This is not an easy day to be English. It’s definitely not an easy day to be a proud English woman with a life-long reputation for relentless cheerfulness and optimism. And as for a cheerfully optimistic blogger with a commitment to writing 800 words a day during August… well I can’t help wishing I had waited till September. Today, it’s hard to find a silver lining.
But compared to the thousands of people starting again this morning, sweeping up the broken glass, trying to work out the damage… well I think I can manage this, don’t you?
I can’t promise to make any sense of it, though. As I said yesterday, the longer I think about it, the more I look at the footage, listen to the words, the less sense it makes. It’s too complex, too soon, and I don’t claim to be a social commentator, or have my finger on the pulse of anything. I am just watching, and thinking, like you are I guess. Wondering what happened to authority, to order, last night. Wondering if there is any authority left to respect.
Near where we are staying here in Dorset is the village of Tolpuddle, a symbol of English resistance and organisation in the face of oppression. Their story of courage has always made me proud to be English. I’ve been thinking about them today, a lot, those brave men and women. Thinking about all those people who came before us who fought and died for freedom and for democracy, and what the hell we have done with their precious legacy. And what we still have to be proud about in England this morning.
And this is what I think. God, yes, we can still be proud. You and I, we aren’t part of this destructive force. We are standing against it. I think those who stand up to the destruction, to protect their communities – we can be rightly and justly proud of them. Those who are out on the streets today clearing up the devastation – we can be rightly and justly proud of them too. And we are. And we know that they, and we, won’t be defined by violence, or by destruction, but by peacefulness and courage.
A few years ago, the village of Boscastle suffered huge damage in extensive flooding; many homes and properties were destroyed, including their local pub The Wellington. While the long and exhausting process of rebuilding went on – and it took years – a group of singers would stand outside the wrecked buildings every Wednesday and sing a Stan Rogers song, “Rise Again” or “The Mary Ellen Carter”. It’s a song of hope and strength in adversity. It’s a song of the common people. They sang it every Wednesday, until the rebuilding was complete. These are the last verses of it, and let me tell you I have sung it many times and never once to the end without crying:
And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Rise again, rise again—though your heart it be broken
Or life about to end.
No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.
Here is the story of the Mary Ellen Carter, watch and weep:
There – is that optimistic enough for you? It’s the best I can do. Tomorrow – Normal service will be resumed and hopefully I will be able to Rise Again enough to give you my riff about the Dog Poo Fairy, or maybe about Beer. In the meantime, this is where you can find out how to help with the clear up operation.
And read about the Wombles here…