November has closed in and daylight already slips away before tea time leading into the long evenings. For amusement, we watched our new prime minister and cabinet ministers dance a Scottish highland eight-some reel as partners were swung about, changed, and reunited as fast as the fiddler could play. But a Prince who has become the King rehearsed more than dancing in his beloved Scotland. When the past Prime Minister, Liz Truss ‘recommended’ that the King not go to the COP 27 Climate summit in Egypt he bowed to her will and – as the dance partners changed once more, the New Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, appeared too busy to go. So King Charles drew up an invitation to a reception, more commonly known as a ‘drinks party’ for world leaders to drop in at Buckingham Palace on their way to Egypt where our new prime minister would address them, before packing his bags, and joining the caravan to Egypt. It was a masterstroke of Diplomacy. It might have helped if Rishi did not look like a happy puppy seeing his master come home, but he showed that – at least on the face of it – his government has one eye on climate change. Rishi did not stay long and the conference ended late, finally promising some financial help to those countries worst hit by climate change. This is not enough and there was no real resolution on curbing Co2 emissions. We remain in danger.
Struggling to remain relevant, Sir Keir Starmer announced that if he became Prime Minister he would abolish the House of Lords to ‘restore trust in politics’. With so many Tory ministers in the House of Commons having a spot of bother with the press, this may not be that effective. And he may be too late as Peers from the House of Lords have joined members of the House of Commons all hedging their bets. In 2016 only 47 MPs held an Irish passport. By the end of 2022, there are 321 of them. Our ruling class seems to be keen to remain in Europe.
We watched the American Mid-term elections with trepidation and the physical attack on Paul Pelosi at home in San Francisco holds only two degrees of separation for us. But Mark Kelly won in Arizona and what we feared would become a miscarriage turned into – as one young friend called it – a little mid-monthly-term spotting. But as we see money amassed to be traded for power and the children who hold it become so willful and petulant, it is a warning that this American child called Democracy is as fragile as in any other country.
Mid-November saw us in Poland where Walter gave the first outing of his presentation on the Golden Ratio in the Cinematic Frame to an international conference of Cinematographers. And they took it well. Toruñ is an old city, a two-and-a-half-hour drive North-west from Warsaw and only a hundred miles from the borders of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. I was sobered at them all breathing the same cold air as Poland. The Polish men, young and middle-aged, are stoic and handsome – not yet fat with excess – they look as if they could be artists or soldiers – preparing for another war.
The first afternoon I left the hotel for a mid-afternoon stroll and at 2 p.m. the grey day was already receding. Walking along the towpath by the River Vistula, little white pieces of flotsam kept pace with me, bobbing in and out of the whirlpool eddies. The river is fat, wide, and brown as if grumbling from the mud below. The bridges that span across it are sturdy and utilitarian. There has been no money to spend on beauty. Under the bridge, back up into a small park, rests an old war-lookout bunker with its slotted windows. There is graffiti on the bricks and a homeless man had parked his belongings beside it in the long grass.
The final morning was free and we set out walking to Copernicus’ house – as one does – which is now a museum to the study of the stars, mathematics, and medieval life complete with a hand spindle for spinning wool. Along the small cobbled street, we were approached by a young mother and her not-yet-teenage daughter. With her broken English, she showed us the map on her cellphone written in Ukrainian. She was anxious, and lost, not wanting to be late for a job interview. She is a refugee here as the old enemies of Poland and Ukraine unite, sharing the same fears and foes – of Russia. After touring Copernicus’s medieval mathematics we came back onto the cobblestone street and drifted over to the beautiful, small chocolate shop. An old van was parked outside with its doors propped open. Tree branches, wire, and tools were strewn on the pavement as two well-wrapped-up gentlemen began to dress the shop window for Christmas and winter. The shop owner was holding their ladder steady, and, no doubt sharing her directions. On such a dark afternoon this promise of light, which will stay until spring, is comforting.
The train traveled fast through the French Countryside and for Thanksgiving, we go home to where the heart is joining our daughter’s young family in Utrecht. Though we were concerned as that day Argentina had lost to Saudi Arabia 2 to 1 in the World Soccer Tournament being played in Qatar. But a world goal was scored by the team from Iran, everybody’s favorite football to kick around. Iran lost to England 6 to 2 that night but won in respect as they stood silently in solidarity with their country’s women while their national anthem was played. Knowing what could await them and what already might be happening with their families, no one can doubt the raw courage of these young players asking for a freer more democratic country. It is early days yet in the month-long tournament and who knows how far that ball will be kicked down the field.
Our last afternoon in Utrecht we all walked to the Magic Circus pitched up in the park beside the school. In the late afternoon, we queued outside the small striped tent and single mobile kiosk selling popcorn. The rough benches inside were arranged in a semicircle and it looked like there had been a new expenditure on fifty black plastic chairs. For two hours seven performers from Europe and Argentina, doubled up as spinners of candy floss and flippers of dutch pancakes in the intermission, brought magic to the families in this international city and we carried our smiles with us as we walked home in the dark. Our last evening – hamburgers for supper and then Argentina played Mexico in a game as football should be played. Argentina won 2 – 0.
This has been A Letter From A. Broad. Written and Read for you by Muriel Murch.