God Bless the NHS

    This day will never come again, hung over as it is with grey clouded, midge-filled sky in a garden full of bumble bees.  The Boxer is in bed. The effort of getting out of it valiant but futile.

    “Can’t I just be bedridden?”

    I point out that this is not an easy option and brings many disadvantages. “Besides, you’re not.” The ‘not quite’ is perhaps understood between us.

    Anyway. We decide on lunch in bed, why not? But in the making of it she has gone back to sleep and I haven’t the heart to wake her…not yet, soon.

    For five days I have been surrogate for my sister, now her prime carer (sole carer, to be more accurate.) Hard to be a fish out of your own water. All the times the positions were reversed and my sister moved in to my house in order to facilitate our holidays, I gave it the briefest of thought. 

    The district nurse called in ‘on the off chance.’ I should have solicited her help. Another pair of hands to effect the monumental effort of getting from the bed would have proved without doubt that a king’s fund bed would make life easier. Usually only for the bed-bound, I’m told. The buck is passed and she has recommended a visit from occupational therapy.

    God bless the NHS.

    For the Many Not the Few

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    This weekend marked the 120th anniversary of the granting of freedom to roam on the footpath in Derbyshire known as The Snake. A recognition of the rights of the working man to enjoy at least a few hours away from the grime of factory or pit.

    In 1932, barely thirty five years later the freedom had been rescinded.   The grandiose promise of ‘for ever’ was fragile.  Four or five hundred ramblers mostly from Manchester trespassed en masse,  having to fight a pitched battle with gamekeepers  especially enrolled by landowners to keep them at bay. The ramblers won. Trespass was not illegal, but men were accused of rough handling the gamekeepers and a handful were arrested.  Thanks to public outcry they were released and once again freedom of access to wilderness was restored.

    The good things in life should be accessible, if not free, to the many not just the few.

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    Dave Toft, himself a child of blackened back-to-backs of salford, and introduced to the life changing joy of the wilderness at an early age, read his poem to the 75 of us who had gathered on a grey Sunday to retread those footsteps into the wilderness of Kinder.

    Climbing Kinder (for the 1932 Mass Trespass)

    To these slopes

    Here on the sides of this great and ancient plateau’s edge,

    Where the curlew sings on a summer’s day

    Its solitary, swooping note

    Like a crystal drop of Kinder water –

    A song far sweeter

    Than any music humans ever made –

    The walkers came

    To claim for all who’d follow

    The right to hear that song

    To breath that air with smog- bruised lungs

    To taste the sweetness of the open space

    To pause a moment from the draining race

    Of hard industrial existence

     

    And they called those walkers ‘trespassers’

    As if by claiming back these stolen treasures

    By repossessing all these hard won pleasures

    It was they who were the criminals.

     

    But when you climb up Kinder now

    And feel your legs strain hard against the earth

    And fill your lungs with fresh free air

    And watch the long white hare

    Kicking its legs in the very ecstasy of life

    Remember there are those who would have kept this from us

    And those who even now would, if they could

    Keep us from the silver stream and open moor

    And windswept wood.

     

     

    Romance of a holiday

    Near the entrance to the anthropology museum in Mexico City an elderly woman sat on the pavement, her head bent diligently over her embroidery. Garments folded neatly on a mat beside her, immediately eye-catching, shouted their bright colours. I haggle over the last remaining smock with another customer. The memory of the holiday is too vibrant to permit leaving it behind even though I suspect the lovely garment will languish back home where the light is too grey for the tropical flowers to make sense. The other customer graciously concedes.

    Then I ask for a photo, certain this is as much a mistake as the haggling; a typical patronising outsider; a tourist and the old woman, struggling to her feet, agrees without reluctance but without a smile. I explain the smock is a present for my elderly mother who would love to see who had made it and finally she grins. The customer who had so kindly gone without her smock also agrees to a photo

     
      

    Unrest in Mexico City

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    Zocalo the large square in Downtown Mexico City that featured in Spectre the James Bond film of 2015, slowly dismantled giant Christmas decorations. Riot police with shields lined every street corner. The President was visiting the Palacio and we assumed the high police presence was for his benefit. The Palacio containing Diego Rivera’s murals and a botanic garden, both of which we particularly wanted to see was closed to the public.
    As we wove through traffic back along La Reforma, a famous boulevard in the city, in our open-top tourist bus it became obvious the police we there for another reason. The road was filled ten, fifteen deep with men and women with flags and slogans. Organised, but loud and angry. There seemed to be more than one grievance but the massive gripe was the 20% rise in the price of petrol. GOBIERNO TRAIDOR, treacherous government, a huge banner slung around the Angel, symbolic for its depiction of heroes and martyrs for Mexico’s freedom, ASESINO and RATERO would challenge any president. There have been riots already over this increase that the president had promised not to.
    Other prices will rise, no doubt.
    We are staying in a particularly comfortable area where dining out for breakfast lunch and dinner seems the norm for some just as begging or selling their wares, or shining shoes is the norm for others. Contrasts are huge. Financial and personal.
    No huger than Britain where in the current climate they are set to widen cavernously. That yawning gap between the haves and the have nots that renders the poor invisible and hardens rich hearts to stone.
    It was, up to a point, heartening to see the strength and determination of the demo although we did not witness what happened when they arrived in Zocalo to be met by the barrier of riot police shields. At home there is apathy. In spite of films such as I Daniel Blake, that should cause the gorge to rise up against the injustice inhumanity and facelessness of ‘the system’ forever stacked against those most in need of its help. Perhaps the marchers are the swathes of middlemen. Those who manage with difficulty and sacrifice but still have fire in the belly and see the proximity and the fate of those who have slipped down the ladder a few rungs.

    There were young Mexicans on the tour bus quite obviously not in the same financial predicament. They laughed at the demo, they happen often . I could be mistaken and I sincerely hope so, at their total lack of concern. We need more compassion, empathy, understanding. We need something as yet unfound – more equality. Could it be as as Pope Francis says not more that we need, but less? Less disparity. The trouble is those with the most are the least likely to share.

    the beauty of peace

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    This is the view from my window this New Year  in beautiful Onich near Fort William and I am mindful that the beauty of peace is not afforded to all.

    re blogging Michael Rosen’s post.

    A reminder from Wilfred Owen about the politics of war
    TO BE READ TO YOURSELF OR TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY, WHEN YOU CAN’T GET TO THE RADIO OR TV IN TIME TO TURN OFF CAMERON OR FALLON BABBLING AWAY
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.
    [The Latin phrase was used at times of war in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It means roughly “It is sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.”]

    Man of peace

    Today we met a man of peace identified by a white poppy in his lapel. A symbol, he told us, for a culture of peace and the belief that there are better ways than war to solve conflict.

    We were travelling the same way and talked and talked. If only politicians stuck to principles, or listened to the man in the street… Perhaps there are more men of peace than we realised.

    Pasifik.ca is the website that suggests such unheard of things as abolishing war or making it illegal. There was a serious attempt to abolish slavery, after all. I’m not sure how long it took to convince slave owners of the hideousness of it, or how long it will take to convince warmongers.

    War has become a dominant metaphor: war on terror, war on want, war on sugar, but this liberal use of the word belies a philosophy of militarism.  Jubilant return of heroes or the sad return of the fallen, lines of marching soldiers in front of Buckingham Palace paraded on TV screens perpetuates and legitimises militarism which in turn legitimises  trade of arms to all or any, including regimes with poor civil rights records.

     

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    White Poppy

    Cirque du Soleil

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    If you have the chance, go to this circus.

    Performed with passion, pride, soul even, enough to move the audience to gasp with fear at the daring and with wonder at the skill and dedication.  This is circus par excellence, not an animal in sight.
    A charming story, a sort of global fairly tale,  weaves through a white knuckle ballet with audience participation.  The high wire, the balancing , the graceful, the daredevil, the clowning, human endeavour and ingenuity, the set, lighting, costumes and innovation are all breathtaking.