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.

The Joy

Having taken the decision to eschew Facebook (WHAT KEPT YOU? you might well ask) and turn again to WordPress and a neglected blog.  Among a legion of drafts, many more than published posts, I click on this title: The Joy.  The page is totally blank and I wonder what I could have been contemplating so many weeks, months ago and decide to appropriate the title, today of all days, in my stand against the pernicious Facebook on whom I have relied, turned to for publicity since publication of a first book seven years ago.   If it has done any good, or served a useful purpose is impossible to tell.  The joy I feel at renouncing its middle of the night scrolls in search of sleep I hope will not be short lived. And then a cold voice of reason prods me. What about friends? What about WhatsApp, to which in these Covid times especially, I am slavishly devoted? Facilitated by Facebook: I make allowances for my faiblesse.

Bright Horizon

The evening sky although not an all singing, all colours sunset, more of a Turner, was beautiful; the hint of brightness on the horizon as if proving there are hearteningly better times to come.

A family was exercising in the circuit of the beach car park (which has been closed to visitors since the outset of the debacle when the whole world and its mother agreed this a better place to self isolate or take daily exercise than any city, until dissuaded). The parents raced in opposing directions at full speed on their bikes and a little girl, no more than three or four, ran a whole lap. Impossible not to cheer her on. She glanced at us undeterred.

Sea Fever

I’m trying to commit Sea Fever to memory. Mostly for the last line about the long trick being over. The pandemic being the long trick in point. Spike Milligan often intrudes on the Masefield version.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky. I left my shoes and socks there – I wonder if they’re dry. Of course, vest and pants also works here.

Sea fever seems preferable to cabin fever and while we still have the option of daily exercise and we live by the sea, I must go down to the sea again. Etc

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Flash Back (Official Secrets)

We flew to and from Mexico recently, maxing out on a stash of films.

One, Official Secrets, an excellent Keira Knightly vehicle, portraying Katherine Gun and her struggle with her conscience, her country and the official secrets act.

It revealed/portrayed the national shame and the the national scandal of Tony Blair and government lying to the public and committing the nation’s young men and

women, to say nothing of innocent Iraqis, to depraved years of illegal war with rendition, Guantanamo Bay (agh don’t) and the dropping of the case because it would reveal the lie.

One of the lawyers advising Katherine Gun was Shami Chakrabarti then head of Liberty, now a baroness. It felt strange to see her fictionalised. I met her at a writing retreat at Gladstone’s library is my claim, before I’d looked at her CV online, before reading On Liberty, before Jeremy Corbin recognised her worth. She was forever at his side in those horrible parliamentary debates. It felt one of those six degrees of separation moments, a blend of coincidence and a minor brush with greatness.

Official Secrets was not funny. It points out the vindictiveness of our government with regard to deportation and legislation that makes challenging official secrets an impossibility – however wrong, illegal, unprincipled those imposing the secrecy, A neat piece of story telling that lost out perhaps in the oscars to Parasite, also thought provoking but darkly funny.

Can’t imagine how Katherine Gun felt about the film.

Any day soon

We are well placed here on the edge of the country with only the sea and distant Ireland to one side and mountains to the other before any marauding virus gets to us. Who knows for sure how it migrates from one person to another? By hand, by mouth, by cruel word or unkind deed, by vibrations in the air we breathe? I’m no scientist. Not any kind of scare monger. My instinct would be to make light. ‘Happy self isolating!’ I say, causing derision from those sorely afflicted. Boris’ gallows humour is perhaps out of place, too.

Self isolating

An agnostic Catholic, my faith is in beauty, a face, nature, music, a poem or a neat turn of phrase, prayer a recourse when others are in need.

Here on the edge we are imbued with beauty. it is no sacrifice to self isolate. Just getting it done, whatever it takes, no hardship as yet.

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!’