Reading Marcus’s recent blog entry, which you can find here, I had a few thoughts, which are actually not really any different from wot ‘e said, but nonetheless I’m going to shout them at you all because I am truly wonderful like that. Or not.
So, England. In reference to various local shows and such, or the whole folk festival thing, and as usual the fact that it’s summer turning to autumn and everything is just beautiful – I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot of late. Not, as Marcus said, the whole ‘bloody forriners and immigrants stealing all our jobs’ flag-waving BNP false nostalgia politicised insanity thing, but literally, an appreciation for a time when most of us lived in the countryside rather than the city, a love for how bloody beautiful this country is, honestly, look out of your window, drive out of your city, get into the Peaks or the South Downs or Dorset or Devon or the Fens and tell me this isn’t heartbreakingly beautiful, rain or shine, dark or light.
And the whole thing. The traditions, the Sunday roast thing, the fairs and the markets and the regional accents and the superstitions and the characteristics which define us as a group of people (not always necessarily positive but ours nonetheless), the strange regional surnames and foods and things, the weather, terribly English manners, all of it. The kinds of women that still run the fete, man the choir stalls, do the flowers at Church, set up choirs and orchestras and amateur dramatics and local music festivals in town halls, that invite underpriveleged city children to their country piles because everyone needs a holiday from time to time. Plums and damsons and oh! Jam! made from all these things. Blackberries. The smallest, newest allotment potatoes. It’s all still there, England, the way we idealise it, at least in bits: the carol service I go to every year (and no I am not going to tell you about it, it’s too special, I don’t want all of you showing up and ruining it for me). Get on a train or a bus to anywhere and just look out the window, seriously. I love this country, always have, and yes, I’m a dirty Guardian-reading liberal, but I want my flag back, I want to be able to call myself a patriot, and mean only good things by that.
And The Collapse. In other words, what happens when the world ends? Some kind of environmental crisis. All the bees die, the world heats up too much, we run out of oil, and suddenly, that’s it, civilisation is over, and only a smattering of survivors pick through the ruins. This idea terrifies me. I partly want to be there to see how I’d cope, but in the main I am terrified, and I want no part in it except to try and stop that from happening. And stop it won’t. Here is George Monbiot debating with Paul Kingsnorth on the matter. One way or another, things are going to change, and it will be change for the worse.
What really, really scares me, and what makes me feel pre-emptively pretty guilty, is actually the idea that one day I’ll have children, and first of all, I’m bringing them into a world that is ending, and secondly, what if they live to see that end? Either way it’s not much to give them, is it – a world in chaos, or a world that has collapsed altogether? How can I possibly live with myself bringing children into such a world? But of course I’m a human being, it’s the genetic imperative, and the idea that the world might end in their lifetime somehow makes that even stronger – I want to have children who, as adults, will make it through, will start to build a new civilisation, and who will hopefully do it far better than our ancestors managed.
Better still I’d rather that they didn’t have to do any of those things, that they would grow up to go to nice schools ,wear nice clothes, have nice bicycles, eat tea and teacakes, play football, do ballet, ride horses, learn to grow things they can eat, and cook the things they grow, and bring their own children up in time playing cricket and listening to the songs you only really hear now in village halls on a Monday evening lisped out by six-year-olds, ancient songs of love and longing and journeys and deaths and lives, I imagine them singing those songs at parties at dusk with a bonfire and good ale, a simpler, more sustainable life; I want the world to be somehow sorted out for them so that they live in a way that can be kept going for centuries, that is beautiful.
Oh hell, I’m emotional today. Apologies.