For the first time in years I met James Higham of the Nourishing Obscurity and Orphans of Liberty blogs for lunch and drinks (Virgin Marys for me on my health regime) this weekend. I am visiting family in my home town in North Wales. Wanting to catch up with James and — given some alarming posts he has made about his health of late — check up on his well-being, I took the opportunity to meet in the nearest English city, just across the border.
James blogs so eclectically that the inside of his mind is well known to his readers. Some of them may even feel they know too much! This is something of a paradox as he’s such a private person when it comes to the external details of his life. It’s one of the interesting aspects of our online community that someone who knew almost all of his innermost thoughts and beliefs (and not a few of mine) could walk by our table in the charming pub where we spent our happy hours together without knowing who either of us was.
He was in good form and full of adventurous plans for the future. We had a convivial meal and gossiped a little about people we know. Mostly they are bloggers from the brief golden age of the ‘sphere before Twitter coarsened the online world, removed much of its good humour and brought it under the dangerous, authoritarian gaze of the establishment.
We also reminisced about our very different experiences in Russia. Our times there overlapped and, at this remove of time and space, we were able to get a more rounded picture of what was going on at that interesting stage in Russian history than was apparent to either of us while we were there
We have in common a classically liberal approach when it comes to making laws (as few as possible but rigorously enforced because so few would be the truly important ones). We are both also quite socially conservative when it comes to matters of personal ethics, family, duty and personal life. James is a Christian who trusts God to deal with others moral failings, so doesn’t need secular leaders to address them clumsily. I lost my faith years ago and though I look for it occasionally have never found it again, but my morals are essentially those of the church in which I was raised. In practice that means I feel guilty about any of my actions that the church considers would disappoint God.
I lack - and sadly miss - James’ hope for justice in the afterlife and am as painfully aware as anyone with actual experience of Man’s attempts at justice of their inadequacy. Yet like him I feel immorality (to the precise extent it doesn’t genuinely injure or defraud others) is a matter for individuals, their consciences and (if they have one) their God.
James is an eccentric perhaps to modern eyes and his tastes in music are not always mine but agree with his posts or not (and often I don’t) I have always enjoyed and often learned from his writing. He’s no angel (yet) but he’s a smart cookie (former professor) and a good egg. It was a pleasure to see him being his unique self and relishing his complicated life.
UPDATE: James blogged about our meeting here.