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The Tree

4m1W7GThe tree remembered being planted in the churchyard those many summers ago. For he saw the young daughter of the squire slipping in a copy of that new book on ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to wile away the long sermon. This blissful rural scene was oblivious to the battles being fought on land and sea to fence in the tyrant Napoleon.
The tree brought to mind the parishioners chattering excitedly having been told of a war far away over whether humans could own humans; trees never own each other more than they can own God’s sunlight.

He then lived many summers and slept for many winters before Johnny, the blacksmiths boy, proud in his khaki uniform marched off to France.  A few months later, his family came weeping to the yard even though Johnny had no grave there.

It seems hardly any summers at all after the Great War, that his branches were swept back by a gaudily painted plane sprouting smoke and crosses flew overhead with another firing in pursuit. Now he saw the night sky filled with new stars, all talking to each other as they silently rotated above.
More recently, he was overjoyed when a young family came to stay in the disused church which had been converted to a house.  They played in his shadow and touched his bark in games. And so, he felt the pain even more as the chainsaw cut into his flesh to make way for another room for washing, games and fitness machines. But through it all, he knew sorrow for humans who neither live for summer or sleep in winter but destroy or are destroyed in ever season.

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Summer Postcards

Here are some reflections I wrote last summer on time, change and hope.

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Click here to read this collection in Wattpad.

 

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Showing Rank

DSC00921Does our clothes show our wealth and status? Well it did in medieval China. Back then the garments and materials you wore were clearly laid down so that rank and social position was obvious. Those who were at the lower end of the spectrum wore clothing made from hemp and other vegetable fibres. But as you rose up the hierarchy you got to the silk brigade. Whether you were nobility, high up in the civil service  or serving in the barmy you showed your position with a rank panel on the front of your robe. That was true of ladies was well. In fact, you can see what they looked like in this garment for a woman of rank shown in Durham University’s Oriental Museum. However, the real ‘creme de la creme’ had panels showing dragons not with four claws but five. This symbol denoted that you were in the imperial family or its staff.

So what denotes rank today? In Britain, accent still is a give away but so is dress and possessions. Who hasn’t clocked someone else’s ostentatious designer label, car marque or preference in supermarkets? In the long run probably rank panels, even in the finest silk, would be cheaper.  

 

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The scale of the problem

P5241432a On Saturday, I watched a Vulcan bomber zoom around the sky performing some pretty impressive aerobatics. Not I admit, the full sized bat winged warrior from the Cold War. Instead it was hugely impressive model. I say impressive as this replica of an iconic British aircraft had the wing span of a light aircraft and guzzled fuel at a more gluttonous rate.

However, as the model looped and spun about overhead, it was very easy to mistake it for the real thing. In particular, when high in the sky with nothing to give it scale you were sure that this off-stage spectre of the Cuban Missile Crisis drama had come to life literally with a roar.

But the point is anything without a sense of size – an indication of scale – grows to fill the mind’s open space. Certainly that’s true of our daily problems. Now that is not to trivialise the mountains people we constantly meet are labouring over. Yet most of have our normal niggles are genuinely set to nought, say,  against the scale of the drought in Niger; a looming catastrophe likely to cause the deaths of 400,000 children under age 5 alone.

The old adage then that you only solve your problems by looking at those of others is trite and doesn’t always work but, for many of us, it surely helps.

 

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