Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Still Waters Run Deep

I walked the River Hodder earlier today; not the whole length you understand, just about two miles of narrow, twisting pebble-banked stream and deep, slow, murky pools hiding their secrets from the damp world above. The Hodder has run its course through villages such as Slaidburn, Tosside, Newton, Dunsop Bridge and Lane Ends for centuries, bringing fresh water from the North Lancashire Moors down to the Trough or Forest of Bowland, one of those well-kept, remote, attractive but hardly unspoilt areas of our green and pleasant land.

Unspoilt is a misnomer! Of course it is spoilt, by the higgledy-piggledy stone-built houses locked together over time in each village, by the long and low farmhouses which litter the valley, by the stark and unwelcoming halls owned by the nouveau-riche who bought them from the families of deceased cotton and wool barons of the 19th century, and by the chain-link fenced sewage plant, all but astride the Hodder in the centre of the valley; this brick built monstrosity, ageing, rusting and weedy leaking its residue of filtrate into these ice-cold waters.

We describe the valley as unspoilt because it is so well maintained, manicured by locals who take pride in their trusteeship. The natural Trough would be forested and unfarmed, a home for small mammals and birds as well as the ghosts of history, those travellers spirited away by accident and evil and buried in the rich and fertile soil. Unspoilt, no, but beautiful and impressive, with sober and unpretentious colours which welcome rather than challenge both residents and visitors.

This is why I sat, stood and leaned alongside the Hodder, peering into the deep and slowly circling pools, searching for trout first but failing that, wondering what secrets these eddies hid. Time does not fly here; change is slow. No reminders of the speed of modern culture, just the bleat of sheep, the chirp of birds, the rustle of wind in the trees and the ripple of water over rock and pebble. Humans may well have changed the look of the Trough with their ploughs and cows, but no motorways or planes, few roads and cars left me to think, dream, ponder and reflect.

Still waters do run deep, as deep as my thoughts, as hidden as my soul, as profound as the blood running through my veins.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Society at Peace!

The story of Freddie is sad indeed, the son of a dysfunctional family with father in prison, mother on the game, sisters in poverty caring for themselves, getting themselves to school most days, but always in trouble! Trouble with parents, with neighbours, with teachers, with just anybody.

Freddie is one of those who might well have rioted last week, little sense of responsibility, little understanding of community, little to excite him but much to frustrate, to limit, to depress. Who got it wrong, who caused this division, disaffection and distress? Does it matter anyway?

Some say that society is broken; others that social unrest is the consequence of a disaffected generation of young people; others that policing needs to be stronger, more assertive with punishments that deter. Fewer believe that policing is by consent of the community and that justice and jail must be restorative.

Does it matter what we say, think or believe? Not for Freddie. He fell or was pushed from a third floor window and was impaled on the railings below a long time before these riots. Unlike our community today, Freddie is at peace!