Posted by: aboutalbion | February 19, 2018

My new garden … February

I have an established camellia bush in the back garden.

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Posted by: aboutalbion | January 30, 2018

The religion of the UK

Can you have a religious calendar without a religion?

Earlier in January, I appreciated a piece in my weekend newspaper which drew attention to the current annual pattern of commercial themes for UK citizens to make use of.

The writer listed a commercial calendar that included New Year’s Eve, Burns Night, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, St George’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, Remembrance Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday.

When taken together, the writer argued that these special days have the character of a religious calendar.  First, these special days partitioned the year into nominated seasons.  Second, each of the seasons invested distinctive emotional content into the season’s special day.  Third, each special day had the potential to bring citizens together in shared activities.

Taken together, the writer concluded that this commercial calendar for the UK functions as a religious calendar.

It seems to me to be true to life to suggest that the high priests of “the economy” have developed this religious calendar over the years.

I find it strange that these same high priests of “the economy” do not explicitly name the ‘object’ of their adoration and veneration, because, for me, it is difficult to imagine a religious calendar without a religion.

I can only think that the secrecy of the high priests of “the economy” on this matter might have something to do with an understandable reluctance to explain the efficacy of the UK’s religion when “the economy” dips, nose-dives, gets out of control, or collapses.

Posted by: aboutalbion | January 26, 2018

My new garden … January

This month, also in the front garden, I’ve identified some flowering white winter heather.

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Posted by: aboutalbion | December 29, 2017

My new garden … December

With a new garden, I always like to wait for a year … so that I can see what has already been planted in it.

Having recently moved, I hope this post will be the beginning of a monthly series that will show what is currently blossoming in my new garden …

This photo shows a solitary hardy cyclamen that is in my front garden.

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Posted by: aboutalbion | December 27, 2017

2017 … a very short review of my year

To all who read this post, I send all good wishes for the coming year of 2018.

This past year’s review begins (and ends) with the news that I’ve relocated to the south coast, and to the same area that I explored nearly twenty years ago.

The time-consuming transaction looked simple … a chain-free cash purchaser for my south Midlands apartment, and a property on the south coast with vacant possession.  The chain held, but it took many months to achieve the sale and purchase on the same day – Tuesday, 19 September.

My situation in the south Midlands was personally fulfilling, and I lived among a large community of retirees where the practice of generous hospitality and meaningful neighbourliness was well developed.  But I was personally conflicted in that my mind enjoyed the urban south Midlands, but my heart yearned for the sea.  I suffer from what John Masefield identified in his poem as “Sea Fever”.  For me, the sea shore “is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied”.  The desire to explore the possibility of returning to the south coast just did not go away.

Looking back, it feels as though the whole year has been taken up with the move.

But, while waiting for agreement on a ‘completion’ date, I did enjoy day trips to the Forest of Dean and to Paignton (and Torquay).  A visit to the River Cherwell at Oxford for punting (my first time there) enabled me to put another tick on my bucket list.  And I am most grateful to the NHS for arranging a suite of four urology tests during the year to attempt to find the source of microscopic amounts of blood in my urine. The tests results did not reveal the source, and the mystery continues …

My children (and grandchildren) continue to flourish.  One daughter was called away from her school role for a fortnight’s jury service (which she found fascinating).  My eldest grandson completed his university degree and has now commenced a PGCE secondary teacher training year.  Another daughter is hoping to resume part-time professional work before too long, since her younger child is now established at nursery.  As last summer, my ‘international’ daughter vacationed with her children in the UK over the school summer holidays.  But soon after returning to Houston, the family faced Hurricane Harvey (which they survived with very little damage).  My grandchildren continue to progress at school there.

What have I bought on the south coast? … a bungalow with a modest garden.  It was built thirty years ago, and the first purchasers had lived in it since then.  They fitted it out for their lifestyle when they moved in, and I have the task of refurbishing it for the twenty-first century.  And that will keep me occupied for the next few years.  Neighbours have told me that my garden is adopted by foxes in the spring – to raise a family before moving on.

I expect soon to be interviewed for my first volunteer role in my new neighbourhood – more about that next Christmas.

May the spiritual mystery at the heart of creation give us all peace in the year to come.

Posted by: aboutalbion | November 30, 2017

The approach of winter

The temperature in the UK today has been close to zero (centigrade). So here’s a seasonal poem by William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

Approach Of Winter

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine–
like no leaf that ever was–
edge the bare garden.

Posted by: aboutalbion | October 31, 2017

Remembering Balfour

My weekend newspaper added to my slender knowledge about the Balfour Declaration, whose centenary is being marked in the next day or two.

Urging the declaration forward were the Zionists, together with Lord Rothschild, David Lloyd George (Prime Minister), Lord Balfour (Foreign Secretary), and The Times.

However, I appreciated reading that “many long-established Anglo-Jewish families were strongly opposed to Zionism”.

Within the British Cabinet, the only Jew, Edwin Montagu (Secretary of State for India), wrote in a memorandum: “The policy of His Majesty’s government is antisemitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country of the world.”

Joint-presidents of the Conjoint Committee (drawn from the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Board of Deputies), David Lindo Alexander and Claude Montefiore, wrote in a letter to The Times: “The establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on this theory of homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands.  …  The proposal to invest the Jewish settlers in Palestine with certain special rights in excess of those enjoyed by the rest of the population … would prove a veritable calamity for the whole Jewish people.”

My current understanding is that geo-political proposals for winning the war against Germany had the highest priority in the British decision to promulgate the declaration.  The proposal for giving “encouragement” towards a Zionist “homeland” to as many Jews as possible around the world seems to have been based on an exaggerated belief in global Jewish influence and a perception of at least two potential wartime benefits.

First, it might weaken the support of Jews in Germany for their wartime effort and, at the same time, encourage Jewish financial contributions from the US to the British war effort.

Second, and in the knowledge of the German plan for a strategic railway from Berlin to Baghdad (and beyond), it was thought that Jews in Palestine could be presumed to be reliable partners in the region for British plans to be able to deploy military forces to the area of the Gulf if it thought India was threatened.

I find it profoundly sad that the UK government has resisted appeals to revisit and to review its decision a hundred years ago – a decision which has birthed one of the world’s most intractable political problems.

Posted by: aboutalbion | October 15, 2017

Gardening

My new home on the south coast has a modest garden … a couple of small lawns and a few shrubs at the front, and a lawn surrounded by several shrubs at the back.

So I appreciated the endorsement of gardening in my newspaper this weekend.  It ran a leading article that suggested there was support for the prescription that the recipe for happiness might include responsibility for a garden and/or an allotment.  Here are the relevant extracts …

“Sales of chicken coops and beehives are taking off.  Greenhouse purchases have risen eight-fold since the spring.  …  Britain is turning back into an episode of The Good Life …  There is a lot of evidence that this is the most reliable road to happiness.  In studies of self-reported well-being people who do a lot of gardening are always happier than those who do not.  If government were to have a happiness policy then handing out allotments would not be the worst option.  …  The allotment [option] … has a philosophical heritage.  Is it really no more than a coincidence that … the title The Good Life [was] a direct translation of Aristotle’s concept of ‘eudaemonia’?  One of the vital components of the Aristotelian good life is purposeful activity such as can be found [on many allotments and in domestic gardening].”  [The Times, 14 October 2017, p29]

Posted by: aboutalbion | September 30, 2017

Poetry

I have now moved nearly a hundred miles to a fresh home on the south coast of the UK.  So I have recently had to say farewell to.many friends in a commune, and I dedicate this poem [of unknown origin] to my memory of them …

“For every memory of friendship shared,
even for a short time, is a treasure,
like sunshine and warmth in our lives,
like a cool breeze on a humid day,
like a shower of rain refreshing the earth …”

Posted by: aboutalbion | August 31, 2017

Poetry

“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.”

[verse 2 from ‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield (1878 – 1967)]

Over the last four years, I have heard this ‘wild call’ to be beside the sea.  And in the coming days, I shall be moving to my final retirement home on the south coast of the UK.

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