It’s probably best to try to count your blessings after such a year – the cleaner air, the extra time in the garden, the jolt to all the habits that needed a shake up are no bad thing. And such a good year to discover all the local bike routes that otherwise I’d probably have left aside. I don’t think I’ve done quite as many miles cycling as usual, certainly not as many as 2019 but self-sufficiency in pumpkins was new to me. A good deal more time in the sea, encouraged by the closure of the nearest swimming pool, and more surfing – even today, 28th Dec, too, cold with small to moderate smooth waves at Amroth. A beautiful sea, smooth glossy grey with dark lines coming in, curtains of sleety rain in the showers. The photo is of some local surfers at the Wiseman’s main break in rather mellow waves. It’s also been a great year for cooking, and if you are in need of a comforting soup in the cold and grey weather of recently, I’d suggest trying parsnips (say 500g) peeled, sliced and sweated over a low heat with peeled, sliced pears (just 2), yes – not apples - with a little cumin and coriander, then cooked in veg stock, before liquidizing then served with cheddar cheese grated on top. Subtle. Well, I’ve got a bit obsessed by this for my lunch….
It was, sadly, the year that Roger Scruton died – a divisive character to be sure, but one that I always enjoyed reading, even where I thought he was wrong, sometimes amusingly and utterly wrong. On the whole, he improved as the years went by – his more recent publications were increasingly personal, even autobiographical, and I found them both touching and thought provoking. His Modern Philosophy: an Introduction and Survey is an older book but is a great way into philosophy, clear, not infrequently funny, always readable, a good personal view. Another highpoint was News From Somewhere, with a dig at William Morris (News From Nowhere) in the title…. Recently, I was reading Roger Scruton’s Our Church at the same time as reading Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature – as part of a policy of reading what look on the surface like diametrically opposed authors. Curiously enough, they had so much more in common than I expected. They were of a similar age – born in the 40s. Both of them were inclined to a elegiac tone of writing in their latter years – and in both cases an elegy to something in the past of England (though frankly I suspect it would largely fit with Wales and Scotland too with only minor changes, perhaps it’s an ‘anglican’ elegy), and the identification of that ‘something’ would not be so very different. A less regulated, more eccentric, kinder (in some ways), less commercial, less procedural, less built over and more humanly warm society. For all our talk of ‘diversity’, vague and painfully procedural as it is, we have surely less of the reality of it than we used to, especially when one thinks beyond humans. Perhaps that’s one thing that COVID might be making us long for….