1990-91 hostilities and Iraq has violated the ceasefire.
29. Nor, in my opinion, do references to a “war against terrorism” provide a basis for renewed military action against Iraq. If there were evidence of close Iraqi involvement in terrorism and a threat of imminent terrorist attack supported by Iraq, then that would justify military action by way of self-defence and, in certain circumstances, under Resolutions 678 (1990) and 687 (1991) (see paragraph 8, above). But the concept of a “war against terrorism”, even if it has any international legal content at all, is, in my view, far too vague to serve as a basis for legal action where the criteria for self-defence are not met.
30. Finally, references to “regime change” do not, in my opinion, furnish a free-standing justification for military action. It is possible that the only way of achieving international peace and security might be to change the government of Iraq. Likewise, if action were taken in self-defence, there are circumstances in which self-defence might justify imposing a change of government (if that were the only way of removing the threat of armed attack from Iraq). However, the nature of the Iraqi regime does not, in my opinion, furnish a legal justification for military action in and of itself.
31. Accordingly, my conclusion is that military action against Iraq would be justified if:—
- (1) The Security Council gave a fresh authorization to use force and military action was taken in accordance with that resolution; or
- (2) The Security Council indicated that Iraq was in material breach of Resolution 687 (1991) and that breach entailed a threat to international peace and security, in which case action would be justified within the framework of Resolution 678 (1990); or
- (3) Iraq posed a threat of an imminent armed attack against the United Kingdom or its allies and military action could therefore be taken under the right of self-defence.
Christopher Greenwood, CMG, QC
24 October 2002
Independent, 22 March 2005
Sir Christopher Greenwood, speaking to the Foreign Policy Committee, a year after the invasion.
11th February 2008, appeal to the House of Lords for an enquiry into the legality of the war – judgment pending
Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
Gerald Manley Hopkins
My favourite line-and-a-half is “Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning”, for the repeated “cl” and “ou” sounds and because sinning does sour what is good. We had a tree surgeon put a barn owl box in an ash tree today, facing outwards over fields in the direction of the barn owls we have seen during the winter months. They should be looking for new nesting places right now. The nesting box is about five metres above the ground, and has an inspection hatch to check for eggs and chicks. We are not allowed to look in the box ourselves without a licence as barn owls are protected birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. All wild birds and their eggs are protected by the Act, but the barn owl is one of about twenty rare, endangered, declining or vulnerable birds enjoying additional protection from disturbance at the nest.
The high winds on Monday blew down the electricity lines to our daughters’ school so they spent the day in the dark and cold. The school was closed on Tuesday and we all enjoyed an unexpected day at home. Lola B and I went shopping. She had a particular purchase in mind. She bought a long red tee shirt, and we took it to the joke shop. There she chose the following words to emblazon her shirt: I’M FRECKLIER THAN YOU. She intends to wear it to sleep-overs with friends, but has hardly taken it off since she got it.
Lola B is aware that her hair makes her different. One very mean girl in her class used to make quite horrible comments to her about what she had discovered on the internet about redheads (and vegetarians). She has, thankfully, left the school. That is, I think, the only instance of negative attention that Lola B has received. She is more likely to find people coming up to her in supermarkets and pawing her curls.
The following quotation is one of the most famous judicial statements in English law. Lord Greene in Associated Provincial Pictures Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation  1 KB 223 laid down the test which would be used ever after to determine whether the government or any of its branches had gone beyond its powers and acted unlawfully. The case concerned conditions imposed by the local council on a cinema opening on Sundays and this passage relates to the limits on the exercise of discretion by an administrative body:
“It is true the discretion must be exercised reasonably. Now what does that mean? Lawyers familiar with the phraseology commonly used in relation to the exercise of statutory discretions often use the word “unreasonable” in a rather comprehensive sense. It has frequently been used and is entrusted frequently used as a description of things that must not be done. For instance, a person entrusted witha discretion must, so to speak, direct himself properly in law. He must call his own attention to the matters which he is bound to consider. He must exclude from his consideration matters which are irrelevant to what he has to consider. If he does not obey those rules, he may truly be said, and often is said, to be acting “unreasonably”. Similarly there may be something so absurd that no sensible person could ever dream that it lay within the powers of the authority. Warrington L J in Short v Poole Corporation [ Ch 66 at 90-1] gave the example of the red-haired teacher, dismissed because she had red hair. That is unreasonable in one sense. In another sense it is taking into consideration extraneous matters. It is so unreasonable that it might almost be described as being done in bad faith; and, in fact, all those things run into one another.”
Watching the first clip (from Catherine Tate) to the end, I was reminded of the very first pop concert I attended, and this song, which I loved. I wanted to be the dark haired woman.
Elder Daughter rose from her sick bed on Friday to play Lily, a very ordinary teenager, in a play called “Living with Lady Macbeth”. The play was divided into three parts, and each of the three forms in Elder Daughter’s year performed one part in the theatre. So there were three Lilys, of whom Elder Daughter was the first. Each part was judged against the other two. Elder Daughter’s form won a small silver cup for the best performance.
The whole play is about Lily, though she is very ordinary. She occupies the centre of the stage all of the time, though she is neither very clever, nor very funny, nor very sporty, nor very beautiful. She is just an ordinary, mousey teenager. In contrast the play has five girls who are tall and beautiful and confident and brash and rich and have fathers who are lawyers and accountants and bankers. They wear short skirts and high heels with long black socks pulled over their knees, and paint their nails and their lips. They make fun of girls like Lily, girls who have parents who wear glasses. They make fun of her clothes and her hair and her boyfriend and they laugh themselves stupid behind their fluttering eyelashes at the idea, the stupid idea, that Lily, Lily of all people, could ever take the lead role in their school play.
Lily wants to play the part of Lady Macbeth with every bit of her ordinary self. She becomes obsessed with the power that this woman represents. She rolls Lady Macbeths lines around and spits them out with the pent up anger of the outsider. She loves the way that she unsexes her husband, overcomes him and his weaknesses. She begins to live her life as Lady Macbeth, towering over the cowering sex kittens and banishing her worrying mother. It’s a very funny, accurately observed play, and absolutely perfect for a girls’ school.
I was so proud of my beautiful Elder Daughter. But part of me, the insecure part, wondered why they had chosen my daughter to be the ordinary one. I felt very ordinary and wondered if I was like Lily’s mother, never quite understanding her daughter and too scared to break out of their mediocrity. I knew my daughter would never have been chosen to be one of those tall, beautiful girls with their shiny self-assurance. She is not beautiful in a tall, obvious way. I loved her so much for her smallness and her openness and her bright open brown eyes that my chest swelled and a lump came to my throat, and she reminded me of me.
The playwright, Rob John, hoped that he had created a realistic Lily:
“I think that there are millions of Lilys in the world. They’re the people who you hardly ever notice, the ones who never get-into the in-crowd, who are thought to be dull, unattractive, untalented and totally ordinary. Perhaps we all have days when we feel like Lily and perhaps we too dream of one day doing something remarkable and proving everybody wrong.”