This blog was written about last week finishing on Sunday evening, 11th June. Delayed publication as too tired to complete!
It’s was a tough week in many ways but also a brilliant restorative one. The contrasts in this week have been stretching emotionally but at the end of the week the rewards outweigh the pains, though they often work together, as two bedfellows.
The week started with the London Bridge atrocity, following too fast from Manchester. The random horror of this was contrasted yet again with the togetherness of the community as had been shown in Manchester. The power to define our public spaces, to take control of them, to act together in defiance of the terrorist was as important an image to emerge as any other. The political aftermath from the right was sour and out of keeping with this image. It’s messages about the internet and human rights running counter to the spirit of togetherness. We are all at our best when we can come together, regardless of religion, faith, politics, age, gender or class and share the very best of times even in the midst of the very worst of times.
This led me on Wednesday to the celebration, funeral and wake of my dear friend Kevin. We gathered in his garden where so much fun had been over the years and, led by his children, we celebrated his life. It was a poignant morning but full of good memories, his ears would definitely have been burning. I think this collective memory sharing is so positive, creates togetherness, helps people make sense of the sadness, helps strangers link to share common experiences. There are always tears but they are shed together and felt together, the power of his community drawing everyone in, producing a communal hug. At the Crematorium people can find some closure, can say their good byes and this is so important.
The day continued back at the house and in the garden with food, chat, beer and then music, so much part of Kevin’s life. Everyone relaxed, sang in impromptu groups and with a casual but definable musicality simply became a hub of remembrance for a great man. I will miss him but I will always, always, remember him.
The day of the election dawned and I spoke in my previous blog about my interpretation of the election. Interestingly this theme of community and its converse individualism was written large in both the stance and the way in which the main parties have operated. Leaving aside the politics, the immense sense of community in the ever growing rallies which attended every Corbyn speech was testimony to the sense of mission and being in this together as the slogan said – for the many, not the few. Young people being galvanised into action, cheaply dismissed as self-interest around tuition fees, but actually it was something much deeper than that. There was a real sense of belonging of standing up for a better society. The result was beyond expectations but I think the tone of the campaign and that willingness to stand together – old and young, male and female, gay and straight, black and white – with the honesty and integrity of the campaign led by the unassuming Corbyn is the real legacy. I believe that sense of community will continue when the next election arrives as it surely will very shortly. The nasty individualism of May and her cronies has been decisively challenged.
Then the culmination of hard work and determination of over 400 riders hailing from football clubs up and down the country but coming together in a magnificent effort to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. Football is notoriously a tribal sport with both ritualised and at times real violence towards each other. But at heart the communal spirit is always there and was shown so brilliantly over the two day, 145 mile ride to Amsterdam. Riders working in small teams and helping each other across the line. Teams riding at the pace of the slowest rider, and taking real pride in this effort. So much camaderie as I followed them closely on Day One. To see my son and son-in-law take part and ride so well over the two days was something very special indeed. I know how hard it had been for my son to get himself in a state to do this. He was not a cyclist and really started from scratch. At times in the lonely miles around home I wondered if he could do it. I should not have doubted him as he came good, helped by the more experienced, rider, M. But to see them cross the line at the finish next to the Ajax FC stadium in Amsterdam was such a wonderful enervating sight which will stick in the memory for some time. Ordinary people going the extra mile to raise nearly 500K so far for Prostate Cancer UK. To see more about Joe and Mark’s journey click here: Joe and Mike’s bike ride
So I have seen togetherness, community and collective remembrance throughout this week. It has contrasted to the hateful, individualist, fragmentation created by terrorists and by the political right. But when the sense of community shows itself so well it triumphs. It expresses a basic human need for connection and engagement. This has to be the right message emerging from different events in a hectic week for me, it is the only way that humanity can ruse above all the difficulties people face in their lives. Stay positive, work with others to find comfort, to keep a sense of belonging and community.
My week in photos