I look out on the grass in front of Beverley Minster and marvel at how green it is. In all these years I have never seen it such a rich shade of green. Have I changed, or has it? Perhaps I am influenced by a book I’m reading set in China after the Communist revolution when all is depicted as strange and, as Shakespeare put it, ‘the time is out of joint’. Fortunately, unlike Hamlet, I am not ‘cursed to set it right’. I wonder who is? This book, The Explosion Chronicles, twists seasons – snow in summer – and nature – chrysanthemums sprouting peonies, frogs cooing and ravens croaking – to paint a surrealist picture of emotions, events and places. An unreality that creates unease within the familiar. Salvador Dali in print.
The grass is so green perhaps because there has, as yet, been little frost. Is this because of climate change, the usual explanation? Or am I sensing tectonic economic shifts, of rival trading groups grinding against one another until somewhere there’s an eruption, natural or man-made? It’s a deep set uneasiness.
The land I am standing on, this island is about to leave the comparative safety of intensely green grass for a voyage over tempestuous seas one knows not where. Those who have thrust Britain away from the continent of Europe out into uncharted waters cannot tell us where they think we are going, all sixty-six million of us crowded on a small island, nor predict whether those unknown waters will be peaceful or stormy and still less whether they will lead to Eldorado. One can only hope, blindly, and look back at the greenness of the grass, the colour of hope. In 1623 John Donne wrote:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.