THINGS I CAN AND CANNOT DO

THINGS I CAN AND CANNOT DO…

I don’t do any sport. I can’t play card games. I don’t play board games. I can’t see the point in any of those things. So you run a mile faster than anybody else. So what?

I wouldn’t exactly say I wasn’t competitive. It’s more that there are very few fields I’m prepared to compete in. Certainly as far as any artistic endeavours I might practice, I’m very happy to enjoy other people’s efforts and I praise and encourage and don’t feel in the least put out if their talents are greater than mine. (This is just as well as it happens all the time!)

Sometimes people come along who want to have a dominant position in a group or family. Although I don’t think I attempt to dominate, I’m extremely resistant to someone else being dominant over me. This brings out the very worst in me.

I went to a school end of year meeting in which teachers stayed in their classroom and parents had interviews timed with them. During the course of the evening these inevitably got muddled up but everyone was good natured and we just went in in the order in which we had arrived at the door. We turned up for our last interview just in advance of a young couple which consisted of an amiable looking young man and a very bossy young woman. Also present and there before us was a tired solitary lady. The organising woman interrogated the hapless mother: when was her interview scheduled? She then triumphantly displayed her own letter of invitation and she was indeed scheduled for interview before the weary parent. You could see the lady was too tired to fight; she acquiesced at once. Flush with her victory, the woman turned to me. As she opened her mouth to demand what time our interview was, I said to her: ‘Don’t even think about it.’ Disconcerted, she began to protest. I cut coldly through her spiel. I informed her that we had been unavoidably detained and that we were due home after attending this interview. I said we would go in, according to custom, in the order in which we had arrived at the door. The woman argued but John and I talked to one another and pointedly ignored her. The solitary lady was not long and smiled at us in gratitude as she left. The teacher asked who was next; John said we were; MS Organise for England launched into an incoherent and very long winded account of events. Teacher who also seemed extremely tired , muttered something inappropriate under his breath and disappeared back into relative safety of his classroom. I was not especially interested in his subject but asked how a little piece of research he was doing had gone down. He brightened and we discussed this at considerable length! When after a very long time we came out, I sailed past Ms Bossy without a glance.

There are two areas in which I am endlessly interested. One is words and the other is sewing. But you know about these. Also perhaps food, wine, travel. Birds.

Oh and clothes. I have to admit to a slight interest in clothes!

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FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

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FAIR SPEECH AND FOUL

In the sorry mess that is Brexit, I’ve seldom thought anything else apart from shaking my head in disbelief at people’s (everybody’s practically) bad behaviour and stirrings of alarm (faint as yet) at the possibility of leaving the EU without a deal.

On the day that Parliament voted so decisively against Mrs May’s proposal, I was interested in comparing the style of the two closing speeches – Michael Gove for the government, and Tom Watson (Labour) for the opposition. Both were very good speeches but they were utterly different in style.

Dealing first with Gove, I was quite amazed that he could deliver so effective a speech. I had him down as what in Scotland would be called a ‘nyaff’ – generally ‘a wee nyaff’ – which loosely translated means an annoying, useless, worthless person. Someone who has irritated you but you’re not going to take any action against him because he’s ‘just a wee nyaff’. Gove’s speech was like an attack by a wasp – a series of fast action taunts against Corbyn which were designed to annoy him and damage his reputation. He did get annoyed but there was no external acknowledgement of this. He listened without comment to the end.

Watson was altogether a more dangerous opponent. He spoke calmly and quietly and he began in praise of Theresa May. He said he accepted that she acted in what she believed to be the country’s best interests in all her decision making and arguments; that she had put a great deal of her strength and energy into securing a vote in our favour. His brief account of things painted a picture of a fine servant of the country and he in common with many others admired her energy and commitment she brought to every task she undertook. At this point the camera briefly scanned Theresa May’s face; she looked as if she was about to cry, so that I said, ‘Don’t cry, Theresa, don’t cry.’ She didn’t cry and he went on to describe how the country was sympathetic to her. He himself had sympathy with her, listing some of her difficulties. Then in the same calm voice he said that however good her intentions, she had failed. She had not succeeded in building a consensus on anything; she was inflexible; she had decided the course of action she was recommending was the correct one and although he did not say so it was clear that he thought the rabid right wing of the Tory party were dominating the actions being approved. She had failed and she alone was to blame for this state of affairs.

At this point one had to pause and think about what was being said.

I myself (never a Tory sympathiser) have some sympathy for Mrs May. But Watson’s speech with its generous acknowledgement of the Prime Minister’s strength and drive; her capacity to hold to her position no matter who was the challenger made you realise that some of Mrs May’s finest qualities are also a weakness and make her unable to take any view or plan apart from her own seriously.

I could dismiss Gove’s remarks as mere propaganda and malicious spin because they were – not outright lies, but details from his history which could be mendaciously spun. The history of the English in Ireland is capable of different interpretations, and to have sympathy for the cause of a united Ireland does not make one a terrorist sympathiser any more than to believe the time has come for an alteration in the government of our component nations makes one any less British. Nor does a desire to terminate the monarchy mean one cannot be a patriot, or that to sympathise with the difficulties of the Palestinians means one is anti Jewish. These are differences of opinion and there should be room for them all in a democratic country.

But with Watson’s remarks you felt that every word was true; and that he had examined her strengths and weaknesses with shrewdness, insight, wisdom and tolerance and was kind in his remarks and fair in his judgement.

He made me reflect that Theresa May on finding herself still Prime Minister but with a reduced majority just carried on as if everything was quite normal. Whereas we are having the greatest constitutional crisis since the Abdication, she has attempted the impossible, and tried to ‘fix’ the differences within her own party, scrabble up a few loose ends in other parties and win a majority in favour of her preferred solution.

She failed to recognise that the crisis demanded that she set up a cross party group, comprising MPs of all parties and other interested parties (Farage to be invited also). It would have had to be headed up by a Leave person. Also there would have to be whoever available to the government was recognised as an ace negotiator. (Theresa May certainly doesn’t seem to be one of those.) She and the cabinet should have carried on running the country and this special group should have been negotiating with Europe.

It’s probably too late for this approach now. Goodness knows what the outcome will be.

Tom Watson gave a good speech. He shone light in a dark corner.

 

WRITING THE PROSE

I wrote 33 blogs last year. I intend to write one per week but clearly I don’t always manage that.

The subjects were:

History 1

Clothes 3

English 1

Health 2

Sewing 2

Family 8

Weather 2

Holidays 2

Flora and Fauna 2

Politics 5

Interior Décor 1

I enjoy writing them, and I enjoy your comments.

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

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LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED

I’ve been reflecting on the famous verses about love in St Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians, (First); Chapter 13. I’m quoting from the King James bible.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

I find it difficult to believe in the creed of any religion but the above statement on charity (or love) I support in its entirety.

Love is not portrayed as a simpering sentimentality, nor as an adoring admirer. Love, he says, puts up with things for a long time; it’s kind; it isn’t envious; it doesn’t promote itself and isn’t arrogant. It doesn’t behave improperly; isn’t self interested; is not easily angered. It does not contemplate wickedness. It is not glad when grievous things happen to others and seeks the truth. Love tolerates all things, believes all things; hopes for good outcomes and endures. Love never fails. When all is said and done, faith, hope and love still survive. But the greatest of these is love.

So love is demanding and difficult in subtle ways. It calls for high standards of behaviour. It has to be modest and not self seeking. It has to believe in the power of good and act accordingly. It has to hope for a good outcome and go on having faith in this possibility and behaving lovingly long past the point when lesser values would have given up. Love never despairs.

This is by no means easy.

When I was in a French hospital last year,I received for 5 days double the dose of a dangerous drug, as a result of which I suffered from episodes of extremely violent uncontrollable jerking movements. Eventually I passed out during one of these fits (I had never previously fainted in my whole life) and woke up extremely distressed and disoriented in a chaotic recovery ward. On this day I also discovered about the double dose and declined to take it any further (at that level) and as a result had only a couple more much milder episodes. One of these however was on the day before I was due to be discharged, and I did not wish to prejudice my departure, so I endured this one on my own. It was comparatively mild and did not last long. But again afterwards I was slightly disoriented. The hospital was strangely quiet and apparently empty of people (or so it appeared to me.) In addition the sun was setting and my room was flooded with an extraordinary golden light. I felt like Reepicheep at the end of the world. I began to wonder if this was the end and whether the Angel of Death would arrive. My practical self, a down to earth, logical, practical girl who never loses the place and never panics (very unlike my emotional self) suggested that we should not be so melodramatic and that this scenario was extremely unlikely, but agreed that we should say our prayers and then wait quietly ad see what happened. So we prayed for all our people, finishing with the children and John. Then we sat, peacefully really, still bathed in this glorious light, and waited. We were somewhat taken aback when a firm tread sounded outside and the door was opened to admit a tall, golden haired and handsome man whom we had not previously met. He was not however the Angel of Death but a male nurse. He spoke only French. I was at a very low ebb and complained, weeping, that I had had only a very few twitching episodes in over 20 years and I was afraid I would never recover. He asked me if I was married, had I children and grandchildren. I said, yes, I did. Did they love me. I said yes, they did. Then he said I was extremely fortunate, and ‘calmez-vous, Madame’; that I should remember those who loved me, that I would recover to my ‘comme d’habitude’ and all would be well. Then (presumably he came from somewhere near the northern border) he gave me that salutation where the man bows his head and almost but not quite clicks his heels, and so he departed from me. I never learnt his name, but I will never forget him. He upheld all the principles of love, and he commended me to do the same. I did, and I have survived.

I commend to you, gentle reader, the principles of love, for all that they are not easy to follow. As we venture, hesitantly, into 2019, I think we have great need of them.