Monday, June 25, 2012

A very patriotic cat

This is a story that I can't explain.  Only Chloe, my Bengal Cat, could give you the truth of the matter, but she prefers to remain enigmatic.
So, in the absence of an explanation, let me tell you what happened as it happened.  Any conclusions you like to draw I leave entirely to you.

I'm sure you recall the wonderful celebrations that took place over the Jubilee weekend.  What you may not know is that, on the Saturday evening preceding the London festivities, the Royal Albert Hall celebrated with a Jubilee Gala.  A kind friend invited me to join her and it proved to be a memorable evening.

Never have I seen a more enthusiastic audience, never have I witnessed more heartfelt flag-waving, nor listened to more gloriously patriotic music.  Think of the Last Night of the Proms, then double the fervour and the intensity . . . I'm sure you've got the picture.

This photo conveys the atmosphere more powerfully than any words.  It also shows you the flags that were handed out with the programmes.  Two flags were allotted to each concertgoer and, thinking of my cat who was missing out on all the excitement, I brought my two flags home.

On her first encounter with the flags Chloe displayed a keen interest.  But this interest soon waned.  By the following day the flags had lost all appeal.

The following Saturday, the Queen's official birthday, celebrations resumed with The Trooping of the Colour.
Settling down to watch the pageantry on television, I was taken aback by some unexpected pageantry closer to home.  As the royal carriages moved smoothly down The Mall, so Chloe sprang into action.  Grabbing her long-forgotten flag in both paws, she waved it with patriotic fervour.

Had she seen the flags and banners on the television?  Had she been moved by the military music and the crowd's evident excitement?  I'll never know.  But once the pageantry was over so, too, was Chloe's patriotism!

It may well return, and the flags, now relegated to the toy bag, will await a possible summons from Chloe on the next occasion of national rejoicing!

Monday, June 18, 2012

For Sale

My home for fourteen years, but, in your eyes,
It's termed a saleable commodity.
Absurd to feel defensive, but it's me
You're wounding when you pause to criticise
A creaking door, or look with pained surprise
At peeling paint.  Somehow I didn't see
Those grubby marks until you came;  the tree
You call a hazard is a friend I prize.
I shall grow hardened to this new-found pain,
I shall show people round and gain the skill
Of placing potted plants to hide the stain
That time has wreaked upon the window-sill.
But, as a traitor, how can I explain
To bricks and mortar that I love it still?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The power of love

What is power?  This question came into my mind repeatedly during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
May I share some thoughts with you?

Dependent on your point of view, the word 'power' doesn't usually get a very good press.  There's the power of the despot . . . the power of multi-national corporations . . . the power of large banks . . . the power of the international arms trade.  Power, more often than not, is associated with suppression, competition and greed.

Last weekend, looking at the enthusiastic crowds thronging the damp and chilly pavements, listening to a sodden choir singing its heart out in the pouring rain, above all watching a small, elderly lady coping with heavy demands on her stamina, the onslaught of the elements, and the sudden illness of her consort  . . . I thought again.

No-one had been paid to sleep out in the rain along the Mall.  No-one had bought tickets to acquire a prime position on the pavement facing St. Paul's.  No-one had been coerced into grasping a Union Jack and standing for hours by the roadside in the hope of seeing a royal carriage.  No-one would gain financially or professionally from any of these experiences.  But they came.

Not only did they come in person, they watched on television, they followed the events online.
A friend of mine, waiting in the crowded streets for a glimpse of the Royal party, heard the summons of her mobile.  It was her daughter phoning from Australia.
"Have you seen the Queen, Mum?" her daughter asked excitedly, "She's wearing a beautiful, mint-green outfit!"

They came . . . they watched . . . they listened.  Why?  Because they loved her.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not suggesting that the millions participating in the Jubilee weekend loved the Queen in the sense that they would have loved their friends or family.  This was different.
They loved what she epitomised . .   her dedication to duty . . . her integrity . . . her commitment to her faith . . . her old-fashioned 'Britishness' as displayed by a profound sense of fair-play.
Weary, perhaps, of our commercialised society,  a society with a very short attention-span . . . tired of a world grown prone to cynicism and greed . . . they had been reminded of alternative values and they had responded.

Is this what keeps the Queen secure on her throne?
Not her wealth, her armed forces, her crown, but her people's love for the timeless values she represents?

Nothing else could have brought out the crowds in such numbers.
Nothing else could have demonstrated, so undeniably, that the only true source of power is love.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Let's celebrate a Painted Lady

I've just had a delightful surprise.
Quite unexpectedly, a suitable Jubilee gift has presented itself . . . a gift that I can offer to the Queen.
Whether she'll actually receive it depends very much on the direction of the prevailing wind and a lot of good luck.  But I know it's something she'd appreciate.

Let me tell you the story.
Last Christmas, my friend Anna gave me a beautiful dwarf buddleia together with a fascinating book on butterflies.
Anna and I share a love of wildlife and she knewI'd appreciate her gifts.  But she'd also taken a broader view.  Her admirable intention was that the small buddleia, prominently displayed on my outside window-sill, might help to stem the dramatic decline in our local butterfly population.

Happily installed in its new home, where it nestled snugly between the window-boxes, the buddleia thrived.  It thrived so well that it outgrew its flower-pot.  Yesterday afternoon, realising that something needed to be done, I went in search of a larger pot, one that would allow it to spread its roots and flourish.

Only after the buddleia had been transplanted did I notice the crumpled foliage.  Rather surprisingly, my otherwise healthy plant had acquired a twisted leaf.
Trying to smooth out the wrinkles, I realised what had happened.  This was no accident.  This was exactly what Anna had been hoping for . . . held secure in the fragile grasp of the crumpled leaf  was a delicate cocoon.  In a matter of days my buddleia would be hosting the birth of its very first butterfly!

Bearing in mind that the butterfly is emerging at the time of the Queen's Jubilee, I must admit to a fanciful hope.  I know that every Cabbage White is precious, I know that I shouldn't discriminate, but how wonderfully appropriate if our first butterfly turned out to be an elegant Painted Lady.  After all, no lady can have sat for her portrait more often than our current Queen.

Wouldn't you agree that a Painted Lady, carried on a westerly breeze towards the gardens of Buckingham Palace, would be the crowning glory for the celebrations?

Less spectacular, perhaps than a display of Spitfires or Red Arrows . . . but far more environmentally-friendly!