Friday, 8 July 2016

Small pleasant things

I have spent the last two weeks veering between rage and sadness about what is happening in the UK. Today did not start off well – I turned on the news to see an interview with a young woman from a Polish family – the eldest of four children – whose large garden shed has been set alight in the middle of the night. Someone had left an anonymous note (words cut out of newspapers and stuck on paper) “go home it will be your house next”.  They have been in this country for many years and lived in their house for nine years and work hard.

What struck me was as much as the awfulness of what had happened was the way she emphasised how wonderful the police and fire service had been, how reassuring they had been and supportive. She was then asked about other issues and spoke of verbal abuse to the children calmly, other incidents in the Polish community and how they try to deal with them rather than go to the police. Coming from apartheid South Africa in the 1960s – a country that had much to be ashamed of – I was so proud when I became a British citizen. I am embarrassed by what some of my countrymen are doing.

With this on my mind, I went on the Underground and changed trains at Kings Cross – a very busy station. There were several empty seats on the train and when I sat down I noticed that there was a ‘not so young’ man of Asian appearance sitting holding his walking stick in the seat reserved for “those less able to stand” which he clearly was. He had dozed off and next to him was an empty seat and his shoulder bag had slipped down onto the seat so no one could sit there. I waited to see if someone would wake him and ask him to move it (hopefully politely – you never know in the current climate).  More and more people got onto the train – of all colours and speaking all different languages – and stood: everyone looked and no one said anything. His bag remained on the seat.  This went on for five stops and then he woke and got off. London didn’t let me down.

I then went to the Barbican Library – I joined years ago soon after it opened, left when I left work and rejoined earlier this year. If you go during the working day it is peaceful; the book selection is amazing and the staff wonderful. 


I normally go another route but this time went from Barbican Station along the walkway to the High Walk and was stunned to find a series of beautiful wild gardens in the midst of all the brick, concrete and glass.  I hope there are beehives nearby – they would have a wonderful time.

Came home calm and restored.

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