This piece by Simon Mair of the University of Surrey, linked below, was published in The Conversation at the end of March 2020, about 2 weeks after the first full stay at home restrictions started in the UK.
The image is one I have chosen which is by Edward Hicks (American, 1780–1849), entitled Peaceable Kingdom. (1834. Oil on canvas, 29.6 × 35.5 in. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.).
The painting is based on the biblical prophecy or vision, described in Isaiah Chapter 11, of a society in which people live in harmony with each other and creation, with an ethic of protection of life and avoiding harm.
The piece is even more useful now I believe as it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic is not a short-term phenomenon from which we will be able to get back to normal after a few months of disruption. It has exposed huge weaknesses and deficiencies in our previous social, political, and economic lives which must change. The impact on health, well-being and the economy mean new imaginations of the future social contract and economic system are called for. Coupled with the urgent issues of climate change and the need to address inequalities of respect and opportunities highlighted by Black Lives Matter in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, as well as growing awareness of the inadequacy of our social security provisions in the UK, there is a growing urgent need for change.
On National Poetry Day 2020 I share this poem I wrote after a visit to Peckham Rye on 28th May. It was the Spring holiday week; towards the end of the initial wave of Covid-19 deaths and the full lockdown restrictions in England had been eased slightly.
As charities, trade unions, religious groups, and civil society organisations, we urgently call on public bodies to uphold their ethical and legal responsibilities to ensure human rights and international law are respected.
Wandering recently around the village of Sutton Courtenay, where our son and family live, I was intrigued by references to a place known as The Abbey. It turns out to be a centre of spirituality with a resident community. The building itself has a medieval foundation but has never been an actual abbey, rather a manor house.
Information about the founders of the centre at The Abbey, and its current mission, are found on its website as linked above. One of the founders was Anglican Bishop Stephen Verney whose writings influenced me in the early years of my ministry. I did not know, or had forgotten about, his role in this venture.
Today Lorraine and I were looking for a 4/5 mile morning walk in green spaces where we could stride out and enjoy the surroundings without having to keep looking down to watch where our feet were being placed and within a 30 minute drive from home.
The answer was found in the Ordnance Survey app where walks have been uploaded by users. This circular walk from the town of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire fitted the bill pretty well. Including an extra quarter of a mile each way from the car park to the designated start point it came to at least 5 miles. We dawdled occasionally in places to take in the scenery and read information boards – read the map etc – so it took a full 2 hours.
The walk mostly met our criteria. The first third crosses Hazeley Heath which has a wide level central path perfect for a vigorous pace and freedom to take in the panoramic view. Later sections of the walk included unimpeded field crossings – though these would not have been so easy after wet weather. On occasions close attention needed paying to the map. There are several three-way junctions with paths converging at close angles. It was very helpful to have our exact location in the OS map app on my phone.
Hazeley Heath is a nature reserve designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest run by the RSPB who are pursuing a current conservation program funded by the National Lottery.
I spent the morning with my wife exploring the village of Bray on the banks of the River Thames in Berkshire. I had never visited before even though it’s only a few miles from where I’ve lived for the last 23 years.
It turns out to be the place where The Cut, the river referred to in my post of 31 August, empties into the River Thames. This time I saw no fish as I peered into the water from a footbridge on a pedestrian route known as the Greenway.
In the churchyard at Bray we were delighted by a magnificent example of Magnolia Grandiflora which was in flower. Large blooms were close to the footpath so we were able to take in their heavenly lemony fragrance. As we stood admiring the tree a friendly fellow-walker approached us and asked if we knew what it was. He said that he walked through the churchyard every morning on a circular route from his home in Maidenhead. He had discounted the possibility that it was a magnolia as he thought they only flowered in Spring. He was very pleased to be more informed and he could not have chosen a better passer-by to ask than Lorraine!
Bray is home to two of only 5 restaurants in Britain which have Michelin 3 stars, The Fat Duck, and The Waterside Inn. Today was not the moment to visit either of those! But we did enjoy a relaxed pub lunch at The Crown, which has a very Covid- safe set-up in its garden, with a high airy canvas canopy over a spacious outdoor seating area.
There are lots of historic buildings and structures in Bray. We were charmed by the old Lych Gate for the churchyard, incorporated into a house still occupied today.