Image via WikipediaI've tried all sorts....
Had a massive baking session .
Made a batch of banana wine.
Cleared the freezer....UFOs on the menu......unidentified frozen objects.
Read several books.
Watched the Chelsea Flower Show.
Waxed indignant about Morgan being chosen rather than Bopara.
But it won't go away.
The thought of it rises oft like a malignant version of Parson Woodeforde's mince pie.
And this is what it is.
The French elite were very upset about the arrest in New York of Dominique Strauss-Kahn on suspicion of sexual assault.
They were very vocal.
They had a great deal to say in support of their friend.....but nothing to say in respect of the woman concerned except that, in the words of one of one of them, the whole thing was a fuss about nothing...it was only a matter of a bit of fun with the maid.
'Trousser la domestique'
I was outraged when I first heard it and it has rankled ever since.
Quite apart from the startling revelation that the man concerned thinks that there are different standards according to one's status in life, it is the atmosphere of the men's smoking room that offends....
The willful blindness to the context of the remark.
Forget about fancies of the 'droit de seigneur' and the plot of the Marriage of Fiagaro and think about the reality for the generations of girls from poor families sent out to work in the houses of the better off.
Not only were they poorly paid, not only were they fed and lodged at the minimum of decency, not only were they over worked, they were also at risk from the attentions of the men of the household.
That very respectable household, which would sack them should they be unlucky enough to become pregnant.
Not only did they lose their employment...they lost their character...and would inevitably lose their child as well.
Fiction is full of scenes of the 'fallen woman' returning home only to find the stern father barring the door to his house.....but does fiction ask why?
Because the father could not afford to welcome home his daughter in distress, neither in terms of feeding her and the baby nor in terms of the survival of the rest of his family.
The same respectable employers that dismissed a pregnant girl would refuse to employ anyone not of 'good character' - and a father who took in his pregnant daughter would lose his character by that normal, loving, charitable act, thus risking plunging his whole family into utter poverty.
It was thought - by the respectable better off - that the poor were basically irreligious and that they needed to be continually shepherded into the paths of righteousness....church attendance, hard work and social deference.
Is it any wonder, if that was the example of religion offered, that the poor were, indeed, irreligious.
They could see past the humbug, the smoke and mirrors, and see the reality....enforced drudgery all the days of their lives.
So where does she go, this pregnant girl?
To the bosom of the church, to expiate her sins by scrubbing floors and sweating in the laundry, giving birth in pain and squalor and losing the child as soon as it could be taken from her so that she could continue her destiny...as a servant.
But a servant even less well fed and lodged, more overworked than before and continually confronted, humiliated, by treatment which was supposed to be the consequence of her 'sin'.
Does he think of all this, this man who speaks so lightly of a bit of fun with the maid?
And do we think all this is behind us in our enlightened age?
Perhaps we had better look at the plight of the poor women brought into Europe by, notably, rich Arab families, prisoners in the house, their passports held by their employers.
Their conditions are no better...perhaps worse....and I don't see society in general and governments in particular doing much about it.
There was a period when there was a concensus that the treatment of female servants had been unacceptable, that these conditions should never return, but with the growing division in society between those with money and influence and those without, it seems we are returning to the notion that you can place different values on people according to their status.
I cannot eat a thing that I have baked.
It sticks in the craw.