Let's skip the introductions. I don't want to waste your time with small talk, chit-chat, pleasantries and prattle. I don't want to fill dead air with noise, like an amplifier leaking static. I don't want to drone on like a puffy, red-faced windbag in the corner of a golf club after drinking one too many gin and toni---
Obligatory shilling. This week, I wrote for the Spectator USA about how coronavirus will change the world.
I also wrote for paid subscribers to this platform about the “Angry Young Men" phenomenon. I don’t want to toot my own horn but if you’re not subscribed you’re missing out on cutting edge commentary about such hot button issues as:
A group of writers from the 1950s.
A libertarian “zine" author from the 1980s.
A communist sect from the 1990s.
So, do consider subscribing. You might not regret it.
A list of things I love about Poland. Last week I listed some things I miss about England, but said the list of things I love about Poland would be longer. Someone emailed to ask me what was on that list. Calling my bluff? On MY newsletter? Well, I'm down for a challenge. Let's take the people I love out if the equation because their Polishness is relatively incidental. Otherwise, I love my hometown, and how strange and characterful it is, and the woods and lakes in Silesia’s mine-scarred landscape, and the little pubs and cafés, and the grim, inspiring history, and how people’s initial reserve so often melts into friendliness when they know you mean well, and the beautiful architecture of Kraków, Toruń and Gdańsk, and the mountains, with their absurdly comfortable hostels, and the smoky little villages, and the patriotism, and the churches, and the way that candles light the graveyards on November 1st, and the pierogi, and the łazanki, and the barszcz, and the gołąbki, and the Tyskie, and the groups of old people who stand around gossiping, and the ambition of young people, and the poetry of Szymborska, Gajcy and Ginczanka, and the black humour, and the work of Krzystof Kieszlowski, and the weird little antique shops, and the shrines that dot the streets, and the winter snow, and the summer sun, and the fact that I have found a home here. I could go on, but you get the point.
The Polish Pope. Today marks a hundred years since the birth of Karol Wojtyła, who would become John Paul II. I wish I had written about this at length, but it is difficult to understate how much John Paul has meant to Poles. The Pope means a lot to people around the world, of course, but having one of their countrymen in this sacred post gave such pride and optimism to Poles as they suffered with the death throes of communism that you still find his image everywhere, in photographs, and paintings, and statues, and banners. I have said before that if an alien somehow arrived in Poland they would assume that he, not Francis, was the Pope.
A man all-round. I think some of us assume there is something unworldly about popes. Their devotion to faith, it is tempting to suppose, means they do not have much enthusiasm for what is more earthly about life. One thing that was impressive about John Paul II, though, was the range of his curiosity and ambition. He spoke a dozen languages, and wrote poems and plays. He was a hardy man, who worked in manual labour during the war, saved Jewish victims of the Holocaust and loved to hike and ski. One time in the Beskids, I scanned the photos on the wall of the hostel I was staying in and saw a photo of a warm-faced man looking across the mountains from a spot I had just left. He must have wanted to admire God's creation from all angles.
Cancer and corona. A Wired article reports on the appalling fall in referrals for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the UK. That might sound like a peculiar sentence. If this fall meant there was less cancer it would be a good thing. But as I put it in the headline of my article for Arc Digital: “cancer will not wait for coronavirus”. Estimates suggest that somewhere between 17,000 and 60,000 people will die because their treatment has been delayed. Some of them are scared about contracting the virus – which is understandable but misguided given the greater lethality of cancer – and some want to “protect the NHS” and not burden its staff, which suggests that the tremendous reverential treatment of the institution has led people to wildly overestimate how stretched its services have been. People dying at home while hospital beds lie empty is tragic and absurd.
A word of adveyece. Throughout the lockdown, between my writing and my day job, which has transitioned to online work, I have spent up to twelve hours a day peering at a screen, which has led to pounding headaches and sore, irritated eyes. Do you know what I mean? The feeling that someone has thrown a fistful of sand into your face. This article has been helpful, and if you are in the same position it might helpful for you as well.
Fake, ritual. At Carcinisation, an interesting post about the artificiality of martial arts.
Making dystopia. At the American Conservative, James Stevens Curl assaults modernism in architecture.
Thank you for reading,