Monday, 29 December 2008

Seasonal 'upsets'

On Christmas Day we had a power cut here at about 12.30 pm. Inconvenient, you might think? Here it's something more than that, because most of the village isn't on gas. Turkeys in the oven.... and for the next few hours, there they sat, nothing happening. One family I know was OK, because their calor gas oven had eventually arrived and been connected on Christmas Eve; another family decamped to in laws a few miles away; another, in the absence of TV of course, played good old-fashioned games, until the power came back on. And of course central heating didn't work. People lit up their fires, but one family found jackdaws had nested in the chimney and the house filled with smoke. The only thing was to open the windows - and it was cold here, on Christmas Day. We were lucky, because for some reason - maybe because we're next door to the nursing home - our full power was restored within the hour, and our sprouts got cooked on a camping stove.

It WAS a minor inconvenience on the scale of these things. The last time something similar happened was about 15 years ago. But we've complained enough about it. Yet at the same time bombs have been raining down in the Gaza strip and rockets and mortars flying into Israel. The cholera epidemic still rages in Zimbabwe. Killing continues in Afghanistan, and everywhere of course.

Last night I listened to Radio 4's News Review of 2008, presented by that nice broadcaster, Ed Stourton (recently ousted from his seat on the Today Programme in a somewhat unseemly fashion). There were some highlights of course in the gloom, deepening since mid September with the credit crunch soon sinking into recession. People seemed agreed that the one piece of indisputable history would prove to be the election of Barack Obama as President of the USA. Poor man, talk about a crushing weight of expectation! Expected to save the US banks, car industry, to say nothing of the global economy; to extricate the US from Iraq; to solve global warming (remind you of King Canute?); and now newspapers reckon the Middle East is in need of his magic powers. Sorry, world, you're in for disappointment. He may be a remarkable man, but he's not a god. You need to look elsewhere for the answer. Give you a clue: Christ-mas.

Of course, there's not a simple solution to all that's wrong with the world at the moment. Well, there is, and there isn't. It's as simple as a change of attitude of 100% of humanity, and as improbable as that. If everyone looked out for their neighbours before themselves, things would be different. The secret is getting and sustaining that change.

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