Today we dug up a tree by its roots, snapping mercilessly and chopping with dobbers. Not a large tree, and not a huge job to remove it, but having lost shape and beauty it had grown unsightly. We laid the tree on the grass denuded of its branches and Sunny Boy posed with the hammer like a game hunter standing by a trophy. A robin perched bewildered, like an old boy come to see a childhood home where once he’d been happy. Only then were we wistful too. It had only been to please me that Sunny Boy dug it up at all.
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.
“There was no physical battle – just one scuffle. The gamekeepers were overwhelmingly outnumbered. One was injured in the single scuffle – he tried to hit someone with his stick and they took it off him and hit him with it.
The five who were sent to prison served up to 6 months hard labour. There was a public outcry but they weren’t freed because of it, they served their time
4 of the 5 were blacklisted and lost their jobs. The 5th was expelled from Manchester University and instead took up a place in Cambridge
The oldest of the trespassers was 21. The leader was 20. Jimmy Miller, better known as Ewan MacColl the famous folk singer, was 19, but not arrested. They would have all been working in the mills since being 14.
At least 2 were killed in the Spanish Civil War.
They were almost all in the Communist Party, which was not unusual amongst progressive young left radicals in that period,who wanted a fairer society and who opposed the rise of fascism. The repressive nature of Stalin’s rule was not known at that point.”
We are wilfully blind to the problems faced by rest of the world. Even the euphemism the ‘third world’ satisfactorily distances us.
We squabble over ‘getting our country back’ while millions face starvation due to war and drought and further millions drown in an attempt to reach this other world, only to find the drawbridge being hastily drawn up and the portcullis down.
The global picture is so much bigger and more important.
Our children will remember us with shame for our wilful blindness and pettiness.
There are many precedents in history and the phrase ‘nothing new under the sun’ springs to mind as well as a poem by Louis MacNiece at the outbreak of WW2. (Substitute the name of politician/tyrant of choice to update)
Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal
Conferences, adjournments ultimatums,
Flights in the air, castles in the air.
The autopsy of treaties, dynamite under the bridges,
The end of laissez faire.
After the warm days the rain comes pimpling
The paving stones with white
And with the rain the national conscience, creeping,
Seeping through the night.
And in the sodden park on Sunday protest
Meetings assemble not, as so often now
Merely to advertise some patent panacea
But simply to avoid
The need to hold the ditch; a bare avowal
That may simply imply
Death at the doors in a week but perhaps in the long run
Exposure of the lie.
Think of a number, double it, treble it, square it,
And sponge it out
And repeat ad lib and make the slate with crosses;
There is no time to doubt
If the puzzle really has an answer. Hitler yells on
The night is damp and still
And I hear dull blows on wood outside my window;
They are cutting down the trees on Primrose Hill.
The wood is white like the roast flesh of chicken,
Each tree falling like a closing fan;
No more looking at the view from seats beneath
Everything going to plan;
They want the crest of this hill for anti-aircraft,
The guns will take the view
And searchlights probe the heavens for bacilli
With narrow wands of blue.
Autumn journal (Fabre) was written in February 1939
I see myself in my final hours, about to face my last judgement, clutching favoured treasures in the palm of my hand.
A perfume bottle – a caprice with daffodil-yellow puffer, not much taller than my thumb, pretty with a sensual shape and feel, or a red bracelet made with nibs of bright coral with a tiny silver pendant of a scallop shell – emblem of the Camino de Santiago which will always sit high in my heart.
This no doubt betrays a shallowness. A crucifix, a rosary, or photos of my nearest and dearest would perhaps be more appropriate, but it is objects I will chose for the memories the engender.
Often, in the view from my window, sea and sky merge. Obviously different elements and entities and yet there on the horizon is an intimation that one disappears into the other. Sometimes they merely reflect each other like a blend of fact and fiction.
I have been reading Any Human Heart. Had I bought the book rather than a download I might have thought twice. It’s quite a tome and I usually go for short. But I’m having a William Boyd fest at the moment and the note stating five hours left to read, that would normally send a frisson, ‘have I five hours left to give?’ I ignore happily. It’s a really enjoyable read. Logan, the (anti?) hero, witnesses and participates in the major events of the twentieth century in a grand sweep, meeting novelists, artists, even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I like the improbability of the names and the pretence. A blur of real and unreal that can constitute a good novel.
Reflecting on the improbability of life and fiction, William Boyd and me both, a few choice quotes worth pondering.
What do you believe in?
‘(A) credo of two hates and three loves: hatred of injustice, hatred of privilege, love of life, love of humanity, love of beauty.
The meaning of life?
‘That’s all your life amounts to in the end: the aggregate of all the good luck and the bad luck you experience. Everything is explained by that simple formula.’
Advice for budding writers perhaps?:
‘In good prose precision must always triumph over decoration…Wilful elaboration is a sign that the stylist has entered a decadent phase….sometimes a plain dish of lentils is all that the palate craves even if one insists that the lentils come from Puy.’
I have been away a week and in the interim autumn morphed to winter. That tawny transience is replaced by hoar frost. Fallen leaves lie in wait. Let them rot.