There are some mornings when reading the newspaper is a pure delight.
Today, a sunshine streams through the windows, I read with pleasure how the England cricket team beat New Zealand in what must be one of the most entertaining Test matches ever played. Over 1,000 runs were scored, all forty wickets fell, and the game swung from one team to the other in bewildering bursts of inspiration throughout the five days.
In the end, the crowd at staid, often disapproving Lord’s, the self-appointed ‘home of cricket’ (if to many others as the home of social fossils from the Edwardian era) were on their feet, old and young alike, Poms and Kiwis both – cheering their side on. England’s cricket team, in the doldrums of late after a series of unerringly aimed shots in the foot – showed distinct signs of rejuvenation, with on-field acts of heroics straight from the pages of boy’s comic books of the 1950s.
One such act, incidentally, was the fastest century ever scored at Lord’s. But not, I might add, the fastest ever in Tests: that honour, achieved in 1902, still belongs, more than a century later, to one Gilbert Jessop – a namesake but, alas, no relative.
Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, news came over the weekend of a resounding victory for the Yes vote on a referendum about legalising gay marriage.
How far Ireland has advanced in recent years is, to many of us in Britain, astonishing, and to this correspondent reassuring. The old stereotyped Ireland, of meddlesome priests and stone-faced nuns, of gunmen in balaclavas, and of loquacious tipplers with purple gourds for noses, has gone forever.
I am always ready to smirk over the embarrassment of a church – any church – but especially if it is the Papal satrapy in that once dark, dank, priest-ridden island to the west of us. The church in Ireland once held the populace in a grip as vice-like and unrelenting as any secular dictatorship has ever achieved. It is now broken forever.
As the Archbishop of Dublin – the Pope’s representative on the island – was quoted as admitting, the church has received “a wake-up call”. Personally, I would rather it went to sleep. A decade of revelations about the abuse of orphans by so-called sisters of mercy, the abuse of children by priests forfeited sympathy around the world, but more pertinently in Ireland itself. Not that I had much to start with.
Now a democracy of the people is finally replacing the autocracy of the Vatican, a power exercised every bit as cruelly and sightlessly as that of the British during their colonial occupation.
Three cheers for our friends in the Emerald Isle. You have done yourselves proud.