In my December column for the Tetbury Advertiser, I tried to put the tumultuous events of 2016 into perspective
As 2016 draws to a close, few will mourn its passing. From the start, it seemed a blighted year, robbing us of many national treasures and bringing us Brexit and President-Elect Trump.
Scrolling back through the year to seek more positive memories, I discover the event that filled me with most hope was the centenary of the Somme.
Ironically, one of the bloodiest battles in human history became a source of hope when at 7:30 AM on July 1st, vast numbers of people gathered nationwide to commemorate those who gave their todays for our tomorrows, and again on Remembrance Day last month. It was heartening to see people from throughout society turn out for these events, including many young people and children. It is especially heartening that so many of the youngest generation want to honour them though very few have met anyone born during that era and perhaps feel no immediate personal connection.
Celebrating Cousin Nina
My daughter is lucky to be an exception. She has been able to get to know my grandma’s cousin Nina, born before the Battle of the Somme began. We helped her celebrate her hundredth birthday this year. Each time we visit her, we feel we are touching history and witnessing at first hand the human instinct to survive in the face of adversity. Nina has been widowed four times, but is currently single, as common parlance has it. (Sadly, Nina passed away just after I wrote this column – but rather that blame 2016, I view her survival to 100 more of a miracle than a curse.)
Reasons to be Cheerful
Such special occasions lift my spirits beyond the quagmire of the daily news headlines.
Every day brings reasons to be hopeful, if only we remember to look for them.
Yes, I know that’s easy for an optimist to say. I realise not everyone is such a Pollyanna like me. During an interviewed the other day on BCfm Radio, I told the presenter, historian and historical novelist Lucienne Boyce, that I’m a glass-half-full person. I was amused by her response “I’m the kind of pessimist that can’t even see the glass”. Perhaps for 2017 we should each resolve to find out glass and fill it.
A Force for Good
We may look back on 2016 as an annus horribilis, but as future generations will discover, it will also be a year when great men and women were born who will in time be a force for good. If you’ve become a parent or grandparent this year, you’re probably agreeing already.
To encourage sceptics, here’s a reminder of two great men born in 1916:
- Francis Crick, Nobel laureate, co-discoverer of DNA’s molecular structure, arguably the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century
- mould-breaking author Roald Dahl, who has brought laughter and comfort to readers young and old for generations
If such greatness can come forth phoenix-like from such desperate times, maybe everything will come right for us too.
I wish you peace, joy and love this Christmas, and may your glass remain full in the New Year.