Thursday, 27 April 2017

This page intentionally left blank

"Whatcha up to?" she asked.
"Filling time," he said.
"With what?"
"Going slow is it?" she suggested.
"The dull days go slowly, the busy days disappear, and that's the way it is," he replied. "Time is a great magician."
"So what are you actually doing?" she asked again.
"Sinking balls on a snooker table."
"Is that on a dull day or a busy day?"
"Both, it's just that the busy days are the ones when the colours get replaced."
"You know you don't make any sense?" she complained.
"This page intentionally left blank."
"Like on exam papers. There're plenty of things that don't make sense."
"But it helps to make sense, because then people understand each other."
"That's the first thing you've said that might not have been a question" he noted, "but anyway, does it matter? I've met plenty of people, and I've never understood any of them."
"Everything matters," she said.
"Or nothing," he mused, "if everyone's special then no one is."
"You're special," she mocked.
"Thanks," he said, "so are you."

Friday, 7 April 2017

With Hope Before

A cloudless blue and a burst of yellow sinking slowly towards the pale hills. The first buds, the constant return of life, the energy and the peace. Is this why we love old England so? Is this why for millennia people from countries near and far have been attracted to our pleasant shores and have come to live here. From early invaders to the displaced, the rich and poor of distant nations, all have come to find life in this bounteous land.

Winston Churchill, in his History of the English-speaking Peoples, wrote of ancient settlers: “The invaders themselves were not without their yearnings for settled security. Their hard laws, the rigours they endured, were but the results of the immense pressures behind them as the hordes of avid humanity spread westward from Central Asia. The warriors returning from a six months’ foray liked to sprawl in lazy repose. Evidently they were not insensible to progressive promptings; but where, asked the chiefs and elders, could safety be found? In the fifth century, as the pressure from the East grew harder and as the annual raiding parties returned from Britain with plunder and tales of wealth, there was created in the ruling minds a sense of the difficulty of getting to the Island, and consequently of the security which would attend its occupation by a hardy and valiant race. Here, perhaps, in this wave-lapped Island men might settle down and enjoy the good things of life without the haunting fear of subjugation by a stronger hand, and without the immense daily sacrifices inseparable from military and tribal discipline on the mainland. To these savage swords Britain seemed a refuge. In the wake of the raiders, there grew steadily the plan and system of settlement. Thus, with despair behind and hope before, the migration to Britain and its occupation grew from year to year.”

In the human mind there is always the search for something better, something that will satisfy, and although nothing has ever seemed to fulfil all we hope for it hasn’t quenched our desire to keep on looking. For refuge, safety, security, prosperity. As Churchill hinted at, Britain has always been a place where such things could be found, and on such is our nation built. So now we, and the rest of the world with us, see a place of safety, security, peace and prosperity.

Yet the more safe we become the more vulnerable we are, blind to the real dangers, which no longer lurk just across the water but inside ourselves. Laziness, boredom, comfort. We should always be aware that although things seem to change only slowly, there is nothing permanent on this earth. The invaders and the migrants can tell us that. And so we live with 'hope before' as we seek a place of peace. Where all wars end and strivings cease.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Someone else's garden

The sun is setting as I wander past a garden; the last vestiges of gold giving it a pleasant glow. There is a yellowy grit path and a patio where a watering can lies abandoned on its side. Of course it may have been blown over by the wind, although I suspect not. I'm tempted to go and set it right, in its place by the latticed fence that is currently causing patterned shadows to be displayed on the flagstones. I like things to be in their place. Nowadays people call that OCD, but I just call it being tidy.
     A few plants squat in pots along the wall, some doing better than others. One has definitely died. The sunlight catches on some daffodils, though, and diverts my attention. Across the path there is a patch of grass that needs cutting. A baby starling, newly fledged is ferreting for worms. Another swoops from the roof to join him, but misjudges and bounces off the netting around the trampoline. He flaps violently and shoots upwards again before landing on the fence.
     The sky is pale blue now and grey, wispy clouds are blowing in from the north and west, from the invisible coast, just beyond the horizon. The garden shivers and settles down for another cool evening. 'Don't worry,' I say, 'summer will soon be here.'