The line: is it drawn? The curse: is it cast?


Will you get out of the way?

Or lend a hand?

Forgive me. I’m taking liberties with the words of Nobel-Literature-Prize-winning poet, songster and disappointing-live-performer, Bob Dylan.

Yes, disappointing. I was disappointed. Except for his rendition of ‘Something’ by way of a tribute to George Harrison. The concert was in Liverpool and he performed that rather nicely. (Ta very much, Bob.)


I was lying awake at three in the morning when the song came into my head.

I was thinking about change.  Major change. Societal change.

And I wondered. The times, are they ‘a-changin’ as Dylan predicted? And as – arguably – happened in the sixties?

It’s not the kind of thought to send you back to sleep. Especially when the ear-worm of song takes up residence in your head.

I’d had a surprising day, thanks to my sister and her mobile phone. I’d texted her, suggesting we might visit but she didn’t check her phone. And I didn’t want to bother her so didn’t ring. Which turned out to be a good thing.

Because although we set out anyway, we were only a few miles from home when we realised we didn’t fancy a 100-odd-mile round trip in order to walk on some hills.

Even the wizardy, magical hills I’ve blogged about before around Alderley Edge.

The prof had recently returned from Zambia unwell and was only just recovering. Unable to drive for a week, our first expedition, the day before, had taken us over the Pennines to Yorkshire and the Hepworth Gallery. For an exhibition of art celebrating India, by painter Howard Hodgkin.

We looking forward to beautiful colours and forms. But it didn’t work for either of us and we rapidly left the crowded rooms to more sympathetic gazers.

I didn’t mind.

The paintings might have disappointed (they did) but there was still the work of my heroine, Barbara Hepworth, to make the trip worthwhile.

I love the displays of words and bits and pieces in the drawers at the Hepworth

Dag Hammarskjöld was the Secretary General of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961, this is a book of his words. I find him especially interesting in that he was killed in a plane crash – possibly not accidental – in Zambia and as his memorial Barbara’s biggest piece was commissioned to stand outside the UN in New York. I wrote about it here

It was a tiring trip, though, for a recovering traveller.

Which is why we abandoned the quest for enchanted hills. Eschewed the prospect of deep caves harbouring ancient mysteries.

And, instead, headed for…

… you’ll never guess.

No, really…

… you won’t.


Here we go …


No! Wait! Don’t go!

I’m not stopping with shopping.

Though there was a little more. Because on the way home we stopped to buy food for dinner.

As our car slid between the snug white lines, the sound of live music wafted over her pearly white body.

We stepped out and with gleaming eyes glanced at each other over her roof.

A Brass Band! On a sunny Sunday. In Ormskirk.

My generous husband waved me off and went hunting for free range chicken.

(Prepared, in a box in a chiller cabinet, I mean. Not free range and needing to be killed and plucked. He may be just-back from Zambia, but he hasn’t forgotten that supermarkets do these things for you round here.)

And what a sight met my tired, Ikea-fuddled eyes.

A proper bandstand.

In a park.

Next to the supermarket.

An ice cream van plied a steady trade.

Some folk sat on folding chairs. Some lolled, ‘déjeuner sur l’herbe‘ like, on the grass (the women all fully clothed, mind).

Adult faces wore serene smiles.

Feet tapped and children danced.

The bandstand wore pretty summer flowers.

The band, Trinity Girls, was terrific.

I can’t say I would have chosen Air on a G String arranged with Whiter Shade of Pale myself, but it kind of worked.

The repertoire bubbled through the Carpenters, the Gingerbread song (uh-huh), something from Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, a march (of course) and a rousing Paso Doble which signalled the interval.

The music, which felt tuned to a human frequency, accompanied an almost bucolic scene.

Daisies and green grass.

Pick-and-mix coloured fairground rides.

A man with Down’s syndrome grabbed my arm, enjoying the friendly faces, the music and – while cared-for still – the freedom of the open air.

It was Olde England- but it also wasn’t Olde.

The band was all female, for a start.

And several adults enjoying the free entertainment would, in Olde days have been closeted in some institution.

It was old but also new. Superficially changed, but with the underlying warp and weft remaining the same. Or so it felt.

One or two pieces gave me goosebumps, like this one as the gentle strains grew into an emotional crescendo.

Reluctantly – but hungry – we left. Ikea’s meatballs hadn’t appealed.

We had a short walk. Prepared some food. Popped a bottle of Cava – and ate and drank and talked.

Opened a bottle of red (I know) and ate and talked some more.

Of Donald Trump – of course.

Of education and this brave new age of unreason.

Of freedom of speech and of a new un-freedom to speak.

Of the daily addition of new letters to the minefields of things we ought to know.

Of gender traps for the unwary among the confusions of LGBTQIA and CIS.

Of publications that don’t pay writers but are the new news.

And of the sixties ‘liberal revolution’ and its legacy.

Which is why I wondered. Is the order rapidly changing? Again?

Should the old folks move out of the way if they don’t want to lend a hand?

Well, I reckon the curse has been cast.

And with Trump, the line is daily being redrawn.

Truth is hiding in the corner, kicked and beaten. Not yet dead.

But there are no longer any certainties.

No right, no wrong.

No genuine, no reality.

Just – alternatives.


The new – the now – the everything.  (I think that was me channelling Barry White.)

Well, in this Ball of Confusion (Temptations), at least the songs that were remain the same.

‘They’ can’t change what was. Just what is and what will be.

Or, can they?

Of course they can. We’ve always had Alt history.

It just depends what side you’re on. Or rather, what you choose to believe.

In a democracy we have choices. And we have voices.

Our votes, our pens, our emails, our phone calls, these are the voice with which we can – and must – hold to account those ‘we’ have elected.

Get out of the way – or lend a hand?

This entry was posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Britain now & then, Lancashire & the golf coast, Thinking, or ranting, or both and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to The line: is it drawn? The curse: is it cast?

  1. jilldennison says:

    Ahhhh … so much to love here … where to start? The Sunday concert in the park — what an absolutely delightful surprise! That in itself is enough to lift the spirits! I must ask, though … you said the ‘women all fully clothed’ … does this mean the men were in an au natural state? 😉

    It is interesting, and more than a little sad, that as you and the Prof sat enjoying your wine and talking, the first topic of conversation you mention is Donald Trump. Even across the big pond, our nemesis is disturbing people’s weekend peace, and I find that sad. Understandable, certainly, for the end results of his ignorance and idiocy will have far-reaching effects, but still sad. At least you had the wine to take an edge off of the angst. 🙂

    You have picked up my habits of allowing deep thoughts into your head at 3:00 a.m.! We should live next to each other … we could crack open a bottle of wine and share our deep thoughts! To your question about the ‘times a’changin’ … I have no answer, but my thoughts are that on the surface they are changing, perhaps mainly as a result of technology. But deeper? I fall back on the lyrics from the Bon Jovi song: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. People still have mostly the same values, strengths and flaws that they have always had. I could expound at length, but I will just leave it at that. You know me well enough to know how I think. 🙃

    I dislike Ikea. I wrote an entire post about the one and only time I entered an Ikea store … I will send you a link in an email! Suffice it to say I have never gone back!

    And lastly, to your final question … I believe I shall prefer to ‘lend a hand’, for I cannot do otherwise. Unfortunately the hand I lend is not particularly large or powerful, but it is what I have to offer, and offer it I do.

    Great post, my friend!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jill. I know how busy you are so this long and thoughtful comment is much appreciated. I will respond properly when I get back – have emailed a brief response to yours, hugs M

      Liked by 1 person

      • jilldennison says:

        Got your email! Keep safe and have …. err …. fun? 🙃

        Liked by 1 person

        • We should live closer to each other, you are right. If – following the latest scary post about Big Brother – you decide you need to move across the pond you can have our spare room while you find your feet!
          In online world, I have found myself increasingly exasperated and lately angry with intelligent people who choose to take the route of finding conspiracy theories behind innocuous things, behind what is already past and done, yet ignore the real dangers of what is HAPPENING! I gave up writing rants because I thought they were useless but I may have to think again. Your posts I know require much considered research and I too always try to check everything I write. It has been liberating writing pieces that come from the outside world of trees and grass and sky and the inside world of my imagination – but I too am on the side of lending a hand. I can’t stand by.
          Are the times a-changin? Well, it seems that way. But, like you, I feel that the nature of humans will remain the same, just many will now be swayed – whether they know it or not – by these insidious techniques the Brave New World of technology has laid at the feet of the mass manipulators. It happened in the past – witness fabricated texts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion which helped Hitler stoke the fears of a world wide Jewish conspiracy and laid the groundwork for the Holocaust. But now the worm of propaganda spreads more quickly thanks to the ease of online burrowing and the way fake backgrounds can also be established.
          Sigh. Onwards, Jill. I’ll think of you at 3 in the morning!

          Liked by 1 person

          • jilldennison says:

            Yes, we definitely SHOULD live closer!!! We would have so much fun! I already consider you a soulmate and a best friend! And I thank you from my heart for the offer of the spare room! If I ever were to have the opportunity and chose to move across the pond, I would take you up on it. I’ll bring the wine!

            As to your ranting & writing. We each do what feels right to us, and I cannot tell you to go back to ranting or not. I do love your pieces about nature!!! We each, I think, have our niche. For me, I write as I do for I can do no different. I have tried fiction, and it was so flat that even proof-reading put me to sleep. 🙂 And … when I see injustice, whether in the form of racism & bigotry or governments infringing on the rights of its citizenry, then I just am compelled to shine a bright light on those injustices. I see a middle ground between the hours a day I spend on research and fact-checking, though. I write two posts a day (most every day … I took a day off today) but what if you just popped up with a rant when something caught your eye and you just couldn’t hold your tongue any more? Maybe once or twice a week? I would hate to see you sacrifice your other writing to do the kind of writing I do, for that would be to deprive the world of some really beautiful works. But, by the same token, it might be a form of stress relief, a steam valve, as it were, to do the occasional rant. Just my thoughts on the matter … 😉

            I’ll address it a bit more in an email, for you give me much food for thought here. Have a good day today, Mary! Enjoy nature, write something beautiful …


  2. Lovely to read & see where you’ve been and doing. Best wishes to the Prof. I find it fascinating how we go on with -in the case of your day out, delightful- everyday life at the same time extolling and campaigning -exactly as you say- get out of the way or lend a hand. Stop thinking only of yourself and situation. Find a little kindness, just enough tolerance to pause for another thought rather than self-interested whinging, bitching and bullshitting! Pardon my Aussie French but I’m exasperated. Among other things Australians are about to embark on an expensive postal aka snail mail survey -grrrr- to opine yay or nay on marriage equality. Hello 1950’s. The tip of a nimbyist, self-righteous first world society mountain of issues that wouldn’t be if people used a tiny portion of their alloted commonsense, with a sideshow of political wombats who no-one admits voting for, who may or may not actually be eligible to hold their place in parliament due to citizenship conflicts. With special guests Trump and Kim Jong-un making it a real party. Who can blame us for taking comfort in a nice experience, meal, vino, life. No-one but we need to do this work also. Sometimes I think we’re singing to the choir but those of us who can, who are willing, must do something with the thoughts, words, energies. Better out than in.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dale, I couldn’t have ranted it better myself! Will frame a proper response to your welcome comment when I’m back from Texas.. M

      Liked by 1 person

    • Morning, Dale.
      I have just read a piece in our daily paper about your referendum. And now I can understand where you are coming from. And I think your expression ‘sideshow of wombats’ is to the point! 😉
      I don’t really know what to do about this crazy world, do you? I just keep thinking, getting into party politics didn’t work for me, but will a single person’s willingness to speak out in polite company make any difference? I can’t remember where I read it, but the importance of conversations we must have with others was the focus and I am clutching at that straw. Not burying my nose in the gossip rag at the hairdressers or smiling and saying nothing when others assume I share their nutty views and topics come up that light my blue touch paper.
      Better out than in. Hear hear.
      And of course – keep on growing green things that help our poor world with oxygen for life. Hope your course is going well.


  3. I am glad that your husband recovered from the exploding spinach in time to enjoy your outing.

    I did like that band and the spectators…a very peaceful, happy experience to be able to sit in a park, enjoying music well played – worlds away from the incessant blare of news that isn`t what it says and newspapers pushing their owners`agendas…

    As we are into music, try this: England Arise, sung by John Goss, with this treatment on Youtube.

    If we do not break free from the political parties who use us as voting fodder and obey the behest of those with real power then we will be back to these images.

    Here is an extract from Jimmy Reid`s inaugural address as Rector of Glasgow University in 1971:

    Let me at the outset define what I mean by alienation. It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control.

    It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes decision making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel, with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.

    It is expressed by those young people who want to opt out of society, by drop-outs, the so-called maladjusted, those who seek to escape permanently from the reality of society through intoxicants and narcotics.

    Society and prevailing sense of values leads to another form of alienation. It alienates some from humanity. It partially dehumanises some people, making them insensitive, ruthless in their handling of fellow human beings self-centred and grasping. The irony is they are often considered normal and well adjusted. It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else.

    The big challenge to our society is not …permissiveness, although I agree our society is too permissive. Any society, which, for example, permits over a million people to be unemployed is far too permissive for my liking. Nor is it moral laxity, in the narrow sense of that this word is generally employed – although in a sense here we come nearer to the problem. It does involve morality, ethics and our concept of human values. The challenge we face is that of rooting out anything and everything that distorts and devalues human relations. […]

    [The problem] is the widespread and implicit acceptance of the concept and term, ‘the rat race’. … To the students I address this appeal – reject these attitudes – reject the values and false morality that underline these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high. Or as Christ puts it: ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world suffer the loss of his soul?’

    Profit is the sole criterion used by the establishment to evaluate economic activity. From the rat race we have come to lame ducks. The vocabulary in vogue is a give-away. It is more reminiscent of a human menagerie than human society. The power structures that have inevitably emerged from this approach threaten and undermine our hard-won democratic rights. The whole process is towards the centralisation and concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands. Giant monopoly companies and consortia dominate almost every branch of our economy. The men who wield effective control in these giants exercise a power over their fellow men which is frightening and a negation of democracy.

    Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision-making by the people for the people. This is not simply an economic matter. In essence it is an ethical and moral question, for whoever takes the important economic decisions in society ipso facto determines the social priorities of that society. […]

    From the Olympian heights of an executive suite, in an atmosphere where your success is judged by the extent to which you can maximise profits, the overwhelming tendency must be to see people as units of production, as indices in your accountants’ book. To appreciate fully the inhumanity of this situation, you have to see the hurt and despair in the eyes of a man suddenly told he is redundant without provision made for suitable alternative employment…Someone, somewhere has decided he is unwanted, un-needed, and is to be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. From the very depth of my being I challenge the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable. […]

    My conclusion is to reaffirm what I hope and certainly intend to be the spirit permeating this address. It’s an affirmation of faith in humanity. All that is good in man’s heritage involves recognition of our common humanity, an unashamed acknowledgement that man is good by nature. […]

    It’s my belief that all the factors to make a practical reality of such a world are maturing now. I would like to think that our generation took mankind some way along the road toward this goal. It’s a goal worth fighting for.

    His generation did indeed do that….and their children threw it away for the love of pelf, taking the silver pennies from those who kept the gold bullion for themselves.

    I know that I am a political dinosaur who somehow escaped the meteorite but I dearly wish to see young people assured of a future and educated to be able to think for themselves in order to forge it…but to achieve that we need to build up our own communities, learn to trust each other, and to elect people who, even if flawed, have the common good at heart in order to overthrow the hegemony of those who regard us as disposable…

    We could start by a boycott of the products of international companies who move jobs about the world at will…not all at once, but one or two at a time.
    If we don`t buy, they can`t exist.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Helen, I sit at my sister-in-law’s breakfast table and know I can’t reply to this adequately till I am back home and undistracted by humming birds and cicadas. Thank you for the quote from Jimmy Reid, prescienti ndeed. Or is it that we just keep on remaining the same in different ways? Have you read Selina Todd’sThe People – the rise and fall of the working class? It would bear out that latter poiit I think. More later.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Enjoy your humming birds..I am doing the same thing!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Phew. That video says so much. And the Jimmy Reid speech is sad.
          “Government by the people for the people becomes meaningless unless it includes major economic decision-making by the people for the people. This is not simply an economic matter. In essence it is an ethical and moral question, for whoever takes the important economic decisions in society ipso facto determines the social priorities of that society.”
          And the global empires of Google and Facebook are among the new behemoths, aren’t they? It is as if we have gone from a world of manufacturing exploiting workers and choking the air to a world of hidden puppet masters colonising the new imperial landscapes of the internet and developing new ways of avoiding employing human beings. .
          What to do? I wish more people would wake up to the need for revitalised unions and join them before it is too late.
          Did you read about the possibility of new anti-boycott laws in the USA (they already have them, I looked it up here )

          I went to a talk by a man (can’t find my notes with his name at the moment) who was one of the Shrewsbury 24 – I don’t know if you know about them (probably you do, given other things you have shared). The man had given his whole adult life to public service, in local government and charity. He has never been able to fulfill his dream of travelling to the USA because he has a conviction as one of the Shrewsbury 24 picketers. I was stunned by his account. That all this time later (it was 1973/4) they are still fighting for justice, even with the now famous one among them – Ricky Tomlinson, who was also convicted – on their side, is a sad indicator of where our democracy sets its priorities. Before that talk I had read both ‘The People’ by Selina Todd and ‘The Establishment ‘by Owen Jones in rapid succession and felt so angry I could hardly contain myself. Stuff we know, but when put together by historians such as Selina (who I am proud to say is Vice Principal of my old college) it reassures me that my reaction is not just emotional.
          Education. Yes, another topic that is depressing – education as career fodder not mind expansion.
          Sorry, rather a dog’s dinner of a reply, I think I should stop here! Thanks, Helen, for all the food for more thought you have given me and others here.I wish we could all spend a weekend together!
          Final words to Jimmy Reid:
          It is my sincere contention that anyone who can be totally adjusted to our society is in greater need of psychiatric analysis and treatment than anyone else.


          • I do go on rather, I know, but it is so sickening to see the way our society has returned to wolf eat dog in so short a time.
            Yes, I do know of the Shrewsbury 24….no justice for them and no enquiry into the Orgreave business either….and are people in general so ignorant of their past and apathetic about their future and that of their children that they do not care for justice for all….
            There are good people doing good work…Ronnie Hughes in Liverpool for example, whose blog is always comforting to read….and this it seems to me is the only way to move forward, to take back power. But hat a long haul!
            I take comfort too from that last quote from Jimmy Reid….I shall not be seeing a shrink any time soon!


  4. seer1969 says:

    ‘And I wondered. The times, are they ‘a-changin’ as Dylan predicted? And as – arguably – happened in the sixties?’
    I would argue, but I won’t go on, this is, after all, your blog.
    But I’m only human after all …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    Thank you, Mary, for another interesting account of your travels. Helen Devries’s quote from Jimmy Reid is very prescient, as, in 1971, he seems to encapsulate what all thoughtful people say and think now (and believe you me, I am no lefty and no liberal), but I’ve been a ‘unit of production’ and my employer tried to make me redundant once (and failed!). In 2017, people are still alienated from society because they have no part in decision-making. It’s worse now, particularly in the south east, where so many younger people cannot afford to buy – or indeed rent – the accommodation where they can get to their places of work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you may recall, I had a rant about ‘human resources’ and agree wholeheartedly with you on that, even if am rather lefty and inclined to be a little liberal! As to the south east, it certainly has a problem but it is not alone n that. Each region surely has its problems and all result in alienation of many from the decision making process. Being very hungry after being sanctioned for weeks on end tends to make people unable to participate in democracy. I don’t think ‘I Daniel Blake’ was a work of filmic genius but as a depiction of how hard life really is for some failed by a ruthless, heartless system (and yes there are those who work the system I know, I have encountered them) – it is very accurate.


  6. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    Also, did you know that Lech Walesa got a lot of his ideology from Jimmy Reid? You can see it in the sort of demands Solidarity made in 1980-1. However, I don’t think Walesa ever read even as much as is quoted above, because he (a) boasted of never having read a complete book cover-to-cover and (b) only knew Polish. (I have to know all these things seeing as I’m writing a novel based in the Solidarity era.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. John Kemp says:

    I’m not one for long thoughtful pieces, so just a few short comments. I LOVE the girl’s band. Where else but Lancashire would you find that? What is Cava? Trump – how can he have happened? I recently had a rant to a friend in S.A. about students and freedom of speech – will they one day wake up to reality (Sinatra – “I’ve got you under my skin”), Cecil Rhodes and Robert E. Lee (there’s another song there – “Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi”).
    Then there’s very serious question of overpopulation and the flood of people from African countries looking for work and a decent life. That’s not going to go away.
    As I ended my rant:
    Yours cheerfully,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello John, so glad you liked the band. I have a few more clips and wish I could have shared them but they take forever to upload. This world is topsy turvy at the moment – I just hope we are actually going to work through it and find a sensible route to a changed world where things are better not worse – but there are some very troubling signs. I think one important thing is that we who are older if not always wiser must not sigh and shift to the background but disagree when things are said that are not acceptable. Refugees and migrants of all kinds are one of the biggest issue the world faces – I hear today of the Myanmar/Burma refugees numbering 370,000 in Bangladesh of all places which can ill afford to help them and is likely to face devastation thanks to Trumrp’s non-happening climate change. Aaargh. I must stop there but thank you for commenting. .


    • Oh – and Cava is a sparkling Spanish wine which I reckon is infinitely preferable to the more fashionable but rather bland Italian Prosecco. I am particularly fond of own brand Vintage Cava from Morrisons which is almost as satisfying as champagne but much cheaper 🙂


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