Storms Here and There.
The big storms in California and the Pacific North West have moved on and the cold snaps – also considered a weather abnormality – that settled in England and Europe are melting as they subside.
Along the roads around the lagoon and in our hamlets that we travel, the eucalyptus trees fell with a post-coital groan before crashing into the receptive embrace of the ground below. It is no ‘little death’ but a dance of death as the trees pull the soil and hillsides down, exposing their mud-bound roots. Cypress and Fir gave way also, only the native Redwood groves stood tall and strong. The sign for us all that something is – and will – change.
This weekend, as we drove from North to South on route 101, along the California Coast and then inland, the rivers were only just subsiding, exposing more shifted mud and broken tree limbs trapping the shredded blue tarpaulins of destroyed tent hamlets. My headlights caught a mud-covered man struggling to lift a rusted-out old Radio Flyer red wagon across the freeway barrier. The next day, we passed fields of black plastic-covered strawberries and seedlings, glistening in the breeze and morning sunlight. Then it was on to the freeways of Southern California, to be caught in miles of car traffic, moving too fast and too far to heal the earth. We are the cause of this catastrophe.
Tucked away – as we were – in a musician’s cave carved out of the hillsides of Malibu, I reached for a huge tome of Beatles memorabilia and look back at the time when Paul, George, Ringo, and John were young and – at times – not afraid of taking the mick of the police amidst the crush of teenage fans where everyone was smiling and enjoying the madness of it all. Those were the days when young policemen could be found waiting at rural train stations to greet the last train home, checking to see if any inebriated gentlemen – not sure of where their car was in the parking lot – were sober enough to drive home. More than once, one of those policemen would be at the station exit and, pushing his bicycle alongside of us, walk me home. Maybe he was older than me but not much. He never asked for anything in return for his gentlemanly service. The bus drivers in the town where we trained were a little different – but a smile, a wave, maybe even a light peck on the cheek would be enough to have them drive on with a happy chuckle.
Now, amidst the cold in England, another chill has descended. One that this UK government is unwilling and unable to address. For generations – with few interruptions – our Prime Ministers have come from the elitist of schools in England: Eton, Harrow, and Winchester. ‘On Forsyte Change’ written in 1930, coming up for 100 years ago, Galsworthy noted these three schools in his vignette ‘A Sad Affair’ which took place in 1866. England’s recent two Prime ministers, David Cameron and Boris Johnson were from Eton. Rishi Sunak is from Winchester.
Jonathan Freedland writing for the Guardian strongly urges that the whole Metropolitan police force be disbanded and reassembled. There is some cross-party support for this as the current Conservative government is clearly chasing its tail. From the Steven Lawrence murder and debortle of a corrupt investigation in 1993, only tokens within the police force, in attitude or behavior, have changed in thirty years. This year’s uproar is of Officer David Carrick who pursued at least 12 women with rape and sexual assault. He was reported at least eight times, by whoever was brave enough, and has so far kept his uniform, his badge, and his gun, and the Met Office did the only thing they could, in 2009 they promoted him to a special armed unit. Films have been made by the dozen of American cops, notable is Crash written and directed by Paul Haggis in 2004. Efforts have been made to depict plentiful corruption in the English Police force but they still do not dent the iron-clad door of the Met Office.
As the flurry of this last scandal broke, a government minister – whose name is not worth looking up – suggested that if anyone feels intimidated by a police officer they should ‘Wave down a bus’. It is clear that this government, like those before it, are as afraid of the police as are the general public. It is not surprising that this week a crate of 1071 rotten bad apples was left outside of New Scotland Yard in London, enough to ruin every batch of hard cider coming out of Somerset.
The New Met Chief, Mark Rowley, has more than one crate of officers to throw out on some compost heap where maybe they can rot into new earth. Rowley looks almost old enough to have walked a young nurse home from the train station. Maybe he can be the honest cop the whole country needs. But he is one man and the Met Police Force is made up of thousands, some police perpetrators, some intimidated officers, often women and officers of colour, rookies of every kind.
The targeting of women, men and women of colour, is getting worse and it is hard for women, mothers, teachers, nurses, even policewomen, and women in government. It is a sad moment but no surprise to read of Jacinda Ardern announcing her resignation as Prime Minister of New Zealand. She did what she could, when she could, and now will be home for her daughter.
January is also the month of marmalade making for English housewives at home and sometimes abroad. Winnie Carter knew it, and Ben Aiken wrote about it. But here is a switch. Here on the coast in California, I’ve made my marmalade from our own oranges and lemons. This is something different and delicious.
This has been A Letter from A. Broad
written and read for you by Muriel Murch