Jess Cartner-Morley’s suggestion in the Guardian Weekend that we should dress happy was probably not, if the clothes that accompanied the article are anything to go by, aimed at me, but I certainly embrace it.
So the arrival last week of socks from Yinka Ilori was a real cause for celebration. If you want a pair, or three, visit Yinka Ilori Studio. They are fab!
Walking down the road towards Uppacott. Chagford in the middle distance and on the skyline snow dusting Steeperton and Oke Tors, and to the far right High Willhays and Yes Tor.
And walking the long hill home from Uppacott, long tailed tits in the hedgerow, bumbling along with us, chattering to each other, and early honeysuckle breaking leaf. Spring isn’t quite here but it isn’t far off.
I have been reading Enuma Okoro in the Weekend FT. Her New York Diary – a reflection on Epiphany and epiphanies – was wonderfully thought provoking. Sadly it is behind the FT’s paywall.
For better or worse, I left faith and religion a long time ago. Although I started to train as a priest I never reached journey’s end. We were warned that the second year would be difficult. It was in fact surprisingly easy to find a different way. Nonetheless, I have always been captivated by the journey of the Magi. Whether in the art of the Renaissance – I first saw Gozzoli’s beautiful fresco in the Medici Chapel some 50 years ago – or in T S Eliot’s retelling – a cold coming for Birth or Death.
And this morning I was struck by Enuma Okoro’s reflection,
The Magi were said to be priestly people, astrologers who could read the skies and stars and signs. One of my favourite parts of the story is that the wise men travel home by a different way because they have been warned that the old way is no longer suitable. Now they know what they know, and they have seen what they have seen, the former way home can no longer lead to preserving life. They were not the same people returning as those who left.
And as we set out on our different journeys in 2021, she puts it perfectly
The reality of 2020 still sits before us all. . . Knowing what we know, and seeing what we’ve seen, none of us can really be at home with ourselves and with the world as before . . . it seems clear that most of us want to return by a different way. Whether we wanted it or not, the past year has allowed, if not enforced, the unearthing of things — in our relationships, in our life choices and negotiations, and in the journeys we’ve found ourselves on.
It has been a cold morning. Looking out over the garden, in the quiet of a Devon lockdown, it is sometimes hard to reconcile what happens (or doesn’t) here and what is happening elsewhere in the world, whether it is the pandemic threatening to overwhelm the NHS or Trump inciting the mob to threaten the foundations of US democracy.
The last chapter of what Trump has laughingly called “the greatest first term in presidential history” is more like a US Götterdämmerung than anything else. If I was worried about British soft power draining away (see my post A New Year), that is nothing to what is happening to the reputation of the US.
I have tried to avoid writing too much about politics this past year. Mainly because it seems so pointless – and because all that happens is that I end up ranting away. But I cannot note the final rupture with Europe with anything other than real sadness. The cold weather this morning matched my mood.
For virtually my entire adult life we have been in and of Europe. The history I studied and I (still) read is clear that our fortunes are and have been inextricably linked with those of our European neighbours. Despite our many episodes of English (for it was invariably English) exceptionalism, our relationship with the continent, one way or another, has, sometimes of necessity but more often by choice, been close.
But I woke up this morning to a new world where, apparently, we have regained our sovereignty (had we ever lost it?) and are finally free (really?).
As the world moves into a new era of great power competition, the UK can only project its soft power and liberal democratic values in partnership with other like-minded countries.
One of the principal consequences of Brexit has been the steady erosion of the UK’s soft power and in pursuing Brexit in the way that it has, our government has quite deliberately undermined our liberal democratic values. There will be a lot to do.
But enough of this.
I was immensely cheered this morning by John Naughton’s Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news – Ode to Joy Flashmobbed – although the rest of his post in Memex 1.1 was a little less encouraging.
So I thought I would also share this with you – link