Quite a few people have contacted the Facebook page asking about me. They’d noticed that I hadn’t written anything for a few weeks and wanted to check that I was OK. That was really nice of them (they know who they are) and I want to thank them for their concern. I’m grateful to my colleagues at EBF for responding to them in my absence to put their minds at rest.
The truth is, I’ve been on holiday. Hubby and I took the girls off to my hometown, a beautiful cathedral city in the East Midlands for Christmas. We visited relatives and friends and even got to take our beautiful daughters to local sites and museums describing our shared heritage from the past. They’re getting to be old enough to appreciate that stuff now.
The city still bears the evidence of Roman and Viking settlements, of Saxons and Normans, of Jewish traders and of more modern influxes of people like the Poles and other East Europeans who fled occupied Europe during World War 2.
And as we went around these places it struck me just how ridiculous it is for any modern British citizen to argue about race, religion or national identity as though it’s something we can isolate and separate from the rest of the world. So I bought myself a little exercise book and I took notes. There was a blog forming in my head.
Britain First pretends that it’s easy to tell who is who. The Biffers pretend that ‘ethnic English’ is actually a thing when in truth we all bear the historical hallmarks of regional and international influences.
The black African auxiliaries who fought with the Roman armies left their mark alongside the Anglo-Saxons who settled here from Germany. Vikings from Scandinavia spread across the continent and settled in the North and East of the country. Apparently there’s more Viking blood in this neck of the woods than there is in any other part of England.
The main shopping centre in my home city is built on the site where a Viking longship used to lie buried in the mud. I can still remember my dad showing me photographs of it when I was just a little girl. I didn’t understand why he was so excited about it at the time. I do now.
Other parts of the country have different influences. The South West has almost no Viking at all so in the racial purity stakes I have to wonder what would happen to the good people of Somerset and Cornwall. Would they be with us or against us? More to the point – who the Hell are ‘us’?
Middle-Eastern Jews came here fleeing persecution from the Christian crusaders who didn’t quite know who they were supposed to be fighting. That didn’t work out too well for them. Within a couple of hundred years their flourishing community was persecuted by the locals alongside their relatives in more famous massacres like that in York. But not before they’d left their mark on the gene pool.
On the top of the hill, the only proper hill in town, stands the magnificent Norman castle. It’s a testament to the French invaders who beat back the earlier German invaders to make this land their home. They had a big influence on the gene pool too. Across a little courtyard is a three-arched gateway called Exchequergate. That leads to the Norman cathedral where Christians went to pray. They still do.
It’s where believers go to meet, to practice their faith and to hear sermons about peace, love, charity and remember stories of God’s grace like that parable of The Good Samaritan – you know – the one who helped a foreigner even though he was himself persecuted. This is where they learn about the biblical instruction to love thy neighbour – something that Biffers like Jim Dowson try to distort into a grotesque version of selfish, cruel, hateful barbarism.
I remember attending services there myself on occasion. I’m not a Christian myself, more of an agnostic but I still used to enjoy the midnight service at the Cathedral. The whole, huge interior seemed to flood with feelings of love and peace, kindness and goodwill to our fellow humans. We took the girls this year to hear the Bishop give a sermon. I was moved as usual – I think my little princesses’ experience was more a combination of boredom and exhaustion. They had just spent the day being told how much they’d grown by a very long succession of friends and relatives as we went house to house throughout the city. I’m not sure what Hubby took from it. The religion he grew up with is different and although he feels just as much at home in a Christian Cathedral I’m sure there were things he thought a little strange. He doesn’t talk much about religion though so I haven’t asked. Perhaps he’ll tell me once he’s read this blog.
We travelled home yesterday. It was about time. But before we did I managed to steal an hour for myself and rekindled an old habit of mine. Yesterday I went back to that beautiful Norman cathedral and sat quietly in the little ‘Morning chapel’, just off the main body of the Cathedral. It’s always been a place of calm and quiet for me, not for religious reasons – just because it is. There’s something reassuring about that place. It lets me clear my head and ‘find myself’. It always has.
I sat there in my old bolt hole and reviewed my life, what’s important to me and what I should be doing with my life right now. Family matters. Especially the girls. But beyond those I love the most I experienced an intense feeling of purpose about what we’re doing here at EBF. I won’t say I’ve never felt anything like that before but I will say it’s not something I’ve experienced often. I don’t know if it was the Morning Chapel itself that brought it on, the effect of having a couple of weeks break from the blog I’ve been writing for almost constantly since last Spring or something more spiritual. I’ve really no idea. But I do know that the hour I spent in my favourite spot recharged my batteries for another round of fash-fighting.
Come on 2016, let’s do this! I’m a woman with a purpose!