The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th March 2023, of Cat, Talks, and Inhumanity

First of all Cat. The title of this blog is a give away, although I didn’t consciously realise that Cat, real name Freddy (the Gorgeous Boy) would play such a large part in it when I began. But he had a large personality and a way of being centre stage most of the time. As some of you know, I never intended to have a cat, but Freddy decided I had a vacancy I knew nothing about and moved in. He saw me through some very difficult times as well as good ones. He kept me company while I studied for new qualifications, made freelance journalism from home something of a challenge as he regarded the phone as love rival and would steal my pen as I tried to take notes, cost me a small fortune in vet bills as a result of his territorial fights. Tomorrow it will be twelve years since he died.

The date must be engraved somewhere in my heart as I have found myself thinking of him a lot in recent days, my eyes filling with tears at inopportune moments. I had absolutely no idea I could love a cat as much. Dogs yes, but I had never lived with a cat. Never truly understood how much they gave, how companionable they could be, how funny, loving, and also demanding. I shall be forever grateful that he lived with me for fourteen years. Mother and Aunt both loved him and he knew it, basking in their admiration.

So tomorrow night I shall light a candle to him when I get home. His ashes are still in the airing cupboard, a place he was not allowed in life, because I couldn’t when it came to it, bear to scatter them.

But the candle lighting will have to wait until after tomorrow evening’s talk, and maybe even after that. Celia has been away at her daughter’s in Wales, helping to pack up for the family’s imminent move to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Tomorrow she returns. We will have catching up to do. Charlie (Mr Celia) and Michèle, are coming to the talk too, so we shall be a little social bunch. Michele and I thoroughly enjoyed Hew Locke’s talk last Wednesday. He come across as a very thoughtful, highly intelligent, perceptive man. So interesting, honest and engaging, which come through in his art. I loved his comment about statues. This was in relation to the pulling down of Colston’s statue, a statue Locke had dressed in fake gold in a photograph back in 2007. There’s a lot more to it than that, but best you read about it here. There has been much talk about removing Cecil Rhodes’ statue from Oxford. Oh no, said Locke, not before I’ve had a go at it. Maybe that is what we should do, not just add explainers but add to statues of people lauded who profited by exploiting others.

Not that humanity belongs to the past unfortunately. There are far too many instances of it every day. As I wrote in my last post, the current government wants to prevent people seeking refuge from finding it in the UK. Suella Braverman, Home Secretary, and Rishi Sunak among others talk about illegal immigrants, people not taking the legal channels, conveniently ignoring the fact (not opinion) that for most of these refugees those legal channels simply do not exist. A woman voxpopped on Channel 4 News the night said “we are overrun, obviously”. I’m not sure if it was because it was a voxpop that she wasn’t challenged about that statement. Nor do I remember where she was. But we are not overrun. Overun is a synonym for words used by Suella Braverman, implying that a hostile force is threatening us. Language matters, and this type of intemperate, emotive language can and does do immense harm. I live in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world. People in my neighbourhood come from all around the world. Some are refugees from Afghanistan, from Syria. They enrich this neighbourhood, and their presence is a presence I welcome. I don’t own this country. No one does. Through history human beings have migrated, have settled, have made themselves homes in places far from where their ancestors did. Like most people in England I have a mixed ancestry. In my case it’s largely Northern European, that doesn’t stop me from feeling English, anymore than it stops me feeling European. Some of my ancestors were refugees. Some weren’t. But we have settled down, made these islands our home, contributed culturally, economically, intellectually, morally. Just as the refugees wanting to come here now will do if they are given the chance.

Discrimination against refugees is sadly not new. The government’s reaction to Gary Lineker’s tweet comparing the language of the home office to that of 1930s Germany displayed a worrying belief that no one employed by the BBC should be allowed to voice an opinion in anyway critical of the government. The BBC is a public service broadcaster, not a state run one. Its independence should be sacrosanct in a democracy. The government does not complain when employees of the BBC voice opinions against the Opposition. We are becoming unanchored from democracy. It’s a very dangerous step.

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