The things I note about this Christmas: TV was less watched this year compared to the computer screen showing internet film via the data projector borrowed for the holiday (Mum really enjoyed watching The Battle of Britain and I reminded her of Bobby Jeff); e-mail communications from new acquaintances in Ano Korakiana and Corfu Town - especially Liana and Kostas. The Christmas party in London with my Greek family, and having Mum there, who'd seen none of them for decades and the next generation not at all. Such kissings and embraces!
Amy poised to start her career. Richard working too. Dh. here at last from Irak to start on his Phd. Two poems sent from California that I shall spend time unwrapping. My mother's visit here for four days during which, despite her difficulties getting about, we visited the Barber Institute on campus and saw The Adoration of the Child Jesus by Cosimo Rosselli and a night nativity by Jan de Beer with angels' eyes forced shut and hair flung back by lambent energy from the manger.
It is almost impossible to define the joy these give me as one unencumbered by faith. Mum, in a wheelchair lent by the Gallery, and me close behind her, gazed happily, gratefully and humbly at these impeccably crafted depictions of hope. What an idea! To love humans so much that you entrust your only child to their care.
Mum held court in our kitchen and we were visited by Liz and Amy who also brought William the doll, a present from Lin.
I took Mum round Handsworth Park and later drove past Winson Green to see Black Patch Park, so she could get a 'before and after' feel for a park that's been restored and one that's only just been saved from decommissioning. We were angered by the heaps of fly-tipped rubbish around the Black Patch boundaries. The place is in limbo, blighted by neglect but almost certainly saved, by our campaigning and our supporters' backing, from being being used for building land. The park itself was chilly, drear, but mysterious, laced with sturdy trees silhouetted in the growing dusk, justifying our sense of its preciousness. It was nice to get ourselves back in the warm car Lin had lent me. I was thankful too that we'd been able, through freecycle cafe, to get the loan of a wheelchair from a lady in Solihull.
We went to the Water Hall in the city centre to see an exhibition about Birmingham's Arts and Craft Movement - salve to the ravaging blight of commodification. On Wednesday evening Mum sat at the back as I gave a talk to a pleasantly attentive audience at Acocks Green History Society about the founding of Handsworth Park, comparing apprehensions about change in the 1880s to present ones - celebrating the values that helped both understanding and practice. Then on the day Mum was due to fly home to the Highlands I took her to the Equiano Exhibition in the Gas Hall in town. There I had the pleasure of meeting up with Colin and Dh and introducing them to my mum. "Arab, African and you - what a handsome bunch!" she said later. My seasonal gift had come shortly after we arrived, when I was pushing mum through the narrowed space designed to describe Equiano's dreadful voyage from the home from where he'd been abducted to the Caribbean [what a contrast between his landfall in Barbados and mine] where he would be sold. The sounds of the grating timbers of a sailing ship were piped there. Shackles were on display and statistics of the Middle Passage. "Goodness" muttered Mum "12 million! I hadn't realised so many..." Just then, in the cramped creaking passage, Clive - Handsworth neighbour - bearing notes, encountered me. He said "Hi" and shook my hand - a spontaneous greeting from a friend but why such precise timing? "I don't want to be pompous, Clive, but you choose your places." He smiled slightly puzzled then took my point. It seemed to me that I would burst with the fullness in my chest but I saved myself. "Mum this is Clive. Clive, my mum - Barbara." Then Dh found us and I made more introductions, spoke of Ur of the Chaldees and the age of Iraq, continuing to chat by the Middle Passage about the work on the Logical Foundations of Induction by Muhammad Baqir As-Sadr whom Dh will rely on as a basis for his dissertation:
[See op-ed by Kirk Johnson in the NYT: 'Mr. Obama seemed to suggest that even having a conversation about healing and coming together was outdated, and that it’s what you do next, with a consensus and a community made real through action, that matters....We are one nation, we are one people, and our time for change has come.”]