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.