2019… Que sera sera …
A new birth, my new granddaughter, is a poignant and happy way to end the year. New life. It seems like a miracle really. One minute she doesn’t exist, the next minute she does. Birth and death and the cycles of life are both ordinary and everyday and yet ultimately extraordinary.
We grandparents can get a hard time from those who don’t have family or as yet don’t have grandchildren. But there is a kind of secret smile that passes from one grandparent to another, even when you don’t know one another. You see a grandfather walking with a toddler in Kew Gardens, catch his eye and you both smile, knowing how precious these moments are.
I think because one is older a new young life, bewildered, vulnerable, in wonder and far from understanding (any more than we do!) the complexities of the world they have entered, is potent. The innocence, the wide-eyed approach to the rituals of the year, whether it is Hallowe’en, Guy Fawkes or Father Christmas is magical.
And as one ages one tends to recognise that family, friends and community are so important when the world outside is in such chaos. Moving to Kew has brought us into a delightful and inspiring community where almost everyone we meet is volunteering in one way or another, as David and I intend to do now that the house is finished (hurrah!). We couldn’t be happier in our choice of move and in the people who surround us, and the numerous interesting activities on our doorstep with theatre, film, galleries, talks, the river and, of course, the wonderful Botanical Gardens where we walk almost every day.
Small things make a difference when we can’t seem to influence what our politicians are doing. But who can predict the long view of history? I have been listening to Roller-coaster, Europe 1950-2017 by Ian Kershaw and am reminded of the huge changes that have occurred in my lifetime both in how we live and also in political regimes. The horrors of Hitler and Stalin exposed the dangers of ideologies, and religion continues to divide rather than bring peace to the world. Living in Communist Poland one might not have been able to predict the freedom they have now. So how can we possibly predict the future?
Here in the UK Brexit dominates and confuses, with no party united in their approach or able to promise that they could do a better deal with Brussels than has been put on the table. A second referendum, perhaps, though this has no certainty of outcome either and in many ways I can’t, without a crystal ball, know what is best for us, or the world, in the long-term. Certainly in the short term staying in is the safest bet but in the long-term I confess to being a little unnerved by the fact that there are far stronger and more vociferous far-right movements in many countries in Europe than there are here, where there is no far-right representative in Parliament. There are stirrings of dissent in France, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands and elsewhere and we can’t know how they will be resolved. The challenge of how to manage immigration in a humane yet logistically practical way is one that no country has worked out yet.
All I can hope is that we have an outcome that is good for us all, that maintains the world in peace, prosperity and harmony. But I don’t pretend that I know how to achieve this. I can only hope that historians will be writing in years to come that Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Xi Jinping or any other of these authoritarian ‘strong men’ didn’t bring catastrophe to the world. I am grateful that in the main our world leaders do meet at G7 and G20 meetings, that the EU and UN have facilitated more jaw than war and I shall remain optimistic that wisdom rather than factionalism can be brought into debate within political governments. Long may communication continue to benefit us all.
And so, as my mother used to sing around the house when I was young, “Que sera sera … whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera sera.” And I shall sing this to my grandchildren, as she did to mine. Such are the cycles of life.
On that note I wish you all a very fulfilling Christmas break and hope that 2019 brings happiness. As I heard someone say on the radio yesterday “everything is beautiful in its own way” so perhaps we can open our eyes to beauty and gratitude as we move into the new year.
[Que Sera Sera, sung by Doris Day, 1956]