Sadness, reflections, and yes, there must also be a sense of optimism and hope, beyond the mourning for our wonderful Queen, whose life and service to her nation is without parallel in global history.
As our new Prime Minister noted, the rock on which modern Britain has been founded.
There won’t be any flies or spiders on the wall, when our new King, Charles III, greets our new Prime Minister, Liz Truss later today in Buckingham Palace, just a day after the news of the Queen’s death, which in turn came just 2 days after the Queen had met Ms Truss at Balmoral and asked her to form a new government.
I’m sure there will be a uniquely poignant reflection on the circumstances which bring HRH Charles and Ms Truss together for their first official audience, in both grief and expectation. The nation apparently poised on however many cliff edges of potential economic, social, and global crises one chooses to consider. However, I’m of the view that both have the character and ability to help instil the nation with a sense of hope and optimism so sadly lacking from our politics and media in recent times.
I can’t remember how many times we’ve reflected over at least the last 6 years, that we’ve felt so grateful that despite the descent into constant national political bickering and shenanigans, we have at least had our dear Queen as a steadfast anchor in stormy times, and a reminder that there are still (just) older, stronger values which matter.
In some ways it was appropriate to have just read the latest piece by (Lady) Carla Carlisle in September 7th’s Country Life magazine, in her Another Country column, titled “Reasons to be Cheerful – Talk, Trust, Feel.” (We’ve subscribed to CL in recent years as a counter beacon of intelligence, articulacy and wonderful images in our self-selected TV devoid world).
A typically thoughtful discussion begins with a plea from her husband to write something cheerful –
“Nobody needs reminding of all that is wrong with the world”
She then reflects on the recent sad news of the death of her favourite theologian/minister at the age of 96. To finish the article she writes:
“In my defence (of not being more cheerful-sic) I’d say that when a man as generous, profound, inspirational, and truthful gives the world a literary ministry of nearly 40 books that show the way to talk, trust and feel, it’s something to cheer”.
You can’t (yet?) find this article online, although I’d suggest the magazine is worth buying for this alone, but as an example of her ability to put her American (living in Norfolk for many decades) finger on the pulse of the national mood, you might enjoy reading this piece –
Written in February 2022, it included the paragraph – “I’m not naming names, but here’s what I’m sick and tired of: anarchy, serial dishonesty, sloth, high drama, bar-room brawls even when they are called work, dogma and off-the-hoof populism. I’ve lived long enough to know that life’s not worth living if we don’t hold fast to truth. Truth is a rock. Chip away at it enough and you end up with gravel, then sand.”
I’m including this introduction before referencing my lack of recent posts. No major health issues, but a combination of mental if not physical fatigue. Ground down both by the continued lack of rain, high temperatures, and water hassle related to both, but also by the rising swell and drumbeats of dire news from around the world, and the bizarre drawn-out scenario of the recent Conservative hustings to choose a new political leader, whilst the still incumbent preposterously fiddled while London seemed to burn.
I did start to write a piece, when rain began to fall, at last, about a week ago. But then events, dear girl, events, took over. It began thus:
Perhaps the shock of the slash was just what I needed. Surely removing a safety blade guard for a quick inspection before ever using a new tool shouldn’t be so fraught with danger? Certainly, it’ll limit my physical activity for a while, though fortunately, my two-finger typing doesn’t seem to be a problem.
However I woke early this morning, mulling over my strategy for harvesting some honey from one of the hives, and how I was now going to manage to do it now with the deeply cut and un-stitched thumb. I’d crept out at dawn in pyjamas and long johns, through dew-laden grass, and re-opened the upper entrance to the hive, which I’d closed the day before in advance of my planned box removal. Turning back to head inside and make a morning cuppa, I was wowed by the scene across the valley, pre-sunrise, so walked back inside for the camera, tripod, and mike and stood and watched the valley come to life.
Colours bled. Flushed the sky. The last bats flew sorties behind the house. A lone owl mourned the night’s passing. The wood pigeons shook off their slumbers and called across the valley before the young buzzard’s mews joined in. And there was a constant backdrop of anxious ewe and lamb calling from across the valley where our neighbour must have weaned his lambs just a day after we had.
Late August, and summer’s nearly over. And then, even at 5.45 a.m., the transatlantic jets began arrowing across the skies heading for distant London, I guess, adding their diffusing contrails of high-altitude smog to pick up the first sign that dawn was on its way. It’s the impact of this heat retaining, additional man-made cloud, which apparently nearly doubles the global warming impact of flying, and which, curiously, this week Google has quietly removed from its Google Flights tool for calculating the carbon impact of any particular flight. For those passengers who ever bother to check out such data. Click here for Justin Rowlatt’s detailed analysis.
This interesting recent news has shifted how I’ve decided to approach this blog post. It was going to begin with the other news, nearly a month ago, that James Lovelock had died, just after my last post was written, on July 26th. I’d known about the broad sweep of his Gaia theory that proposes that living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet….
I think that’s where I’ll stop dribbling on since that is as far as I’d got. Other than for the record to note the great time we had with 3 of our granddaughters early in August – the seaside fun, the dolphin spotted off Penbryn’s beach, the double kingfisher flashes as we kicked the stream bed for signs of life, the quartz stones selected, pebbles and pottery painted, puppets and dummies carefully cut and pasted, grasshoppers cupped and balanced, hummingbird hawkmoths spied and snapped, the girl’s free-form dancing, the duck race and missing ducks, the ruby-tailed wasp. A week of happy memories.
The heavyweight books read and churned over – “Regenesis: Feeding the World Without Devouring the Planet” – I’m inclined to agree with the opinion of this reviewer. And “The Psychology of Totalitarianism” – a taxing but intriguing insight into how the world’s responses are moulded by deep-rooted psychology.
The challenge of wedding flowers picked and prepared at dawn on the hottest day, and bumper harvests – blackberries, apples, and honey. More learned and more questions posed about the wonderful complexity of honey bee life. The lambs and older ewes were corralled and collected.
Perhaps I’ll return to some of these in due course. Perhaps not.
Life moves on and now is not the time.
The seasons have turned, the land is soggy once more.
The nights are drawing in fast, and my lethargy has been jolted.
Some things never change, but often they do, given time. No swallows on wires this autumn – so few have fledged, but otherwise the last verse of Mark’s poem “In Translation” written for and about this place, still resonates with life here, off the map.
Finally, here’s a maybe appropriate, beautiful little bit of melancholic jazz which I’ll leave you with, in a short YouTube. Alison Balsom’s arrangement of Joseph Kosma’s song from 1945, Les Feuilles mortes, (originally with sorrowful lyrics by Yves Montand). The song may be from a different era, one’s emotional response is probably still the same.