Summertime Blues

For those who know me, you will know that I am something of a sun worshipper– as soon as the sun comes out, out come the shorts so I can soak up those rays! It’s not summer unless I get a decent tan! Pleasurable as it is, sitting in the sun, just after the recent heatwave began, I said to my wife that my next ‘Reaching Out’ article would be called ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘Are you trying to depress everyone’, she retorted! ‘No’, I thought, ’I am trying to describe the lethargy and listlessness that comes over a person if one spends too long sitting in the sun!’ That state of not so much ’mindfulness’ which seems to be the latest ’fade’, but ’mindlessness’, which I believe is equally good for us as long as we don’t let negative thoughts invade the mind and cloud an otherwise  cloudless sky! Why ’Summertime Blues’? I know you can feel ’blue’ but I suppose I had the song ’Summertime blues’, by Eddie Cochran, floating somewhere at the back of my mind. He sings of a young man who has worked hard all summer ‘just to earn a dollar’, and whose dreams of a date and a vacation just aren’t going to happen– ‘he ain’t got no cash’ and ‘there ain’t no cure for those summertime blues!’

My ‘summertime blues’ is not so much the lack of cash, though a lottery win would be nice, no its that restless feeling that stops me being completely ‘zoned out’ when I think about our country and what lies ahead for all of us when this summer has past! I’ve tried hard to grapple with Brexit and the P.M’s declaration that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but what is going to happen exactly? What is the future going to look like? East Enders actor, Danny Dyer, summed it up well when he told Piers Morgan ‘No one has got a …….clue what Brexit is, yeah -It’s like this mad riddle that no one knows what it is, right! Yes Danny, and its not just Brexit, we seem to have completely lost our way as a country haven’t we? Our  politicians, leaders in business and industry, financiers and bankers,using precious time and energy that could be better spent trying to sort out some of the glaringly obvious problems facing our country that are staring us in the face, whether we are in Europe or out of Europe!

The Archbishop of Canterbury has just published a collection of essays, ’Reimagining Britain- Foundations for hope.’ He speaks of us as a nation presented with ’the opportunity to reimagine ourselves; a task all the more pressing as we prepare to leave the EU’, a reimagining which might well appeal to Eddie Cochran’s disillusioned youngster! He focusses on 8 areas of public policy, family, education, health, housing, economics and finance, foreign policy, immigration and ecology; many of us have strong views on most, if not all these areas, and yet I am sure like me, you would agree that the national political conversation about our future, apart from the occasional crowd pleaser, is at best rather meagre! However much M.P’s bang on about Brexit, all the issues are the same issues and they will remain the same issues for which there seem no longer term solutions, not least housing and healthcare, where we very much need some fundamental reimagining. The Archbishop harks back to 1945 when our nation tried to recreate itself; at the heart of this recreation was ’the common good’, that central tenet of all Catholic and Christian social teaching, which led to the foundation of the NHS in 1948 and the building of thousands and thousands of council houses, so that no one would be denied a decent place to live or care in times of illness. As a nation we seem to be at a crossroads; as we move forward, we need to see political and public policies that seek to serve the common good and the principle that all citizens have an equal right to so much that is denied them. We don’t want a reimagining that sees a return to the paternalism of the past, however well meaning, but we do need to move forward together with the realisation that we are all in it together. We want our politicians, and church leaders too, to speak up and tell us something that is worth hearing! Having just watched ’ Darkest Hour’, with Gary Oldman’s wonderful portrayal of Winston Churchill, I was reminded of just how much we, as a country, are capable of when the chips are down and we work together…. and of course as a priest I place all my trust in that Father God, who as the fine hymn, sung to the ‘Dambusters March’, puts it, ‘is our strength and refuge, our present help in trouble...even though mountains shake and tremble and the earth doth change!’

                     your friend and priest,      Father Keith