Is Luton really so bad?

Luton voted Britain's worst town--BBC (via pointer from libby Miller)

I'm in Luton usually at least once a year. My closest family outside my two nuclear units are there: the Anas (mother's maiden name). Aunt Arit and my three cousins (Uncle Joe is in Nigeria serving as a state health commissioner). I love visiting them, and Lori and I both thought "hey, Luton isn't all that bad" when we read the article.

But then I had to pull my focus a bit back from the well-kept Ana household to remember what I could of the big picture. Seems I think as little as I can of the actual town of Luton. I'm either at chez Ana or in London (there's a very handy rail line straight from Luton to King's Cross or City or even Gatwick). If I press myself, it does occur to me that Luton gives the impression of drabness and accidie that never properly troubles me because I only spend a week or so at a time there, and it's usually a well-appointed and happy week.

Of course there are other towns listed as the ten worst of which I have fond memory, because I was visiting friends: Bath (Libby Miller, Damien Steer, Dan Brickley, etc.) and Nottingham (Jeni Tennison). I guess it takes a fair amount of residence before town ever grows into more than a shell around one's attention to particular people.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Aw naw, hell naw they didn't

OkayPlayer-hating on that Benedict papam habiendam

I'm sorry. I shouldn't propagate something bound to offend the Catholic population, but damn, I was rolling. I wonder. When Delia Smith cajoled drunkenly "Come on! Let's be having you", was she really prepared for what she'd get?

On the real, though. People talk about dude as if they expect his first Papal bull to be a consecration of the Shoah or something. You have to do a lot more than slap the hands of some frisky Latino Archbishops to get Sith Lord billing, and he did at least ditch Hitler's army, no? Give the man time.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Ils reviendront, ces Dieux que tu pleures toujours!
Le temps va ramener l'ordre des anciens jours;
La terre a tressailli d'un souffle prophétique...

Cependant la sibylle au visage latin
Est endormie encor sous l'arc de Constantin
--Et rien n'a dérangé le sévère portique.

--Gérard de Nerval--from "Delfica"

My translation to English verse:

They shall return, these Gods you always mourn!
Time shall to ancient days order return;
The ground has shuddered with prophetic blow...

Meanwhile the Sibyl with the Latin face
Under Constantine's arc still sleeps in place
And naught has molested the strict portico.

My first foray into French poetry for plaisir (as opposed to slogging through Hugo in fifth form French class) was to get properly at the Symbolistes, revered by my hero Ezra Pound. I started, as all Symboliste studies do, with Nerval. But rather than seeing him as a bump on the road to the greats--Verlaine, Mallarmé, Rimbaud--I was captured by his lunatic vision.

"Delfica" has always been a favorite poem in mine, and it has come to my mind often during this papal interregnum. The heavy marble of Catholic order doesn't exactly recall Delfica's arboreal pagan shrine (from the earlier part of the poem I didn't quote), but in the thread of latin-tongued prophecy, Constantine triumphant, and severity of mission I do find resonance with the somber, perfunctionary pageant constantly being reported from The Vatican.

Not that it stirs any sort of devotion in me. My Catholicism is even more dormant than Nerval's Sibyl. If anything, I read Delfica's two prophetic final stanzas as a window beyond the apotheosis of some odd bureaucrat cardinal, looking beyond the evident crumbling of empire-church. Even in the case (middling likelihood) that the new Pope is fellow Igbo Cardinal Arinze, I'd probably be more stirred by sense of nationalism than religion (and nationalism is very weak in me).

What paganism gets right about religion over Christianity is mystery of the local. No. Protenstantism didn't get this right either. They claimed to be rebelling against the tyranny of Catholic dogma, but they are still chained to the Bible. Paganism derives power not from some dusty logos, but rather from the magic of particular time and place. I think that local mystery is enhanced rather than abated by global communication, and I can imagine a near end to all these crepuscular, ecclesiastical institutions that now seem to dominate our lives.

I see the church as Petronius's Cumaean Sibyl (famous from Eliot's quotation in The Wasteland). She says "apothanein thelo". Yes thelo. Every immortal Sibyl dies, succeeded by symbol, which becomes Sibyl. Et rien n'a dérangé le sévère portique.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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