I took this picture a few hundred yards from my home in St Andrews. The cliff faces onto the North Sea. Along the top run the Scores which overlook St Andrews Bay. The water at the bottom of the cliff is known as Witches Lake. Early in the seventeenth century, if someone was suspected of practising witchcraft, she would have her thumbs and big toes tied together and she would be thrown off the cliff into Witches Lake. If she drowned, she was innocent and presumably her soul would ascend to Heaven. If she survived, she was a witch and she would be punished appropriately, usually by being burned at the stake. One year in the nineteenth century, following a storm, human bones were found washed up on a nearby beach.
Until today, I used to spend a few moments each day contragulating myself and my fellow Westerners that between then and now, our ancestors had had these wonderful ideas that became known as the Enlightenment, so that anyone who dares to be different, or questions the prevailing wisdom of the rest of society, can sleep soundly in his bed, secure in the knowledge that the idolator, the heretic and the blasphemer has a right to be that way and that if his hysterical neighbours choose to persecute him for his eccentricities, then it is his neighbours and not he who are the criminals and will receive the punishment of the law. So, every now and then I would find myself shaking my head in sadness at the occasional news story from the Middle East that some ayatollah
has called on his followers to execute an author
for writing a book
, or that Danes are being threatened
because a cartoonist has drawn a cartoon.
But occasionally one encounters something that shakes one's worldview to its very foundations. And so it is tonight that I come home from the pub, very slightly drunk, switch on the broadband and find that Natalie Solent
, Natalie Solent
, the very priestess of Enlightenment Blogging, the one who once complimented
me on the soundness of my adherence to Enlightenment values, has deigned to commit the most unspeakable of heresies
that a patriotic Briton could ever utter. Now I realise that the Muslims and our earlier ancestors had it right. If anyone would care to arrest this foul woman and bring her to St. Andrews, I will be first in the queue to push her into Witches Lake.
Your attempts to invoke the Gruneisen gambit will not work, Natalie.Bethnal Green
Get out of that one, if you can. I have you cornered.
Your move.Footnote for pedants
: I reserve the right to correct spelling and grammar mistakes once I have sobered up.Footnote for the weak of faith
: Of course Mornington Crescent has rules. I once spent an evening explaining them to my father. A cursory glance here
should make them clear.Footnote for ignorant Yanks
: You're just not going to understand this. Get over it.Footnote for fanatics
: I reserve the right to delete this post on receipt of any death threats.