Thank you for your letter darling. As a veteran of pro-peace, Anti-Vietnam marches, Anti-Apartheid protests, even walking for Save the Whales, it’s good to know that you’re following in your grandmother’s and mother’s footsteps!
And thank you too…. will go and follow up your Wiki research on BLM… you have set my mind at rest somewhat. There seemed so much destruction and hate, and though I can understand how bitter and sad black people and their families are, who have suffered both in the present and in the past, it doesn’t help the cause when white people join in the vandalism and add to the hate and divisiveness on both sides of the ‘divide’. Martin Luther King said: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
Of course I whole-heartedly agree with what you say about the dreadful injustices both past and present…I’ve always thought it was abominable that the film ‘Gone With The Wind’ was written, filmed, and enjoyed – when it was actually a hymn of praise to the South and slavery … But I just wish the protestors would stop tampering with British history which is not as black as they paint it!
Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice ruled in, I think it was 1772, that any slave who set foot in Britain was automatically free – slavery had no part in English law, he said. (The case of Somersett, a slave – I wrote about it in my book ‘The Sound of Water’). This was nearly a hundred years before it was abolished in the US.
For sixty years between 1800 and 1860 the Royal Navy maintained a permanent anti-slavery squadron, which cost not just millions of pounds, but more importantly, the lives of over two thousand sailors as they battled traders and rescued captives on slave transports all over the Atlantic. The RN rescued at least 150,000 Africans who they re-settled in Liberia. Britain was the first nation to propose a motion calling on all European nations to end slavery at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
During the American Civil War, in 1862-6, cotton workers at the mills in Manchester and around, refused to buy cotton from the South, thereby aiding the North, and plunging themselves into penury… just as when Britain voted to abolish slavery in all its colonies, this caused a huge rise in prices for everything for people all over Britain… Dear old William Wilberforce, who campaigned all his life against slavery (remember that film I took you to – ‘Amazing Grace’) – was also one of the founders of the RSPCA….
The Indian writer, VS Naipul, went on record as saying that for every year since the British left India, the country has gone back ten years… as a woman, I feel that one of the best things the Brits did was to abolish suttee – the burning of widows on their husband’s funeral pyre!!!
And when I was researching China’s slow march to world domination about eight years ago, I read of some African leader whose country has been infiltrated by China and Chinese workers, (he had of course been in prison in the last years of British rule, for sedition – most African rulers seemed to do a stint in prison as part of their careers as activists back then!) wishing the British were back, they employed us and built hospitals and schools and roads, he said….The really brutal colonists were the Dutch and Belgian….
I suppose because I actually lived in a colony- Malaya- during the last years of colonial rule – before they achieved Merdeka -freedom, the year after I left, and seeing the intelligent, humane and decent rule of law there, and the respect for the Muslim culture and way of life, I feel sad at the distorted and one-sided view of history which so many un-informed people have.
Ulysses Grant, the great US Civil War General, one of my heroes, and whose diaries I have, wrote that of all the colonial nations Britain seemed to have achieved the best balance, and relationship with the peoples they ruled – (He was another animal lover, an amazing horse-rider, punished his soldiers if they ill-treated their horses, and refused to attend a bull fight put on in his honour in Mexico when he was President…)
One protestor, as he defaced the statue of Winston Churchill, was reported as saying Churchill didn’t fight for blacks – he fought for colonialism, whereas he actually fought to save Britain and the world from one of the most evil regimes in the history of the world
Reading the English newspapers this morning, I see that another of my heroes, Captain James, Cook, a straight up and down working class Yorkshire lad, who rose to become not just a captain in the British Navy, but also one of the greatest explorers and cartographers in history, whose explorations also saw him initiate a new science of anthropology, is also on the list of statues threatened with demolition by British BLM protestors.
Cook had nothing to do with slavery, though his discoveries did have a lot to do with the eventual expansion of the British Empire. In their sealed instructions, the Royal Navy told Cook not only to map the coastline of any new land, but also “to observe the genius, temper, disposition and number of the natives, if there be any, and endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a friendship and alliance with them… You are also with the consent of the natives to take possession of convenient situations in the country, in the name of the King of Great Britain.”
Which is why we all now live in New Zealand. When your mother was six, I decided after living in the horrendously crowded island of Hongkong for four years, I didn’t want to go back to another crowded island, England. So we came here to a country the same size as the UK, but with only three million inhabitants. After fifty years we now have four million people, but we still have plenty of space!
In that fifty years, the population in my beloved birthplace, has grown from fifty-five million to over sixty-six million. And maybe that’s why we’ve been able to beat Covid 19 in this country. We all banded together and observed lockdown scrupulously, with only twenty-two deaths, and have had no more cases for nearly three weeks.
I continue to be shocked by the way both young doctors and nurses are treated by our health system… the huge rewards for different workers, – like Ceo’s and lawyers, seem so unfair compared with the under-paid, essential and self-sacrificing people like health workers and others…I admire your brother’s beautiful doctor girlfriend enormously for her persistence, dedication and intelligence, and sticking with such a demanding and difficult calling…
Love talking to you darling, you give me fresh viewpoints and lots to think about…
Much love Grannie
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
With my bad back still dogging me – in a manner of speaking – I’ve perfected a number of dishes for a hungry man without too much angst for the cook.
Take for example, half a dozen chicken drumsticks, and brown them on both sides in the frying pan. Then arrange them on a bed of chopped onions. Pour some olive oil over the chicken, and a little water among the onions. Salt and pepper.
Cook them in a hot oven for about an hour. When the chicken is ready, put in the microwave a packet of pre-cooked rice for the prescribed minute and a half. Pour the juices from the pan over the rice, and if you have the energy, rustle up some broccoli, peas, or salad to eat with the chicken, onions and rice…
Food for Thought
The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. …
I don’t know who said this, but after re-watching Band of Brothers for the last few nights, it rings very true.
30 responses to “Letter to a Protesting Grandson in London”
Thanks for your long letter.
As a historian, I have some comments on the history of slavery. One should differentiate between the (il)legality of slavery in European ‘mother’ countries, like Spain, Britain, the Netherlands, and the legality of slavery in their colonies (Dutch Antilles, Jamaica, what became the USA, etc). Also: between the (il)legality of trans-Atlantic slave trade.and the (il)legality of slavery, including local slave trade, in these colonies.
People now defending the statue of slave trader Edward Colston say: ‘Then, everyone supported the slave trade’. Not true. Certainly, enslaved people did not. Also, many people in European countries did not. Early in the 17th century, during the Dutch war of independence against Spain, the Dutch navy captured a Spanish ship and brought it to Zeeland province. The ship turned out to be full of slaves. Dutch authorities were horrified and immediately freed all these slaves.
However, the Dutch attitude on this became worse as the war against Spain (and Portugal, then part of Spain) continued. The Dutch navy conquered Angola and Brazil, central for Portuguese slavery. This made the Dutch mayor players in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and (very cruel, eg, in Suriname) slavery in the Americas.
However, all that time, long before the 1770s English judge’s ruling on slavery in England itself (contrary to colonies) being illegal, the law was that if a Dutch slave master brought his slaves to Dutch soil, they had to be freed immediately on arrival. Sometimes, slave masters violated that rule, but that was illegal,
The British government did not abolish slavery in 1815. They did so in 1833, under pressure of the oppositional abolitionist movement. And then (like the Dutch government did later in 1863) they did not compensate the slaves. They compensated the slave owners, like the ancestors of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron:
Great to hear from you Petre, and read all the additional information you provide. I must just say that I didn’t say the British abolished slavery in 1815, they called for agreement on ending slavery at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which was trying (amid balls and parties) to work out a peace settlement after defeating Napoleon, and which ended abruptly when Napoleon escaped from Elba!
Yes, you’re right about Gone With the Wind… the racism continued forever – Hattie Daniels who won best supporting actress, not only had to sit alone at the Oscars in a segregated area, but was not even allowed to be buried in the white Hollywood cemetery.
Loved the Grant Story and will be looking for the TV series… a lovely man, and somewhat un-appreciated…
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Thanks for your reply, dear Valerie! Thanks for the Hattie Daniels Oscar information which I did not know.
Good that you and fellow New Zealanders have survived COVID-19 so much better than Trump’s USA, Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Boris Johnson’s Britain.
Some other countries did comparatively well. Like Vietnam: not one dead, and sending medical supplies to their old enemy, the USA.
Greece, Suriname (though bordering on Brazil), Israel and Germany also did comparatively well. However, premature reopenings threaten a second wave there now:
I hope that will not happen in New Zealand
An addition to your remark on Gone with the Wind: the film, and even worse, the book which it is based on, not only whitewashed slavery, but praised the Ku Klux Klan.
You write: ‘During the American Civil War, in 1862-6, cotton workers at the mills in Manchester and around, refused to buy cotton from the South, thereby aiding the North, and plunging themselves into penury’.
Very true. But one should add that these workers did that in opposition to the factory owners and the government who favoured the rebel slave-owning American states and were only prevented from diplomatically recognizing the Confederacy by massive popular opposition, also, eg, in London:
Finally, on General Ulysses Grant:
a new TV series and article on him:
Peaceful protests are fine but troublemakers cause unrest and are determined to be violent.
It’s tough, isn’t it .I. read in another blog that a hungry man steals a loaf of bread and eats it, but an angry hungry man steals a loaf of bread, and then burns down the bakery.. living with injustice and not becoming bitter must be a huge challenge…I wonder how I would cope with it..
and I do know what you mean about troublemakers who are spoiling for a fight….good to hear from you, Margot…
It’s always good to read your voice and perspectives. From where I sit, it seems the world has gone insane. With all the protests that started peacefully and escalated to violence, no one is socially distancing. Of course these areas are seeing a spike in the virus.
The internet is rife with conflicting viewpoints and, of course, all of them are right.
What I fear most is that there are those who want to whitewash history. Let’s only remember the good parts, the parts that were politically correct. Which paves the way to repeat it.
I’m sorry your back is still refusing to behave. I think of you and Himself often.
Shalom in the truest sense. Love and more love to you both,
Dear Rochelle, thank you for your lovely words and thoughts …
I particularly resonated with the words ‘politically correct’ – for who
knows? – today’s woke, virtue signalling warriors for justice may be the
next century’s politically incorrect, and vilified people, guilty of ‘thought crime’ …
When I really need calm and comfort I still find the words of Max Erhman’s Desiderata work for me,especially the first lines:
‘GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons,’ and so on…
Yes, back is a pain, but slowly improving.. I always read your comments on His blog, and, and hope all is well with you during this strange episode in our history. Thank you for all your loving words,
with love, Valerie
Dearest Valerie, what a wonderful letter for your grandson to receive. Full of history and new information for me. I despair as the statues are pulled down, for if we deny our history then how can we find a different way forward. I have never felt that violence begets loving change. What a wise choice you made for your family in navigating to New Zealand all those years ago. Much love and healing energy flowing to you both. Xx ❤
Hello dear Jane, I love your phrase ‘loving change’, I mentioned to an old school mate further up the comments that I’d read in another blog
that a hungry man steals a loaf of bread and eats it, but an angry hungry man steals a loaf of bread, and then burns down the bakery.. living with injustice and not becoming bitter must be a huge challenge and I wonder how I’d cope with it..
Strange how one decision – to come to this country, changed all our lives forever, and at the time, I never realised how the future would be, and how irrevocable that decision was…
Thank you for your love, dear Jane XXX
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Dearest Valerie. bitterness and anger are corrosive and harm the vessel that holds them, but like you say, I do not know how I would cope with sustained injustice.
Yes, some of our decisions chart a course that is profound. I have been watching videos of your prime minister and she talks of kindness often and her actions match this.
I watched the clips of the protests and violent clashes in London yesterday and was dismayed. I sense ‘lockdown’ has added fuel to this.
Much love flowing to you both. ❤ Xxx
Good morning Jane – yes, Jacinda is lovely isn’t she.. .I loved that when she announced lockdown, she said that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were essential services and free to carry on with their jobs !
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I love it and yes, there is something magic about her. ❤
So much to think about and comment on here, Valerie. First. just let me say it’s always good to hear from you and I hope that you’re feeling much better soon. I have to agree with Jane about the pulling down of statues and the fact that someone would deface Churchill’s statue makes me sad for the state of knowledge (or really lack thereof) of history in our country.
I have no problem with peaceful protest. I have a huge problem with violence and looting, the latter being stealing. I know black men who have been stopped by police for doing nothing more than riding a bike or something similar. But I also know that many police are not racist and face it, if you had to deal daily with mostly people committing crimes, it would be difficult not to become jaded, whether by race, or age group, or ???
Protesting, whether peaceful or violent, is the “easy” part. Figuring out where to go and how to try to get there, to decide what the underlying problems are and how to make a start at solving them are the more difficult tasks, tasks that can’t be done until we’ve moved on. You can’t legislate how people feel. Changing minds come when you begin to know actually people who are different that you in outward ways, only to realize that you’re all just people. That starts at a small, small level, but the outcomes are enormous.
Wonderful thoughtful comment, thank you Janet, I agree with everything you say, and you’re so right about where we want to go and how we can get there… I wonder how powerful and effective the peace and reconciliation programme in South Africa was when apartheid ended.
As you say, you can’t legislate how people feel, but if we can tackle the institutionalised violence and injustices, maybe, that’s a first step towards a fairer society. And yes, as you say, it starts with each one of us in tiny ways..
Thank you for the things you say, I always love your comments and read them avidly and with great interest on His blog!!
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Yes, work on the institutionalized issues, then provide opportunities for people on both sides to come together in situations not fraught with fear/anger and just talk together, help someone out together, meet each other as people. Let each group start to take at least some responsibility for their group actions and work to change them rather than depending on on outside group to do all the “policing.” Ask for help when needed, but avoid being the victim as much as possible.
Yes, Yes, Yes, to all that… any hope of spreading your words where they are needed????
Thank you Valerie for an excellent discussion. We live in complex times where emotions run high. During my university days, one of my projects was about child labour, which had me go back into history and actually make a pilgrimage to Hull to visit William Wilberforce House. Slavery, like poverty, is what is considered through the lens of economics a “wicked problem”: “A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.” While many have worked to abolish slavery over the years, it is flourishing. “Mr Andrew Forrest AO, Chairman and Founder of the Walk Free Foundation said: “The fact that as a society we still have 40 million people in modern slavery, on any given day shames us all. If we consider the results of the last five years, for which we have collected data, 89 million people experienced some form of modern slavery for periods of time ranging from a few days to five years. This speaks to the deep seated discrimination and inequalities in our world today, coupled with a shocking tolerance of exploitation. This has to stop. We all have a role to play in changing this reality – business, government, civil society, every one of us.” https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_574717/lang–en/index.htm
What I appreciate about you, Valerie is your call to action that everyone bears responsibility. We need to revisit the way we work, consume, connect and hold elevated conversations that bring compassionate alternatives. Today, I chose gratitude, resilience, hope. This is our time, our watch – every act of kindness, every word of mercy will achieve great things.
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Oh Rebecca, wonderful comment thank you, and Such a Huge subject…
I know my take was a once over lightly … I was reading the other day of Ethiopian maids in Lebanon who had been hired under a common Middle East system which is called kafeela, I think. People hand over all their rights to their employers who become responsible for them and in practise use them as slaves, which is common all over the Middle East. Lebanon is enduring a horrendous economic downtown, and so people can’t afford their maids /slaves, who are sometimes paid, and sometimes not – and the women are now being dumped outside the Ethiopian Embassy, to ask for passages back home.
And then there’s the Phillipino maids and waiters, and Indian workers all over the Middle East and elsewhere, being exploited, and ill-used… I even read of an eight year old girl being beaten to death by her employers in India – at eight she was employed as a maid.
It is a horrifying thought that the anti-slavery societies formed during the days of the slave trade, are still in existence, because slavery is still such a major problem in our modern world.
Your words – every word of mercy will achieve great things are very comforting and hopeful – the challenge is to believe each single person can make a drop of difference !
With love, Valerie
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Hugs coming your way!
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I do believe that your grandson received a most wonderful letter —thank you for letting us read this gift from you to him. I wish to say that I am appalled at the destruction and violence we are seeing all over …. to damage property, to take away history, to cause harm makes me want to hide my face — despair is a real thing and the world is in a place of despair now. I hope you heal soon my dearest and most beloved friend. Thank you for the yummy recipe, I have a wee collection of your dishes. I pray for health for you and himself always. Love You, Linda
Thank you as ever, dear friend for your lovely words … yes, the world is in a strange place at the moment… one can only trust that in the bigger picture and at the highest level, all is well, and there is a point and purpose to this amazing uprising all around the world. You may find my reply to Clanmother’s fascinating comment interesting… it isn’t just the west facing these problems, but at least in the west people are strong enough to have the courage, to protest, and are free to do so…
Glad you like my simple recipes …good food helps in any situation !
I love MFK Fisher, the famous food writer’s words about ‘the mysterious appetite that often surges up in us when our hearts seem about to break… and then ‘the truth is most bereaved souls crave nourishment more tangible than prayers: they want a steak !’
Love to you, XXXXX
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So true Valerie it is always uplifting to read your blogs. Hope your b ack improves. Warm Regards Helen
How simply lovely to see your name – thank you so much for your lovely words, it’s so good to know you’re there, and reading … How is Fritz… I I’ve often thought of you both, and wondered how you both were.. I can imagine you ‘re still as full of joie de vivre as ever, and still wearing those wonderful clothes and colours????
Your words have lifted me from sadness & despair at the appalling events & the ignorance & violence of the last weeks…..and the words of your lovely readers have given me hope that there are many souls with the same compassion & knowledge & desire for healing of this sad world. That doesn’t excuse the dreadful violence in any way though. I truly despair.
Would you permit me to send you some distance reiki healing for that back?
Dear Angela, I agree with every one of your beautiful words – including your description of my ‘lovely readers’. As I said to Linda,
the world is in a strange place at the moment… and one can only trust that in the bigger picture and at the highest level, all is well, and there is a point and purpose to this amazing uprising all around the world.
What a generous beautiful thought to send me some reiki healing – thank you so much – another thing we have in common… I’ve given myself a reiki every day since I first learned how to do it back in 1994… but haven’t felt well enough to do it while my back has been uncooperative ! Your energy will be wonderful, dear friend,
We discussed slave trade history before. You may be interested in this new blog post:
All the best for you and your blog!
Amazing story, thank you Pieter. It made me realise that slavery was a way of life for the whole known world back then, from South America, including Brazil which ‘ bought’ the most slaves from Africa, Africa of course, North America, the Middle East, where a million whites were enslaved, captured by Barbary pirates from places like Cornwall and Ireland – even Cervantes was once a chained galley slave, and Louis the fourteenth sent criminals to the galleys, with a minimum term of seven years if the poor things survived.
Enslavement then was a way of thought just as eating factory farmed animals poisoned with hormones is part of our way of life now, and I hope will be just as much abhorred in the future as slavery is now.
Having lived in the East for many years I’m also conscious of the cruelties inflicted by white men there, where sadly, the Dutch had one of the worst reputations for brutality in Sumatra.
We cannot right the wrongs of the past, or change them, but we can create a decent, kinder society now, as long as we don’t join in a chorus of blame, shame and hatred, which seems to be creeping up on the world at the moment.
Thank you for pointing me to this very thought provoking report, and thank you too for your wonderful blog reflecting so many aspects of life, and problems to tackle now, as well as your beautiful posts of birds and animals and wild life. Your blog is one of the treasures of the internet,
Warm wishes, Valerie