Unsuitable Girl

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  1. Forty three years living in a house  collects trailing ribbons of attachments and roots which hold deep.

    The babies, Melissa and Magnus, lay out in the pram, at the front, to catch the sun in springtime and shade at the back of the house in high summer.  They staggered around delving in heaps of sand, blowing bubbles on the doorstep, tiny Melissa daubing paints on her easel at the front door while I watched, Magnus already  gestating happily.  Many sunflowers have been  planted, watered and grown, the seed heads to be fed to the sparrows and finches. Many iterations of tadpoles in the old baby bath were watched, with  frogs hopping out to the garden eventually. The buddleias had myriad fluttering butterfly attendants, watched in wonder by Melissa and Magnus, Clive and Adrian, the boys next door. Painted Ladies came to rest on the baking concrete in late summer, then flying  to the buddleia, or the verbena, or the cuckoo flowers in the grass.

    My parents came  here to help us settle in, Grandpa hefting loads of soil … from the bottom of the long  back garden up to the front, to plant the hedge with Pratap. He presented me with a tiny seedling Yew tree, all of three inches tall, back in 1973. I can see him now on that  doorstep, seedling cradled on his strong capable hands.  That is now my oldest Bonsai tree, forty two years old now, and is a tangible link to my Father. And that act by my father, eventually has ended in my absorption into the art of bonsai. I now have a collection of nineteen trees, mostly from the garden or bonsai workshop purchases, all on display  around our marvelous  terrace.

    The study I’m sitting in was the baby room, with sunny yellow ceiling and curtains, sewn by Pratap,  with grey and white puppies, flowers, butterflies. Then the cot was replaced by bunk beds for the two of them, made by their Daddy, helped by Grandpa. All this house is all our life together as a little family. That is the magnet, the pull and the emotional pain at the notion of letting it go. Triumphs and ills, sadnesses and joys, all the ups and downs of life happened here.

    Hours of practicing tennis shots against Anna and Alan’s  garage wall, hours of piano practice, flute practice , drum practice, marimba practice, homework, baking, birthdays, blowing out of candles, digging of the front pond, deep in mud! Camping out, a den in the hedge, digging vegetable patches and rolling in mountainous heaps of dry golden oak leaves from the venerable old oak which came down in the Great Storm of 1987. It stretched right over the whole width of the garden. Seeing it keel over that autumn  morning, while we were getting ready for work, was like seeing a friend die. We were all sad.

    The white lilac tree, perfumed and  magical in April and May, a present when I left my school to have Melissa. How can I leave that? The magnificent tree paeonies, in June, with their huge blowsy  flowers and elegant leaves, pull me to stay, not to leave them. The amelanchier tree, right now covered in pale pink blossom, and its coppery leaves already showing, is so pretty against the dark backdrop of the purple Cotinus (Smoke Bush). And the cream and pink hellebores in the winter border with the bees busy in them in spring. To sit under the clematis clad pergola Pratap built, sipping a glass of wine, watching the dragonflies patrol back and forth across the pond, the blackbirds splashing about in the shallows, bathing, is the very essence of good life, well earned, restful and happy.

    We arrived at this place, a young couple, in our thirties, excited to have a lovely house and a big garden just right for children, when they arrived. Now we are more than twice the age we were then!

    Time presses ever on, and life has its own dance to dance. We must follow as best we can, dancing along, keeping up and enjoying every day. Life goes on, grows on, we mature, generations succeed and we all come together again towards the end, hopefully wiser and better than when we began. And still dancing!

  2. In the wake of the terrible events in Paris, the murders of people at work in a free liberal democracy, my response.

    Many  religious folk may be feeling sympathy for the view that these Charlie Hebdo cartoons are disrespectful and scurrilous.  They are meant to be so, to make people think. There is the danger . Religious doctrine and dogma must never be questioned or challenged. People must not think for themselves, because there  lies the draining away of power in the church, mosque or temple.

    In a liberal democracy, where everyone has the freedom to follow a religion or have no religion to follow, that freedom has to be reciprocal. We, of the liberal democracy, have had this satirical tradition of lampooning those in authority to keep them in line , to burst the bubble of their self importance or to illustrate injustice or hypocrisy.  It stretches back in time to  Burns, Hogarth, Swift , Voltaire to name a few.  Even Dickens could be said to use satire to point up the dreadful conditions in schools and the plight of the poor compared to the bloated aristocracy, including the rich prelates of the church.

    People come to this country because they feel they will be free to worship, or indeed not worship,  in their own ways. But for one of these religions to then proscribe the freedom of our press is simply a non sequitur. The establishment of thriving mosques, temples and churches of all types does not imply that these religious institutions can then dictate to us, our press, what it may or may not publish.

    No one forces people to look at these cartoons. Look away, ignore them. Live and let live. Be at peace with everyone.  We are living  in a liberal democracy, developed over many centuries. These extremist ideologies strike at the very basis of our  democracy: the freedom to think and speak our minds.

 


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