Wednesday, 9 October 2019


Recycled capitals
Professor Gloom and I were in Palma de Mallorca recently, sipping wine in shady squares and enjoying a bit of respite from the rest of the world. We were in the old quarter, surrounded by ancient stones, winding streets and constant reminders of civilisations that have come and gone. The Arab Baths, close to our hotel, were built by the Moors, who, I'm pleased to say, were early recyclers. They may have knocked down a few Byzantine and Roman buildings, but they re-used the materials to great effect - a good example of things enduring, even if not quite in the way originally envisaged.

The other thing that struck me again and again, was just how courteous most Spaniards are. Our hotel bedroom looked down onto a square where children of all ages arrived every morning for school, and they were cheerful and lively, but well-behaved in a way we don't often see. As Gloom remarked the other day (when we were mown down by a group of teenagers boarding the train) he seemed to spend his youth getting out of the way of old people, and now he spends his old age getting out of the way of the young.

A shady square
Children might no longer be as well-behaved as I would like (and given the behaviour of so many of their elders, who can blame them?) but they were out in their thousands recently, protesting about the damage being done to the world they stand to inherit - and those of us who are leaving them this broken planet should do our best to support them, and help to keep their hopes alive, because in the end, hope is all there is.

Do you remember the cellist of Sarajevo? The lone musician who sat, day after day in the ruins of Sarajevo, playing his cello in a one-man protest against the madness that had engulfed his city? So many other protests come to mind: the unknown man in Tiananmen Square, standing alone in the path of Chinese tanks; Civil and Human Rights marchers in Ireland and America: anti-apartheid and anti-war protesters; the streets of Hong Kong today - I could list dozens, but the thing is that although it so often seems there is no hope that things will ever change - and the danger, of course is that peaceful protests become more violent, because more and more people have less and less to lose - still, the very fact that someone was brave enough to stand up and be counted gave hope to others when it was most needed.

As for those who have started criticising Greta Thunberg, she's 16 years old, for pity's sake, and trying to get the world to wake up and do something about the dangers we now face, even though it's probably too late. Which is better than sitting at home sneering.

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