Remember that lovely 1960’s song of longing to be in a better place? It came to mind when I was out for a walk today. A few details awry from the Mamas and Papas’ original. It was a spring day, not a winter’s day. All the trees weren’t in fact brown, they were green. True, the sky was grey and, as it happened the fields were blue. The beauty of the bluebells made the walk delightful. I was not exactly dreaming of California either.
I’m already in California, the idyl the song laments – the sunshine/ beach/ laid back life. It’s other poor saps who’re having a cold day somewhere else.
Nothing happens unless you make it happen. Vote for change and make the world a fairer place.
I coveted a chair, an iconic Eames chair, with leather cushion and steamed wood made to look like rosewood and wings. A chair that would ‘fit like an old baseball glove.’ I liked the sound of that but could not fully imagine it, never having worn one. A retired person’s chair that epitomised comfort, grace and ease, the kind that would include lots of reading.
I deliberated, waited, hankered and finally succumbed, choosing a purveyor of fine furniture with a solid and dependable name. On line reviews of their reliability were staunch, besides they advertised in the Observer.
I parted with the money from my dwindling resource, a major purchase for one now un waged and sadly without a pension either (see WASPI for that sorry story). Disappointed but only mildly concerned to discover a wait of twelve weeks for delivery. Oh I counted down the weeks, like an expectant grandmother awaiting a first grandchild. I lasted ten weeks before I checked up on them.
Serves me right I suppose for entertaining ideas way above and beyond. Shortly after my purchase, well after the company would have known my precious £££s would serve only to fleece me and line their pockets, THEY WENT BUST. Never mind baseball gloves and Mom’s good old apple pie. It seems there is nothing to be done since they are in receivership and I parted willingly with my money.
But wait! Just as I prepare to compose a stinging sentence to do with the little man and the unfair system, my bank has refunded me in full. The idea of chair as investment had begun to pall anyway.
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.
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
The Love-Hat Relationship
I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another’s hats.
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial.
You don’t necessarily even know the other person.
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they’re not something to build an entire relationship on.
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
Try having like-hat relationships with one another.
See if you can find something interesting about
the personality of the person whose hat you like.
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.