Friday, 5 July 2013

High as the flag

Menwith - maybe one day the domes will house a Yorkshire version of Cornwall's Earth Centre

Sorry, I'm a bit slow in paying a moth-packed tribute to the 4th of July because Penny and I had to head up north for a couple of engagements, one of them United States-related. Earlier this year, I interviewed the indomitable Lindis Percy for Radio 4; in what I consider to be the true and noble spirit of the best of the States, from the Founding Fathers via Abraham Lincoln to those who challenged McCarthy, she and colleagues in the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases have mounted a vigil at the eavesdropping base in Yorkshire, Menwith Hill, for over 30 years.

A carpet moth which paid a late night call on the Schweigers when we were having supper with them in Leeds

She asked me to say a few words this year and since I've retired from The Guardian, which subsequently has been at the centre of all the current furore about electronic spying, I agreed. In the manner long-established by Lindis and other protesters, including people such as Martin Schweiger, a universally respected senior public health official in Leeds, it was a friendly, peaceful and Quakerish occasion, aimed at changing hearts through persuasion. My part was to rehearse the great American tradition of freedom and curbs on authority, including the historian Lord Acton's famous warning that 'power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely'. Electronic spying is not absolute power, but it is certainly very, very powerful.

I say all this in the context of a great admiration for the United States, where Penny and I have lots of friends and - in her case - relations, including my excellent commentor here on the blog, the painter Sarah Meredith. Only last month, P and I were admiring a marvellous self-portrait of hers which won a place in the annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in London. Like all the world's best people, she and her family are moth enthusiasts, and she's kindly allowed me to post two pictures of excellent visitors to her home on the Fourth.

The larger - and top marks to the Merediths for the ballpoint scale - is some sort of American relation of our Poplar or Lime Hawkmoths. Might it be the Azalea Sphinx? The lovely pink and lemon moth is a Rosy Maple, a beautiful creature which I mentioned previously in an Easter post last year, presciently imagining that the Merediths or another excellent Commentor from the States, Banished to a Pompous Land, might be the people to visit in order to see one.

Let's hope that many more pay a call. Meanwhile, a final American note to this post. Just before we headed up north, Penny brought in the washing from the garden with a joyful cry of "There's a moth on your pants!"  So it proved and here it is, with apologies for any resemblance to the vast Calvin Klein underwear adverts which towered over Times Square last time we were in New York. The moth is a handsome Dark Arches. The pants are from Marks & Sparks.

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