I usually steer away from politics in this blog but these are extreme times. In the despairing aftermath of a British election that voted for the most right wing, populist, racist, sexist and dishonest Prime Minister the country has ever seen I thought this poem by Charles Causley was extremely apt. I have changed a couple of lines including the last line. Thanks to Isabel for sending me the original poem enclosed with her Christmas card.
“Who’s that knocking on the window,
Who’s that standing at the door,
What are all those presents
Lying on the floor?
Who’s the smiling stranger
With hair as white as gin,
What is he doing with the children
And who could have let him in?
Why has he rubies on his fingers,
A cold, cold crown on his head,
Why, does he caw his carol,
“Get Brexit done”?
Why does he ferry my fireside
As a spider on a thread,
His fingers made of fuses
And his tongue of gingerbread?
Why does the world before him
Melt in a million suns,
Why do his yellow, yearning eyes
Burn like saffron buns?
Watch where he comes walking
Out of the Christmas flame,
Boris is his name.”
God help all the poor, sick, disabled, homeless, immigrants, refugees, unemployed, elderly and other marginalised people in the UK during the coming years.
And here’s a poem by Rudyard Kipling sent to me by Alastair:-
I’ve been trying to figure out why I hate hearing this phrase which seems to be everywhere these days. It’s like the ultimate cop-out, a slick way to terminate any awkward conversation and is used frequently by politicians, the police, sports people, business entrepreneurs and many pop celebrities. I’ve heard it in bleak Scandi-noir TV dramas and once or twice even caught myself saying it. It’s the title of several films, songs and books. Such a pat phrase that just slips off the tongue and makes you seem cool. But why has it become popular and what does it say about our society?
To me, “it is what it is” reeks of negativity, passivity, resignation and defeat. It’s saying, ‘this is a bad situation but there’s fuck all I can do about it”. It’s saying let’s accept reality, let’s just lie down and die. The phrase suggests that reality is a fixed, immutable state and that we have no control, we are merely passengers on an uncomfortable train to hell. I don’t know about you, but that is not the way I choose to live my life. I am not a brainwashed battery hen clucking away in a cage, pretending I am free while I’m really being processed for destruction.
OK, I agree some situations may be out of our control but there’s always something we can do to improve matters. Just because it is difficult to change something doesn’t mean we should give up. We should at least try. It’s like when people shrug and say, ‘oh well there will always be wars, it’s just human nature.’ Was it human nature to profit from slavery, rape women, exterminate disabled people, participate in blood sports and send children down the mines? These are all horrors that we no longer tolerate in a civilised society. They may still happen in secret but are considered crimes. Society can and does change. People can change.
When people say ‘it is what it is’ they are implying that a situation is fixed and knowable. This is not true. Any situation, even something simple like ‘it’s raining today’ is a matter of perception, of experience, of interpretation. Reality is in a constant state of flux and so are we. It may be raining in your street but not on the other side of town. And the rain may stop at any moment. The sun may shine the next time you look out the window. We are never 100% aware of all the facts. We only have a partial view based on limited information. For example, a loved one may be diagnosed with a terminal illness, but doctors are often wrong, the body can and does mysteriously heal itself. The sick person can adapt and learn to live successfully with illness. Life is a multiplicity of greys, a misty landscape and not a row of black and white boxes.
Take this photograph as a visual metaphor. It shows a rather elegant entrance to a building which could be a hotel, a school, a conference centre, a hospital, a law court, a police station…we may speculate on what lies beyond the doors but until we pass through them we do not know. Every day in your life is like those doors. Never make assumptions about the future. Never give up on a situation.
Next time you are tempted to say ‘it is what it is’, hang fire and try to think out of the box. Change is always possible and it sometimes happens in small steps. Humans have evolved and survived as a dominant species because of our ability to adapt. We can be clever and inventive. We can be compassionate. The day we stop doing that and become resigned to an unsatisfactory fate is the day we cease to thrive.
Hope you enjoy my photographs that show the changes in Petrol pump design from the sixties to the noughties. Note the switch from gallons to litres and the introduction of unleaded. I took the pictures at disused filling stations in Northern Scotland. Can you spot the bird’s nest? Would a bird be faster than an Esso ‘tiger in your tank’? Someone should do research!
In the final shot I liked the spectral polythene sheeting shredded and flapping in the wind which often reaches 70 mph in the Flow Country.
In the first shot I was drawn to the signs of corrosion and nature taking over. Turquoise and orange were fashionable colours in the sixties. The fourth picture shows purple pumps, a colour that is still popular today…the trains and bus shelters are all purple (or the colour of Scottish Heather perhaps!)
I was fascinated by the weird shapes of these oil drill bits I saw discarded at the site of an onshore oil well in Northern Scotland. They remind me of alien seed pods from a sci-fi film! The drill bits were originally diamond tipped and cost thousands of pounds each. They were quickly worn out by the toughness of the granite.