AUGUST - "BREAK THEIR HEARTS, MY PRIDE AND HOPE, BREAK THEIR HEARTS AND HAVE NO MERCY."
You might want to listen to the final movement of Beethoven's 9th while you read this - and perhaps have the tissues handy!
The whisperings of a bitter woman, in the ear of a girl, are as the cruel gale breathing on a daffodil. The damage may not be permanent but the stem will perhaps lean evermore and the petals will be left tattered and charmless. Miss Havisham wanted all young men to suffer at the hands of Estella but she was without insight - her misery would be perpetuated as Estella corrupted the good around her. Revenge is such a negative thing. How ever did the damaged and deranged old dear think her "run 'em down" philosophy would help anybody at all?
Dickens published Great Expectations in the mid nineteenth century and I reckon the cruel jaunt through dashed hopes and expectations might easily have been analogous of the ruling classes, imperialism and the disregard for human suffering at that time. At that time? Well perhaps not just at that time. At the end of October we will be out in the cold. The security and human rights we have enjoyed as members of the European Union will be gone when our great leader signs the document. Six months before my twentieth birthday we joined, alongside Ireland and Denmark, with Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. Our foreign exchange visits and our holidays abroad developed into a celebration of our unity. We learned to cook European dishes and one result was that most people now eat pasta at least once a week. Marjoram was not restricted to Italian food as we grew to love the German Rostbratwurst as much as Lincolnshire sausages and the caraway seeds, which our grannies had baked in old fashioned seed cake, were in there too. French cheeses replaced our regulars on cheese boards at Christmas. I look around me and see this footpath, that by-pass, the other project - all with their blue labels and their circling stars - and I feel unclean - as if I had taken something, which had improved my life and well-being, from someone - and then told them "push off, I don't need you anymore".
We are heading back to those great days of Empire - the ones Dickens knew well. We are helpless. We have been told lies. We have had the truth kept from us. Things do not always run smoothly in a relationship but, when something is good, it is worth searching for a solution. It is bewildering that nobody was prepared to do that.
Those who make decisions about our futures are a race apart from you and me. They are about power and the acquisition of wealth. They have no interest in the plight of our homeless or the potential social problems caused by the ever widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Nor do they take seriously the environmental challenges faced by all peoples. Our ruling class is, in the main, grotesquely unmoved and unmoving.
I will never know why anyone wants to return to a nation which takes and takes and gives so little in return. I will never know why we are encouraged to believe that refugees are scroungers. I will never understand why we need to "make Britain great again". Our islands ARE great - just not in the all-powerful, all-superior way we have been encouraged to wish for. Our islands are great because they are full of thousands of men, women and children who mostly want to co-exist without poverty, without war and without injustice or prejudice.
There is human suffering here as there was human suffering in Victorian times. There is not the same disease and hunger, but there are so many inequalities which should not, after over 150 years, exist at all.
There will be no checks and balances after Brexit. You may think you'll get out of this unscathed but I can see into the future - you won't - nor will your children - nor will your grandchildren. But, more than this, those who are not as fortunate as we are (and here I'm thinking "there but for the grace of God go I") will suffer so much more. It is the thought of this which drives us on to make personal changes in the way we communicate with our fellow citizens. I'm not talking about charity. I'm talking about respect. R E S P E C T. The women shopping in their hijabs, the kids kicking a football in the street, the doctor at the hospital struggling with our language while she mends our broken bodies, the homeless man with his dog, for tenderness, and his tin, on the steps to the station - they are each as valuable a human being as you or I and deserve my respect. "They have tried, in their way, to be free" (Leonard Cohen). That is what I want for this land. I want no part in the posturing and blaming that is going on in the corridors of power. I didn't vote for this.
We are heading for difficulties on this current journey but, if every single one of us reached out to the being nearby, we can still live in a great country - a country which is built on respect for each other and for our differences. For too long now we have been fed a diet of ego aggrandizement and ambition. A new era is beginning. The emphasis on self will have to be diluted if we are to live in harmony - with each other and with the rest of the natural world. In this country we are going to a place none of us has known previously. Even the older ones of us never before lived in a country which had once been a part of a united Europe. That journey begins on the 31st October. The future is unknown and yet we shouldn't lose hope. I don't want to lose my European identity and I don't want the confusion which will certainly follow Brexit. As a family, we have strong ties with a number of European countries and my heart aches that we, as a nation, are forced into this separation. I'm not going to let this separation turn into desperation. With human kindness, tolerance and great expectations for our planet we can try in our way to be free and to free others from their limitations - whether self-imposed or the result of grim treatment by others. Great Expectations has a satisfactory ending. It started in a graveyard where the remains of those who had lived and loved before were respectfully buried and it ended with hope as Pip and Estella were reconciled. All is not lost. We are, at present, amongst the ruins of our close relationship with Europe, but we can progress in our personal relationships to improve our arc of the world. We have to start to rebuild somewhere. Those who have known tragedy are aware there are only two ways to move forward. Either sadness remains the defining part of a person's life or a body can rethink, remould and recreate all the encircling good and illuminate it to mark out the path for those who follow.