THE weather has been sunny and cold all week. I’ve been enjoying the morning views from our bedroom window across Swansea Bay; sunlight glinting on the static (please note!) wind turbines on the hills above Port Talbot, with columns of white smoke from the town’s steelworks perfectly still in the frosty air; the sea a pale blue-grey and waveless, above it a cloudless sky with gridlines of vapour trails left by the jetliners on their journeys to and from America.
In the evening, I’ve been trying – and failing – to identify the constellations wheeling across the clear sky overhead. More proof, if proof were needed, of my extensive ignorance.
A film set in the 40s that says a lot about now
The Current Mrs Feeney reluctantly accompanied me to the cinema on Tuesday, to see A United Kingdom; she thought the film was going to be a dry affair of international politics in smoke-filled rooms.
There is quite a lot of that, in a gloomy 1940s post-war monochrome London of grey mists, but also a love story in a sunbaked Bechuanaland of glorious colours.
It was a story neither of us knew anything about. Of its time, and yet once again a story that seems to have a lot to say about our contemporary problems of growing intolerance for people outside our own ‘tribe.’
London is a different country
To London on Thursday; no smoke-filled rooms in these No Smoking days, but three days of theatre, shopping and pub lunches. We arrive at the train station in plenty of time to catch the 10.28 to Paddington, to discover that it has been cancelled. A quick dash down the platform to catch the very delayed 9.28 instead (reflecting in the meantime that the seat reservations were somewhat of a waste of time and money.)
Prosecco (brought with us) and Guinness (bought on the journey) as the train travels through winter countryside: white-frost fields and grey-fog woods, with black cattle standing in single file across a field with a frozen pond. Crows flying low above leafless trees; beyond, hills in the haze of a low December sun, like banks of cloud anchored to the ground. And then, bright orange-suited railway workmen swarming on crispy banks.
London is a very different landscape. Electric angels and stars fly above the shopping streets, there are wonderful Christmas displays in the posh-shop windows, and the restaurants and pubs in the West End are filled with happy tourists. Conspicuous spending everywhere.
I pick up a copy of the Evening Standard, and read about the Liberal Democrats’ victory in the Richmond by-election, overturning a majority of 23,000 for the Conservative MP at the General Election. The victorious LibDem declares it a rejection of “hard Brexit.” London, more than ever, seems a very different country from the UK.
This Christmas fairy tale is going wrong
On the way back to Swansea, I find out that our football team (recently bought by two American investors and now managed by an ex-USA national team coach) was beaten 5-0 by Tottenham Hotspur. They are in dire straits at the bottom of the Premier League.
So much has been written and said about the economic benefits the region has enjoyed from the Swans’ against-all-odds promotion to, and continuing participation in, the Premier League. If – as seems increasingly likely – they are relegated at the end of the season, then surely that will have the opposite economic impact? I trust the council spin doctors are preparing their script, just in case.
I watch the ‘highlights’ (never a less appropriate description) on Match of the Day back home. Woeful and inept. Now there are calls for the club to sack its third manager in a year. Somebody defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting to get a different outcome. How the fairy tale has turned sour.
And so it begins
The Current Mrs Feeney has started putting up the Christmas decorations. It is a two-day job. My role is limited to carrying the storage boxes and bin liners from and to the loft. The newly-purchased six-foot pre-lit tree is judged not to be a success. Much earnest discussion on what to do about it.