For our ancestor’s, winter was a test of survival; although today, many of us (the fortunate) have warm homes and food and clothing – in our imaginations ‘the dark months’ remain a challenge ‘to get through’ – particularly during this pandemic. Yet surprisingly, this year more than any I can remember, I find myself ‘in tune with’ the cold and wind and wet. On woodland visits, I admire the barren Puritan toughness of the season; plant life called-in for its long seasonal nap – frost, killing fungus and pests. Winter whispers to me as well as the forest – to set the world’s business aside for a while.
Summer and winter seem no longer opposites – but complementary; part of the interplay of yin and yang – the great ‘reversals’ that maintain the living balance of the world: “ If we belong to the sun and its warmth, to the bud and miraculous flower – we also belong to the wind, the naked branch, the cold.”
On Wednesday, I’m out in winter sunshine, replenishing the bird feeders, when I notice a shrub needs urgent re-potting; this takes ten minutes – then I don my gardening togs – spend a couple of hours ‘back in the zone’. Although we still have ‘weather’ to come, the lifeforce which tells my garden when to stop growing, will soon tell it to start again; I can already feel the sap rising. The joy of spring will take care of itself – now I celebrate the true gift of winter’s lockdown. If we didn’t remember winter in spring – it wouldn’t be so lovely.
The First Minister was questioned for eight hours on Wednesday – I watched most of it – which could mean ‘get yourself a life’. My fear that she couldn’t match ‘bully-boy’ Alex’s
Friday performance was misplaced – Nicola’s presentation was masterful – without the Salmond arrogance. But, as the day progressed, it became apparent that her administration’s handling of this affair was full of errors. The million pounds for extra scrutiny (which we paid for) has exposed clear deficiencies around the transparency and accountability of Scottish Govt; Their reluctance to share feels wrong; to acknowledge this does not mean taking Alex Salmond’s side. This short article in Holyrood Magazine by Prof James Mitchell
says that regarding this drama as simply a Salmond v Sturgeon thing, is to miss more substantial implications.
This is an openDemocracy article about Peter Oborne’ s new book, The Assault on Truth, in which he says: “PM Johnson lies habitually, with impunity and without conscience”. Politicians telling lies doesn’t seem to matter any longer. Oborne concludes: “At the heart of the new politics is the nightmare assumption that emotion is more important than thought”.
Apparently, there’s a ‘coiled spring of demand’ amongst the better off, to spend savings built up during the pandemic. At the same time, UK household debt has increased 66% since May. Rebecca Long- Bailey writes about this challenge in Tribune; her former boss, John McDonnell calls, in the Independent, for the cancellation of household debt caused by the Covid crisis – funded by a windfall tax on anyone profiting from the pandemic.
In the aftermath of the Spanish Flu pandemic (1919), the New York Times stated: “Science has failed to guard us”. This was true – they didn’t know where to begin. A century later, has seen an amazing world-wide collaboration across scientific communities; within a year, new vaccines have been tested, licenced, and rolled out. Prof Stephen Reicher, of St Andrews Uni, looks at the potential of new relationships between academics and politicians.
‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’ was the successful 2012 memoir of palliative carer, Bronnie Ware (I referenced it at the time). In this Conversation article, Adrian Camilleri looks at what different people consider to be the ‘big’ decisions of their lives – and what lessons can we draw from how they approach them.
I’ve always felt a connection to the turbulent American actor Nick Nolte; like me he’s 80 now, and sworn off ‘the drink’ – this is Nolte:
“My mother, Helen, was a plain unsentimental speaker – she once said of me ‘I like Nick – I always have’ I liked her too – a lot. I got much of my rebellious streak from her. She had a battle with society about the role of women. Before it was acceptable, she insisted on going out to work. She told all the neighbours, ‘If you see my kids coming home from school for lunch; they make their own food. I am Helen Nolte and I work.’ My mother chose me to sit with her while she died. I was with her for four days. I was 60. It wasn’t as mother and son, that goes right out of the window. It’s just soul to soul, you’re there as a witness. You can’t sit there as the son and go, ‘Gee, don’t die, this is hurting!’ You’re there to help her let go. Am I scared of my death? No. My mother didn’t look scared at all. She was conscious until the end. She showed me how to die. That experience was beyond description.”