Findhorn and Farewell to Father

So, my father’s funeral has been and gone, as has my curtailed Findhorn retreat and my own same-day 59th birthday.

And while my sibs, my kids (excepting daughter in NZ) and nephews/nieces were there with my steps to see Dad off in Birmingham, for ancient but still important family reasons, my Mum and I needed to remember Thomas quietly in our own way back on his and our old Norfolk home territory.

The Easter Findhorn retreat was place to ponder how this farewell was best done. And while at times turbulent and challenging, it was done well.

A quiet mother-and-son moment of reflection on a father who did his rather limited best, and a bike ride with said mother at 10 days short of her own 82nd birthday across the Heath to a pub supper in Salthouse, and home to Sheringham via a thankfully soft landing in….

…a hedgerow just this side of Weybourne.

What a character.

Findhorn up in Scotland was once again, 15 years after Experience Week there in 1994 turned my life around, magical – especially its sanctuaries such the Troll House, as my former partner

Jutta and I used to call it, also pictured here,
for long, deep, gentle meditations on family and planetary woundings and how they might be faced and healed.

My Dad, born 1921, was of probably the most extraordinary generation the world has ever known – one whose lives spanned a century that took our Earth from largely old-ways sustainability to the point at which our civilisation is beginning terminally to break down.

They had it astonishingly, unprecedently, unconsciously easy.

My father just missed getting killed in the Second World War – he was aboard a landing craft heading to almost certain death in Japanese-occupied Burma when the atomic bombs brought Japan’s surrender.

Then from his Cambridge education in agriculture, a life in farming gave him and his first and second families ever-growing fossil-fuelled prosperity to the point where his relatively peaceful and NHS-orchestrated death of lung cancer at 87 could scarcely have been more gentle, even elegant.

Even if he was unable and unwilling to comprehend to the very end that he was dying. Indeed, his almost last words to me on the phone, 10 days before the end, were that “I somehow just don’t seem to be able to shake this off.”

Our own, next baby-boomer generation born in the 50s may just die peacefully in our beds as he did. Sadly, I doubt whether our children, and certainly our grandchildren, will have that luxury, as all breaks down around us and them.

Death is a time for truth, openness and honesty, sometimes painful, for integrity and also reckoning.

That is as true for humankind and the planet as it is for just one individual and his complex but perhaps finally healing family.

It Really is Over. A Paradoxical Relief

Just to prove that I am blogging from the real Scotland, and not like Neil Armstrong from a Hollywood studio (OK, I know men went to the moon), a couple of Very Scottish Photos.
One of an abandoned, ruined but thoroughly Wromantic 18th century barracks built by the English in their initially vain (and perhaps once again so) efforts to subdue the Scots.

And the other, cycleway markings in the Middle of Highland Nowhere giving priority to non-existent motorised traffic into a farm track. In Holland, France and Germany, as I found last year, bikes have priority, pretty much always.

But as towards bikes, so towards the environment, our priorities are so very far out of alignment with anything that willl make a difference.

On which, at the risk of over-blogging (a warning from my very techie-literate son Alastair), I would like briefly to put on record what feels a conclusive, liberating awareness this evening that the Game is indeed Over.

Mary-Jayne has sent me a link to a blog and website of colleagues in the US who have drawn much condemnation and pain from making a film, which it seems names the catastrophe that’s coming, in the understanding that we’re already beyond the tipping point.

I was reminded reading their blog of a new builder friend who came round to our Cirencester home the other day to quote for some loft insulation, and with whom we ended having an inspiring, honest and totally no-holds-barred conversation about how there’s not really much point any more, as nothing can stop the catastrophe that’s coming.

He emailed me afterwards saying he’d wept on his way home, with relief and also sadness at meeting someone who was, with him, prepared to face what now awaits us.

I realise, epecially after my father’s death this week and his one individual inability – determination not – to confront and accept what was happening to him, that humankind just can’t do this.

And doesn’t want to, yet anyway – despite actually KNOWING quite deeply (as I’ve found on the this bike trip, talking with dozens of very ordinary, everyday students and B&B owners and shopkeepers) that it’s really bad.

I suspect that many ordinary folk, as they go about their ordinary lives, are in fact now, possibly even a touch desperately, looking for real leadership from those courageous enough to name what is happening and map out what this will mean for us

Only then can we truly make choices about how to respond. The rest is denial and collusion.

Do We Deserve to Survive?

The photo doesn’t show it very clearly, but with the journey resumed by train from Edinburgh to the Highlands, across the Forth Bridge (see pillars in the background), I’m moved to wonder whether we as humans really deserve to survive.

My tendon is behaving itself after all, to my surprise, but this morning in Edinburgh, the locals weren’t, and my bike is minus one front pannier, nicked from right next to me at a lovely Turkish café as I drank a coffee and read my map.

We are capable as humans of wonderful things. But at least as often, we can be despicable and selfish. How much will that pannier, containing a bike lock, bike tools and a wet bike cover, be worth on eBay to the thief?

Twenty quid? I can keep cycling, but it leaves the foulest of tastes.

A bit like fatty foods, which a new survey reported by the BBC this week tells us we’re continuing to consume regardless of knowing how it can contribute to cancer.

Cognitive dissonance, as also in continuing a carbon lifestyle we now know will kill us as a species if we carry on consuming as usual.

Sore at the unxpected loss of my pannier, I expect the worst of human nature when things get really bad. There will be goodness, kindness, but there’ll be a lot of the other as well.

Subjects to be discussed at a reassuringly rich set of public meetings in London in the coming few weeks on climate change.

In reverse order, on June 20 Birkbeck College is discussing the psychodynamics of climate change, and why humans prefer stay in denial.

On May 12, the Science Museum has a free debate on the unprecedented action it says is needed, from the global political to the individual, if we’re to have a chance of getting through this crisis.

And first of all, on April 28, the Frontline Club near Paddington is creating a space for journalists and those who care about journalism (at last) to quiz politicians on why it’s so hard for the system to initiate the change we need.

Can human nature change? An Achilles tendon can heal much more quickly than expected. But this morning, minus my pannier and also minus my Dad, who died quietly yesterday at 87, unaware to the last what was really happening to him, I am not very optimistic about people.

Greetings from Achilles

Readers of this blog from last year may recall my Europe trip being held up for several weeks in Vienna and Budapest with a sore left ankle.

Well, Achilles is back, and the rest of the body to which the tendon is attached is, after just one day, laid up in Hawick, stlll Scottish borders, with zero chance now of reaching Inverness by bike by Friday.

Above the view from the invalid’s window in a delightful, warm and dry farmhouse B&B just outside town.

Moral of the story, especially when you’re nearly 60? Stretch those muscles and tendons before charging off like a 20-year-old and doing 65 miles from a cold and clearly (despite regular running in Cirencester Park) less-fit-than-imagined start

Still, with luck it’s a mistake I’ll need to make only once, though how much cycling I’ll get done this week, not at all sure.

Time, therefore, to think and muse yet further on climate change etc.

On which, it occurs to me that while the fundamental problem isn’t CO2 but overpopulation, that’s not in the sense of too many people having been born these past 50 or 100 years, and therefore something that can be tackled with birth control or smaller families.

It’s that too few of us have died – of disease, hunger, war and injury in the way we did for 10s of thousands of years before hygiene and modern medicine came along.

It’s a heretical thought, but if there are historians to look back in coming years and consider where it all went so terribly wrong, I suspect that, along with fossil fuels, they’ll name the discoveries of germs (and the need for hygiene) and of antibiotics as the most important nails in the coffin of advanced civilisation.

In other words, it was the discovery of how to keep people alive that will have condemned our species to death. Not what was intended. And – although grimly logical – how sad.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

Oh Yes, and by the way we’re doomed.

It’s so good – and knackering – to be on the road and the bike again. From Hexham in the far English North across a sunlit Hadrian’s Wall and to Kielder Water some 40 miles into a determined headwind

Sun in the morning casting a bulky shadow of self, heavily-loaded panniers and Raven (readers of the old blog know her as my steed), and then slow, slow but rewarding progress, knowing that it always takes a couple of days to get into the swing.

Been thinking a lot on the bike, pedalling left-right-left-right in a bilateral stimulation sort of way, about Why Blog, especially when I have concluded that it’s too late anyway to avert catastrophe for humankind in this century.

Well, I realised this blog is actually more for me than for you. There just are Things I have and want to say, and if there are folk out there who find that faintly stimulating, or annoying, or inspiring (main thing they’re reading it), then that’s good enough.

And the Thing I’m Thing-king of today, mainly, is how we are approaching the death of (most of) our species just as many individuals approach their own death.

My father is dying as I write this, aged 87 and with just days to live. He hasn’t wanted to know that the cancer is back. Should we, as fractured family, have insisted that he understands this is the end?

I’m uncomfortable seeing him off so unconscious, although not really much change there. But the family concensus is, no need to distress him unnecessarily.

But what if, as I’ve written elsewhere, our collective survival had depended on his knowing and acting upon (of course, as of today, it’s too late for him personally) the knowledge that he, and we, are dying?

We would all have been much less ready to collude with his denial. Yet, with the demise of our species, that’s what we’re doing when we choose not to speak out, loudly, about how urgent and mortal is the danger we’re in.

And is there any sign that the public, or the media, are getting the plot? Not really.

This morning, Sunday, BBC Radio 4 finished the 0700 bulletin with an item on the dramatic breakup of a portion of the Antarctic ice shelf, much earlier than predicted. This, said the reporter, could have serious implications.

End of the news. Next item we turn to Jacqui Smith’s husband’s porn video expenses and Jade Goody’s funeral. Much easier to deal with and less frightening over the cornflakes.

But also part of a much wider failure of journalistic responsibility.

So, back on the bike for 20 more miles today. To reach Inverness in six days, I have to average 60 miles a day. Hope the wind tomorrow is quieter and my legs less like jelly.

Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.

The Best Explanation Yet Why This Is So Urgent

I’ve just chanced on a brilliant, and indeed inspiring cartoon by Leo Murray about the tipping point and why this time in human history matters so terribly much.

It’s the best and most accessible exposition by far that I’ve seen on the science and implications of what’s happening with the climate, and what it means for us as we move towards a much hotter world.

The video can be downloaded, and deserves the widest audience.

Off to Scotland….