Looking back, looking forward: problems in context

It’s been over a week since I posted the last blog and in that time nothing of consequence has happened in the small world in which I live.  That world has been more than usually limited by almost complete inactivity due to a bad attack of gut-rot which followed from the unwellness I commented on in the last blog.  Still by no means certain as to what the cause/causes was/were and I’ll certainly not go into detail out of consideration for the sensitivities of scatalogophobes (The word is derived from two Greek words, ‘phobia’ with which we are all familiar and σκατός which means … Sh…t, I’ve forgotten but not to be confused with those who are afraid of or confused by eschatology).  .

Suffice it to say that for a week I scarcely went out of the house.  Not even into the garden.  Not that there has been much incentive to go outside.  The Indian Summer past, the weather has been pretty uniformly grey, the only variation being in the shade of grey.  Basically between gloom and deep gloom as shown by a rolling pattern of light or dark grey clouds on the Met Office Weather forecasts, interspersed periodically by symbols for drizzle or mist.  On the positive side, temperatures have remained in double figures so no need to drag myself outside to put tender plants into the Blue House for overwintering as has happened on a number of occasions at this time of year in the past.

Not that I’ve taken the opportunity of physical inactivity to do any deep thinking, I’ve been too busy feeling sorry for myself.  And becoming very bored.  Which did make me wonder …….

My English teacher in school was very keen to instil in us the correct and accurate use of the language.  We would be caned for use in (virtually) any context of 6 Forbidden Words because they were sloppy and imprecise.  Three of those words were ‘get’, ‘quite’ and ‘nice’ (the exception for the latter was in its precise or fine meaning).  He also took us to task for the incorrect use of ‘hopefully’ and gave the example “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive” (Robert Louis Stevenson).  That example made a deep impression on me because it sums up a key aspect of my psyche and what I later realised is a not uncommon human attitude.

Everyday life is generally boring.  We need things to look forward to in order to get us through the drudgery of cleaning the loo.  We need things which excite the imagination.  That’s probably partly why the anticipation is usually more satisfying than the reality, the imagination involved in expectation often painting an overly optimistic rosy picture.

One of the great things about being in Greece in September is that it extends the summer, delays the descent into winter greyness.  But then the contrast on return to Grey Britain is all the more sharp.  Though this year ameliorated by the Indian Summer of very good weather for a week, we are now into The Grey with the prospect only of the odd day of Autumn colours if the sun shines again.  The truth is that the images we see and remember of glorious golds and yellows of trees in Autumn sunshine are a rare treat, not the norm.

Perhaps the worst thing about the gloom which descends at this time of year is that there is nothing positive to look forward to.  The days will get shorter and darker.  The weather will get greyer, damper and colder.  Next summer and the prospect of warm sunshine is below the horizon.  The prospect of deep winter in Canada is hidden behind £ and $ signs.   And Christmas looms.  Fewer and fewer people seem to look forward to it as a time to be enjoyed.  Christians and many others bemoan the commercialisation and loss of ‘the real meaning’ of Christmas, forgetting that a lot of the stuff we associate with it is in any case an invention of the likes of Coca Cola for purely commercial reasons.

I was despondently doing the washing up after breakfast one morning and looking out of the window at the greyness.  Turning on the radio I heard part of a reading from a book by a guy who had had firsthand experience of dealing with the effects on people of the spraying of the jungles of Vietnam with the ecocide ‘Agent Orange’.  (if you’re not familiar with this look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agent_Orange).  I’m glad I didn’t see images on the TV, the verbal description was graphic enough.  Absolutely appalling.  I’ll not go on about the morality of a so-called civilised nation which can inflict that suffering on another and then start another war based on a trumped up case of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  My mind is already well made up on that.  What struck me was the simple line in the book that seeing that extent and degree of human suffering inflicted on people put one’s own problems in context.  The use of Agent Orange is but one of many inhumanities perpetrated on individuals and societies even in our modern world.

Gut-rot is a temporary and minor inconvenience.  Boredom is self-indulgence.

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