The Highs and Lows of 2020

This year, people have written millions of Christmas cards with the sentiment that 2020 was a strange year, a terrible year, a dreadful year. Yet even in this difficult year, many found glimmers of hope. Although we cancelled holidays to see loved ones, we found the slower life, typical of the fifties when we didn’t take holidays or go out for meals, to be a refreshing reminder that there is so much good all about us.

Now is a good time to look back to find the highlights amid the morass of mediocrity. The year brought unfamiliar words into everyday English: furlough, Zoom, lockdown, working from home, and COVID-19.

The highlights of my year were:

January: Britain leaves the EU at 11.00pm on 31st.

February: Keir Starmer launches his successful bid to lead the Labour Party away from the nadir of the 2019 election hammering. Global warming reminds us of its terrible power as storm Jorge brings flooding to many homes across the nation.

Storm Jorge

March: An overdue lockdown begins on 24th.

Continue reading “The Highs and Lows of 2020”

Rugby Recalled

The team of the 1974/75 season

Everyone passing threescore and ten becomes more interested in the past. What twenty-year-old would look back? At that age, the world is one’s oyster and life is there to be grabbed with both hands and shaken like a rag doll.

With the passing years, things change, memories weaken, joints stiffen, arteries clog, each breath exchanges less oxygen than the breath before and despatches become more important than hatches or matches.

The problem with old age is that you run out of friends. Grab every opportunity, I say, to relive old memories, laugh at former errors and drink to absent friends with current ones. Today, we have silent still photos to prod our minds and pique the memory. We can recall ‘with advantage’ in a way that may well be denied tomorrow’s children with their videos and audio.

We all have particular associations which will last with us; school, university, regiment, sports club, etc. Before Facebook wiped the earth with its American power and rich functionality, Friends Reunited proved to be a popular platform for reminiscence. We can find so many friends on the Internet but there’s no substitute from meeting up in person.

Continue reading “Rugby Recalled”

The Dying of the Light

I watched Donald Trump’s news conference held today, 6th November at 5 am GMT.

The tie had changed from the red of the war god Mars to insipid stripes of indifferent colours, the face had turned from orange to ashen and the voice had become is less strident, even if the demands remained stubbornly the same. His statements rang less true.

Donald Trump is dying in a way Dylan Thomas forecast seventy three years ago.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Prophetic words indeed as the forty-fifth generation of the Father the of the Nation is removed and passes away into (relative) obscurity.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Reunion

Chapter 1 A reunion is announced

JANUARY IS THE COLDEST month. From the warmth of the double bed, Peter Cuthbert heard the rattle of the letter-box. ‘The postman’s early today,’ he said, more to himself than his wife Janet who feigned sleep. Slipping on his dressing gown and into his slippers, he padded down to the hall to find three envelopes had fallen on the doormat: an appeal from the RNIB and a ‘2-for-1’ special offer from Hypermac Supermarkets, both of which he discarded without opening. The third looked interesting with its tell-tale Salamander logo and a well-typed address in Liberation Serif. He carried it to the bedroom and, using an ivory paper-knife, he slit it open.

With the college’s address printed in green, the two crisp pages of text told him about the thirty-year reunion at the École Européenne des Affaires (EEA) on a weekend in late May.

What Has Ten Weeks of Lockdown Taught Me?

Tigger and elephant 200420

Some producing some unexpected results, as in the case of Broad Haven…

As we pass into day seventy-one of lockdown in Wales with severe restrictions still in place and with the deaths of 1347 people (as at 1 June 20), what has changed?

1 We spend an awful lot of money on being entertained and travelling to be entertained: theatres, cinemas, restaurants, pubs and holidays.

2 A daily walk is an excellent exercise and unbeatable mental stimulation. When everyone else can only walk as well, we can talk to one another. We have made many new acquaintances as everyone has a little more time and we are not rushing past each other in cars. Continue reading “What Has Ten Weeks of Lockdown Taught Me?”

Tigger and Heffalump entertain Broad Haven

Tigger and elephant 200508_1

Tigger as a Spitfire ace as Heffalump reads The Daily Sketch 8 May 1945

Covid-19 has brought the best out in many people. Ordinary people doing ordinary things are now appreciated in a way which, in the rush of economic activity and social hedonism, had previously been ignored. We clap cleaners, carers, doctors and nurses, we volunteer to help the less able and more vulnerable and we let our creative juices flow as we battle to entertain or home school children. Jokes circulate the internet faster, with deeper poignancy and greater acerbity. Tweets or Facebook posts outstrip the dreaded coronavirus, going viral in days. Major Tom walking up and down his garden is viewed two million or more times, men and women from NHS singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ in Llandudno’s Venue Cymru, which had been turned into a temporary coronavirus hospital, is so popular that even Paul Simon has to add his comments. 

Way down the list of viral posts – liked twelve times – is the daily activity of the padded soft toys, Tigger and Heffalump in Broad Haven. Continue reading “Tigger and Heffalump entertain Broad Haven”

Touch

Touch michaelangelo

The April news has been wall to wall Covid and coronavirus. It’s been the same story worldwide: deaths, lock-downs, social distancing and personal tragedies thousands of times repeated from China to Chile.  A high temperature and persistent cough lead to isolation and intensive care in hospitals described as the front line in the uneven struggle against the microscopic enemy. Old age and a list of unfavourable medical conditions, or co-morbidities in the new lexicon of words, such as asthma, obesity, and diabetes reduce the chances of survival even when the skills of doctors and the care of nurses wearing suits that would not look out of place on the moon are used to tame the virus. Even so, the virus wins most battles in the dark days of April 2020. Continue reading “Touch”

How the world changed after global wars and might change this time

 

Virus attacking a cell.

How a virus infects a healthy cell.

A century ago, my grandfather fought in a Great War from which he never returned. Not only did the war change my family forever, but it also changed the world. In Russia, the Bolsheviks took over. Germany faced not only the greatest inflation ever seen but also the resignation of the Kaiser. ‘I commend the German Reich to your loving care,’ he said when abdicating to the new Chancellor of republican Germany. In Britain strikes reached and all-time high in 1921, only to be bettered in 1926, and the Labour Party gained an unshakeable position in British politics.

In less than a generation, the world was at war again. My father survived and went on to live a full life. Determined to stop future world wars, nations bound together by forming the United Nations within six months of the war’s end.

Today, and past my allotted span, the world faces a new global war, but this time we are all united against the common foe, a virus named SARS-Cov-2. We have had global pandemics before. The word quarantine derived from the 40 days used to try and prevent spread of the Black Death in the 14th century. In 1918, Spanish Flu, so called because the Spanish press reported it, caused Britons and Germans to die in the hundreds of thousands but neither side wanted to confess its existence lest it weaken their position in the eyes of the enemy. They were at war. Spain was neutral. Continue reading “How the world changed after global wars and might change this time”

Servini’s Aberdare

Servinis Cafe

I do remember being in the centre of a mining town and looking at the two giant glass windows that fronted the cafe.

Servini is an unusual name and being eighteen on the edge of manhood is an unforgettable time. The combination of the two provided me with a permanent souvenir, a hard-wired marker in my life as my wings became strong enough to try flying on my own. Eighteen is young and I was carefree. Girls, and music had great importance, and I loved games especially rugby. I had reached the first XV, at fly half, to boot.

For some reason, which I have never understood, Aberdare Grammar School, from Wales visited us in November 1964. We were not only to play Aberdare, but also had to host our opposite number. Thus, I first met the dark haired Aberdare flyhalf, Gabriel Servini. Continue reading “Servini’s Aberdare”

A New Home

A New Home

Our old terraced house was so cramped on our left, we could smell the garlic from Mr and Mrs Frog….

We moved into a new home last night. It was odd to do it at 11.00 pm, but the Agent said it had to be done then. We’d been talking about it for years, but last night we completed the move.

We had worried about the position – would the more distant neighbours be friendly? – would they like us? Yet, we were not perfect, of course. Some people liked to remind us of our reaction when we objected to the new neighbours that moved into the upstairs flat across the hall we’d always called “Windrush” on account of the draughts in our grand terraced house years ago, but that’s all over now. Continue reading “A New Home”