Friday, 4 May 2018

What have the Brits ever done for us?


There is something dispiritingly similar about Irish nationalism and Scottish nationalism. This is no doubt because the one frequently supports the other. Most Scottish nationalists would cheer if Irish nationalism achieved its goal of uniting Ireland, while I strongly suspect quite a lot of Irish people would delight in seeing Britain partitioned. It is rather contradictory to think that uniting one island is good while partitioning another is also good, but then again if your main goal is getting even with the Brits you just don’t much care if it happens by means of uniting or dividing.


Cú Chulainn brings peace and democracy to ancient Ulster by means of rustling cattle

The Republic of Ireland has a long term goal of uniting Ireland. I think it would be better if they left this up to the people actually living in Northern Ireland. Personally I regret that Ireland was ever partitioned, but it was a direct consequence of Ireland seeking independence from the UK. If the Irish had decided to remain in the UK, their island would not have been partitioned. This is self-evidently true, but stating it immediately leads to hostility from both Irish and Scottish nationalists.

It might or might not have been possible to force what became Northern Ireland to leave the UK along with the South. But the majority of people living in Northern Ireland at the time did not want to leave the UK. The British army could perhaps have forced them to join the South, but then again it could equally have forced the South to remain in the UK. Partition was not an ideal solution. It led to decades of terrorism. But would forced Irish unity have led to peace?

Anyway we are where we are. I would have no objection at all if the majority of people in Northern Ireland ever chose to join the Republic, but let’s leave it up to them rather than try to force the issue by turning the border in Ireland into a way of loosening the ties between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK.

The Irish PM has been pushing his luck lately. The Republic of Ireland has a national interest in trying to maintain a close trading relation with the UK. We would like the same. But there may come a time when ordinary British people lose patience with the Irish. We have, on the whole, remained friendly towards you. We have been happy to buy your beef, your butter and your beer. But we don’t have to do so. We have a national interest too. We are trying to leave the EU in such a way that we can maintain an open border in Ireland, maintain more or less free trade with all EU members, while regaining our sovereignty and the right to make trade deals with the rest of the world. If the Irish are seen to be trying to damage the UK national interest, there may well come a point when ordinary Brits cease being quite so friendly and may discover that we can buy what we need from elsewhere.

The essence of the problem between Ireland and the UK is that while the Brits tend to look kindly on Ireland, the Irish tend to view Britain with hostility. It is this that is fundamentally behind the diplomatic difficulties at the moment. If there were good will, the border would not cause much of a problem, but there is very little good will at all coming from the Republic.

The reason for this was very ably illustrated to me the other day, when I pointed out on Twitter that if it had not been for the Brits, the Irish today would be speaking a language (Irish), that could be understood nowhere outside of Ireland apart from perhaps in the Outer Hebrides. This was met with fury, even though it is self-evidently true. Irish people overwhelmingly speak English as natives, because for many centuries they were ruled from London. If you don’t think it’s an advantage to speak English as a native speaker, then by all means cease doing so. It wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if the whole population of Ireland spoke Irish and only Irish, but it might hinder your trade rather more than Brexit.

No doubt great wrongs were done in Ireland. But frankly great wrongs were done in Britain too and throughout Europe. The nobles conquered and the peasants suffered. Kingdoms expanded and contracted. Wars were fought.  But you weren’t the only victims. It wasn’t Irish people alone in Europe who suffered from famine. The ordinary Brit had no more say in who ruled him than the ordinary Irish person. Each could die for a stupid reason or because it was the whim of someone more powerful. We are not at a fault for every bad thing that ever happened in Ireland. Get over it. No-one now was alive when the New Model Army crushed you.  We don't even blame present day Germans for the sins of their grandparents, but you would blame us for what happened between 1649 and 1653 as if it happened yesterday. 

Lots of Brits moved to Ireland during the period when we were joined together. But then again in prehistoric times Brits were the first settlers in Ireland, and you repaid us the compliment by first sending the Scoti to settle in Scotland and then during the nineteenth century moving here en masse. Many Scots moved to Ulster in the seventeenth century and their descendants still form a majority there. But if Scottish Protestants were planted in Ulster, is it equally correct to say that Irish Catholics were planted in Glasgow or Boston? We have been moving between our two islands since history began. When do we have plantation and when do we have the benefits of migration?

The failure of Irish nationalism is that it could never take with it the whole of Ireland. The reason for this is that it has zero appeal for Ulster Protestants, for the simple reason that they are still treated as if their presence is unwelcome. They are still settlers more than three hundred years after they settled. The Irish treat unionists as if they arrived on the Windrush fifty years ago and should jolly well go home. Until the Irish cease to hate the Brits they will have no chance whatsoever of having a united peaceful Ireland because those Brits live in Northern Ireland and why would they want to be part of a state where they are hated?

What have the Brits ever done for us? Well out of all of the most notable Irish people I can think of the vast majority were descendants of the British. That is what we did for you, even though you hate us for doing it.

St. Patrick (5th cent.) came to Ireland from Roman Britain. He was therefore a Brit. He gave you Christianity and you celebrate his doing so every March 17th forgetting that the man who got rid of your snakes was not actually Irish.

Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1783) the great idealist philosopher was from Ireland, but he wasn’t just from Ireland, he was Anglo-Irish. What this means is that he was a Protestant and was a descendant of people who were planted in Ireland.

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the first modern chemist gave us Boyle's law, but the law equally well expressed the fact that eminence in Ireland invariably was a consequence of being both Anglo and Irish. 

The greatest general in Irish history Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852) was born in Ireland, but reckoning that if a man was born in a stable it didn’t make him a horse declined to consider himself Irish. Still he was at least as Irish as the vast majority of great Irish people, far more so than any number of American Presidents who find it convenient to discover, or else make up, some Irishness in their family tree. 





If you go through a list of the greatest Irish writers, beginning with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), continuing with Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950), W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), C.S. Lewis ( 1898 – 1963), Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Iris Murdoch (1919 – 1999) etc. etc., you will find that nearly all of them are Anglo Irish. In fact the only significant Irish literature that is not Anglo-Irish literature is either written in a language that almost no-one can understand, (e.g. Táin Bó Cúailnge), or is written by James Joyce in a language that quite literally no-one understands (e.g. Finnegan’s Wake).

Modern roads in Ireland were designed by the British, so too were the railways.  We gave you the games that the world now plays (Football, Rugby Cricket), otherwise you would have been left merely playing with yourselves (Hurling, Gaelic Football). The most famous Irish products such as Guinness were created by the Anglo-Irish. Even those Irish politicians who campaigned most effectively for Irish independence such as Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) were doing so precisely because they were Anglo-Irish and had been brought up in the British political tradition.

Prior to Irish independence in fact it is hard to find anyone of consequence from Ireland who was not at least partly British. These people for the most part thought of themselves as being British. They saw no particular difference between themselves and those living in Britain. There, in fact, wasn't much of a difference apart from an accent and the separation of the Irish sea.  We gave up hating people because they were Protestant or Catholic sometime in the eighteenth century. Unfortunately you didn't, for which reason we received sectarianism as your gift. It's the thing that most distinguishes those who have Irish descent from those who don't.

None of the great Anglo-Irish people would have existed, at least they would not have existed in Ireland, unless British people had moved there because it was part of Britain. Hating Britain amounts therefore to hating the best that you produced.

Perhaps this is why you hate us. It must be tough to take when you find out that almost no-one of exclusively Irish descent was of any consequence whatsoever in the long course of Irish history. You all speak English, yet you hate us for teaching you to do so. We built your cities, brewed your beer and allowed you to come here to work when there was no more work in Ireland, but still you blame us for everything.

Not only this, Ireland in the 1920s had free markets, the rule of law and a functioning democracy with a civil service that was more or less free from corruption. It had these things only because it had been part of the political development of the British Isles that gave us all these traditions. None of these things existed in Ireland prior to British involvement. You didn’t have any sort of democracy before the arrival of the Brits, you had no free markets  and no freedom. You had only despotism and barbarousness. Irish civilisation happened because of Irish history, which includes the fact that for many centuries we were united. Even in Europe today let alone the rest of the world there are few places that are as prosperous, free and democratic as Ireland and the UK. None of this was automatic. It happened because of our shared political traditions, which were spread from Britain to all of the Anglosphere.

My family were from Ireland. Some of them are still there. My grandfather was Anglo-Irish and he found it rather tough to remain in the land of his birth because of the prejudice he encountered at the time of Irish independence. But he didn’t blame Ireland for anything, rather he always loved it. He made a successful life here in Britain. You see, when you spend your whole life blaming someone else it give you a wonderful excuse for failure.  If you give someone a reason to fail by always blaming someone else, do not be surprised when they grasp at failure and embrace it. It is this above all else that hinders Ireland.  

Britain remained friendly towards Ireland even when you bombed us, even when you blame us and even when you hate us. Blaming us for everything damages you, not us. We moved on a long time ago. We find your hatred rather baffling, but we are used to it and quite indifferent to it. Most Brits no longer even notice you (did they really elect Dame Edna to be their Prime Minister? we shrug quite unaware of whether Fine this or Fine that or indeed Fine Fair is the party that you chose). 

But your hatred of Britain damages not merely your relations with the UK. It means that you can’t quite join the Anglosphere. The “five eyes” of Canada, UK, USA, NZ and Australia, have a trust and friendship that means we cooperate in security. But Irish hatred of Britain means we could never quite trust you. To whom would you divulge a shared secret just to get back at the land that gave birth to Cromwell? It's you that loses from this, not us. 

Accept who you are. Every Irish person is to a lesser or greater extent a mix of the British and the Irish. Hating the British is simply a rather odd way of hating yourself.

The chippiness on the Irish shoulder has damaged relations between our islands for too long. Most Brits have Irish ancestors, most Irish have Brits in their family tree. We are the most closely related countries in Europe. Let us work together and accept that for all our faults we are what we are because of each other. If we could overcome the hostility we might just find a mutually beneficial way of living together.

40 comments:

  1. nail on head

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  2. I've rarely read more inane BS than this. There is too much inaccuracies and blatant mistruths but two just seem to be from ignorance, not hatred. The world speaks English because America does. Not Britain. I'm sure a majority of Germans speak English but they didn't need to be ruled and subjugated for centuries to value it. What the English did in Ireland was often genocide, not just of people but of their ownership,their nationality, their culture, their religion and language. It persevered nonetheless. The other challenge is the idea of comparing plantation to the Irish emigration (you say Boston, like the Irish choose to move there rather than the forced starvation of the Irish that caused the mass exodus). In terms of emigration, there will always be emigration.the eu is built on that premise of free movement. We have a common travel area. Plantation forced the local population out of their own land, and set up a state religion. Their aim to subjugate Ireland and end catholicism. Show me how the Irish, with arms, invaded Britain and took 6 of the home counties of England by force and instituted all public offices be held by Catholics and protestants to pay tithe to the upkeep of the catholic churches. I'll wait... P.s. On a political point, Ireland accepts UK voted to leave but is concerned how that effects their national interest and the Good Friday Agreement. UK and Ireland were firm partners in the EU. Ireland is greatly saddened by the brexit vote P.P.S. Scotland decided to join the Union, it should be their decision to remain. GFA allows a border poll in which a majority north and south have to vote for unity for it to happen, so the republic will obviously have a say in it. Also just because Ireland gave up territorial claims on N.Ireland they beefed up the right's to Irish nationality for ANYONE born in the north, therefore creating a path for a united people which in my view is the definition of a country - not land but people.

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    1. Simon Neville6 May 2018 at 12:40

      Was intrigued to hear Ian Paisley (Ian Óg, that is) urging his constituents to take out Irish passports.

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    2. And America speaks English because .... drum-roll .... wait for it .... it's coming! ... yes you've guessed it ... the BRITISH>

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  3. Thank goodness for a sane reaction. I thought this was a parody blog as the sweeping inaccuracies are laughable.

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  4. Simon Neville6 May 2018 at 12:38

    The author of 'Finnegans Wake' was once asked, "Mr. Joyce, shouldn't there be an apostrophe in there somewhere?" He paused for a moment, and replied, "They do, you know."
    Allegedly.

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    1. Simon Neville6 May 2018 at 18:06

      The title of that saga is always to be spelled 'Táin Bó Cuailnge', lest one commit the solecism of perpetrating false quantities.

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    2. Simon Neville6 May 2018 at 18:09

      For anybody wishing to make themselves well-informed from scratch, a useful starting point would be Caerwyn Williams' 'The Irish Literary Tradition'.

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  5. Superb parody account - spot on! Haven’t laughed so much in ages

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  6. Simon Neville6 May 2018 at 20:53

    Anybody wishing to make pronouncements on the matters expounded in this piece would find the 'Cambridge Dictionary of Irish Biography' and 'Oxford Companion to Irish History' a sure means of preserving themselves from perpetrating such howl ers.

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  7. Simon Neville6 May 2018 at 21:27

    Fine Gael (sometimes called 'the Blueshirts'), the party led by Dr. Varadkar, is descended from the pro-Treaty party which, with British support, crushed the anti-Treaty party in the Civil War. They would desperately like to join the Commonwealth, encourage the wearing of artificial poppies from mid-September onwards, arranged for British military traffic to be carried on lines rented from the Irish Post Office, and invited Kaiser Bill's young cousin over on a state visit. She was accorded a warm welcome at Croke Park, where her grandfather's men once whiled away a few hours by firing into the crowd of supporters. I could go on at very great length in this vein, but prefer to recommend to persons unfamiliar with Irish affairs to equip themselves with at least a little reliable information before delivering ex cathedra pronouncements Interreti et Orbi.

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  8. Irish nationalists well and truly triggered. I'd say that was a job very well done. Their intellectual pretentions encouraged by the EU know no bounds. We should tell upstart Varadkar and his speccie number 2 to get stuffed.

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    1. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 07:34

      By the way, Effie will win the approval of many Unionists for her ascription to Cúchalainn of the rise of democracy, since the Hound of Ulster has become for many of them a quasi-iconic representation of their identity.

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  9. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 07:27

    For those seeking to inform themselves on the linguistic issues involved, Joshua Fishman and Louis-Jean Calvet provide useful introductions, accessible even to those with no understanding of the basic concepts and no acquaintance with elementary facts.

    One classic text is 'Languages in Contact' by the great Yiddish scholar Uriel Weinreich who, sadly, died far to young. It was his father, Professor Axel Weinreich, who coined the aphorism that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. I can also recommend the books of Professor David Crystal, happily still with us and writing prolifically at the sort of age that nowadays no longer guarantees respectability.

    The most useful account in English that I have read of the near-destruction of the Irish language is Seán de Fréine's "The Great Silence'. Dispassionate, and including comparisons with other language shift, it reaches conclusions which some (not only Effie!) may find surprising.

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  10. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 10:23

    The various forms of Gaelic are in a degree of closeness not unlike that of the various forms of Scandinavian. This is especially so where the relevant locations are physically closer. Some years ago, a repertory company from Belfast did a tour of the Highlands and Islands. They found that, if they slowed their delivery a little, the dulcet tones of Ulster were intelligible enough to a cross-Channel audience. The piece going down best with Scots theatre-goers was 'Ag fanacht le Godot'.

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    1. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 10:52

      Estimates vary, but by the end of the eighteenth century the nmber of speakers across several Insular realms of the various forms of Gaelic was of the order of four or five million.

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    2. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 15:38

      Estimates I have seen for the Scandinavian languages spoken in lands then held by the Crown of Denmark or the Crown of Sweden tend to be slightly higher.

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    3. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 15:59

      Today, the Scandinavian languages are spoken by upwards of twenty million people.

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    4. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 16:12

      Extrapolating from this, it would not have been unreasonable to have expected the number of Gaelic-speakers by now to have been of the order of fifteen million.

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    5. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 20:08

      Let us consider the case of a small Northern European nation, incorporated (after a brief military episode) in the early nineteenth century into Union with a neighbour more than twice its size. The population is dirt-poor, heavily dependent on a few particular crops, and about to enter a long-term emigration crisis. The Union will persist into the following century.

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    6. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 21:09

      By the time Norway regained its independence in 1905, it had more than doubled its population and owned one of the largest merchant fleets in the world.

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    7. Simon Neville8 May 2018 at 07:03

      Norway was made part of the Kalmar Union, stretching from Altona to the Arctic Circle, from Reykjavik to the marches of Russia, in 1397. The Coalition gifted it to Sweden in 1814. Looking at those countries today, one cannot escape the conclusion that lands once subjected to Denmark are in much better shape than those subjected to one or two other people who come to mind. The Faeroes, with the population of Dunfermline, govern themselves for most purposes and their language thrives in a prosperous society. Iceland, with the population of Aberdeen and Dundee combined, maintains a high standard of living amidst vulcanos and glaciers, jails its bankers, and continues to produce a literature that, in Halldor Laxness, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (I know that I am not alone in thinking that Sorley MacLean (whom I once had the pleasure of meeting) should have been awarded the Nobel.)

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    8. Simon Neville8 May 2018 at 10:48

      Perhaps the best move for an Irish time traveller would be to go back to 1014 and make sure that Brian Ború loses the Battle of Clontarf.

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  11. But here's the thing. Most Irish people don't view the British with hostility. Back in 1998 voters in the Republic agreed that Northern Ireland could only join the Republic by consent. I'm not quite sure what you have been trying to prove over the last few days with pictures of the tiny fringe group 'eirigi' or potatoes.

    PS - the comment about horses, stables and the Duke of Wellington was made by Daniel O'Connell, not the Iron Duke himself.

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    1. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 10:59

      Given General Wellesley's conduct on several key historical occasions, no civilized country would want to be associated with him. His calling his horse 'Copenhagen' could only have been matched for tastelessness if Reichsmarschall Goering had called his horse 'Coventry'.

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    2. Simon Neville8 May 2018 at 17:46

      Certainly, the people living in Ireland are, in my experience, very well-disposed to the people living in this island. However, many of them, including the Taoiseach, are currently very concerned at the lack of focus and the ineptitude of HMG's approach to the Irish aspects of the Brexit negotiations. Uncertainty in economy and society will, unless HMG get a grip, precipitate damage on both sides of the Border -
      whatever form that may take. To the student of history, this is all of a piece with the ineptitude that HMG has displayed far too often.

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  12. Ireland belongs with the rest of the Archipelago known as the Bony Bunch of Roses, A.K.A. The British Isles. An Ireland that pretends it isn't part of the archipelago makes as much sense as Kyushu deciding it doesn't want to be part of Japan.The sectarian and racist rationale for Irish Independence is hopelessly outdated - the old Gaelic Catholic codology. I know it is terribly naughty to point it out, But the picture presented of the poor Innocent maid Hibernia being ravaged by the beast to the East is also more than a little inaccurate. For a long time it was Ireland that aggressively preyed upon the other Islands, not only slaving but colonising Scotland, Cornwall and both North and South Wales. That , together with various Irish attempts to interfere in English dynastic politics, is why GB has been wary of Ireland - because it has historically threatened the rest of the group.

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    1. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 20:11

      I *do* like the idea of a Bony Bunch of Roses - to be carried by the Bride of Frankenstein, perhaps?

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    2. Oh Lordy, Crumbs spreading his weird Brit ultra-nat poison beyond P.ie to bizarre anti-Irish blogs. Utter lunacy, much like the article above.

      The British far-right really are like bunny boilers, still butthurt after being scorned by a colonised people who were oppressed for 800 years. Is it any wonder we still can't stand many of you.

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    3. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 21:12

      Puzzled by your moniker: Irish friends tell me it means 'Worm'.

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  13. No such thing as anti British sentiment in Ireland I'm Irish and I have never come across it. literally every point in this article is a lie quite shocking actually

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    1. Simon Neville8 May 2018 at 07:09

      This, Anonymous, has been my observation as well. What I have heard Irish people say is that having such a huge neighbour can be like sharing a bed with an elephant. Their anxiety must be all the greater now that the elephant seems to be experiencing something of a pachydermic nervous breakdown.

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  14. This blog also seems to imply that Ireland loses out by not being part of the UK. Ireland is superior to the UK in every international comparison from educational to financial to the human development index. It would make more sense for Britain to be ruled from Dublin than Ireland to be ruled from London

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    1. Shush now, you're not allowed to say that about our former benevolent colonial masters or you'll be branded a racist Britophobe or something.

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    2. Simon Neville7 May 2018 at 21:17

      Almost all the colonial masters have now past on. The nations living in Britain are made up of people the overwhelming majority of whom are glad to have the Irish as our neighbours.

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    3. Simon Neville8 May 2018 at 07:04

      I grovel: please read that as 'passed on'.

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  15. Oh well, if the balloon is going up... :D https://youtu.be/Xb82v7wh1Fw

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    1. Simon Neville9 May 2018 at 16:33

      Sums it all up with prescient clarity.

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  16. Simon Neville9 May 2018 at 07:21

    Let us draw the proverbial line, and move on. We attend Effie's next discourse with impatience.

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