Time for an Update

Apologies for my absence in January (first month missed since I started in 2013).

Winter aconites

Winter aconites



2016 was almost continuous mayhem. Some of it was wonderful. Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoir and Letters from Home was published, and has gone down well with the people for whom it was mainly written – relatives of the men who were prisoners with my father. It has pleased my own relatives too as my mother’s work during the war was not known to them.

Phyllis Custance Baker with grandchild

Phyllis Custance Baker with grandchild

I survived the terror of public speaking, giving five full lectures on the story of the book, and there are more lined up for this year.

However, still on the home front, there were family health problems that required a great deal of time and mental energy, but which are happily now mostly resolved.

Segukaku maple in late winter and birch

Segukaku maple in late winter and birch

Moving outwards the national outlook was, and is, depressing. Brexit was a shock and I fear for the future not only of many European friends, but also of those from further afield who feel alienated by the toxic rhetoric of the Brexit campaigners. I also feel desperately sorry for those to voted OUT, genuinely believing this rhetoric and thinking that vast new sums of money would now be available to the NHS, and that stopping Europeans coming to the UK will make Britons better off and having no idea that so many of the schemes in deprived cities round the UK are funded by Europe.

I would never have imagined that all of this would seem insignificant 5 months later. The new president of the USA is a nightmare of such vast proportions that it is difficult to see how the world will recover. Even if he does not cause WWIII or accelerate climate change beyond recovery (and I feel both are highly likely), I still feel diminished as a human being that people not dissimilar to me, voted for this man.

Pepper tree

Pepper tree

If I can see how to make a difference, I hope I will stand up and be counted. In the meantime it will contribute at the micro-level – supporting and caring for those closest and treating all humans as I would wish to be treated myself. We give to the men and women working at charities’ coal faces and we try and care for the environment at home. This all feels like bailing out the boat with a leaky bucket.

So, I am cultivating my garden, or rather starting work on clearing the next bit of fence for replacement; looking after the hedgehog (who reappeared yesterday); growing my garlic; publishing my husband’s book and re-starting my next novel. Life goes on. dscn0205dscn0204dscn0201-version-2

I wish you all courage in facing this even more less than perfect world.

50 thoughts on “Time for an Update

  1. I share your concerns, but think you may be wrong in your assessment that ‘people not dissimilar to’ you made this choice. It has become clear since Trump was elected that there are many good people who oppose what he stands for and are concerned about the damage he may do. I think you will find that these are the people you are not dissimilar to, which is cause for hope, not despair 🙂

    • I hope to goodness you are right. I do have faith that there are millions of decent people in the USA as well the rest of the world. I will feel a little more confident when I hear someone who supported Trump expressing doubt about what he is doing.

      • There have been some on Twitter, Hilary. I’m not completely sure but maybe the hashtag (#) Trump regrets. I like what chrysalis says, but I’m in a rural location and I can count on one hand (including my family) the people in town who are progressives or liberals. Of course, those are the ones who are obvious about it, but still. They seem to have bought into the ideas that jobs are being taken by the Other, Hilary Clinton is going to hell or jail, and can’t bring themselves to say “black lives matter” because they fail to see how much privilege has been afforded, in particular, to white, straight, Christian men without disabilities for the last, oh, thousand years or so.

      • It is good to hear that some of the people who voted for him can see that he is not what they imagined. Yes, it is an uphill struggle when all around you have another entrenched view of the world. I guess softly, softly is the best way.

  2. I hear you, Hilary. You’re doing the right thing during these times: Help where you can, try to make a difference, and cultivate your garden. I wish I could cultivate mine — we have snow.

    I’ve been trying to write an opinion piece for my church newsletter about the Christian response to Donald Trump — but I’ve had so much trouble, that I asked the congregation and my priest for help today. Fact is, it’s partly the “Christians” who put him in power. I feel terribly disappointed in them for choosing someone they would have vilified if he were a Democrat, or a person of colour. Then I feel terribly judgmental — the old “Judge not, lest ye be judged” comes back at me. Where is my garden when I need it??!!

    • Yes, I truly understand your dilemma. I feel I ought to be able to empathise more with those who felt desperate enough to vote for someone like that. And then I hear an ordinary person being interviewed and saying things no one should think, never mind voice. We are going to have our to stretch our desire to love our neighbours in a very uncomfortable way. I hope you find a good alternative to your garden to cultivate… cooking? I am making more soups this winter!

      • You’re right. “Love thy neighbour” keeps sounding in my ears. Making me wonder what that means to some Christians. Then, my friends at the Sisterhood of St. John (they’re nuns) reminding me to look for God in everyone we meet. And finally, Mother Teresa: “There goes God in another of his distressing disguises!” But it’s tough.
        I, too, have been making soup. Butternut squash with apples and onions. Cooked and pureed. A wonderful soup.

  3. Don’t despair – there is much happening that is good and I remain convinced that a positive change will arise from this chaos if we all step up and do as you have just written: ‘supporting and caring for those closest and treating all humans as I would wish to be treated myself. We give to the men and women working at charities’ coal faces and we try and care for the environment at home.’ Enjoy your garden!

  4. January 2017 was a tough month for sure. February isn’t looking much brighter. Every morning I wake up and shake my head, wondering if this can be real. May we all come out okay on the other side.

    Nice to hear an update from you. Best of luck with your upcoming projects!

  5. Congratulations on the launch of your book! It’s lovely seeing your garden and I can see the ivy that you’re going to tackle! Good luck with that! As far as the political situation, it’s a world wide problem. Australia refusing to allow the ‘boat people’ into our country is despicable. We must remain alert and continue to do the grass roots work, doing whatever we can that needs to be done.

    • Yes, you are right, it is worldwide, but I feel, as with the greater number of votes for Hillary, that there are more people in the world with their hearts in the right places than the other sort. I suppose the problem is that they are nor power-hungry types.

  6. ‘People not dissimilar to me voted for Trump’ is what my American friends are saying too. Astonishing and truly frightening, but…you have hit the solution in your books being published and the beauty of the garden. The worse the political news the more we step outside to look at the latest leaf or flower. Switching off the news helps too,… somewhat!

  7. THE HEDGEHOG IS BACK ! There’s hope for us yet, Hilary … When all around seems unspeakable, let us turn to the hedgehog to remind ourselves that this world contains some wonderful and adorable things …

    • Wonderful to hear from you. I was mightily relieved when the hedgehog turned up, but this is the small one that appeared before Christmas, I’m not sure where big daddy has got to. Still they are very wide ranging animals and the big ones can hibernate for longer than the little ones.

  8. Good post, Hilary. I don’t remember the world ever being in such a worrying state before. I listen to the news and feel so helpless. Keep thinking someone’s going to tell me Brexit and Trump didn’t really happen!

  9. I was a little concerned about the hedgehog. Glad he’s ok.

    Now, about that other hog who calls himself King Trump. The judges are fighting his travel band on minorities. hopefully, this will go to the Supreme Court and be ruled unconstitutional.

  10. A hedgehog goes a long way to assuaging worry. And your garden is lovely. After a November of being unable to write, I have buried my head in finishing this novel. It is my blogging that has suffered. I, too, hope to get back to it soon.

  11. I love what you’ve so eloquently said, and left unsaid, Hilary, especially in “I wish you all courage in facing this even more less than perfect world.” I can agree. 2016 was creatively pretty successful for me with having several stories published, and it was fair for me emotionally and family-wise with no deaths or serious illness in the small circle (though some friends outside of it). And then, yes, the surprising political results of November 2016 in the U.S., coupled with Brexit and the changes toward so-called populism and nationalism in parts of Europe, had me ‘arguing’ in print with people over the days leading up to and just after Jan. 20. I realized I can’t go on that way, though I haven’t stopped fighting and speaking out. Simple, blanket statement, although it’s not an easy debate by any means: I’d just have to say there’s a lot of fearfulness and misunderstanding in the U.S. today. In the U.S., at exactly this moment, books like The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, and Brave New World are back at the top of the literary charts (at least Amazon). I’m not sure why Animal Farm’s not up there (or is it?).

    • I think Animal Farm is up there too. I am hoping that the rest of Europe realises that Brexit and Trump are not the successes they were promised and are warned off going down that path. There are some alarming elections coming up, so we shall soon see.

      • That’s good. Yes, NPR is talking about dystopian novels now, and I’ve learned about some new ones. Now seems ripe for publishing or submitting those types of stories. Now that reality is not just post-fact but possibly heading toward some kind of destruction. Shivers. Yes, I hope we can come together as people and not exclude so many from healthcare or education or the elemental basics such as water, safe shelter, peace, and food.

  12. I share your concerns, Hilary. Unfortunately, one must focus on a few things things that one can change (like cultivating a garden) and try to remain sane amidst all this.

  13. I think your attitude is spot on. None of us can single-handedly save the world, but if we all do even a little good we can make a difference globally, despite the hugeness of the challenge. Your garden’s looking ready to burst into bloom. The coming of spring and new growth is a constant reassurance that wonderful things continue to happen. Glad to hear the hedgehog’s still around.

  14. I know exactly how you feel, but console myself with the thought that as one door closes another door closes too. Or again, a problem shared is a problem doubled.

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