Welcome to my first blog. It’s been a long time coming. Hopefully I’m now so old, and so far beyond the future-based anxieties of youthful ambition, that I can blog away with the benefit of experience and an eye on the agenda for coming generations.
As my blog title is intended to imply, I will try to combine a sense of optimism in the face of ridiculous difficulties (you never know!) with a sense of realism and humility (who ever knows anything?).
I’m starting off with a blog based on the picture featured. No, not Cardiff lagoon. That will feature in due course, no doubt. I mean the Brimmon Oak, near Newtown.
This is the second best tree in Europe according to the European Tree of the Year people. The winner was a tree where a number of Jews in Poland escaped the Nazis in World War Two. A worthy winner, without doubt, although the nature of the competition meant that voters were swayed by the story more than by the tree. Ditto the Brimmon Oak, which has a great story too. But let’s give it due credit for being one beautiful, fat and gloriously old example of the king of trees, the Welsh oak.
The story is not as poignant as the Polish one, but it’s a tale with a related message, of success against the odds, of the weak being victorious against the powerful, and of a community confronting a state with a plan. In this case, the state was Wales, the plan was a road, and the story had a happy ending.
According to www.treeoftheyear.org, “This ancient pollarded oak may be over 500 years old and has been cared for by one family for generations. Even their family wedding photographs from 1901 were taken under its spreading canopy. But in 2015 it was threatened with destruction by a new bypass. Mervyn Jones, who farms the land, campaigned hard to save the tree with Tree Hunter Rob McBride and following a 5,000 signature petition to the Welsh Assembly, the bypass route was adjusted so as to do this”.
I imagine Mr Jones, when he heard about the proposed route of the road, and once he had calmed down a bit, turning to his family and friends and saying words to the effect of “!No pasaran!”. “They shall not pass!”. “Ni fyddant yn pasio!”.
And one of his friends, having a fair amount of knowledge regarding the requirements for smooth flowing traffic on Trunk Roads, and of the constraints on the public purse in an age of austerity, and also of the usual outcomes of public consultations, turned to Mr Jones and said “I’m sorry, Mervyn, but the chances of them putting a kink in the Newtown Bypass, just to save an old tree, are about as likely as the Robins signing Gareth Bale and winning the League”.
To which Mr Jones replied, at least in my imagination, with a passionate and as it turned out prophetic shout, “You never know!”, followed by an action-oriented subordinate clause, “Especially if you never try!”. And he tried, and he won, with all due credit to the thousands who supported him and to the powerful few inside the road planning system who actually listened and asked the engineers to think beyond a straight line. Altogether, they didn’t just save an ancient tree. They created history, putting Wales and Newtown in a positive light on the map of Europe and beyond, and giving cause for feelings of satisfaction and collective well-being to the local community and to all the citizens of Wales.
Way to go, Mr Jones! And it’s in that spirit of hope against the odds that I will blogging away, although probably not often about trees and roads. My day job is in the field of community care, but I won’t be keeping to one silo. Done properly, community care connects with every other field that impacts on our individual and collective well-being. Health, housing, education, transport, communications, civil rights, finance, employment: you name it, it’s relevant to people who are at risk of losing their place in the community, and relevant to everyone who simply wants a decent life.
So watch this space for potentially random thoughts that might even include your field, tree or back-yard. You never know!