Monthly Archives: June 2017

In the days of sunshine

These hot sunny days are ideal for sitting reading a good book in a shady corner of the garden.

Ironically the title of the book I am reading does not reflect the kind of weather we’ve been having. “In the Days of Rain” by Rebecca Stott is a recently published memoir, based on the life of the author growing up within the cruel cult of the Exclusive Brethren, and the fear of approaching End Times and judgment. As her father lay dying he asked her to finish writing down his story of their family living within the confines of the EBs, and their escape from it. But it was not an easy task. Rebecca’s father ran out of time as he tried to negotiate the “thicket” of what happened in his past, and capture it in a way which made sense. And Rebecca too struggled with the material, her own memories, and her father’s writing stashed in a box under her bed for years. Her own children helped her begin to sort it all, and gradually find a way through the forest of the past events.


Her memoir is a beautifully written and crafted attempt to make sense of what cannot truly be understood. How can anyone undesrstand the mixed motives and complex beliefs of the well meaning and decent people who her parents had once loved, but who drove so many to despair and even death. Perhaps I can understand more than many of her readers, because I, like Rebecca, was born into a family of fourth generation members of the Exclusives. Her story is not my story,  but I enjoyed her interpretation of the things that happened, and it was a relief to read descriptions of behaviour and emotions so recognisable to me. Sometimes her memoir reads like a novel, sometimes it’s more like poetry.

Listening to the inspirational Hilary Mantel offering the first of her Reith Lectures, “The Day Is for the Living”, I was struck by her comments about history, and our attempts to capture the past, in fiction, drama, and other creative writing.  She said “It is the multiplication of the evidence of fallible and biased witnesses, combined with incomplete accounts of actions not fully understood by the people who performed them. It’s no more than the best we can do, and often it falls short of that”.

But even so Hilary Mantel’s best attempts to capture the past are reckoned as pretty good, and, in my opinion, so is Rebecca Stott’s. I am looking forward to Hilary’s next Reith lecture, and I am taking advantage of the hot sunny weather to reread “In the Days of Rain”.

C’est la vie?

I have eaten strawberries for lunch today, picked from our own garden, large red and delicious. Lovely, but… I have had to share them! With wood lice and slugs. It is disappointing to pick a large ripe fruit and discover it is hollow, eaten from the inside. Still, c’est la vie as they say, and some careful washing and cutting gave us plenty of sweet mouthfuls to enjoy. IMG_1443

I also mowed the lawn this morning, and it looks smooth and lush. But there is a cost… the destruction of a starry spread of pretty daisies and buttercups. Garden life is an inevitable mixture of growth and cutting down.

IMG_1442

Life often seems to be this muddle of disappointment, compromise and worse.  We spent a lovely few days with friends this weekend in London. We watched the amazing spectacle of the Trooping of the Colour, wandered the parks, ate ice creams and saw the sights in the sunshine. We cruised on the Thames and enjoyed good food and each other’s company. But the darker side to London life was revealed with the news of the terrorist attack on London Bridge and the shadow of this and previous terrorist attacks was never far from our awareness, not least because of the presence of so many armed police.

C’est la vie is an expression which usually conveys a necessary acceptance of disappointments and times when life is not neat and tidy. Times when it is hard to reconcile the minor paradoxes and contradictions of life beyond our control, such as woodlice in strawberries.

But for me the contradictions and horror of terrorist attacks aren’t so easy to just accept and then carry on with life. It is a dilemma which can’t be shrugged off. Is such violence and destruction an inevitable part of life? Or is this a time to ask the question why?  Time to seek understanding and consider ways to initiate change without retaliation? Can there be a resistance to such hatred which does not return evil for evil?

I am still pondering … No easy answers.