7 Days of Positive – Day 141: Celebrate

As I write the British government is in a big twit whether it can even hold a debate whether to bomb Syria or not.

The new leader of the Labour party is a life-long pacifist and can’t on his conscience vote in favour of it. The question is whether he will ‘whip’ his MPs to vote against the motion.

If he does that the Prime Minister can’t hold the vote, because he would probably lose it which would be the most massive propaganda boost for the ghastly, so-called ‘ISIS’. (I can think of some other names for them…)

I was listening to discussions about it on the radio this morning with that awful sinking feeling that we are living through history as it is being made – not in a good way.


Whichever camp you’re in – to bomb, or not to bomb – there’s no question the situation there is absolutely heinous and liable to make us all want to lie face down on the floor in despair at mankind’s inability to embrace life, rather than destroy it – however, I had an experience on Saturday night, which has given me hope.

We were at a lovely event at my daughter’s school, where the amazingly talented musicians, dancers, actors and singers perform, in the very glamorous setting (despite it being the sports hall…) of a black tie dinner.

It’s Peggy’s first year there and we hardly know a soul, so took our luck to be seated wherever. We ended up at a table for twelve with ten strangers. By the end of the evening we were all great friends.

The family to my husband’s right – a mother and her brother, his wife – were of Armenian descent, but they’d grown up in Ethiopia, where their grandparents had fled after the Turkish genocide of 1915. Later their family moved from there to Cyprus, only to have to flee again when the Turks invaded that island in 1974.

They now live in north London.

The other family were a group of seven. I sat next to one of the grandmother’s of my daughter’s ballet school class mate, C.

A very glam gran, M is my new BFF. We bonded instantly and proceeded to polish off a bottle of white wine between us, which further cemented our friendship.

Her late husband – Peggy’s pal’s grandfather – was Iraqi. They met when she was working there as a secretary in an oil company. She had tears in her eyes when we talked about what had happened to that country in the years since they left.

I didn’t get to talk to C’s other grandmother who was on the opposite side of the table, but I made it my business to introduce myself to her mother, L, who is 104.

She still lives on her own, plays bridge, goes to concerts and lectures and only gave up driving a couple of years ago after a scare on the M25 (Britain’s busiest motorway).

When the compere declared the official programme was over and the dance floor was open – she was the first person on it. 104.

M and I joined her, along with C’s mum, and our daughters soon arrived, so we were dancing like crazy loons to Uptown Funk (played by the school’s astonishingly good orchestra) with four generations of one amazing family.

L – an Austrian Jew – arrived in England in 1939, having somehow got her husband out of a concentration camp.

Throw in the stories my grandfather told me about his times in the trenches and my husband’s family’s involvement in the civil war which led to the creation of Yugoslavia (his father and several uncles were on the side of the Partisans, the other brothers were for the king…).

Not forgetting all his cousins who found themselves refugees in Belgrade, after the more recent conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo.

And there we were, twelve people around one table at an English school’s annual concert – representing between us some of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century.

Yet despite all that collective history, the overriding theme of that evening was joy. Springing from the universal and most fundamental human value of family.

We were there to celebrate our children, with L in particular a vivid reminder of why we must all embrace life, whatever it throws at us.

And her spirit gives me hope that the people currently suffering so appallingly in Syria and in the waves of trauma spreading out from that region around the world, will one day be joyously dancing somewhere, celebrating the sanctity of family.

  • Javqueline
    November 30, 2015

    Sounds like a great evening Maggie and one that should make us all think about the contribution that multi culturism provides in terms of tolerance & the loyalty & joy shown in our country by those we have befriended.
    With regards to Jeremy – my interpretation of his statements is that he is not totally opposed to action but believes that air strikes would place us in great danger of attacks, similar to those undertaken in Paris. This seems to be another reactive proposal and a ‘comprehensive strategy?’- I have yet to see or hear one. Dave has not made the case for air strikes in my opinion. And there will be terrible civilian casualties. Eventually we would have to send in ground troops & ISIS would be barbaric in their response.
    Sorry long post.

    • maggie2015
      December 1, 2015

      It’s a heinous situation – but so much harder to take because we stirred up the hornet’s nest in the first place, but barging in and deposing the despots. What we don’t seem to understand that Western ideals of democracy don’t make sense in other cultures. The whole ‘democracy is best’ thing is such an imperialist notion.

  • Wattleflatjane
    November 30, 2015

    Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your uplifting evening in the face of what seems like inevitably extended conflict. Connecting with each other, and sharing life stories and celebrating together is what keeps us human and accepting of difference. Xx

  • rosy@kempsey
    December 1, 2015

    Enjoyed this piece, very much, multiculturalism at work….
    Re bombing Syria, Australia is not joining in, thank goodness……

  • Lara
    December 1, 2015

    Beautifully written, Maggie. I am second generation Australian from Russians who fled a war torn Europe in 1949 (with doctored papers). Most of my school friends in south western Sydney in the 80s were first generation Australians from Greek, Lebanese, Vietnamese families. We school kids didn’t know or care, we just were us. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in such a rich environment even if money was spare.

    • maggie2015
      December 1, 2015

      and now -as the song goes – you are Australian…. xxx

  • carol w
    December 1, 2015

    Most life affirming Maggie. Check out Adam Hills’ Last Leg amazing ‘rant’ about ISIS. Trust an Aussie to give them a good-natured bollocking dripping in irony….

  • Geoffrey Laurence
    December 1, 2015

    Love the Bruno Mars…

    • maggie2015
      December 3, 2015

      brilliant dance track. That Mark Ronson knows his way around a horn section.

  • Janine O'Neill
    December 2, 2015

    Wow, what a change of pace Maggie, loved it though.
    What a pity everyone can’t embrace multiculturalism, it is so enriching. Glad we have a new PM here in Australia who is taking things carefully.

    • maggie2015
      December 3, 2015

      Ah yes, Janine, I’m just not a one-not samba. I admire all those themed blogs, but I couldn’t do one. Me and My Hair Straighteners A Year of Gluten-Free etc. Not for moi.

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