We have retreated into ourselves

Featured

It is raining, autumn is in full techni colour, and winter looms. The white sky merges with mist over the sea. Bardsey, the holy isle of the bones of a thousand saints, disappears from view completely leading us to speculate it has magical qualities or that a secretive organisation, ‘them’, dedicated to the preservation of the bones deciding what measures are best needed has reeled it away for cleaning. Sometimes it appears to float like a spaceship, or be twice as large as it is, or as today, abscond entirely. We joke and speculate what it can be this time.

And so another day passes. The forced togetherness affirms and destroys the relationship we thought we had. New rules are set, new habits formed over the long months it has so far been.

We hear of others’ weekends spent visiting, mingling together, or away, or following interesting new pursuits such as book binding, potting, yoga, I wonder if it is us who has fallen through the net, who doesn’t realise that Covid is so over and it is possible to live as ever we lived in the wider world.

Offers of visits, attempts of socially distanced gatherings, even of under six and outdoors are rebuffed. I’m surprised we are not consigned to Facebook friends with lonely birthday messages accruing annually on the page with infrequent photo updates bathed in the colours of the flag of the country where the latest tragedy or assassination attempt took place to show that perhaps we still exist for real.

Maybe, when this latest garden project is satisfyingly finished and planted, when the latest clutch of recipes has been shopped for, cooked and consumed, the next box of wine sent for and shoulder-shruggingly quioffed with a what can you do nonchalance, we will venture out.

The chance of reprieve is lost as once again we slide with relief into lockdown. It is not just us who is avoiding everyone. We are not so antisocial after all.

And then comes another reprieve: the first dose of vaccine.

What do you owe your parents?

When asked what she owed her parents Bernadine Evaristo said her ‘introduction to Political Activism.’ Her dad was the first black man to sit on Greenwich Council and her mother a teacher and trade union rep.

So I got to thinking.

My mother was also a teacher but not overly political. She was a single parent and we were latchkey kids without even knowing since it was before the terms were current. Her life revolved around the task she had been left with: earning a living and bringing up three girls.

Much of what I owe, I didn’t always appreciate growing up, but Ma’s bright smile, acceptance, fortitude were obvious to the end.

To her I owe:

Unconditional love and the strength and comfort that brings.

A sense of fun and lust for adventure. She was at heart a great traveller and a firm believer in holidays.

A sense of justice, kindness, fair play, honesty, integrity, perseverance.

Appreciation of art, music, education. Love of books and films.

I owe her everything, I suppose.

Pristine New Year

A winter walk on a pristine beach as the day wanes might lead to feelings that all is well with the world.

Take a closer look and problems surface. At my feet with every step was plastic waste.

My hands were soon full. A couple with a dog offered me a poo bag. ‘We often do our bit. Collect plastic and rubbish when we’re walking the dog.’

That isn’t the point though, is it? Public spirited individuals trying to stem the tide of a global problem. If production of plastic were stopped dead tomorrow the problem would remain, but would make sense of picking up what remains.

A ten minute trawl.

Return to writing

Spread this far!

Rage at the duplicity of the government and the simplicity of people who follow them but do not see the suffering caused before our very eyes.

A gap of at least a year with not much written bar a few earnest letters to a new friend on death row. Suddenly the old urgency is back. Unfinished stories locked in the computer with far too much backlog altogether shake their cages.

Let’s hope some of them find freedom.

Epiphanies

An angel poking the three kings, don’t you just love this concept? To say nothing of the three Kings as bedfellows. Perhaps travelling together meant they had to rough it a bit. I wish an angel would poke the conscience of Theresa May and her bed fellows and open their eyes. ‘Oy you, leave it out!’

Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow: art and activism

Comrade Egg and the Chicken of Tomorrow, about a woman trying to save the world one chicken at a time, is theatre to watch out for. Part of the Litmus Fest at the Pleasance Theatre, Islington, a festival designed to support the development of new work and new ways of making work.

Bronya Deutsch of Mother Bunch (www.motherbunch.co.uk) a graduate of the Lecoq School for physical theatre in Paris, is clown, artist and activist par excellence. The exposure of the iniquity of intensive chicken farming and the dire consequences to the mental health of the factory workers is bitingly funny and so effective I’m surprised all the audience have not immediately written to their MPs to demand conditions in the meat processing industry improve or, better still, desist forthwith.

For theatre with a message to do its work, it has to be excellent and Bronya Deutsch excels.

Don’t it always seem to go…

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.

Bringing the Camino Home

Bringing the Camino home, is also about returning. Even the planning, the anticipation is life enhancing, releasing the desire to write about it. Giving time to other pilgrims is a way of saying thank you not only for the very positive experience of walking but for all the blessings bestowed on us along the Camino.

We haven’t returned to Spain in four long years either as tourists or pilgrims, but plan to return in April 2018 to finish the Camino and serve a turn in Miraz the albergue run by the Confraternity of St James.

Four years ago we began walking the pilgrimage to Santiago along the coastal path, the Camino Del Norte and relished the dramatic views and the towns we passed. We took time to enjoy the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the pavement cafes in San Sebastián as we walked through, intending to revisit in tourist mode some time. At Oviedo we got the train forward to Santiago for a stint as hospitalero in the Camino Fin Del Camino. It coincided with the Feast of St. James, a joyous time to be in Santiago and enjoy the singing and dancing of groups from all round the world. Sadly, that was 2013 the year the rail tragedy cost many lives.

The atmosphere of sadness as the news spread through the thronging square that was prepared for fireworks and partying is hard to forget. So too the dignified return home or to the hospital to offer to donate blood, of the many who had gathered there. One thing is sure. Nothing is certain in this life.

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.