Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a wonderful world
My Christmas message begins with Judy Garland’s song of 1939.
The autumn is a special time for me.
Brothers, twins Peter and John were born on October 4th1940.
Mammy was born on Trafalgar day 1915.
Both Peter and John died before their due date, John aged 5 of diphtheria, and Peter aged 42 of MS.
So was October a good month? No.
On the other hand I have as a daily memory of them my own two sons, Jonathan, born in December, and Edward Peter, born in October.
Last year was the 100th anniversary of the end of the 1914-18 Great War, “The war to end all wars”, when 400 million families around the world had close relatives killed or maimed.
Not to be outdone, Mother Earth produced a virulant Spanish flu epedemic which killed more in 1918 than had died in the whole of the war.
What a start to the 20th century!
And after the Roaring Twenties came the Depression and things worsened.
But in 1939, the eve of a war more evil than the Great War, one of the most optimistic songs was sung by Judy Garland, reminding us that after a storm comes a rainbow, often the start of something good.
The Roaring 1920’s was but a brief prelude to the depression and growth of instability, leading to:
1878-1953 Joseph Stalin
1883 1945 Benito Mussolini
1889-1945 Adolph Hitler
1892-1975. Fransisco Franco
These were the devils of the 20th Century, responsible for murdering millions, and convinced of the imortality of their ideas until the moment they took their final breath.
All tried to steer the world to their own agenda. Thankfully they all failed. Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minelli, demonstrated the awfulness of the fascist era in the film “Cabaret”.
Years later these fascists were replaced by other horrible leaders. Kim Jong Hun, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Boris Johnson.
All convinced of their own place in history, and all destined to fail.
Mammy, born in the first year of the
Great War would this year be 104.
I remember her asking me on her death bed. “Am I in heaven?”.
The next day she was.
We keep Mammy’s ashes in a wooden casket in the lounge, and talk to her daily, but if she’d lived long enough to open a 100thbirthday card from the Queen there would have been a two way conversation about migration, the theme of this year’s newsletter.
Judy Garland’s song “Somewhere over the rainbow” claims there to be another, better world.
For Mammy there certainly was one.
Grandaughter of a ship’s captain from Hamburg, retired in London, and with a mother blinded by an accident at sea, Mammy was sent to boarding school before nursing took her from London to Doncaster with her mother, by this time a teacher of the blind, where she met coal miner Joe Armstrong, later to become my dad.
The migration of coal miners took them from pit to pit. For grandad Ralph it meant going from the Scottish borders in the north west to Durham in the north east, and thence to the South Yorkshire coalfield.
In 2019 there were deaths of people who chased their dream over the rainbow. Two were close.
The first, John Ingham:
He was my sister Joy’s beau and lifelong companion, a Yorkshire bobby, who bought two £10 tickets to emigrate to Western Australia in June 1964 with infant Avril (at half price?)
John leaves behind him a strong family of which Joy is the matriarch.
Another fine man who died this year was my beloved friend, New York Jew Les Kaufman, whose fore fathers fled to the US in the early twentieth century to escape the horrors of antisemitism in Europe.
Both died of recent killers, respectively of Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
Medical research will surely kill these killers in time.
Another Jewish émigré’s family who died this year aged 89, was André
Previn, Berlin born American conductor of the LSO.
What a man Les Kaufman was.
The greatest philosopher I ever met.
Les’s forbears migrated to New York from Europe along with hundreds of thousands of European Jews in the early part of the 19thcentury.
They sought a better world than the antisemetic land they lived in.
Jewish greats are inumerable, across every discipline, from Albert Einstein to Franz Kafka, to Philip Roth, and to Marc Spitz.
In the UK recent news was a story of 39 Vietnamese found dead in the back of a refridgerated lorry in Essex.
They were being trafficked to the UK.
There’ll be no better world for them.
Thousands of South Americans are walking to the USA because they believe the US to be a promised land, as millions have before them.
Trump’s border wall means there will be no better world for them either.
As a student in the early 1970’s I spent a lot of time in the US, and met people of Italian, Polish, German, English, and Puerto Rican ancestry.
On a local front things are not nearly as bad.
Apart, that is, from me being bound by a magistrate to “keep the peace” for a crime I didn’t commit.
It’s never happened to me before.
Sometimes you get blamed for something you didn’t do, and it hurts for a while, until your body accepts that injustice is a perfectly normal function of life.
It reminds me of this when I hear of Jeremy Corbyn’s criticism of being antisemitic.
Because I was falsely accused of punching my next door neighbour without an ounce of evidence, simply that of circumstancial suggestion.
In my case it was my next door neighbour Andy Heys who punched me to the floor and then lied when he claimed it was he who was assaulted.
In Jeremy Corbyn’s case it was wrongful.
In mine it was personal and disgraceful.
I list others who died this year.
Most, admirable. Some, disgraceful.
Jan Windsor Davies, actor (It Ain’t Half Hot Mum), at 88
Feb Gordon Banks, England goalkeeper World Cup 1966 at 81
André Previn, Berlin born American conductor (LSO) at 89
Mar Kelly Catlin, US road cyclist (Olympic silver 2016, World Championship gold 2016-18), from suicide at 23.
May Niki Lauda, Austrian auto racer (F1 world champ 1975, 77, 84), died of kidney problems at 70.
Aug Peter Fonda, American actor (Easy Rider, son of Henry, brother of Jane, at 79.
Sep Robert Mugabwe, Zimbabwean PM (1980-87) racist, and first black president, at 95.
Oct Peter Sissons, newsreader (BBC, ITV, Question Time), at 77.
As for our own progeny:
Edward lives in Islington, London Bridge and Basingstoke with Emma Statham. George is their fruit.
Jonathan lives with Jessica in Islington.
And a week ago friend John Wade’s beautiful daughter Clementine gave birth to brown eyed boy Cosmo.
What a view his Daddy and Mummy had from St Thomas’s, on the Thames, opposite parliament
On the downside the country he’s born in is regretably burning down. If ever we needed a sign that the Tories don’t care what’s going on in our schools, our hospitals and our streets, it’s the Tory manifesto for the next 5 years.
A billionaires’ manifesto.
They bought it. You’ll pay for it.
I finish as I started with the 3 wise men, who followed a star, which led them to Jesus, born in a stable.
I’m not a fan of astrology but looking at the sign Jesus was born under Capricorn, I was tempted to read on.
“Although you’re a bit stubborn, or strict, you are ready to take full responsibility for your own life and all your efforts will be put in things that you believe are good for you.
Pay attention to your dreams and your subconscious world, and make sure you are free from ties of the past and emotional blackmail that pulls you backwards.
You need to believe in the purpose and meaning of all things that happened in the past, so you can see your future clearly and commit to all the right values and morals along the way”.
A bit like Jesus?
Robert, Lynne, Mini and Pipkin
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