Time goes bye so quickly, not only the days but the years, I find it hard to believe, that I’ve been around for eighty years. Physically the evidence is very clear, my legs are weak, my left knee painful, my right hip has been medically improved. But there is an indefinable part of me which still feels the same, the sight of an attractive, lively man still lights a spark in me, which has been the case all my adult life. Of course the feeling is never mutual as it was once upon a time. Perhaps that’s the sadness of getting old. I am in fact an extremely fortunate woman, my husband is still with me, I have a home and a pension, I wash and dress myself. My energy runs away as fast as a mountain stream, but there are compensations.
isn’t the television wonderful, the pictures so crisp and clear. The fields, the mountains, the woods and rivers brought into view as I sit in my armchair. Yes, not the same as being actually there standing on the path, breathing the fresh, sharp air. But still I can wonder at the beauty of England, or the amazing strangeness of Africa, or the wonder of the Antarctic. Our earth is an amazingly varied and wonderful world. We reach out to Mars or the moon while ignoring the amazing variety and beauty of this planet earth.
This mornings I finished breakfast and I switched on the radio, just in time to hear Michelle O bama reading from her autobiography, Beginning. I have been following her broadcasts this week and would have been sorry to miss the last one. Her words are vivid and eloquent, this is what I would expect from someone who went to Harvard, a university regarded as akin to our Oxford and Cambridge. clearly a highly intelligent and determined woman. She mentioned her first meeting with Barack Obama, she was impressed with the good looks and intelligence of this mixed race American. She did not mention the percentage of black Americans at Harvard, I assume it would be a very small group. There was also no mention of the behaviour of the mostly white American students.
My understanding of life in the USA is that there is a separation in most areas of life between the white and coloured races. Yet Barack Obama was elected by the voters to be the first black President of the USA, a remarkable story. Alas the current President Trump shows every sign of wanting to take the country back to division and poverty for the many. Of course in the UK we have our own problems, I will not mention Brexit again! We talk a lot about being individuals; some can dance, (Strictly Come Dancing), some can sing beautifully, others can speak several languages or understand the language of mathematics, these are things I can’t do. But on the other hand we all like to live in a peaceful and prosperous society, to feel safe as we go about our daily lives, to follow our religion or indeed have no religion and know that we are respected members of our society. The democratic system tells us that as long as we obey the laws we are with our differences of race, language and culture part of the same inclusive society.
One of the ways we learn to live together is by going to school together. The educational system at its best shows us that even with our differences we can live in harmony together. As with any system those who are unhappy and failing frequently try to destroy it, I’m talking about bullying. In some schools bullying is accepted as ‘natural’ and even tacitly encouraged, this I know from personal experience. My eldest son suffered from bullying at school, he was a gentle, highly intelligent boy. No attempts were made by the staff to put an end to this highly aggressive behaviour. My son left school .
Intelligence can only develop if it receives the right stimulation at the right time, the early years of life are the best time to learn the skills of reading, writing and mathematical understanding. It is possible to learn these skills later but it becomes a question of trying to catch up with your peer group. British education is fixated on learning at the appropriate age, classes are arranged in age groups and measured one against another. We don’t all learn at the same speed, some of us need a little more help and a little more time.
Michelle Obama was clearly very successful in school, she obviously learned very quickly and the school encouraged her to succeed.
In the past few days have watched a number of programmes about Slavery, of course I’ve come across this topic before usually in connection with the abolition of slavery. Simon Schama pointed out how much British society was changed by the institution over a period of two hundred years. Some families in Britain became very wealthy on the profits they made in the southern states of the USA and the Carribbean. Raw cotton, sugar and tobacco were imported and helped to bring about the industrial revolution and thus changed the economic life of this country.
The growth of the cotton plant required a huge labour force working twelve hours a day to harvest it in prime condition. That labour force was made up of African slaves sold to the plantation owners who worked, the men, women and children until they died.
Britain was a big player in this buying and selling of people for over two hundred years, the British historian David Olusogo pointed out some of the changes which occurred in Britain due to the huge profits that the plantation owners brought back to Britain. The Industrial Revolution was based on the raw cotton grown in the West Indies processed into cheap cloth in the cotton mills in England; the workers had their basic diets sweetened with sugar and the tobacco became part of the daily life of many of the workers stressed by long hours working at a machine. The slaves often worked for 12 hours a day in very unpleasant conditions, the average life expectancy of a slave was seven years. Implements of torture; ankle manacles, iron collars around the neck were used to punish any slave who dared to complain about working conditions and of course the whip was freely used.
The profits were used to build grand mansions and buy large estates for men of modest means who were able to get into these new industries, one called Lascelles became the Earl of Harewood and he was by no means the only one. Thirty-seven members of the House of Lords received very large recompense for their loss of property. This was 1834 the only way the Act would be passed by Parliament to abolish Slavery, was that slave owners would be recompensed for the abolition of their property, 80 MP s received substantial compensation claims. The slaves received no recompense .
A few weeks ago I had a birthday, to my surprise I have reached the age of eighty, how has this happened? I remember my school days, my first job, getting married. I have the picture of me in my bridal gown, in fact I have the very same gown hanging up in the wardrobe. Of course these days I couldn’t get into it, the years can be cruel! The sensible and generous thing would be to give it to a charity, I’m working towards this event but I’m not there yet. Living with another person is mostly wonderful but it can mean another set of problems to cope with.
The conundrum with time is the speed at which it goes by, sometimes painfully slowly and at other times with amazing speed. The body gives indisputable evidence of time passing, the knees and hips tell you that moving around is not something to be taken casually, it must be prepared for; warm stockings or tights, layers covering the skin and then layers on top of that. A warm coat, a hat, scarf , gloves and sturdy, comfortable shoes with no reference to fashion what so ever. And then we come to the eyes and ears, my eyes have needed support since I was a school girl of 13. In recent years my ears have become much less efficient at catching sounds and transmitting them to my brain. Fortunately technology has advanced to improve upon nature to a considerable degree.
I can still speak, listeners aren’t always around to hear my pearls of wisdom or even the rubbish I usually talk. Like others in my age group I have a facility for forgetting which is almost instantaneous. There is a word which begins with D but I’ve decided I will ignore it as long as humanly possible. Age UK are offering a pamphlet, “Staying Sharp in Later Life” and its free. I think I will send for it today .
I was born at a very inauspicious time, the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain was in Germany meeting with Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor. It concerned the Sudetenland, a German speaking area of Czechoslovakia. Britain, France, Italy and the USSR had agreed to support the Czechs in the event of German aggression which appeared imminent. Hitler and Chamberlain signed an agreement that only a small part of the Sudetenland would be reclaimed by Germany. Chamberlain referred to this agreement, ” As peace with honour I believe it is peace for our time.”
My parents were more pre-occupied with my arrival, they had little money but youth, strength and love carried them through. Sadly the peace only lasted until 1939. My father was one of the millions called up to fight the German army in 1942, by that time there were three young children in the family. Mother managed the limited money and ever increasing domestic work, without a washing machine, a hoover or any prepared meals. My parents were both used to working hard as they both left school at the age of 14, they came from poor, loving families.
THIS morning the light is very grey and dull. We are going to the theatre on Saturday and Sunday this week to hear two authors, Christopher Mullen, MP for Sunderland and David Olusago writer and broadcaster. I’m trying to make sure everything will go ahead smoothly, taxis have been booked and David told of the early start on Saturday. He is not going to the Sunday talk. I’m excited, the programme of talks is running for two weeks in the city.
David is organising himself to move out of his flat as soon as his tenant moves out, then Keith and I will move into his flat. I’m staggered when I think of the cupboards and drawers which have to be emptied and then there’s the books HELP !!!! WE tell ourselves what a sensible rational idea it is but OH OH OH THE DOING OF IT. Fifty years worth of ‘stuff’.
I along with millions of others watch television, of course I have my particular likes and dislikes. I think there is in academic circles a view that television is purely for entertainment. I think this is a prejudiced view. In this age of multi-channels and the i-player, TV provides a very wide range of programmes from the broadest comedy show to the challenging science and political programmes, including the Open University. Yesterday I watched a very informative and interesting programme on BBC 4, “How To Be A Good President”. Political programmes can be dull and often shy away from putting ideas in clear and understandable language. This one did not.
A number of British and American commentators spoke about different American Presidents; James Naughtie, Peter Jay, Shirley Williams, Simon Hoggart, Malcolm Rifkind, Bonnie Greer, Robert Tuttle and Peter Jay, Christine Odone. The strengths of a number of twentieth century presidents; Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower Richard Nixon and George Bush. The problems they faced were dealt with in some detail and the degree of success which each one had. I think it would be interesting to see a similar programme about British prime ministers. Of course prime ministers do not have the same degree of power as an American president. In a democracy it is essential that all the voters understand exactly what they are voting for. (I won’t mention Brexit).
The viewers need to know, who made the programme, why and who provided the funding. The same is true of a book; where does the author’s allegiance lie, how truthful is he/she, who provided funding for the exercise. Most factual books are to some extent cooperate enterprises. The alternative of a one party state is too dreadful to contemplate, we have the examples of Germany and the USSR in recent history.