Old School

parliament

… disadvantaged politician who might just have wider appeal as Prime Minister than any narrow-based public schoolboy?

Chapter One 

1 February 2016

Pembrokeshire, home to the wild cliffs of west Wales and castles from the time of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn…’ Deirdre Fairbrother snapped the radio button off. She’d heard too many wonderful Pembrokeshire stories, if it was so wonderful, why didn’t more people live there.

Outside, the morning light which could often be fickle was clear and luminous. It shone into her artist’s studio. She liked days like this for she was alone with her oils and canvas with nothing on her agenda except a visit to her aged mother later in the afternoon. Loading her horsehair brush with a mixture of chrome yellow and magenta previously stirred on her palette, she touched the canvas again, and again more strongly, before standing back to observe the subtle change in her summer landscape. The season was well past now, but as usual she worked with care at her rediscovered joy. Bit by bit, she was starting to rekindle her original love of painting which she had foolishly set aside when she and Peter had started their family thirty-six years ago.

The shrill sound of the telephone disturbed her painting. She put the brush on the easel, walked out of the studio down a cold corridor to the hall and picked it up. Half past nine on a Monday was an odd time for a call. The words ‘West Albion Care Home’ were enough. She knew what they were going to say and her knees weakened. As she listened to the caller say, ‘I’m sorry, your mother has died,’ she put her hand behind her onto a chair and lowered herself, still holding the receiver. Mute with shock, she was unable to reply. Her ninety-two-year-old mother had been hanging on for weeks, but nothing could ever prepare one for the actual moment when someone announces that one’s mother is dead. Continue reading “Old School”

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A Really-Smug Story

a really smug story

Once upon a time, or olim as our scholarly protagonist Jacob Really-Smug was prone to say, there was a young country boy living on one side of a large river. From his countryside home he could dimly see in the distance the Big School across the estuary.

Each day he’d walk to his small country school, only to be bullied by the bigger boys because he was a bright teacher’s pet and he wore glasses. He hated games the most. Fearful of getting his knees dirty and scared of being kicked below the belt, he detested football with a passion which far exceeded that with which his classmates supported Rovers or United or Hotspur, the teams on the other side of the river. Worst of all he had to take off his glasses to play, so he was even more disadvantaged in the game. He hated football. Continue reading “A Really-Smug Story”

Beijing to Chongqing

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Francis’ Family in Tianamen Square

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu.

Our journey nearly faltered at the first step. In the comfortable Titan chauffeur-driven Mercedes beside Ioan and Anita, we sat in a motorway jam. We were going to miss our flight. However, thanks to the mobile phone and the responsive Titan employee, Jo Kavanagh, we were re-booked on an Emirates flight via Dubai and we would arrive only a few hours later than originally planned.

During the trip, I was about to experience so many new superlatives, greatest, biggest, longest and the door to door journey time of 32.5 hours was the longest I had ever undertaken. We arrived in the Landmark hotel at 00.30 on Saturday 13 October in the company of the most helpful guide, Yang Zhen Xiong, who preferred his “English” name of Francis. Continue reading “Beijing to Chongqing”

A Birthday Party

stephen party

A few patches of blue, snatches of a flowery design and plain white triangular pennants fluttered and flew in the light breeze, transforming the garden into an oasis of happiness.

 

As the English summer climbs to the August Bank Holiday it’s high water mark, families up and down the land prepare for a final outdoor celebration, a christening party, a twenty-first, a silly dressing-up party, a wild music rave and in this case, a premature 40th birthday party. Daily examinations of the weather forecast had pointed to a sunny and calm day, but it was only a window in an otherwise dull, cool and wet jet stream.

Continue reading “A Birthday Party”

Double Standards

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Natalie Portman or Sarah Lane?

It’s all about perception, so they say.

We installed French windows in the downstairs lounge below our bedroom.  But each morning, since early April, we have been awoken by loud tapping noises. What was it? The cat demanding that we should feed him now that the sun had risen. Someone throwing stones at our windows? Or was I hearing things? The repeated tapping annoyed and disturbed me and, worse, my wife. I couldn’t ignore it. Reluctantly, for now in retirement I am never one to rise early, I knew I had to find out the reason and that would involve getting up. At first, I was confused and could not understand what was happening. I got up and put on my dressing gown in a semi-comatose state without a clear or definite idea of how to solve the problem. I had a vague idea that somehow I must stop that damn noise. No sooner had I opened the door to the lounge than the explanation was clear. It was a case of double standards. Continue reading “Double Standards”

Just a Thought

Cycling home on my red Cannondale racing bike, at least the bike frame said “Racing”, as I struggled into the headwind, a thought hit me and it wouldn’t go away.
It was the kind of thought which seemed so clear as I pushed on the pedals but now I sit and push on the computer keys it seems somehow incomplete…
We are the bole of the tree of life, my wife and I. Our roots were nourished by the fertile soil of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, who gave us values and standards and love and our branches are surrounded by the burgeoning spring leaves of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We are the trunk that links the past to the future.
We are the guardians of the past, who pass on family messages, stories, traits, values and mores in an uncertain world to the coming generations.
We are the trunk of a bountiful tree, a healthy and still growing tree, but we know when the time comes another tree will replace ours just as we replaced those trees which grew before us.
Just a thought.

A most disturbing image – a dead child on a Turkish beach

We are used to beaches being happy places, sandy havens of fun amid gentle waves on hot sunny days, places where children play with sand and spades and splash in the sea.

Not so on a Turkish beach last week as a dead Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, aged just three, lay face down on the wet sand at the water’s edge. In another picture a grim faced policeman in a green beret and short sleeved khaki shirt carried the little bundle gently, carefully, as if it were alive to his final sanctuary.

So sad, so moving.

We are all humans, even David Cameron changed his policy on refugees as a result, a small gesture to the tragic image.

It got me to thinking about The Power of Pictures and Words

Yet even better is Brian Smith’s (SEH 1965) contribution in the form of a Christmas carol, sung to the  Kirkpatrick’s 1895 tune for “Away in a manger”.

Away from his mother , just stones for his bed
The three -year-old Aylan lies on a beach, dead.
The stars in the bright sky look down where he lies
A drowned refugee boy attracting the flies.

A camera is waiting , the media awake:
This poor little Syrian no percentage will take.
A scoop for the papers, more drama for Sky —
They’ll stay by his side till the deadline is nigh.

Remember his family. I ask you to keep
Their pain in your memory whenever you weep.
Bless all these dear children in our tender care
And bring them to Europe to live with us here.