Friday, 29 January 2021

Running but not hiking. Silver linings and light at the end of the tunnel. Reading matter.

Today’s weather forecast is for “light cloud and a moderate breeze” with the possibility of rain hovering between 15% and 30%. The projected “high” is 8 degrees which, while not as cold as we have had recently, does not seem very high to me. I’ve run round a still rather soggy village this morning. I suspect that all the paths are going to remain muddy for a good while yet. 

One consequence of the odd lifestyle that lockdown has imposed on us is that many of the footpaths are being used a good deal more than usual and consequently are more churned up than usual. There are big bootprints all over the place. As a longstanding frequent footpath user, I feel rather annoyed about this. I recognise that this is unreasonable on my part and have to stop myself from feeling resentful at others using “my” footpaths.

My brother-in-law proposed another chippy hike today but we have things to do, translation deadlines to meet and my daughter has stuff she needs to pick up from here and there. So we decided to put off the long hike until probably next week. She and I might walk the little people round to feed the ducks later. 

I was talking to my son and his wife yesterday evening. A good friend of theirs, bridesmaid at their wedding, married to my son’s best man, has been going through cancer treatment for most of the last year. Talk about a double whammy: cancer diagnosis and then a pandemic! But oddly enough, my son says, the pandemic cloud has had a silver lining. His best man has had to work from home which has meant that he has been around, physically there even though working, while the family has been “trapped” in the house: two small children whose mother has often been unwell from the chemotherapy. Always an involved father, he has been extra-present just when he was needed most. An unexpected bonus from a bad situation. Yesterday came the good news that the treatment seems to have been working and that the expected metastasising of the cancer has not taken place. There is a glimmer of light at the end of their particular tunnel.

Many people have apparently been finding it hard to concentrate on serious books during the lockdown times we have been subjected to. Not so me. Okay, much of my reading has been detective stories but I have also been reading books about the French revolution. Having read my way through Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels, charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, I decided I wanted to reread her much earlier book, “A Place of Greater Safety”, the one about the French revolution. I was sure we had a copy somewhere. Could I find it? No! Hardly surprising given the number of books in this house! 

For a while I gave up and settled for Marge Piercy’s “City of Darkness, City of Light”, also set in revolutionary France. She divides her book into sections, telling the tale from different characters’ perspective, each bit titled with the first name of the character concerned. It’s mildly confusing at first, having to remind yourself that Max and Georges and Manon are Robespierre and Danton and Mme Roland, and so on, not to mention a whole host of female characters. But she spins a good story. And it was good to remind myself of the players in the revolution game.

Eventually, having read a few more detective stories in between times, I got the Hilary Mantel book on my kindle. It was bit like picking up on the story of old friends, revisiting Maximilien Robespierre, Georges-Jacques Danton, Camille Desmoulins, et al, seen from another angle and with different details of their lives. 

Marge Piercy seems to pay more attention to the women than Hilary Mantel does, although the latter does gives us an insight into Gabrielle, Mme Danton, and Lucile Duplessis, wife of Camille Desmoulins. Maybe it’s just that Marge Piercy concentrates on some of the more working class women. But both books are worth reading and rereading. Both turn characters seen historically as some kind of monsters, Danton and Robespierre unleashing the Terror on France, into human characters with flaws and weaknesses as well as certain brilliancies. 

As I reached the final pages of Hilary Mantel’s “A Place of Greater Safety” and Georges-Jacques Danton and Camille Desmoulins and others were being put on trial, not allowed to put up any defence against the system they had helped to put in place, not permitted to make their persuasive voices heard, I listened on the news to what was happening in the 21st century to Alexei Navalny in Russia, with a similar difficulty in defending himself. Plus ça change ....

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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