Blessed is Diana of the Ephesians!

Serious respect if you know the origin of that quotation from the New Testament. I’m not using it for any covert religious reasons but because it was chant of the enraged silversmiths of Ephesus when St Paul preached successfully there and they could see their lucrative trade in silver amulets going down the pan.

When we were down in Nîmes a few years ago we found the Temple of Diana in a park in the centre of town, and there was a queue of newlyweds waiting to have their photographs taken there. If you look at the picture of a statue on the left you’ll see in a blink that Diana/Artemis was blessed with a huge number of breasts – enough to send the Daily Mail into a paroxysm of spluttering and wattle wobbling. It seems that she was once – and for many of those couples, still is – a goddess of mothering, fertility and nature.

But the whole culture was on the cusp of a profound change and Diana the earthy goddess was about to be replaced by the virginal Mary – well at least that was what was meant to happen but as always culture eats strategy for breakfast and the silversmiths were probably OK for a few more years until the last of the pagans discovered that the harvest suppers were bigger and better down the road at St Sulpice by which time there was a thriving trade in silver crosses. Commerce has few scruples.

Hand’s Dairy in the top picture would have catered for a growing population of visitors to Georgian Bath. When I first knew it there was a cafe trading under the same name and they made the best cottage pie and chips in Bath. It looks as if it survived as a photographic processor until the digital era and now it’s boarded up. Just above the Potwell Inn allotment and west of Royal Circus is Cow Lane and there are ghost signs for several other dairies still visible around the place; but no longer trading. The fields south of the river were once lined with market gardens now replaced by some of the ugliest buildings that parsimony and a little low level corruption could get away with. No dairies, then; no market gardens; no clay pipe manufacturers and no Roman Vineyards where the Potwell Inn allotment now stands. No Stothert and Pitt crane builders, no dye works and so far as I know no brothels any more in Kingsmead. As each of these cornerstones of the economy collapsed one by one, the heirs of the silversmiths of Ephesus would have been on the streets protesting alongside the quill cutters, vellum makers and bookbinders.

Politicians would love to have us believe that they are in control of, that they direct the tide of events. At least Canute, or Knut to give him his proper invader’s name, had the good sense to teach his obsequious court that he couldn’t control the tide. This is a lesson that our current crop of self-styled leaders have yet to learn. To believe that you can control the tide of cultural change, as Rishi Sunak appears to believe, invites a spell tied to a chair on Hastings beach. I woke up this morning with the Roy Orbison song “It’s Over” running like a stuck record in my head. It’s over Rishi. It’s over Keir (nominative determinism is a fraud). It’s over for all those unfortunates who voted the worst government in history into power. Ask yourselves who actually pays less tax under this government? The answer is big business. Who is actually able to believe that I can become anything I want to be? The answer is not you. Who actually benefits most from the pandemic? well, you got a free shot as a kind of lottery ticket and the wealthy got a wad! It’s over. Where are the benefits of Brexit? answers on a £1 postage stamp

The era of uncontrolled fossil fuel extraction is as over as was the era of the silversmiths of Ephesus; as over as the colonial era, as over as the London pea-souper smog, the steam train and the morse code; as over as sealing wax or the seven days a week post; as over as the bank manager and the handwritten letter. It’s over, and issuing worthless extraction licenses to offshore oil and gas fields is as stupid as gambling on a fixed odds fruit machine it’s a sign that it’s over.

If ever we needed Diana of the Ephesians to come to our aid it’s now. The earth is choking to death and the problem is clinging to the bizarre idea that it’s the solution. There are plenty of people who believe that they’re the rightful heirs to the throne, or the reincarnation of Cleopatra – but most of them are in some kind of care. The government on the other hand are still flying around the country in helicopters and aeroplanes; driving 4 by 4’s and attempting to convince us that it’s really us who are the problem.

We’re not!

Just hand yourselves in and we’ll promise to get you some counselling.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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