We have had many good years of peace.
What wars there were, were far away. And from time to time, one person or another has wondered, often aloud, if we have not become spoilt and take our advantages for granted, if we didn’t need a war to shake us up ? File under “be careful what you wish for”.
In the supermarket early one morning just before Christmas, apart from the staff, there were maybe half a dozen customers. Those who were going away had left or were home packing. And the others would come along a little later, unhurried. While the store looked richly wonderful – clean and neat and glowing with every kind of fruit and meat and vegetable, all the dairy, all the confectionery, boxes of this and cartons of that, overflowing grocery possibilities in seasonal finery, and I thought how privileged I was. This is what was on offer and I was free to chose from it.
I thought of it again last week as people tried to get out of Mariupol for the third time and we heard that the heating was blown, it was snowing and cold, and they were sitting in the dark, short of food and water.
And I thought of the boys I saw on the news, from a Scots soccer club who had sponsored a small orphanage a long time ago , visiting regularly, and who had gone out by lorry or minibus to take food and do what they could, who have brought blankets and toys and raised funds, have a place for the kids to go back in Scotland, sponsors for them – and momentarily can’t get them into the country. “Don’t they understand” said one young man to camera, “we are familiar to the children,
it’s much better for them to be with us ?”
And yesterday I met Vanessa, a retired businesswoman and she told me that she had had contact with the vicar of the Anglican Church in Moscow and tried to persuade him and his wife they’d be better off elsewhere … “But you know, people make up their own minds” she said wistfully – before going on to tell me that she had made her contribution to Ukraine through the Salvation Army because she dislikes the deduction from our gift to administrative costs. I have just rung the Salvation Army (thank you Ed), been reassured as to how they are helping and made my donation through their appeal.
As naughty schoolgirls we used to say “Cast thy bread on the waters and let it be returned in sandwiches.” I don’t think much is going to multiply in Ukraine except sadness and disappointment, broken hearts and loss. The sheer destruction makes you feel sick. And then you see a commodities broker, a woman broadcasting from Turkey, analysing how the wastage of vast amounts of foodstuffs
will impact throughout Southern Europe and Northern Africa, a cry taken up yesterday by President Macron – not because there is an answer but because he wants the question to be under consideration – as of now.
The Fire Fairy (so named because of the colour of her hair, among other things) had a brother who died very suddenly. I never met him. But he arrived in my dream
and I recognised him. And I woke up wondering why in the world am I dreaming about Mike ? When the FF and I sorted that out, she was not in the least surprised that I had “heard” him. Given that we all dream all the time, I don’t remember most of mine but the ones I do remember have a logic of their own.
So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when a day or two later, and I was due to work for the Radio Academy with two women I had never met (Emma B and Sangeeta Pillai – in the event, delightful) – I was very nervous. Tossing and turning , unsettled through the fretful night, when I did fall into some sort of stupor, I heard low voices, the odd cry, the sounds of broken sleep, bodies waiting, turning, waiting again, the crackle of hands held against the dark – and I wondered if I was hearing Ukraine, knowing it was only a matter of time to the next round… And of course I woke again and again, listening for the sound of waiting, powerless.
* by Sir Thomas Wyatt