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Virtue-gap January 3, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Darlings, what’s yours? In DWBs*? A virtue-gap being, of course, the period of clean living it takes you after a period of unclean living to put the wicked memories of debauchery and ribaldry behind you and feel that you wouldn’t look out of place and, indeed, might even cut quite a dash in a village church on a Sunday morning?

Not that, as a wicked old nullifidian – darlings, I all of a sudden got worried by the word atheist and wondered if it made me be a wanker to come out as one. That what’s-his-face Hitchens – not the one in America whom I can’t help having a crush on even though I’m probably meant to disagree with quite a lot of what he says – I might even do, possibly, but he always says it so alluringly – although he looks much worse now that he’s had all those makeovers and his teeth done. No, the sour-puss brother – is right that atheism is a belief-system in itself. I mean, I don’t think it is, but then I want my unbelief to be un- rather than actively non-, I think, and worried that if atheism is active belief in there not being a god, which I’d probably be happy to throw my lot in with, actually, then I’d still rather be labelled, when the machine in the people-labelling factory gets to that stage in its workings, just in case, say, by some, admittedly, extremely queer twist of fate, we had to be labelled according to our beliefs, with a label that meant, ‘doesn’t-much-go-in-for-that-religion-lark,’ which perhaps nullifidian suits better – I should be equating attendance of a service in a village church with the height of virtuousness. And, as tolerant and respectful of others’ belief systems as I am, sometimes, I must say my faith in a certain type of Christian wearing t-shirts with verses from the Bible was cruelly dented when I saw a walking billboard quoting Jeremiah 30:17 – King James Bible version: For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after – trying to barge into a hot-dog queue.

But I do do that equation a bit. Which is an odd virtue to have at the top of my virtue Christmas tree. That the personified height of virtue should be the type that turns up at a village church religiously – boom, boom – of a Sunday morning. This moral nirvana is located, in my head, in some corner of England I don’t know but can ascribe all the attributes of a virtuous idyll to. Probably in Lincolnshire. Near Spalding somewhere. And the church would be full of kind Lib-Dem-voting types who popped in on their old neighbours and bird-watched and wore greens and browns and whose wickedest ever misdeed was failing to enter a cake in the village fête. The men would all look like this and take The Telegraph – or would Lib-Dem-voters take something else? – and like cricket and obviously prefer rugby to football and drink real ale – but not to excess, although perhaps they’d allow themselves one half-squiffy evening three times a year – and be active in local politics and drop in on new residents of the village to make them feel welcome – probably taking along the cake they’d forgotten to enter in the village fête and a bottle of surprisingly good white wine that they’d bought when staying at their house in Brittany – and speak less-than-execrable French and be thinking of learning Spanish or Italian and think Britons’ lack of knowledge of foreign languages was worthy of despair and that knowing a few words of the local language can really open up the culture and the locals react so differently (as they are packing their goods into the removal van from the house you’ve just bought off them) and know how to use a gun, though would approve of Britain’s gun laws and would drive within the speed limit but cycle where possible and support local businesses and certainly never inhale and be an accomplished, considerate lover. (Too depressed to describe his wife now. Lucky bitch.)

But a half-logical moral idyll to create because it’s as far-removed a life from my own as I can imagine within the same cultural boundaries. And I can’t think what the perfect moral man from my other two worlds – Russia and Germany – would quite be like. Except that the Russian moral paragon would ruin things, for me, culturally, by lecturing folk on how this was moral perfection and everyone else should live like this too and the German would be proud of his beer consumption and probably like to do things in the bedroom that my Lib-Dem-voter would have to wrinkle his brow at.

Because the time of year has made me feel particularly unvirtuous. Not that I feel guilt – oh gosh. I did one of those word-cloud things for this site and, apart from me, me, me, narcissistic drivel, public masturbation, me, me, me again, the word ‘guilt’ came up. Bugger – at calendric hedonism, really, but I do see the picture of the boys from Swing Out Sister, which I carry around with me as something to aspire to at all times, slowly erasing itself like Marty’s family photo in Back to the Future. Day upon day of wanton drinking. And not doing anything virtuous, i.e. work, which would nudge my moral compass closer to Lincolnshire before you knew it.

But that’s the festivities done. No time for any more fun till the vernal equinox at the very earliest. The weekend can just jolly well skip straight past my hard-nosed threshold and hand over my fun-ration to the wonderful couple next door. (Yes, they did complain on Christmas Day, since you ask.) It’s working my fingers to the bone from now till 2017.

Though I’m not sure if it’s the current alignment of the planets or the global economic crisis meaning we have to make cuts where we can, but my 2009 virtue-gap from marauding, self-destructive, bawdy, loud-mouthed, braying arse-hole to sedate, glasses-wearing (and my vision is perfect), Schubert-listening, moralising, tutting tosser with the demeanour and sartorial acumen of a Latin teacher is now down to a single DWB*.

I shouldn’t be at all surprised if I make the 2010 New Year’s honours list.



1. headbang8 - January 3, 2009

Yes, you’re right. It would have to be Schubert.

2. annie - January 3, 2009

Something terrible has happened to me – as I get older, I can drink (and actually, want to drink) less and less. I’m going to be one of those old biddies who gets tipsy and inappropriate on a sip of sherry, aren’t I? My folks were plying me with alcohol and I was TURNING IT DOWN! I am virtuous by default. I know what you mean about the virtuous Christians. I think it must be the loving thy neighbour bit. You don’t really HAVE to love your neighbour if you’re an atheist.

3. BiB - January 3, 2009

Annie, I can now drink quite inordinately much. And, with the on-the-surface positive but underlyingly probably-redolent-of-a-great-ill appearance of never really being majorly drunk. I can now seriously take my ale. As long as it isn’t ale or vodka. So that’s a shame. But I’ve got one DWB behind me so have temporarily blocked out those memories.

I love my neighbours galore, even though I am a wicked atheistically-inclined nullifidian. Well, apart from my actual neighbours, whom I don’t like at all. But everyone else in the world I adore. Adore, I tell you. And I think that’s a practical and pragmatic way to proceed rather than being anything to do with morality, though it works out as morally appropriate to do so too.

And, yes, you are virtuous, and not just because you refuse booze. Anyone who’s met you for half a second would know that. Though now I want to know more about your will of iron.

Elvis, mind you, I think Brahms would do too. I could never carry off the same sense of gravitas if I had something Russian belting out in the background.

4. Billy - January 3, 2009

I’m going to be like Oscar Wilde, and convert to Catholicism on my deathbed.

5. BiB - January 3, 2009

Billy, good contingency thinking there. Though won’t the CofE, presuming that’s what you technically belong to, if anything at all, do just as well? Or are you banking, like Homer Simpson, on Catholic heaven being more fun than its Protestant counterpart?

6. marshaklein - January 4, 2009

Ah, you never fail to make me smile! I agree with you that pragmatic loving your neighbour is probably better than the alternative. However, with regard to virtue, following an argument with Daisy (first of the holidays, so not bad going really) I have eaten an indecent amount of chocolate and now feel not very virtuous at all (not to mention a bit sick).

I also wonder what it says about me that I’d really quite like to live in your Lincolnshire idyll.

7. BiB - January 4, 2009

Marshypops, was The Vicar of Dibley set in Lincolnshire? I’m a bit worried now that my heaven on earth, my Jerusalem, is based on a twee sitcom.

A proper humdinger, you mean, or just a, “Well, I do think you could empty the dishwasher once in a while!”? Will it be over by the morning? I can’t imagine having anyone other than the Russian to argue with. The only other person in the world I could conceivably carp at is my mother. Which perhaps bespeaks in me a lack of respect in close relationships.

Shall we make it our New Year’s resolution to only argue with strangers or people we don’t care about? I’m going to go and tell a passer-by I think he/she looks like a bit of a prat, or, at the very least, could empty the dishwasher once in a while.

8. marshaklein - January 4, 2009

T’were all over summat ‘n’ nowt – it’s probably over now (although she’s out at a friend’s, so it’s hard to tell!)

That’s an excellent New Year’s resolution. I think I shall also remind complete strangers that I wasn’t put on this earth to clear up after them and tut disapprovingly while I’m doing it.

9. BiB - January 4, 2009

Have only got a second. I am busy, between juggling translations, making fiercely sharp-tipped paper aeroplanes dripping with vitriol to hurl off the balcony at strangers. The slogans so far include, “Stranger, putting the empty packet back in the fridge doesn’t mean you haven’t eaten me out of house and home,” and, “Stranger, well, seeing as you asked like that, no, I don’t think I will clear up this section of the flat”.

10. E@L - January 4, 2009

It may take 34 or more years for them to catch you up for the Honors List, so don’t expect big things from those sainted souls who draw names from the phone-book.com for their annual tab.

Never been much good on the un- v. non- dichotomy, more of anti-god person myself.

11. Tim Footman - January 4, 2009

I had a DWB yesterday, and foolishly coupled it with a visit to a seafood restaurant. Without the icy Musacdet to counteract the iffy microbes in the oysters, I was in a which-end-next? scenario most of the night, and still feel distinctly fragile.

But the atheism thing: there was a v good documentary by Jonathan Miller a while back, in which he said he feels odd about putting a label (atheism) on *not* believing something. He never made a big political decision to disbelieve in a god – it’s just not there in him.

I suppose it’s like creating a word for not liking football, or tomato ketchup.

12. Greatsheelephant - January 4, 2009

You’ve never been to Spalding, have you?

13. In Actual Fact - January 4, 2009

Greatsheepelephant: Isn’t Spalding the “Swinging capital of England” or something similar?

BiB: I haven’t counted the DWBs, but it’s been since 23rd Dec and (and I’m not making this up) I seriously considered going to the churchyard to tidy up the family plot just yesterday. If there’s one thing I can thoroughly recommend, it’s spending Christmas and New Year with one’s family completely sober. Gosh, but it’s marvellous and I won every single game of Scrabble, although there were some jolly close-run moments, I can tell you. Oh, it was wonderful.

14. Mr D - January 5, 2009

We used to drive through Lincolnshire. Big on agriculture. Not big on mountains. Or anything interesting.

Think I’ve mentioned before: a friend of mine used to drink only when he could no longer remember his last hangover. As they were getting worse with age, and he was now in his fifties, that meant he drank twice a year. He was clear-headed the rest of the time.

I had a €3 miniature bottle of Bailey’s from my hotel mini-bar last night, with the icy sea breeze making it completely undesirable to venture outdoors. Does that count as a day with booze?

15. BiB - January 5, 2009

Mr D, I’m afraid it does. The rules have to be enforced stringently. And I’m worried that my one DWB might not even technically have counted as I might have had booze in the wee hours – naturally I can no longer remember the fine details of an event in such ancient history – and a DWB must be WB from midnight to midnight to qualify. Today has already failed (before bedtime, you’ll be pleased to hear. I haven’t had a tipple with breakfast).

IAF, can you account for this abstemiousness? I mean, is there a point to it or is it just sheer self-abnegation? And did it help you win at Triv too? (I’ve already been informed that the younger generation won in this year’s BiB family head-to-head. Wouldn’t have happened if I’d been there, let me tell you.)

GSE, I think you have blown a gaping, great hole in my idyll. Do you mean Spalding is not nice? And even the areas nearby? This makes me think, along with its new reputation as a flat, swinging hotspot, that I should have located my idyll in the south-west – you know, Dorset, Somerset, Devon – but I though I was being original. That’ll learn me.

Tim, bad luck. But, in spite of the dodgy belly, I think your life is probably almost as idyllic, in a pink-gin, gymkhana, white-linen kind of way as my formerly-Lincolnshire but now South-West-of-England idyll. Do you spend a great deal of your days sitting in heavy, leather furniture, puffing on cigars and with the beady eyes of venerable types’ portraits watching everything you do?

E@L, hello! And welcome! I think what Tim says below you is probably a far more succinct way of summing up my own views than I could ever have managed with my incoherent rambling. Even though I feel as confident as I’m ever likely to feel that God doesn’t exist, I’d rather not give a formalising name to my unbelief. Yes, like not having a word for not liking ketchup. (Thank you, Tim.) And now that people are being fast-tracked for honours, aren’t I in with an even better (and quicker) chance?

16. sylvia - January 5, 2009

Hello! Happy New Year! Am feeling very happy as I’ve only got one person in the house with me today and she’s self sufficient so that’s OK. It’s also my birthday, which I shouldn’t mention as I’m trying to forget it. All I want is to be left alone! Re atheism thing, the main advantage is that there isn’t a building that atheists can congregate and be atheists together. Still, as a low church cradle Catholic, I am toying with Moving On – it’s either the local coven or the Quakers. The Catholics will be pleased to get rid of me, and I’m not sure the coven and the quakers would want me. It’s a dilemma, isn’t it?
I know nothing about Lincolnshire.

17. BiB - January 5, 2009

Sylvia, Happy Birthday and New Year!

Forget Lincolnshire. Perfection’s going Dorset.

My ex’s family were Quakers who became Catholics. I say it’s about time someone – you – redressed the balance. And of course they’d be happy to have you.

Hmm, another one of these naughty commenters who doesn’t insert their own web address. Does it count as manipulation and suppression of free speech if I edit you in?

18. In Actual Fact - January 5, 2009

sylvia: A building for atheists to congregate in – try the Evolutionary Development Dept. of your local university for details… Can smell a bit funny and be full of odd-looking people, but better than my local Methodist chapel.

Mr. D: Anything from a hotel mini bar counts as definite evidence you should be off to see the people with the stairs, or steps, or whatever it is – don’t ask me – I’ve only been once and that was due to confusion with a TGFL class.

BiB: Well, it’s either the “new, healthy me” regime or else the doctor warned me when that if I drank alcohol with the new medication, my genitals would shrivel up and fall off and I might have some minor ‘tummy troubles’. Obviously, loss of the (already) shrivelled genitalia would’t cause much change in body appearance, but I only had aniseed flavoured medicine against ‘tummy troubles’ and it wasn’t worth the risk of having to eat something that tasted of liquorice.
My devious, if ill-thought-out plan was to offer my sober driving skills to part-goers on Christmas and New Year’s Eve etc. What actually happens is that they spend the entire evening buying you sodding orange juice as opposed to handing over cold, hard cash.
Gripe number two is that never before has Santa left me so much high-quality booze on Christmas morning. All I have to do is make it until tomorrow evening and then all my tremors and the weight of the world will disappear. Ahhh.

19. marshaklein - January 6, 2009

Just popped by to say I spent Sunday cleaning bedrooms PROPERLY (i.e. hefting heavy furniture about, vacuuming under beds, washing windows and skirting boards) while Brian sat around in his carpet slippers, smoking a pipe and reading the Sunday paper*. I couldn’t have felt more virtuous if I’d been wearing a floral cross-over pinny and a hairnet.

I am slightly worried that I seem to be living in the 1930s.

*Not really. Brian, I mean. I really did do all those other things. I expect to repeat them around 2012.

20. sylvia - January 6, 2009

It’s there now. It’s only because I can’t understand the technology. Thanks for your birthday wishes. Even at my advanced years, always welcome.

I will find out where the Quakers are. Only hope they don’t meet on a Thursday as that’s already taken up with the Wholemeal Mothers, Church Meetings, and meditation sessions followed by lots of cake. Oh but then if I join the Quakers I can skip the church meetings, but then I’d feel that I’m letting them down as I’m so indispensible.

Why did your ex outlaws join the Catholics from being Quakers? Did they give a reason?

21. redneckarts - January 12, 2009

wunnerful wunnerful wunnerful

22. redneckarts - January 12, 2009

just try drinking on snowshoes…

23. BiB - January 17, 2009

Redneck, I must say I do think you Canadian types all deserve whatever the Canadian equivalent of a knighthood – or do Canadians, being in the Commonwealth and having The Queen as head of state, have the same honours system? – for coping heroically, and I bet you’ve been heroic, with the temperatures of -2 billion that I’ve been spotting on the weather forecasts of late. But I think drinking should be done in the home until the mercury nudges back up over freezing.

Sylvia, here’s a copy: http://milenadellefortezze.blogspot.com/ Now keep it safe somewhere and paste it in whenever you need to. If you do it correctly once, I’m guessing your computer will keep it there for you safely for future occasions… Um, why did they convert? Not sure. It was a good few generations ago. Probably early 20th century. I’m guessing it was one patriarch’s own conviction. It’s largely dwindled again now, though I do know one person of my ex’s generation who’s had his children christened, though that might be his Polish wife’s influence.

Marsha, that is so virtuous that you do indeed deserve a Victoria Cross – or wouldn’t one of those be appropriate under the circumstances? I am rubbish with my honours. Might a Banbury Cross be nicer? Or a Gerrards Cross? – and an Order of Lenin – I’ve got the Russian on the case – for your efforts. Luckily, our furniture all comes from IKEA (or is stuff we’ve found on the street or which we bought off the previous tenant over 7 years ago) so can be pushed out of the way with a little finger and we don’t have any carpet. And there’s only one bed in the whole house and underneath it is jam-packed with things the Russian has amassed. But windows and skirting-boards. NO-ONE cleans those! Though there is a rather long-term piece of bird-poo on the outside of our kitchen window and I might go ballistic on that before the millennium’s out.

IAF, well, that is a very good reason for not drinking and your boozeless Calvary is probably nothing but a dim memory by now and I’m sure you’ve laid waste, in a sensible way, to all that good stuff you got for Christmas. And genitals are for life, not just for Christmas, so you really did the right thing going without… But Staffordshire! Methodism! Didn’t something super important happen in a place called Mow Cop?

24. helena - January 24, 2009

2 hours – but I’m a (lapsed) catholic…

25. BiB - January 26, 2009

Helena, I hope that my virtue-gap will be as quick as yours very soon indeed. Even if I am flirting with having another few weeks off the evil booze. Today I am bunking off work and I think I’m already planning a little tipple with this evening’s dinner. Hooray!

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