A Midwinter Moment


I must apologise to the loyal readership of Country Squire Magazine for my recent inclement humour and brief period of absence. I came recently and unexpectedly upon a grief that I had not anticipated reacquainting myself with; and a sudden loneliness that I shall not trouble you to bear. Suffice it to say I am indebted to my friends for their indulgence. In my defence it appears that I am not alone in being touched by this particular midwinter.

Our more acute acquaintances and fellow travellers cannot have failed to notice the strange mist that has alighted upon the world. It is almost as if Brexit has taken on a significance that it is now unable to shake. Thousands of years of credit and debt appear to be up for negotiation. Theories abound as to how long this may take and whether it is even possible. Time will tell.

As every bomb drops on the city of Aleppo, the shudder of souls holding the line against immense cruelty echoes with a tumultuous force. Bashir Al Assad, unknowingly and believing in the virtue of his endeavour, appears to by inviting Syria to become a permanent bar fight where the world’s craziness can be given full expression.

Earthquakes rock both the physical and the emotional planes. We are in the midst of a great reassessment and, understandably, those who feel that their lot was well cast are resistant to another throw of the dice. The unthinkable has become commonplace.

Despite the enormous cost in terms of both finances and pride that funding a reconciliation effort in Northern Ireland required, it would appear that the men of violence, having been given immunity against a reckoning on earth, are still determined to prosecute our armed forces for playing by their rules.

Even more frighteningly, given the essential nature of our military covenant, Marine A, Sgt Al Blackman, sits in prison waiting for one of the greatest legal minds in the country, Mr David Perry QC, to discover what the Crown’s position is on allowing him bail to spend Christmas with his family.  If putting a mortally wounded enemy combatant out of his misery in a place of extreme danger is a crime, then I pray, were I ever to be in the same situation, it would be a crime that I’d have the courage to commit.

Praise must go to the Welsh Government for showing the moral bravery to refuse to ban the ancient British tradition of circus folk glamorising dumbstruck children with their mastery over wild animals. It is good to see that my old nemesis, Professor Stephen Harris, was not able to pull the wool over the assembly’s eyes. More troublingly, the campanologists of York Minster have decided to strike over an issue that appears to relate more to child protection than bell ringing.

Striking has once again become fashionable as the aggrieved, wealthy union bosses feel it is time to punish the public for voting the wrong way. The whole of the South of England is paralysed by the RMT who feel it is both essential for ‘health and safety’ reasons to have a person paid to close doors, as if automation was still a distant dream; and who believe railways should be re-nationalised.

As a young man travelling on British Rail I was often aware, if I managed to find myself alone in a carriage on a train up to town, that should I open a door I would fall, unnoticed to my death. I was even more acutely aware, when I was lucky enough to share a lonely carriage with a warm friend, that those who wish for safety often miss out on the fleeting victories that only risk can bring.

Behind the ludicrousness of train drivers and postal workers deciding to postpone Christmas like grinches with a grudge, the smiling spectre of Corbyn lurks. He is essentially a political version of a historical re-enactment society, determined to recreate a pastiche of the winter of discontent. The knowing left is grumbling. Lisa Nandy’s star appears to be in the ascendancy, although I would have thought Jess Phillips has a certain charm that might appeal to a wider constituency.

Radio 4 Woman’s hour power list of the 7 most influential women who affected the lives of other women during the last 70 years was topped by Margaret Thatcher. While I applaud this unexpected result and concur that the Iron Lady was a powerful influence on all of our lives, I can’t help thinking that Her Majesty has touched more of us than one of her ministers ever could.

All in all we live in uncertain but exciting times. Winter is apparently coming. Take joy with those close to you where you can and have a remarkable Christmas.  The New Year may yet prove to be more mundane.