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Within the next month (and I write at the end of February 2019 for the sake of the Archive, should you read this if this site still exists in ten years’ time) we are going to experience a major historical event in that, theoretically at least, we should be divorced from Europe – Brexit will have occurred. With a month to go it seems that pandemonium reigns and it is anybody’s guess what will happen – in, out, out with no agreement, or delayed leaving.  

Whatever the outcome, various things are certain and should go down in the history books as such. First, there has been more mayhem in Parliament over recent months than at any other time in our experience (and that from the mouth of a leading politician).   Second, most of us (and this appears especially true of silver surfers) are fed up to the teeth with it and just can’t wait for something to eventually happen that brings an end (hopefully) to all the bickering. Third, we have witnessed over the past two years more acrimony in Parliament, in the media, and in public life, over Brexit, than ever witnessed before in my lifetime. We have covered some of the reasoning for this on our “for believers and seekers page” titled, “Thought of the Month” with the religious or spiritual ramifications of all of this, so we are not going down that path here.

My ramblings on this page usually have an origin in events which impinge on me and set my mind into action. One of my joys these days is to lead a group every two weeks called ‘Nostalgia’, the goals of which are stated as “Building friendship through recounting memories” and the emphasis is on the memory part which is there to help those of us of advanced years, strengthen our memories and ward off declining mental ability. Mental memory exercises are at the heart of this hour and a half time of laughter, and just recently I asked the group to think up, in pairs for three or four minutes, a half a dozen changes they had witnessed in life since their childhood. It’s a fascinating exercise and stirs the grey cells in a fun way. However the exercise that kicked off my train of thought that you find here was, again in pairs for three or four minutes, “Share with your partner the thing you liked most in growing up.”  

Now this triggered off thoughts I was not expecting as two of the participants both shared how the fact of bombs coming down during ‘The War’ had meant having time off from school. This hadn’t been the direction I had been expecting, but it is a line of thought that occurs a number of times with this group, which obviously includes those who were children during the war. I was born just at the end of the war and so have no memories of it, but what always surprises me is that these people, who had been children at that time, never come up with negatives about it. Even when some of them tell about having been evacuated, mostly they are very upbeat about it. This triggered me thinking about difficult times we have been through in our lifetimes. I don’t mean those personal tragedies many of us have suffered, but more the big things that hit society as a whole.

‘The War’ clearly featured very highly in the generation before ours, our parents who fought in it. Post traumatic stress disorder was not spoken of back there, this anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events, often resulting in the person reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, often with feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. I’m not sure how many of the present older generation recognised those symptoms in those returning from war, and I don’t know how real it was; one would assume with so many participating, there must have been thousands and thousands of cases of it. If you have ever read Max Hastings’ accounts of the First and Second World Wars, you would agree that the horrors experienced by so many must have accounted for many broken or disturbed lives of survivors of both conflicts.

But we missed that (thankfully) but were perhaps robbed of something of parental relationships (especially fathers) because of that last war. But we lived out the succeeding years and if my group of elderly people is anything to go by, they do not demonstrate today negative reactions of that time. But I pondered on. What about the Cold War, the period of tension between the Eastern Bloc nations and the Western Bloc nations in the period between 1946 and 1991 (the time of the collapse of the USSR)? Did living with the fear of a nuclear winter seriously harm us? I know there were young women who wondered whether to bring a family into being in that climate of fear. I remember there were times of stockpiling cans of food, ‘just in case’. Yes, I can remember various countries adjoining the USSR being taken over after invasion. I’m not sure that I was impacted by the Berlin Crisis (1961) nor, in reality by the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, although subsequently I understand the Doomsday Clock was thought to be at one of its nearest points to midnight then.

Perhaps a word about the Doomsday Clock might be appropriate. To quote from the Internet, “it is a symbol which represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Clock is a metaphor for threats to humanity from unchecked scientific and technical advances.”  Because of the various Doomsday Scenarios that face the world at the present, “It is now two minutes to midnight—the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.” (That was at the beginning of 2018) This is the world we live in and the threats that that are being identified. Yet, I suspect the truth is that optimism means we give little thought to these things.  

But what else have we lived through, here in Britain, in our lifetimes?  Remember the Irish ‘Troubles’, a roughly thirty year period of constant bad news in Northern Ireland, a period that apparently saw about 3,500 killed and up to 50,000 injured. There was this nagging sore constantly cropping up in the news. But that affect our national psyche? Did it leave us silver-surfers scarred? I don’t think it did, which is amazing in some ways. Look up some of the details as a reminder of what happened. Try 1972, thought to be one of the worst years when 480 people lost their lives, starting with ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Derry in which 14 marchers against internment were shot dead by the British Army in January. The Provisional IRA especially upped their campaign to its greatest intensity, killing over 100 British soldiers in that year and devastating the centre of Belfast and Derry with car bomb attacks – notably on ‘Bloody Friday’ in July when 9 people were killed and 130 injured by 26 near-simultaneous car bombs. Looking back that seems just like a bad dream, but we lived through it.

If you want to see how life has changed since we were kids, look up “Terrorist attacks in the UK” on Google and you will find we have grown into a society where ‘terrorist threat’ is part of the environment,. it seems. But we spend day and night thinking about it? I suspect not and the only reason we do is because now and again it crops up in the media in various forms. But are my group of elderly people hyper-conscious of this, and how do they feel about the changed world? This is where the British ability to laugh in the face of adversity triumphs over the gloom and doom pumped out so often by the media, and if my group is anything to go by, that includes Brexit.  

When our group looks back, there are sensitive areas of personal loss we try to avoid, losses of loved ones that are natural in a group of that age, but when it comes to feelings about the uncomfortable past, I conclude we are remarkably durable and largely shrug off the sort of things I’ve been considering here. And then comes something I have never thought before, as we look back, do all these events, even the War, the Cold War, the Irish troubles, present terrorism threats, do all these things take on an unreal feel, something that we see on TV news but which, in reality, never really has any impact on our day-to-day lives. They happened, but so what?  Today’s another day. This is different from the loss of a loved one where we now have a hole in our lives with memories that make us ache. So are we being lulled into a way of thinking (which may be a good thing?) so that all of the screaming about Brexit simply becomes like white noise in the background? Will we have to endure yet further waves of gloom and doom forecasts from the not-so-accurate pundits, whichever way the result turns out in the weeks and months to come, and will we just yawn and change channels. It’s the British way – don’t let them get you down! Changes will come; they may be brilliant, they may be disastrous, but hey, we’ve lived through gloom and doom before, we can handle it!  Let’s see if I can find some suitable quotes to finish with:

The journey is never ending. There's always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what's right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment. Antonio Brown

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. Walt Disney

In our personal and professional lives, we are constantly hit with one adversity after the other, most of which we have no control over. But the four things we have total control over is how we react, how we adapt, how we breathe, and how we take action.

Diamond Dallas Page

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.  J.K. Rowling

Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived.   Winston Churchill

The British nation is unique in this respect: they are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.  Winston Churchill.

A study into emotion perception could explain why older people consistently report greater wellbeing: with age we stop noticing when other people are angry but stay just as good at spotting when they are happy. “We perceive anger and fear less and less, and happiness just as much,” Laura Germine, from Harvard Medical School, said. “So, over time, people may just view everything more positively.”

(The Times front page 5/3/19 after we posted this article)

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