Reasons to be cheerful
AS I WRITE this the weather is a bit neither here nor there, Brexit rolls boringly on and certain fringe deputies still irritate me with their extreme (in my view) outlook on life.
Therefore it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to assume I’m feeling as uncheerful as the Equality Working Group expects to be the case for most people with long-term conditions in this island.
But how wrong could you be? I’m cheerful, not just because Jenny Kendall-Tobias has returned to BBC Guernsey after a break, but because it is my natural condition. And why shouldn’t it be? I’ve had a good life and all the downs have been more than balanced out by the highs. In fact I now recognise just how important the low points in my life have been to make me recognise and enjoy the good times, which I have in spades.
Luck has played an enormous part in my life. Principally the luck to be born in Guernsey at the right time and in the right family. Guernsey, because can you tell me a better place to call home? And my weird, slightly dysfunctional and independently eccentric family gave me the world view that I embrace with passion.
And yet this shouldn’t have been how things turned out. Not just for me but for all of my generation. Because we had few rights and opportunities given to us by international bodies. Those of my generation with ADHD, dyslexia and without the benefits of equality and diversity were surely doomed to failure, or at least a miserable life.
Hell, we didn’t even have mindfulness when I was a boy. And if referring to a single individual I’d have used the pronoun ‘it’ or ‘they’ then I would certainly have faced the wrath of Mr Le Poidevin at Amherst.
In fact I lived in the time of the piece of chalk, blackboard duster, ruler, cane and birch. Barbaric days indeed. No wonder we all turned out like we did and presumably only by the miracle of luck we kept this community from descending into the worst type of Armageddon.
Our memories of a very pleasant place to grow up in are presumably false. Did we really leave our doors unlocked and were we really allowed as children to roam freely from dawn to dusk? If only we’d have had rights, perhaps our parents would’ve been forced to always know where we were and keep us on a very short chain.
Our schools were terrible places. Overcrowded classrooms, 44 in my last year at Amherst, and we were taught facts by rote. How outrageous. Putting all that useful information in our heads for life in an easy and effective manner we now know was the worst possible type of education.
I still don’t know how many of my classmates in Amherst Infants were LGBTQ and, to be honest, at five years old I was totally ignorant of such important things, probably because most of my attention was on playing with toys and dressing up.
At least we had our version of climate change, which was the upcoming World War 3 and the inevitable nuclear holocaust. Our equivalent of the single use plastic protestors marched on CND rallies (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament for any readers under 50, unlikely as that may be) and chained themselves to gates at Greenham Common.
Typical that even the weirdos of our generation were more worried about the bombs than the big, fossil fuel polluting aircraft that carried them, which the generation of today must accept were more damaging. Now the weirdos of this generation travel all over the world for fun in big, fossil fuel polluting aircraft but will refuse the offer of a plastic straw.
Times have changed and I know each generation clings to the habits of their time but looking back at history we can see that it isn’t a straight line progression of improving habits generation by generation.
Mostly it is. But every now and then some regressive factor pulls a generation in the wrong direction. What is happening in Brunei is a current example of people taking the wrong path. The witch-finders of the 17th century exploited innocent people for a cash reward and possibly in the future the Gender Identity Development Service will be viewed in the same way. Who knows?
Other generations embraced ruffs, or powdered wigs, whitened faces, codpieces and even flares. Generational fashion isn’t confined purely to clothing but encompasses all areas of life. And as surely as something comes into fashion it will go out of fashion because no one wants to dress like their parents.
I’m cheerful because I’ve come to terms with change. I may not like the demise of grammar, nor will I embrace it for my own use, but I try to wince less at every grammatically poor Facebook post. I also know that, just as flares will certainly return one day, there is every chance that grammar will also be revived.
My favourite poet – with Deputy Queripel coming a close second – Rudyard Kipling is now generally regarded by the youth (anyone under 60) as a racist imperialist and his words ignored. But anyone who has studied the whole Kipling oeuvre would not dismiss him so flippantly.
We all know ‘If’ and understand its meaning, but I would guess Deputy Yerby is as outraged by the gender specific language as she was of the police advice to women to take care walking home late at night. And what would she make of a ‘woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke’?
I dare not ask.
The States of Guernsey allocated me a school with the motto ‘semper eadem’, which translates as ‘always the same’, and although things seem different to each generation I would suggest that basically they are always the same. Which was the point of Kipling’s ‘The Gods of the Copybook Headings’.
If you don’t know it, I urge you to seek it out because it makes sense of the madness we see around us and gives hope that it is an aberration and sense will prevail at some time in the future. As the maestro wrote :
‘And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!’