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A BLOOMING GOOD PRESENT

Why is it that something you see every day year in year out suddenly reminds you of a particular episode in your life?

This happened to me one beautiful sunny afternoon in July. I was very comfortable just lazing in a deckchair thinking how nice our garden was looking, when my attention was drawn to our hydrangeas. They have always looked good, but on that afternoon they looked stunning. The flowers were so large and heavy they were bending their stems over so much so that they were almost kissing the lawn and the colour, such a vibrant pink framed by deep green leaves. They looked so perfect that it was like looking at a picture. Mum and Dad would have loved to see how well they were doing. They had given us some cuttings from their own garden when we moved into this house fifty odd years ago. Hazel has pruned them and taken cuttings, some of which have been replanted in our garden whilst others have been passed to friends and family for them to enjoy.

As these thoughts drifted through my mind, my memory strayed back even further, as to how Mum and Dad had got them.

When I was fourteen I went on a cycling holiday with an Uncle, as he was only a few years older than me I thought of him more as older brother than an Uncle He was also a policeman so Mum knew he would keep me out of mischief. We packed our tent and camping gear on our bikes and rode via the Portsmouth ferry to the Isle of Wight. We had a fantastic holiday. In fact that was my first visit to the Island and I’ve been back there many times since. By tradition, when you went on holiday without your parents, you would, besides sending home regular postcards, also take them a small gift. Now teenage boys are not known to enjoy wandering around gift shops. I certainly wasn’t. So when I saw a lady outside her cottage selling plants we pulled over and I bought three Hydrangea cuttings for two and sixpence (£0.30p). Carefully wrapped in newspaper, those three little plants travelled home in my saddle bag. Dad planted them and today, sixty four years later, their descendants are still giving us a lot of pleasure.

Why those memories should come flooding back on that particular day, I have no idea, but I’m very glad they did. Doug Ryan

ANOTHER COUNTRY

“The past is another country: they do things differently there”. These are the famous opening words of L.P. Hartley’s novel, The Go-Between. It was made into a film, and is a reminiscence of a childhood, in which the boy acts as a go-between for an adulterous couple. Needless to say, it mostly ends unhappily, though there is a resolution of sorts.

However the words came back to me recently when a friend of mine, who is rather old-fashioned in some ways, remarked that, due to all this political correctness, “woke-ness”, and a rising tide of intolerance in society, it is not the past, but the present that is another country. He (and many others, I suspect) feels that the world he grew up in, by whose rules he lived, and whose assumptions and manners he was familiar with, has gone. He feels stranded and an alien in his own country. And so do I.

I’ve tried to be positive about this. I realise that in the past medical practice was not where it is today. If I wanted the world to be as it was 50 years ago, I would have a world where the heart problem I had a year ago would not have been recognised, and where I would be still crippled with arthritis, instead of having had both hips replaced recently, with excellent outcomes. I would have a world where various sorts of intolerance would be quite unrecognised, so that if I were coloured, or gay or disabled, I would suffer all sorts of discrimination against me.

And yet, this new “wokeness” also brings discrimination and intolerance with it. I guess this is what the mediaeval theologians called “original sin”. Humans (I was about to write “man”, but that would not be politically correct, would it?) seem to be up for any sort of unpleasantness in the name of proclaimed virtue. And yet, we humans can be loving, forgiving, generous, self-sacrificing even. We are indeed a strange mixture of virtue and vice.

Our age is a new Puritan age, where the thought police of Social Media allow us to condemn people in the kangaroo court of Twitter. And at the same time, people manage to live quiet lives, if they keep their heads beneath the radar. The media, social, anti-social and generally, aren’t interested in good news, or anything as wet as that. So that is the sense in which our present-day world seems to me and my friend “another country”. But old values persist, and maybe our world is not completely lost. At least I hope not. William Marsterson