I was about to consign an old hardback to a charity shop when I spotted the presentation label in the front, it was given to my mother in 1942 for good attendance at school. I decided I should read it, after all it was likely she chose it. The title was The White Company by Arthur Doyle – amongst the several things I have learnt as a result of reading this was that he is a Doyle, not a Conan-Doyle. If I was called Arthur I’d probably use my middle name as well, especially if it pre-dated Arni as the eponymous Barbarian.
Anyway, the story is set during the 100 Years War, and follows the exploits of a small band of English men as they join associates in part of France that was then ‘ours’, and went east and south to battle the French and Spaniards – in fact anyone who offered the possibility of loot. It was the way to get on at the time.
The lesson I wanted to draw to your attention – and I hope you are still with me – occurs when they are discussing the poor state of the French peasantry, overburdened by lords demanding too much tax. Big John says, “But they must be a sorry folk to bow down to the rich in such a fashion, I am but a poor commoner, and yet I know something of charters, liberties, customs and the like. If these be broken, then all men know that it is time to buy arrow-heads.” I think that time is nearly upon us. Today the radio speaks of cutting a billion from the welfare of the frailest so that a tax cut for the privileged is possible.