…but it seems that it – or, at least, the trappings of unearned privilege emanating from some long-lost royal arse-licking in the dim and distant recesses of history – can buy you selfishness; all the privacy you could ever greedily desire; sack-loads of solipsism; and the right to stick two very large, land-owning (probably silk-gloved) fingers up at the local peasantry.
I may be the concrete epitome of irony, being an anti‑social Socialist – but I’m sure that if I owned what has been described as “the perfect Tudor mansion”, I would not be so downright impertinent, miserly, covetous and inconsiderate as to keep it to myself: not only barring public visitation (along with Castle Ashby – whose gardens, though, you can enter, for a fee… (I wonder how much the Council Tax is on that second home?)); but ensuring that my property (“It’s all mine – mwa-ha-ha…!”) can only be glimpsed, hazily, from a great distance; and that the stinking, pestilential breath and pervasive body odours of the lower classes cannot be blown within shooting distance by the prevailing breezes. (I wonder if they also require some sort of licence to pass by…?)
Normally, of course, in response to such discourtesy, I would write an open letter, beginning something like this…
Dear Spenny – do you mind if I call you Spenny? (I don’t, of course. And you can call me whatever you want.) You have to earn respect around the Bard’s meagre land-ownings; and you have, so far, in my limited experience, done exactly the opposite…
…but I am sure that my missive would be treated – if not ignored – with the same narcissistic attitude that helped compose the above supercilious sign: which – translated from toffspeak (for the hard of understanding; and those who think that the hierarchies of class and money are there to be envied, and provide society with meaning and structure…) – reads, of course: “Fuck off, proles – and don’t dare cast your bubonic blights on – or anywhere near – my property again! (How dare you be so disrespectful towards your betters?)”
So what has prompted this vitriol, you may ask (or not – it is a little obvious…). Well, continuing to do my bit for the Rambler’s Big Pathwatch, I decided not to visit the windmill, directly, earlier today, as I would normally, but take the footpath around the hill – a route (mostly) new to me – that brings you down straight to Compton Wynyates church. I was then intending to head back along the level Shipston road, having passed the remains of Chelmscote, and past the entrance to Lower Compton Farm; having expounded all my cripple’s finite (and meagre) energy resources surmounting Windmill Hill’s (to me) forbidding slopes.
I had studied the OS map, beforehand, of course – noticing that the marked right-of-way stopped a mere gnat’s dick in distance from the church: which I foolishly, not appreciating my low rank (both meanings) in society, had assumed would have permissive access – due to its historical and community interest and value (not to mention proximity to the road) – and from both directions. (I don’t believe in any god, of course: but the local, supposedly-Christian one obviously only belongs to those with inherited titles – and all that stuff about mammon, charity, and brotherhood is mere cant…. What would Jesus say?!) I also could not imagine – brainless wazzock that I am – that a footpath this long, and leading so close to the public highway, would be a lordly cul-de-sac. But, like the somewhat clumsily‑revamped windmill, it seems its true purpose is as a giant garden ornament for Stalag Compton: on display solely for those with giant opinions of themselves, and Elizabethan leaded-window views. (The house apparently dates back to the time of Edward IV… – but I somehow feel I should be referencing Henry VIII: although, for the life of me, I really can’t think why….)
I may be misinterpreting the message I received (I’m only a northern clodhopper, after all; with proud, deep roots in the well-tilled soil of the working class): but it’s as if we plebeians are supposed to catch a glance of the great Mr Compton’s massive, er, pile; be stunningly impressed; tug our forelocks; and then mount a retreat, backwards, up the steep slopes between Windmill and Lady Elizabeth’s Hills. What I actually did was curse his name very loudly, and vulgarly, as I did so, until I ran out of breath (and the effects of my morphine and salbutamol sulphates had faded…), and had to rest awhile on the stile at the top of the retraced climb – interspersing my oaths with cries of “Vive la révolution!” as well as lambasting the whole principle (no, that can’t be the right word…) of hereditary peerages.
I also considered the Scottish people even more blessed – with their unfettered right to roam their nigh-paradisaic landscape – and temporarily toyed with the idea of pretending I couldn’t read (being thick and from Lancashire, like, tha noes; ferrets; pikelets; dripping; clogs; mills…); before realizing that someone who relies on a walking stick really shouldn’t be attempting to scale a gate (a rude message in itself) much higher than his own head; and wondering how much being pelted with both barrels in the buttocks actually hurts….
The Yahoo, of course, here, isn’t me. It is Spencer Compton, 7th Marquess of Northampton, himself – whose coat of arms, one assumes, is representative of the forces that would have been amassed against my disabled self, should I have trespassed one ermine millimetre onto his privileged, newly-mown turf. (Most of us have a Flymo. This man actually has a man with a shiny tractor…! Crivens!)
It is all very well and good for the latest Tysoe & District Record to fawn, desirously, in this man’s general direction – but not only does the windmill not look “once again as it should” (someone needs glasses…!); neither should the village be owing him “a great thank you” – not until he treats us all as the equal human beings we are; and allows us passage through what rightfully should be ours.
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…”.