A Farewell to Summer

The mere ghost of summer that we've had here in the north of England is already fading.  One sure sign of approaching autumn was the spider I found in the washing up stacked on the draining board this morning.

And then, on the edge of the garden path, I spotted a baby shrew, frozen to the ground by the mewing call of a peregrine overhead.  He stayed stone still even when I was inches away - more afraid of the raptor than of me.

The trees on the edge of the river have a faint yellow tinge, but aren't noticeably turning yet, so perhaps there is still some fine weather to come, though my garden grass is littered with windfall apples.

But in this beautiful, peaceful place there's also an air of unreality and foreboding. Every day on the TV or internet I watch tens of thousands of refugees, risking their lives to leave war-torn home-lands, people with children, the elderly, people in wheelchairs or on crutches, clutching carrier bags with the few belongings they now possess, children holding teddy bears, some barefoot, all desperate.  And I watch them met with barbed wire fences, riot police and closed borders and wonder what has happened to the human race. Huge areas of the Middle East and northern Africa are war zones incompatible with ordinary human existence. This enormous Exodus has only just begun and it will change the way we all live. My privileged, comfortable lifestyle feels increasingly immoral and unsustainable.

Mother and baby on the Hungarian border
The local community I live in is relatively small - about 4,000 people.  But it provided a safe haven for Bosnian refugees in the recent Balkan wars.  They were welcomed, housed, fed, and entertained until, eventually, their homeland was safe enough to return to.  My community would do the same for the Syrians, or the Libyans or the Iraqis, if we were allowed to, for as long as it takes to bring peace to the countries they are fleeing. I have a big house, and there's only me rattling around in it.  I'd gladly provide space for a family and a lot of my friends feel the same. These people don't want our benefits or our jobs - they certainly don't want our climate! They just want to care for their children in peace and, above all, they want to go home.

Meanwhile, I've got my head buried in my work-in-progress, writing about another holocaust - the wiping out of around 90% of the indigenous population of British Columbia, by the British colonial administration - found guilty in a recent government report of 'genocide by policy and ideology'. Sadly, times don't seem to have changed much.


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