Plough of Despond
A sweaty day. Our joyful mood, stimulated last night by kind friends and a great dinner, gave way to irritation when we found our paths terminally blocked by the HS2 construction site. We zig-zagged to escape only to find the farmer had tractored the right of way into terminal extinction: we were forced to crawl across endless acres of plough, cursing farmer Giles as we staggered along. We ended the day trying to race boats beside the canal towpath – we lost.
Jane’s Community Emergency Foodbank (CEF), which she founded in 2007, is blessed by volunteers. As I write this, Jane is trying to change the service back from delivery (we had to make the change because of COVID) to collect. Our volunteers are of all ages and pleased to make a difference to Foodbank clients who find themselves in dire need of food for all sorts of reasons. The people who help Jane do a great job. It’s interesting to see our courts dishing out “‘community service” as a punishment when Jane’s helpers find working at CEF a significant privilege!
In the same way, in my day, schools used to dish out learning poetry as a punishment. No wonder so many people loathe poetry today!
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night
Imagine you are lying gravely ill in any hospital or nursing home over the past year. You are approaching the “valley of the shadow” through the effects of Covid or another illness of old age. You desperately plead to see your wife or husband of 60 years’ standing, or members of your close family – and you cannot understand why your pleas fall on deaf ears.
Or imagine you are standing at the door of any hospital or nursing home during the same period, begging to see your beloved husband or wife who you know is close to death. You are told that it may be possible – perhaps – to tap at a glass widow and wave goodbye.
I am amazed that the public apparently tolerated this ghastly and inhumane treatment of the dying to happen in modern Britain. I am staggered that people didn’t take axes to beat down doors to see their close family as was their right.
Why didn’t church leaders protest on our behalf? Aren’t they meant to be the conscience of the people? Why didn’t they insist that the rules that dictated that those facing death must die alone, were barbaric and monstrous? This inhumanity was the most dreadful aspect of lockdown and should have been denounced by church leaders. For them to have remained mutely staring at their mitres was iniquitous, a gross failure of leadership and courage.
I note that some bishops – re-moaners all – protested against the alleged lies muttered by Dominic Cummings when he went on a foolish frolic to Barnard Castle. Yet they seemed strangely content to gold-plate the government’s lockdown rules – like Brer Rabbit, they said “nuffin”. What strange priorities.
How was the monstrosity of people being forced to die alone allowed to happen? Who was really at risk? It wasn’t the patient, for they were already at death’s door through illness, often Covid-related. The visitor (I hate the world “loved one”, for it’s crass and patronising) could have been totally submerged in protective clothing so they were no more of a hazard than any other nurse or doctor. Then after the meeting, the visitor could have stripped off their protective clothing, driven home (or been driven home), then self-isolated. So, for heaven’s sake, why was the supposed risk of added contagion considered to be so acute as to justify these inhumane rules?
And why weren’t clerical voices screaming condemnation from the church steeples? Why were there no howls of protest from the archbishop from atop Canterbury Cathedral?
Captain Noel Chavasse VC and Bar was a non-combatant in the First World War. A medical doctor, he served in the Somme trenches as a pastor and stretcher bearer. He died of wounds aged 32 after repeatedly offering solace to soldiers dying in shell holes while under heavy fire from the enemy. Another hero was “Woodbine Willy” (Captain Studdert Kennedy MC) who risked his life so the dying and wounded shouldn’t have to face a lonely death away from the loving touch of a friend and vital spiritual solace. Many First and Second World War clergy showed fine examples of sacrifice and sheer bravery – but these were courageous and tough generations taught to live out concepts of honour, courage, duty and sacrifice set deep in their DNA. Walking the Christian talk as laid out in John 15:13 came naturally to them: “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
I suppose it’s a characteristic of our present safety-first, look-after-number-one, marshmallow-soft society that today’s church leaders choose to prattle on about Cummings’s shortcomings instead of setting examples of service and sacrifice.
Readers may recall in my last commentary I wrote about my love affair with Kariba the cat. It must have struck a chord because that piece inspired more messages from readers than any other! For new readers, I wrote of how Kariba loves me more than Jane – far more, in fact. This may sound petty, but I’m afraid that’s what our marriage has been reduced to. I know Jane fancies herself as the favourite human of all animals – and that certainly includes Kariba. As far as pets are concerned, Jane regards me as an also-ran.
After Jane read my piece, she pretended not to mind my telling you that I have usurped her as Kariba’s favourite human. But I know that privately she does care – quite a lot as it happens, far more than she wants me to know!
Now Kariba is a greedy little tabby, she does nothing all day except eat and sleep and then she starts all over again. She is always asking for more food. But she has a streak of cunning – she is adept at playing Jane and me off against each other, and she knows exactly what she is doing. I watch her as she pretends to sleep, measuring us with her slanting, green eyes, quietly assessing us before she makes her next play.
I ignore her begging because I am sure if I give in, she’ll grow fat. But that’s not Jane’s way. In order to curry favour, I have seen her sneakily slipping Kariba the occasional “treat.”
This is where the clever part kicks in. When we are in bed, Kariba leaps up, then she gives Jane a quick purr and cuddle to thank her for the snack. Then she slithers across the bed to sit on my chest, staring deeply into my eyes.
So, despite Jane’s attempted corruption, I know that deep down in her feline heart, Kariba still loves me best.