Three score and ten

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Nineteen forty-eight isn’t a particularly memorable year in history, though a few significant events are attached to it. In Britain the first post-war Olympic Games took place in London over the summer, and a National Health Service was established. In Europe the Berlin Blockade signalled an escalation in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and its former allies during the Second World War while in Paris the United Nations agreed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And in a little town on the Sussex coast in England a baby boy was born…

According to verse 10 of Psalm 90 seventy years represents the natural span of our life; daring to live to 80 is pushing it. Guess what? I have every intention of pushing it. Providing I still have all the requisite faculties, of course.

A lot has happened during those seven decades. Humans on the moon, unmanned missions to and beyond the furthest reaches of the solar system. Portable devices for communicating almost instaneously with the other side of the planet. The tripling of the world’s population, from 2.5 billion to 7.5 billion. The effective eradication of some diseases and the rise of new ones. The average global temperature increasing by 0.75°C.

In many ways things have gone if not backwards then sideways, skewed off onto a rockier course. The British NHS is in a profound crisis, underfunded, undermanned, and with some services privatised for profit, not for patient care. The euphoria and inclusiveness of the 2012 Olympic Games, based once again in London, was then trashed by the madness and divisiveness of the 2016 EU Referendum.

Meanwhile, near totalitarian and xenophobic regimes are again in evidence, in Turkey, in Syria, in Hungary, in Poland, with maybe Austria next, though one hopes not; support for UN institutions and principles is waning, the mere existence of treaties and agreements attacked by a selfish, bigoted US president and supporters so invested in him that they dare not denounce or renounce his words and deeds.

1948 was also when Orwell completed his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four (to be eventually published in 1949) — its title was probably formed from reversing the final two digits of that year. We’re living to see his prophecies about Big Brother, Newspeak and fascist government becoming a reality as surveillance and real fake news, along with far-right politicians and movements, are all proliferating before our eyes.

Now I know things were never ever hunky-dory, that there was never a golden age in my lifetime, that there have been ups and downs. Still, I was a child of the sixties, a time of hope, idealism, unconventionality.

I now, in common with a good proportion of properly decent people, despair of where matters appear to be heading. Whether I reach even four score years is a moot point — should I still be alive in August 2048 it’s possible a genuine dystopia will be firmly in place well before then.

My hope and idealism hasn’t entirely evaporated: there are many individuals who — each in their own way — actively confront what they see as genuinely wrong, and there is much to rejoice about. But maybe we need to use unconventional means to counteract the irrationality that seems to have taken over humanity, or else — in the words of the psalmist — we may all be ‘cut off’ and ‘fly away’.

If I can’t quite bring myself to share John Donne’s vision of an ultimately happy ending — if ever — I yet retain a belief in those aspects of human nature that, in uniting emotion and intellect, know exactly what the right thing to do is, and then to do it.

At the round earth’s imagined corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scatter’d bodies go;
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you whose eyes
Shall behold God and never taste death’s woe.

John Donne

47 thoughts on “Three score and ten

  1. Happy Birthday, Chris! In Polish, the most popular birthday wish would be “Sto lat!” (known very well from Pratchett 😉 ), which means “A hundred years!” Hope you’ll make it true 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dzięki, Ola, if I’m still blogging in 2048 I know who’d be responsible! 😊

      I’ve only read Mort (which I think references Sto Lat) so don’t know much about the city. I wonder too if the name is also related to the city of Astolat mentioned in Arthurian romances, the same city that Tennyson called Shalott. Possibly Pratchett compounded both derivations in naming this city, do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, hadn’t realised he’d visited Poland (or even more than once) but as he did a lot of booksignings and conventions I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised! And now that I’ve looked up the etymology of schmaltz it all makes sense … I think.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. 😉 He was stunned by the amount of fat on everything from the Polish traditional peasant cuisine… You know, I believe he was here for the first time in winter, and it’s usually time for some heavy-duty food, grease, pickles, and pierogi with bits of fried bacon on top 😀 Add to it the mountains in snow, and voila – the reason for all that fat is clear 😉

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes, fat is good for the lean times of Eastern European hard winters! I know they’re different, but your mention of pierogi reminded me of the piroshki I had as a child in Hong Kong, introduced to my family by my Russian piano teacher and which were my absolute savoury favourites. I can still summon up the taste of them from more than sixty years ago! But I now have a yearning for pierogi with those fried bacon bits on top… 😋

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Russian piroshki might well be very similar to Polish pierogi, and they are indeed wonderful, bacon or no bacon 😉 Ah, and now I’m getting hungry 😉

              Liked by 1 person

            3. I think piroshki are slightly different, the savoury heart (minced meat mostly) surrounded by dough, with an outer crust that reminded me of breadcrumbs but may have been just from the way it was cooked, fried or baked I don’t recall — as a pre-teen all that mattered was that it tasted good and that the texture was excellent! They looked more like buns than the pictures I’ve seen of pierogi 🥟 which are crimped pockets containing the filling.

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Oh, they more often than not baked, and not boiled 😉 The idea is the same, pierogi can also be baked, but generally they are cooked and should contain as little dough as possible – so culinary cousins, not brothers 😉

              Liked by 1 person

      1. earthbalm

        Speaking of which, would you like one of my copies of “Hound of Ulster”? I could drop it through your daughter’s door? Well letter box anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Paula, I felt I couldn’t let this significant milestone pass by without some comment though I really didn’t want to come over all self-indulgent — hopefully, as it appears the case, readers found it sufficiently enlightening! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. piotrek

    Best wishes, a few days after such a momentous occasion! You’ve lived through fascinating times, and the world still stands, so, hopefully, we will all witness many good things happening to balance out the crises of today… so, sto lat from me as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jean, and you’re not late, the echoes of that day are still ringing in my ears as I see more family! Yes, one hopes, indeed expects, that things can only get better!

      Like

  3. Happy belated birthday, dear friend.🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸I am an inconstant blogger at summertime (🤔ever the rest of the year) and I had missed this post. Wish you all the joy and happiness you deserve and to keep on blogging till….2048 ( at least). 🙋

    Like

    1. Grazie mille, Stefy, you are forgiven even though you were never in the wrong in the first place! And, yes, I intend to keep blogging until … whenever it becomes impossible to do so! Hope the new term is less, or at least no more, stressful than it has been.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you give a look among your new Instagram followers you’ll see in what state of bliss I am about to start the new term (this afternoon actually), hope it will last. Ancora tanti auguri al ragazzo degli anni sessanta! Sono sicura che lo sai sempre anche nel 2048.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I couldn’t see you among my recent Instagram followers, Stefy, unless you’re hiding under a pseudonym! I spotted a Stefania Gioffrè on IG but have no idea if that’s you or not, but anyway I hope your state of bliss remains for a very long time. And thank you for your wishes and your certainty that I shall still be here in 30 years! 🙂

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            1. I don’t always follow new followers back but every now and then I make an exception, so here’s to a new reacquaintance via social media! And visions of golden Mediterranean sands. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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