How to even begin to comprehend the tragedy facing Turkey and Syria? The shock. The despair. The searching. The loss.
I drove through London today, watching the life on the streets. The pushchairs and children, the teenage lads heading home from school, the shopkeepers, the dogwalkers, the business people stepping briskly on to pedestrain crossings, the black cabs with their yellow lights glowing, the red buses advertising shows, or vegan bacon.
I saw them all in the spring sunshine, and thought of Syria and Turkey.
We are the same wherever we are in the world. We cherish our families, and belong to our communities. Yet we barely know each other.
Where we can, we head home for our evening meals. We eat. We do the washing up. Perhaps watch some television, then say our prayers. We may sleep together, or apart, but we hope for rest, and expect to see each other the next day. Life feels tangible and confident, then suddenly it is not.
Tonight I shall say my prayers, and they shall be for Turkey and for Syria.
I watched the rugby this weekend. There were two highlights for me.
The first was the mighty run by Duhan van der Merwe. Golden as a god, he pounded down the pitch for over 50 metres, brushing off attempts to stop him. As he strode, every stride brought the Calcutta Cup closer for Scotland. And that cup never slipped away. Scotland played brilliantly, ensuring that for the first time in over fifty years, England has lost three Calcutta Cups in a row.
The second highlight was watching Ange Capuozzo’s heroic try for Italy. Capuozzo is only just over 5ft 8in, and weighs on the edge of 70kg (about 30kg less than what I have read is the average weight for a European international rugby player). Today Italy were up against big strong France, who were out to win. They did win, but only just. The magic went to Capuozzo’s try. Slippery as mercury, he and the ball flew towards the tiniest of gaps on the extreme of the try line. And the gap was closing fast, a huge French player charging to pluck him from the air – but Capuozzo, light as lightning, flashed through.
There is the hint of spring in the UK now. Pockets of white snowdrops, green tipped daffodils, busy birds and budding trees all jostle for space on Instagram, and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.
Hurray. A hopeful time. Perhaps a chance for less gloom.
But … all is not well in the buzzing hedgerows.
You hear the bad news just as you’re bracing yourself for another day. It seems a group of pesticides – neonicotinoids (neonics for short) – more or less banned in the European Union, may be used by sugar beet farmers here to protect their crops from aphids. What? you think, as a nice person from the government assures you that farmers will have to complete an assault course of paperwork and crawl through thick gorse naked, even to be in with a chance of using this deadly chemical – deadly to aphids – so there is no need for you to worry. It will only be a tiny bit used, if used at all.
Hmmm, you think. What’s going on?
Well, luckily a scientist pops up next to explain. He does not sound happy when he tells you that neonics, these most efficacious of aphid eliminators, are like Novichok for bees. You pause and listen a little harder. Novichok? That, everyone knows surely, is the poison favoured by shadowy autocrats to terminate any of their opposition lingering around the cathedral cities of England. Not friendly. Not good at all. So why, you ponder, is the government about to allow this to be sprayed on home soil? Surely we’re green and friendly. It is one thing we’re doing right isn’t it? Well, it doesn’t sound like it. The unhappy scientist says just one teaspoon of neonics can kill over a billion bees.
A billion bees.
How are you supposed to get on with your day after that? However springy it is.