Friday 4 January 2019

When Britain Fell

Dear Albion Awakening Readers,

This, as I wrote last Sunday, is my final post for this blog. And I'm writing it from the future - 7.15 am on Wednesday November 20th 2019. A lot has happened since that last Sunday of 2018. Britain has fallen for a start. It was conquered a month ago and officially ceased to exist last week. French, Russian and American forces occupy vast tracts of the country. The areas outside their control (including my current location on the North Wales coast) are wild and lawless, but also abuzz with a sense of possibility and renewal which did not, it has to be said, exist anywhere in the former UK before the upheavals of September and October.

No-one saw it coming. We were preoccupied all summer long with Brexit and King Charles's coronation. Rumour has it that Charles insisted on a quick investiture so he could take charge of Brexit and bring an end to the uncertainty and division that had so weakened the body politic. Speculation abounded as to his intentions but instantly became yesterday's news when Russia and Turkey attacked Europe on September 3rd in a pincer movement that caught us all cold.

The Russians, as far as I can tell with the internet being so unreliable, have borne the brunt of the fighting thus far. They swept through the Baltic states in seven days but had a torrid time in Poland in a three week campaign that has cost something like 20,000 Polish and Russian lives. Even now, the country is far from subdued, but the Kremlin's goal was simply to reach Germany - nothing more than that. Once the Russians set foot on German soil, Berlin surrendered straightaway, as Vladimir Putin had hoped, and now his forces are massing on the French border. Two weeks ago Russian troops occupied Scandinavia, and last week news came through that Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic had also fallen. So things are going very well for President Putin. It only remains to be seen whether he'll choose to consolidate his gains or press on towards Paris.

The Turks have played a smaller but no less significant role. They annexed a handful of Greek islands and used them as bases to attack Italy, seizing on the country's political and economic woes and fully occupying the peninsula after a month's pretty straightforward fighting. They too are now threatening France, and the world is currently holding its breath, watching for President Macron's next step.

I say 'next step' because Macron's first step astounded everyone. Rather than meet the threat head on as the Poles had done or seek immediate terms like the Germans, Macron had withdrawn France's military presence in Africa, then invaded Britain, capturing London in just three weeks. He is now busy integrating the former UK's armed forces into his new EU Army and acquiring ownership of our nuclear arsenal.

It's been a shocking defeat. Stunning and brutal. We were outclassed, outgunned and outmanoeuvred in every department. Years of spending cuts and political correctness had clearly knocked the stuffing out of Britain's military capability far more than anyone, apart from a few professional Cassandras, had imagined. The French, as a character points out in Michel Houellebecq's Submission (2015), have never made that mistake. No matter which President occupies the Élysée Palace, they have never compromised or cut corners on their armed forces. And that, in the last analysis, was the difference between the two nations in the Second Battle of Britain.

The Royal Family had declined President Trump's offer of refuge and had been taken captive by the French. They're being held, it's said, in a château just outside Grenoble. So at least we've some idea of where they are, unlike Pope Francis, who similarly refused to leave Rome and was dragged off by the Turks. No-one knows where he is or whether he's alive or dead. As a Catholic, that's been the most disquieting thing for me in all this. I'm fortunate, however, in that I don't have immediate family to worry about. My wife and children are safe in Australia, while my Mum - who lives in Manchester - is in the American Zone, which is probably the best (or least worst) place to be right now.

There's a Russian Zone as well, and all these spheres of rival influence have come about since the fall of London. The French have little authority as yet outside the South East. In the Midlands and the North a motley crew of gangsters, madmen, religious fundamentalists and self-styled warlords have scrambled to fill the vacuum. An opportunistic Russian flotilla recently took advantage of the chaos, sailing up the Humber and occupying Hull, York and Leeds. And that's what's finally goaded President Trump into action. Within days Ireland had become an American protectorate and shortly afterwards both Liverpool and Manchester were swarming with GIs.

It's a dreadful situation in short and it's been well-nigh impossible to know what to do and where to turn. But I'm here in Bangor at Neuadd William Blake (William Blake House) because of one name that's kept cropping up for me these past few weeks. Not a name you'd expect to hear in this context. Not a name you'd associate with resistance or national revival. I'm talking about Simon Hennessy, the ex-footballer. Let me fill you in on his cv if you're unfamiliar with the name.

In a peripatetic career, Hennessy decorated the midfield for Aston Villa, Leicester City, Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, Bournemouth and Sunderland. He had a few other clubs as well and only stopped playing ten years ago when he was 41. He was a gifted, mercurial playmaker, with the vision of Glenn Hoddle, so they said, and the touch of Paul Scholes. He was a fine header of the ball too, I remember, but like many before him he squandered the best of himself in bookies, bars and sub-standard nightclubs. He had a fair old temper too and collected more than a few red cards on his Odyssey through English football.

I never held any of that against him though. I always liked Hennessy, as a player and a man. He was moody and intense, for sure, but football for him was an art and his post-match interviews made wonderful watching - for his passion, sincerity, poetic flourishes, and the personal warmth he exuded. I had the distinct sense of a man of depth and sensitivity looking in the wrong places for a meaning and significance which he desperately wanted and needed but which for some reason had so far eluded him.

It's fair to say, given all this, that Hennessy never became the player he could have been. He only played for England twice, for instance, but he enjoyed a memorable career nonetheless. He was hardly ever injured, played over 800 league games, and was widely respected for his thought-provoking insights into the game. He was studying for his UEFA coaching badges when he had some kind of religious experience on St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. I forget the details now but the papers were full of it at the time, around 2010/11. They called him the 'new David Icke', but the story quickly faded as Hennessy gave up football altogether and trained to become a Catholic priest. But that had gone wrong too, just a few months ago, in a blazing row with the Bishop of Salford over Hennessy's insistence on quoting from Dion Fortune's The Magical Battle of Britain in his sermons. In typical Hennessy fashion things had escalated very quickly as he turned the air blue in front of the Bishop and found himself banished, at least temporarily, from the priesthood.

Such was the character and history of the man who people, for some reason, kept talking to me about. 'Hennessy's the only one with any style', muttered the woman rooting for food in the bins. 'Hennessy has to take over', said the old man walking his dog on the beach. 'Hennessy can set this whole bloody country right,' roared the beggar with the red hair and beard in Conwy. 'He's got balls, he's got soul. If he gets enough followers he'll turn the whole f****** shambles on its head.'

So that's how I came to be here. I'm due to fly to Australia in a couple of weeks and I've been looking forward to it, but I couldn't possibly leave without seeing what all the fuss is about. I'm lucky too that Hennessy's base - overlooking Anglesey and the Menai Straits - is very close to where I live. So yes, here I am. I heard him speak yesterday evening, stayed the night, and am writing this over coffee the next morning. I've no idea what I'm going to do next - whether I'll stay or go - but let me at least 'set my lands in order' as Eliot says in The Wasteland and make a start on the future, whatever that may be, by telling you what transpired last night and this morning.

Neuadd William Blake is an ivy-clad Victorian mansion perched high on a hill above a spectacularly rocky cliff-face. It was almost dark when I got here, but lights blazed in the windows and I had a good feeling about the place straightaway. I hadn't intended to stay over, I could happily have slept in the car, but Hennessy's staff offered me a room 'on the house' and for as long as I wanted, and I was so taken aback that I immediately accepted. His workers, both men and women, wore royal blue shirts and trousers with white collars and cuffs. Leicester City colours, I thought, and that was fitting as Leicester was Hennessy's home town and it was there that he enjoyed his finest years as a player in the mid-90s.

The house has a calm, contemplative feel. The carpet is orange and the wallpaper a soft, subtle silver. There are lots of icons on the walls - images of saints, kings and queens. All the saints I've seen so far have been British or Irish, such as Cuthbert, Bridgid, Hilda and Kevin. There are several monarchs I'm familiar with too - Alfred the Great, Athelstan, Harold, Charles I, etc - but also many others I've never heard of - Mark V, Joseph the Noble, Sophia I, and more.

The house feels much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. The corridors are long, with numerous staircases leading up and down at various points, and a wealth of spacious, lamp-lit chambers lined with tapestries and books. Hennessy addressed us in the Great Hall. There were about forty or fifty of us present. Ordinary working men and women mainly. A couple of professorial types. A smattering of teenagers. One or two old punks. A log fire leapt and crackled in the hearth. After supper (roast turkey with veg), Hennessy's staff took the tables away and we gathered our chairs in a loose horseshoe shape around a candlelit table draped with cloth of gold.

Hennessy stood between the table and the hearth. Behind him, on the wall, stretched a huge banner - a red dragon on a gold background.

The long haired will o' the wisp of football yore, by the way, is long gone now. Hennessy has filled out considerably and has short brown hair and a stubbly grey-flecked beard. Last night, interestingly, he was wearing the same blue and white uniform as his staff. I also saw a look of firmness and resolve in those famous green eyes that made me wonder if his spat with the Bishop had been less a case of him throwing his toys out of the pram and more to do with a reluctance to suffer fools gladly.

He spoke for about an hour. Gestures were minimal but there was eye contact aplenty. His tone was warm and eager. It felt like he was addressing me personally, but I'm sure we all felt like that. I remember every word he said. I don't have space or time to record it all here, but I'll do my best to paraphrase. What he said went something like this:

"When the Angel of this Island appeared to me on St. Michael's Mount he showed me all these disasters which have now befallen our land. But I also saw - like a spark of gold on a field of black - how this selfsame ignominy can and will become the seedbed for a radical transformation which will restore the holy realm of Logres and rouse and inspire the world.

"For it was from Great Britain that the darkness grew and spread and engulfed the whole Earth. Four centuries of mercantilism and shrunken vision have banished God, the saints and angels and the whole supernatural order from our lives. We no longer feel or sense the presence of a spiritually-charged universe. We have traded the deep and holy mystery of the human person to those who hate the numinous and fight against profundity - economists, sociologists, media men and bureaucrats. Our imaginations have wound down to nought and we are paying the price now for our spiritual blindness. It is right and just that we do so.

"That is only half the story, however, and not the most important half at that. Because the truth, brothers and sisters, is that Logres never disappeared, it was just that our eyes became too obtuse to see it. For there have been many kings and queens of Logres since that dark day at Camlann - an unbroken chain - some names known to history and others not. Once established by Arthur and Merlin, the Holy Kingdom could never cease to exist, and now that the wheel of involution has run its course, men and women will start to perceive it again. From Albion's shores it will shine out like flame, in compensation for the centuries of constriction, and restore all that is high, noble and pure in all corners of the Earth.

"The word, my friends, is spreading about the seeds we are planting here at Neuadd William Blake. Personnel and equipment are arriving every night, but that again is not the most important element. The most tremendous fact, as most of you know, is that right beneath our feet, at the bottom of this very house, Arthur and his Companions lie sleeping, waiting for the signal to rise and retake the land.

"This Great Hall, it seems to me looking about, is around a quarter full tonight. When the British start to really see, when they feel drawn to this place, when there is standing room only in this room, that is when Arthur and his men will rise up and the radiant dawn of renewal shine forth upon this land. That day, brethren, is close at hand. Until then, apart from those who have arrived tonight, please continue in your roles, some remaining here to prepare, others going into the world to announce the good news of liberation - a liberation which will be so much more than the expulsion of foreign powers, a liberation to unchain and unleash those aspects of our national life which have been kept captive so long - emotional, mental, imaginative, spiritual - everything that William Blake, the patron of this house, fought for in his words, pictures and deeds."

It was stupendous stuff - a speech for the ages - met with cheers and raucous applause. I appreciate, however, that for some of you reading this on a screen Hennessy's words will come over as delusional nonsense or the ramblings of one grown soft in the head through too much booze or the repeated heading of a football. You had to be there, I guess. But I was won over like the others, and I'm not easily swayed by purple prose and standing ovations. As with his TV interviews back in the day I was touched by Hennessy's warmth and sincerity, but also by his audacity - the sheer chutzpah of it - in taking this national crisis and making something deep and mythic and metaphysical out of it. The woman rooting in the bin, the old man walking his dog, and the beggar with the wild red hair and beard were all spot on, I saw. They had all seen in him the one thing needed to meet and match the crushing gravity of national collapse. Hennessy isn't trying to fight fire with fire like the Poles, you see. Nor does he want to make a quick peace like the Germans and pretend the conquest never happened. He's after something deeper and more far-reaching. What he's offering is a national rebirth - a return to the source - at the most primal, archaic levels of our being. He's a priest after all, not a politician, and a sportsman to boot, playing with the great British archetypes - Arthur, Albion and Logres - as twenty years ago I saw him ping forty yard passes around Old Trafford, silencing the crowd and seizing the game by the scruff of the neck. He's like a more creative version of Donald Trump. In a world where rational argument has disintegrated into jargon and post-modern babble, Hennessy bypasses all that and engages with the roots of British consciousness. He's connecting with hearts and minds and firing up imaginations, giving people the mythic food they need and have been starved of for so long. He's doing it in a positive and constructive manner too. Nothing dark and sinister like the Nazis. The future, my intuition tells me, could be his if he continues in this vein.

I still have one or two doubts, however. I wasn't convinced, for instance, by the background noise during his speech of vehicles parking up outside and feet stamping on gravel. It seemed a bit staged and could easily have been a recording designed to persuade us that troops are mustering at Neuadd William Blake.

I wanted to go to my room and have a good think about it, but beer and wine had appeared and people were mingling merrily in the Hall. It was all very pleasant and convivial. Reassuringly old-school in many ways. A few of the 'brethren' were smoking and Hennessy himself had a bottle of Moretti in his hand. So in some ways at least, he was still the bon viveur of old!

I didn't get chance to speak to him and I disappeared after twenty minutes and went back upstairs. I lay on the bed and began to reflect but must have fallen asleep straightaway. When I opened my eyes the room looked and felt very different and I knew that we were deep into the night, possibly not far from dawn. A bell tinkled faintly somewhere, high up and far off. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep but it was like the bell  - quiet but insistent - wouldn't allow me. I felt compelled to find out where it was coming from. So I got up, opened the door and looked along the corridor to the right. A gentle golden light was shining on the carpet at the far end. I walked down and saw a door wide open on the left. The light shone on a spiral stone staircase leading up. The bell carried on chiming, directly above my head now.

I started to climb. The bell stopped ringing but the light grew stronger, until I stepped out a few minutes later into a small stone chapel with two thick candles burning on the altar and a large picture on the wall behind it which I couldn't see. There was a small window-niche to my right and a candle glowed there too, but even then it was still too dark for me to see the image clearly. I could make out blocks and shapes of green and white and gold, but nothing more distinct than that.

There were no pews, just little kneeling boards dotted around the floor. That was when I saw Hennessy, kneeling at the front and gazing at the altar and the painting. It was strange that I hadn't seen him before. He was certainly hard to miss, dressed in a dazzling white robe - probably the brightest thing in the room - with what looked like a golden circlet around his head. Part of me wanted to go back down and leave him to his prayers, but the atmosphere in the chapel was so still and the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below so refreshing that I took one of the kneeling boards and knelt down on it at the back of the chapel.

After a while, Hennessy stood up, bowed low towards the altar, turned around and walked slowly towards me. He had a purple cross sewn onto the front of his robe, and I thought he was about to say something profound, but all he said was, 'Remember to keep the candles burning. Don't blow them out. Not even when dawn comes.'
'Yes,' I replied. 'Of course.'
'Thank you,' he said.
His eyes sparkled for a moment in the half-light, then he was past me and gone, out of the room and down the stairs.

I stayed where I was for a long time. I had a lot to think about. Purple, white and gold, I reflected, are royal colours. Hennessy clearly believes he's some kind of king - the current representative, no doubt, of that 'unbroken chain' of kings and queens of Logres he referred to last night. But how can I evaluate such a belief? What does believing such a thing signify? There are three possibilities as I see it: either Hennessy is mad, bad, or telling the truth. He's definitely not a bad man. But he could easily be mad. Almost certainly, some would say. But deep down, you know, I have to say I don't think so. I've developed quite an effective 'bullshit detector' for fantasists and would-be gurus over the years, and even though I've no empirical evidence I sense some level of truth and integrity to what's happening at Neuadd William Blake. But what if that's just wishful thinking on my part? Or symptoms of trauma triggered by the events of the past three months? Who can say? But it's important that I decide on a course of action quickly. There are people depending on me, on the other side of the world and elsewhere in the country. I haven't been given a 'role' yet either. Maybe that will become clear over breakfast. I will have to wait and see. Not long to go now.

Gradually the chapel grew brighter and the seagulls started to squawk and squabble outside. I could see the picture on the wall at last. It was an icon, a depiction of the holy women arriving at the tomb and the angel telling them that Christ has risen and gone before them into Galilee. It set me thinking about the word 'resurrection' and what that might mean in an individual and a national context. I meditated too on all those weighty words beginning with 'r' - restoration, renewal, renaissance, reanimation, rejuvenation, rebirth - which I realise I have used so often in these Albion Awakening posts these past two and a half years.

The smell of coffee roasting downstairs broke the spell. I stood up, bowed low as Hennessy had done, descended the staircase, took my IPad from my room, ordered a macchiato from the little espresso bar in the drawing room and sat down to write this piece.

And there's the bell for breakfast! Time to add my pictures, press 'publish' and walk forward into the future, knowing that Christ, as in the icon upstairs, has gone before me and before us all into Galillee, to Jerusalem and Rome, and out around the globe - in times of war and times of peace, in times of grief and times of joy - Urbi et Orbi - to the City and the World.

Thanks again and all the very best to each and every one of you for 2019 and all the years ahead,



Francis Berger said...

What a wild ride that post was!

Sad to see you leaving Albion Awakening, but wish you the best, John. Does/will your work appear anywhere else?

Francis Berger said...

Please disregard my previous question; I found the info on Bruce Charlton's site.

Cheers. Look forward to reading your new blog.