Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Quizzing at 'The Jolly Brew'

My friend Wendy and I know A LOT about much that would be of little interest to most people, and were confidant enough to put our knowledge to the test at the Monday Night Quiz at The Jolly Brewmaster, which is a nice little pub off the Bath Road in Cheltenham.  Sometimes we came first, usually when we'd managed to dredge up from somewhere the winner of the Belgian Grand Prix in 1985, or the identity of the current possessor-Continent of the Ryder Cup.

History and Literature we aced, Geography we were about as good as anyone else at, it was always Sport that proved our Achilles Heel. (Yes, we know our Greek Mythology too.) However, it was a lot of fun, and for a while there, we were the team to beat. (A very short while, I add, in the interests of veracity.)

Between sipping our wine, adressing the sartorial short-comings of our fellow drinkers, and putting the world to rights, Wendy and I would find a few minutes to be thankful.

I suppose being thankful is more usually considered to be an activity reserved for churches. Nevertheless, we made time for it because we were in the mood, and secular gratitude is as good for you as the sacred kind. I expect you are wondering what we were grateful FOR, and as you have borne patientky with me this far, I am going to get all serious on you and let you know. 

We were thankful that we live in a society where we, two women could walk safely in the streets at night, sit down in a pub and compete in an intellectual exercise on equal terms with men. We were grateful for the past struggles of others that meant that we had grown up without the fear of illness or hunger. We were indebted too, for safe childbirth and flushing toilets, and a thousand other things of greater or lesser importance in the wider scheme of things. 

We didn't always like the government, but appreciated the fact that it wasn't going to throw us into prison for what we thought. We are indifferently religious, on aggragate, and celebrated the fact that we didn't have to conform to anybody else's notions of right of wrong, and did not have someone else's beliefs and practises foisted on us if we chose to ignore them. 

I guess History (with a capital H) teaches us to take a longer view. Two hundred years ago, our lives would have been very different. After all, it's not so long ago that women were chattels, no more than wombs handed on from father to husband with an unthinking disregard for individual rights.

If I try to carry on, I shall get flustered, and lose sight of any point. I'm trying to make, which is anyway, made better by Stephen Pinker. Things were bad, and in many places still are, but there IS an evolution in human consciousness that is making them better. 

Commonplace injusticies of the past are unthinkable now.  At least here, in England, today. Our British history teaches that subject peoples who do not own even themselves can, with courage, tenacity and perseverance,  win through to freedom. The proof of it is here: two free, independent-minded, feisty women sitting in a pub with a glass of wine pitting their fading wits against others on equal terms, and, occasionally, winning. 

Stephen Pinker:


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