Wednesday, 18 November 2015

How the bravery of a French SWAT team member reminded me of Noël Coward's, "Lie in the dark and listen"

Strange how the mind works, sometimes. As a French SWAT team initially approached the Bataclan Theatre in the early hours of Saturday morning, the murderers inside started firing on them. The police hurriedly retreated (as you would) - but there was one little bloke in front who, after initially retreating a few paces, promptly edged forwards again. And again. Nobody in that team was anything but heroic, but the chap in front was something else - a bit mad, maybe, but also magnificent. Watch him and his colleagues in action here:


I promise never again to employ the phrase "cheese-eating surrender-monkey" about the French in any way, shape or form. Scout's honneur.

That video reminded me of a quote often misattributed to George Orwell (probably because he despised the pacifists of what he dismissed as "the pansy left" and said similar things):
"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
Whoever said it, it's magnificent. Recalling that quote brought to mind a poem by Noël Coward about British pilots in WWII. Coward was (to use the argot of his era) a "pansy" - but he was anything but a pacifist, and he certainly wasn't a leftist: rather, he was a rabidly patriotic King & Country monarchist conservative who spent the early war years working on behalf of the Secret Service, persuading the American public and  its politicians to join the fight (while, inevitably, being attacked in the press for spending too much time abroad), and who, much to his disappointment, was later ordered by Churchill himself to concentrate on entertaining his countrymen - "Go and sing to them when the guns are firing – that's your job!"

Some members of the reserved occupations objected to Coward's 1944 poem, "Lie in the dark and listen" - not unreasonably. But I suspect its simmering anger was the result of his own frustration at not being allowed to "do more" for the war effort. The reference to "soft hysterical little actors" might be a piece of self-flagellation - or maybe (like most of us these days) he had simply had a bellyful of left-wing thespians running the country down while striking compassionate postures. Judge for yourselves:
It’s clear tonight so they’re flying high
Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps
Riding the icy, moonlit sky
Men, machinery, bombs and maps
Altimeters and guns and charts
Coffee, sandwiches, fleece-lined boots
Bones and muscles and minds and hearts
English saplings with English roots
Deep in the earth they’ve left below
Lie in the dark and let them go
Lie in the dark and listen.
Lie in the dark and listen
They’re going over in waves and waves
High above villages, hills and streams
Country churches and little graves
And little citizens’ worried dreams
Very soon they’ll have reached the sea
And far below them will lie the bays
And cliffs and sands where they used to be
Taken for summer holidays
Lie in the dark and let them go
Theirs is a world we’ll never know
Lie in the dark and listen.
Lie in the dark and listen
City magnates and steel contractors
Factory workers and politicians
Soft hysterical little actors
Ballet dancers, reserved musicians
Safe in your warm civilian beds
Count your profits and count your sheep
Life is passing over your heads
Just turn over and try to sleep
Lie in the dark and let them go
There’s one debt you’ll forever owe
Lie in the dark and listen.
I was against bombing Assad's forces in Syria - not because I don't think he's a murderous shit, but because I doubted the ability of America, Britain and France to engineer the take-over of the country by "moderates"(who seem to be a bit thin on the ground in that neck of the woods), and because "regime change" never seems to work out that spiffingly in the Middle East, and because I doubted if we really knew exactly what was waiting in the Syrian wings. Well, now we know exactly what was waiting in the wings - pure, unmitigated, blood-soaked evil, intent on our destruction. Could be time to send in the rough men - if the Conservatives' haven't sacked them all by now, and as long as their remit is simply to destroy the enemy, rather than to impose some useless puppet regime, or to establish "democracy" (which I'm fond of, but which has no roots in Arabia). Anyway, I'm glad it's not my decision.


  1. "You ever wonder if you're a bad man, Rust?"
    "No I don't wonder, Marty. The world needs bad men. They keep other bad men away from the door."
    True Detective [HBO].

  2. Saint Cloud University27 December 2015 at 10:56

    "It's a mess, ain't it Sheriff?"

    "Well, if it ain't it'll do till the mess gets here."