Wake up and plant the roses

Brockwell Park

Cool sunny October day. Last night Boris Johnson got a deal with the EU. Will he get it through Parliament tomorrow? Who knows. DUP are saying NO. But we’ve been watching this Brexit car crash for over 3 years now and anything could happen. I’m still watching on in horror and confusion.

My knee is still playing up. Osteoarthritis according to the physio. At least my blood sugar levels have come down. I really enjoyed my walks around Brockwell Park, spurred on by my 10,000 steps a day target. ‘Walking away from diabetes’ they call it, and it seems to have worked for me. Just wish I could walk without the pain in my knee.

Brockwell Park is a great space within the air-polluted streets of South London. It’s green and hilly, giving views over London, and from some parts you could believe you were in the countryside. I feel guilty and powerless about the legacy our generation is leaving for our grandchildren. I can hear Ollie saying when he gets to those difficult teenage years – ‘Grandad, why didn’t you do anything to save the planet’. Is it too late for me to help make a difference? Is it too late for Mother Earth?

Yesterday Extinction Rebellion hit the headlines when a few of them stood on top of a tube train during the morning rush hour. Angry commuters dragged them down to the platform. Not sure I agree with their methods, but these protesters are getting more people talking about the issue, and I applaud their bravery.

I have managed to plant 2 roses into the garden. They had been given to us by someone who wanted rid of them. I had them in pots initially, but they are quite tall and were constantly leaning over and difficult to keep upright. They look much better in the ground, and I look forward to the smile of their yellow flowers next year. Next task is to move the ceanothus. We got it 2-3 years ago, but I hadn’t realised how tall and wide it would grow. I put it too near the front of the border and it’s dominating the other plants there. I’ve already prepared a hole at the back of the border, so now I need to carefully dig it up and re-plant it in a better spot. Hope it survives.

Giving space to plants in my garden is good, but not enough. I must gather the resolve to do more in the fight against climate change. I’m not sure what. I don’t think I’m ready to join Extinction Rebellion. The teachings I have heard from Thich Nhat Hanh might provide a guide. He is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, who went to America during the Vietnam War, and later established Plum Monastery in France. I went on a retreat led by him some years ago. I really like his teaching. Mindfulness was a major part of it, and this was long before it became popular in the West. It was also about taking care of the planet, and about mindful consumption. I think his way of life provides a template for how we could all adopt a lifestyle to combat climate change. Understanding and spreading his messages might be the best way for me to have a response for Ollie.

Thich Nhat Hanh

A day with the Seagulls

Inside the Amex

Hugo is writhing in agony. He’s in the net – as is the ball. Within 3 minutes of kickoff, an innocuous-looking cross floated in from the left. It’s straight at the goalkeeper. Hugo jumps for a comfortable catch. He drops the ball, falls backward, and the Brighton forward nips in unchallenged to head it into the net.

Henry leaps to his feet cheering. He can’t believe his beloved Albion, having lost 6 league games in a row, have taken the lead against the mighty Spurs after 3 minutes. A few moments of nervousness in case VAR wipes out the goal. But then the replay of the incident on the big screen shows no infringement and the goal stands. More cheering and delight from the home fans and the Amex stadium is alive with waving blue and white scarves.

Sitting next to Henry, I get to my feet slowly to see what’s happened. Hugo is now receiving medical attention. A long delay before he’s carried off on a stretcher, and replaced by our substitute goalkeeper. I feel sick – not for the injury but because things seem to be going downhill for Spurs. Sure enough, we concede 2 more goals, fail to score, and play without motivation or quality against a side we were expected to beat comfortably. Only later do we discover that Hugo has dislocated his elbow, and will be out of action for several months. A miserable week for our goalkeeper and captain, after giving away a goal last Saturday and then conceding 7 against Bayern on Tuesday.

Why do I do it to myself? Why invest so much emotional energy in a football club?

My friend Terry is a season ticket holder at Brighton and got me the ticket as a present for my 70th birthday a few weeks ago. I was thrilled to get it. I don’t get to many games and really looked forward to seeing Spurs play live. A day out with the Seagulls.

As I sat between Terry and Henry, surrounded by Brighton fans, my main concern had been to make sure I didn’t jump up and cheer when Spurs scored, and incur the wrath of their fans. No need to worry on that score (excuse the weak pun). Nothing for a Spurs fan to cheer in that game. When Brighton scored their third, a really good goal this time, and Terry and Henry leapt to their feet again, I also stood up (a little more slowly) and clapped. It was an effort to join in with the celebrations, but from what I had seen the Brighton fans were OK, and Terry and Henry had treated me well, so I tried to be happy for them. I did draw the line at joining in with the chants of ‘we want seven’ and ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning.’

After the game I thought to myself I must try to apply a little mindfulness to my Spurs habit. But now it’s Tuesday and I find myself browsing for any stories about Spurs. Will Poch be sacked? What are the players saying on social media? Any new transfer rumours? How are my fellow sufferers coping?

Maybe writing a blog post will help …

Love thy enemy?

On Tuesday we had what I thought was a momentous decision by our Supreme Court to declare the governments pro-rogation of Parliament illegal. But now our Prime Minister seems to be carrying on as normal. Parliament is back sitting again, but Boris Johnson and co will not admit they were wrong. He and Geoffrey Cox went on the offensive when Parliament returned on Wednesday, in probably the most angry Parliamentary session we have ever seen.

I am a member of the Labour Party, but not a very active one. Our political system is so adversarial. Brexit has made it much worse. Hate crime is rising, fuelled by right-wing politics. But should we respond to anger and hatred with more anger and hatred?

Our garden

We have had a lot of rain this week, and our garden is looking a lot fresher. It’s a bit overgrown. Chris is right, too many plants, too much growth, not enough space. I need to make some changes, maybe move a few plants or trim them back. I hate to dig them up or destroy them. Best to wait till it gets colder.

I turned 70 this week. Big milestone. Family weekend in Eastbourne, and then celebrated with a meal with Chris at the Duck and Waffle, on the 40th floor. Great views looking down on Tower Bridge. That’s what’s made me start this blog. After 70 years, I should have something to say?

View from the Duck and Waffle

There is a practice in Buddhism where the idea is to wish all beings achieve happiness and freedom from suffering. We are encouraged to think of different people, including our enemies, and wish them happiness and freedom from suffering. So as my enemy I have chosen Boris Johnson, and as part of the practice say such things as ‘may Boris Johnson know happiness and the causes of happiness’. It might stick in my throat sometimes, but if he is happy and free from suffering, he would not be so angry, would not be so driven in the pursuit of power, and not be fuelling the reactions of extreme Brexiteers.

Could you imagine a Labour Party conference where delegates took some time to wish happiness for Boris Johnson? Maybe not, but a little bit of compassion and respect for those of different views could be on the agenda.