Monday, 18 May 2020


We have never experienced anything like this. We have slowed down and become more thoughtful but I am detecting underlying schisms in our world  that are emerging with opposing sides are hardening in their thinking.

But first the good news. It’s nature. Spring is always wonderful but this year’s has been spectacular. We’ve spent time this week trying to fill our courtyard “cottagey” garden with as many plants as we can lay our hands on – spurge, Witney primrose, lupin, geum, mesembryanthemum, salvia, teasel, mallow, phlox and lots more. There are  extraordinary petunias like ‘black satin’ and of course a profusion of pansies and geraniums. Meanwhile our jasmine and rose arch has burst into exotic splendour. I wander out at 7:30 am every day muttering encouragement and dispensing water like a Friar dispensing alms … “bless you my son.”

Best of all it has been the week just past that the first white stork chicks since the 15th century in England, have hatched at Knepp, the source of that great “Wilding” story. In the same week Carol Midgely of the Times and Monty Don of Gardeners’ World both tearfully lost their beloved dogs. But nature joyfully moves on.

Nature is winning and the dramatic fall in carbon emissions already this year suggest the climate changers have an unstoppable momentum for their cause. We hear the indignant demands of the UK airline industry which is a large employer for a return to normal. Will many people want to check in 4 hours before take-off for a short flight? Is the whole idea of travel made cheap and painless history? Perhaps an adventurous trek across France to Italy might be more fun. Can we afford to let the industry revive? Should relics like Boeing survive?

People have become kinder, cheerier and more considerate. Alternatively people have become ruder, cruder and crueller. Yes, both of those at the same time. Worse behaviour and stories of heroic neighbourliness. Human beings are complex and not always in a good way. There’s a current story about a Premier League footballer who with friends flew to Paris for a sex party – those were the days I thought but as a flouting of lockdown in two countries it’s breathtaking. I bet he scored though.

The divide between old and young is widening and each is becoming more of a self-parody. The “peace” party versus the “party” party. The landline and letter party versus the social media party. (And can I declare my increasing dismay about the inflammatory power of most social media?  Great jokes go viral - good news; people snarl and froth and create group rage - bad news.)

We talk about ‘getting back’ when we should be talking about ‘moving forward’ – to a better, sustainable world. It’ll  be both good and bad – inevitably. But let’s hope nature comes first. A world where we try to earn money not just to consume more but to create a society that works for everyone – fairer, cleaner and happier.

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