It’s immoral, dear.

This was Mother Mary Austen’s catchphrase. Oh, how we laughed at her. One of the most ancient of nuns in my convent school, she was big, ungainly and ripe for teasing at all times. Her innocence was immense. She had entered the convent before the first world war, and once admitted to us she had never been in a car. She used to ask us things about the world outside (it was an enclosed order in the strictest sense of the word – she had never been outside the convent gates after entering) the most memorable question being “Did we still put straw on the cobbles to deaden the noise of the horses after someone had died?” After we had looked askance at her, actually gaping open mouthed at such a weird question, she then explained the customs of her day – her nineteenth century day, I suppose.

I smile at the the thought now, but actually she had a fearsome intellect and was an excellent teacher. She answered all questions and liked a bit of discussion. She had a great sense of humour (provided she understood the joke, of course. She made lots of her own, though.) She prepared me and three other girls for our first communion – which we made late, at the age of eleven, and our confirmation two years later. This course of instruction was very long and very thorough. But also very interesting and very intellectual. She explained the reasoning behind every rule, every tradition, every part of the Mass. This was all pre Vatican Two, so we had to learn quite a lot of church Latin too – but the important thing was she wanted us to understand, and not just to learn things off by heart. And for this especially I appreciate her now.

But, oh, how we laughed. She spoke with a lisp and so every time she prayed with us in class – (Spray for us!) we giggled. She was our form teacher when we were thirteen. Puberty was attacking us from all sides and so were the swinging sixties. Feminism. Bra burning. Free love. Revolutions in Paris and Prague yet to come. But we were ready. Poor Mother Mary Austen was not.

She wanted to be fair and to educate us. She had a question box into which we poured questions designed to embarrass her and provide us with merriment. She refused to be embarrassed, (she was cleverer than we thought!) and always, always answered to the best of her ability. I think one of the first posts I ever wrote was about these questions.

She had of course a very well developed sense of right and wrong. Of morality in fact. and was quick to point out if she thought any behaviour was in fact immoral. Hence her refrain,”It’s immoral, dear.” And that is why am I thinking about her today.

I have been listening to the news despite myself – it is really too depressing to think that over 100 Members of Parliament, many of whom criticised Boris Johnson for his lack of honesty, decency and commitment, are now thinking that he may be entrusted again to run the country for the good of its citizens. A man who changes his mind like a taxi turns on a tanner, who has no scruples about playing to the gallery, who has no track record of altruism, or caring for the common good.

Yes, he has personality, and is probably very entertaining to be with – but is that the way to lead a nation? Yes, he is extremely clever and intelligent – I used to enjoy reading his journalism – but I knew that was an esoteric pleasure. I did not expect his flights of fancy, his exaggerations and extended metaphors to become part of my day to day life. In his journalism he showed that he preferred to show off his wit even to the detriment of the people he was writing about. In government he preferred to pursue the dandelion seed of the moment to the detriment of the actual cause he was pursuing. His oratory – hardly Churchillian – respectable enough. But I don’t want empty rhetoric. Speechwriting is a skill – and other people can do that for you if necessary – I want someone who has ideas that they can formulate and put into action. Someone who will listen and evaluate. Then plan solutions.

But all our present contenders seem to want is to stay in power by fair means or foul.

And that is immoral, dear.

5 comments on “It’s immoral, dear.

  1. I, too, went to a convent.
    Not as strict as the one you went to.
    Had a couple of nuns that scared the hell out of me.
    My Stepdad likes Boris.
    I just think he needs a new barber.


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