Random thoughts

I would like to be writing a short, clever trenchant piece about freedom of speech, but I have lost the knack.

When I first met my (eventually) best beloved, he was a civil servant and had the flexible views that come with that territory. He was never trenchant, though he was clever.

I had firm views on lots of things – those things that mattered about politics, life, bigots – hand me a glass of wine and I could rant about the rights and wrongs of almost everything.

Of course, they were not necessarily right rants or even well-informed rants, but they were firm.

Now I find myself saying things like, “ Well it is complicated.” Or “ The trouble is for every ‘this’ there is a ‘that.”

He meanwhile, has changed tack significantly and has very firm views on all sorts of stuff.

He tactfully says I have become wise and thoughtful, but I suspect he means wishy-washy and boring.

Is it being buried here in Deepest Sussex and the need to zip the mouth in the face of most people having different politics. Or is it doing nothing much in the way of intellectual activity, and not having to have an opinion you can stand up in the face of a table full of people in your house asking what you think? (Those were the Peckham days.)

So, freedom of speech. What do I think?

I am tempted to leave this thorny issue aisde and set about making supper but that, you see dear reader, is the problem. Displacement activity to avoid thinking.

So, here are some random thoughts.

How many people murdered in Nigeria by Boko Haram does it take to get anywhere near the coverage of Charie Hebdo?

Is it freedom of speech to wear the hajib and if so, why not let French women wear then?

Why does our Prime Minister come back from a freedom of speech march in Paris to tell us we need to have more surveillance and more people locked up?

Those of us on the Left have let the Right claim the ground for what are our values. We have embraced multi-culturism and I think, we need to re-visit what that means and what rights and responsibilities people living and loving and making their home here, have to do, and not do.

When I was young and involved in left politics, I met a lot of people who joined the many groups.

The differences between the SWP and the Communist Party for Great Britain – leave alone the difference between them and the Euro-Comms – were arcane, but immensely important to the people involved.

Getting them together to fight against what was happening in Thatcher’s Britain was like herding cats.

At the time, it felt like those people could just have easily been captured by religion or a cult.

They had found something to belong to. Something to give them the words, the thinking, the comradeship, the way out of all the problems of navigating yourself through thought and action and a daily life which wasn’t all that promising.

And maybe that is the same for those young people who are going out to Syria and coming back.

Actually, now I am getting going, I could go on for a long time – but I must make supper.

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Snow

I do like snow in my winter. Last year was just wet – even for those of us who don’t live on the Somerset levels.

I sloshed and squelched around the countryside with a dog who looked perpetually damp and miserable – no doubt because she was.

Those times when you are asked to imagine yourself in the ideal time and place for you, the NLP practitioner or whatever, almost always suggests a beach with an azure sea, lapping waves etc etc.

Not for me. My ‘lovely place’ is being inside with a roaring log fire, comfy sofas, nice red wine (even though that is not really my tipple) and snow coming down in large flakes outside.

This did happen the first two winters we were here in deepest Sussex and of course the reality is slightly (and not for the better) different from the fantasy.

So, in the first winter, we had a lovely snowfall and I shoved casseroles into the bottom oven of the aga, got the candles out and laid the fire and was very happy.

The next day dawned bright and clear and cold so we all went out and the dog rolled about and barked and chased and best beloved and I plodded along smiling and feeling very smug about the thought that we could come home to (another) casserole and fire.

And then in the night it snowed again, and the following day dawned bright and clear and cold and we all went out (see paragraph above for an account of day two.)

Day three, likewise.

We can’t get out by car because there are a couple of small hills around us and they have been changed into ice rinks by the 4x4s. We have walked to the village shop and the pub – but in those days we didn’t know anyone so we sat in a corner on our own.

Day four, see above again.

Day five and we could get out and I have never been so pleased to see the bright and giddy lights of Petersfield.

The next year though we had one of those great evenings that are just created out of circumstances. It snowed heavily.

Our neighbour was on his own (wife in London.) Another neighbour was also on his own (wife in Wiltshire – if you don’t need this much information, please skip.) Other neighbours were home but mourning the death of their beloved dog. Other friends in the main village and wouldn’t want to walk out to our hamlet.

But as we had developed the habit of all going to the pub on a Friday, and it was a Friday, I called around offering supper. I knew the next-door neighbour would come, but expected everyone else to decline for one good reason or another.

Imagine my surprise, dear reader, when everyone (except the wife in London) said, “ Great, what time?” (Wife in Wiltshire had a 4×4 and determination.)

I am not a woman to have an empty freezer, a larder bare of all but a few old lentils, a fridge with only beer and gherkins but even so, finding a good supper for nine was a challenge.

(For anyone who wants to know, we had a pie made of a variety of meats, and I found that nice china blackbird to poke its beak up through the pastry crust. Chips and other stuff.)

It was one of those magical times when friends tramp through the snow into a warm kitchen, put their dripping coats to dry, line their boots up near the door, open the wine, sit down to food, tend the fire, stay late and I loved it.

So, I know snow is not great for all sorts of people, I know I am a sucker for this sentimental snow imagery,  but I am still going to go to bed tonight with an (atheist) prayer for snow overnight.