The Third Leader: Mc-fasting and other pleasures

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The Independent Online

It being Ash Wednesday, I should like to share some Lenten reflections with you. And my text today is the announcement that McDonald's is to close 25 restaurants in Britain. Now it is not my way to wish ill on anyone, whatever reservations I might have about the worth of an enterprise in furthering world civilisation, especially one that allows eating with fingers without permission; and I should say that, many years ago, in weak moments I would patronise what others, seeking to disguise their guilt, tend to refer to as a Scottish restaurant.

Nor would I wish to inhibit your right to choose, although, speaking for myself, I would prefer a good meat and potato pie any time, except, of course, until Easter. Nevertheless, I do wonder if this news at last betokens a move towards a more contemplative, more discerning Britain. There are, after all, other pointers.

Last month, Morrisons celebrated Mozart's birthday by playing a selection of his works. On Sunday, traffic stopped on the M25 for two cows, while in Wrexham, Mr John Rowley, 63, completed an 18,000-piece jigsaw given to him for Christmas. Radio 3, meanwhile, is to broadcast the uninterrupted Ring cycle. And Gordon Brown appears to have joined this newspaper's Campaign for Democracy.

Equally encouraging is the current popularity of angling, the prime pastime for pondering on life, death, eternity, the world and our place in it. Karl Marx imagined the perfect day in his new world order as work in the morning, fishing in the afternoon and philosophical conversation in the evening. Still worth aiming at, I should have said, if your faith allows it, with or without a burger.