National stereotyping seems to be a theme with me at the moment. On Sunday I explored Jew and Gentile as we see them through Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom – the smooth and the hairy. Then I saw the film ‘The Way‘ which tells of a father going to collect the body of his (alienated) son, who had died on the first day of his pilgrimage to Compostella, and ends up walking the pilgrim route himself, scattering the ashes as he goes. (Very much a family production, directed by Emilio Estevez, son of Martin Sheen, who plays the father; Estevez plays the son …)
The father meets the inevitable fellow-pilgrims, who conform to national stereotypes: a jolly, kind, fat Dutchman straight out of Franz Hals painting; a mad Irishman with writer’s block … One good thing is that all the principal characters (bar, perhaps, the son) are not glamorous or attractive in the Hollywood sense, but are real people. (Though they don’t seem to get blisters or torn ligaments.)
It takes one back to the fixed types of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Which reminds me of as a family, we discovered how Alton Towers tried to do a classic nationalistic ‘Merrie England in the Middle Ages’. Lunch was to be had at ‘Friar Tuck’s Baked Potato’. Now even my young sons knew that potatoes came from the Americas a couple of centuries later. Cue last night’s Apprentice (click to see the clip) when the team offering all-British pies at a fast-food joint called one of the dishes the ‘Christopher Columbus’ (with mashed potatoes).
OK, OK, this is getting pedantic and grumpy. But after this weekend when we have a funeral, a wedding and a major concert (Chamber Philharmonia Cologne, 7.30 Sunday 17th July) at Holy Trinity Stirling , I’m off on retreat for a week and will resume blogging in a more relaxed mood.