Bridge Over Troubled Water

We’re all too acutely aware the pandemic provoked many ripples, some mere trickles, others tidal waves. The impact on the airline industry is amongst the latter. Last summer, desperate to see my relatives, some of whom are aging and infirm, I followed the UK’s requirements for multiple testing and quarantine, and flew (suitably masked,) on planes that were barely ten percent full. It’s no surprise, despite an industry bailout, the airlines urgently needed to cut overhead and reduce staff. In 2022 many of us, pin-cushion-pricked with vaccinations and boosters, are more confident about flying and have a backlog of travel to reclaim. 

Result: chaos! 

In the last few months we traveled to see family in Wisconsin, North Dakota and the UK. Our flights have been cancelled and rebooked so many times it makes our heads spin. We’ve come to accept seven hour delays as the new normal. In fact, in our latest travels, the only on-time flight was the one we had to race across Dulles airport in a seemingly vain attempt to reach the gate before boarding closed. Four passengers were disputing their seat assignments when we got there, and so we made it onto the plane. No sooner were we buckled into our seats, (first class as they had long since resold our original seats toward the back of the aircraft), when the plane soared into the night sky taking us to a family reunion in the UK.

Bleary-eyed, we stepped out of Heathrow Airport to discover an England no longer Shakespeare’s “sceptered isle” or Blake’s “green and pleasant land,” rather a place we could easily have mistaken for southern Spain or northern Africa. I was tempted to entitle this post, “Scorched Earth,” for such was the state of the rolling fields and the once manicured emerald lawns. Many years ago my dad gleefully informed me that a columnist in The Daily Telegraph wrote that climate change may be affecting the rest of the world, but that Britain protected by her island status and sheltering gulf stream was immune. How times change!

Things had changed with my family since last summer’s visit. My parents had moved from their native Yorkshire in the north, to Suffolk in south east England, to live in a “granny annex” on my brother’s property. We’d intended to explore this unfamiliar region, visiting the site of a world-renowned archaeological dig, a stately home, and the city of Cambridge. However, as Winnie the Pooh would say, the “Grate Heat” compelled us to be rather more circumspect. And, of course, tourism can wait – the whole point of the trip was to spend time with family, a family that now stretches from two and a half year old Annabel, to my dad who is almost ninety-four.  We ranged from the wheelchair user to the five year old soccer fanatic, from the high-powered executives, (both women, a welcome sign of the times,) to a bunch of retired folk, from the quirky Americans, (“Y’all got more ice?”) to the quaint, eccentric Brits  – (“Ice? That’s not cricket!”) Regardless of the scorcher, it was wonderful to be together again.

In the last several months, the sometimes funny, usually sad inroads of dementia have meant that my dad now lives in a residential home, where he receives excellent care. We were able to visit him a few times, when he recognized us to differing degrees. As is often the case with his condition, it quickly became apparent that if we led dad down memory lane, he was more at ease. Before long, we recalled that he sang in many church choirs and with a couple of secular groups, the Filey Singers and the Staxton Singers. I remembered that one of the Staxton Singers’ signature pieces was the Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Bridge over Troubled Water:” A little to my surprise my grown children hadn’t heard it -– another sigh of time moving on. Trusty, talented Chris led the song – and the music did its magic. Dad was singing along, in a bass voice no longer so loud or so rich, but still sure and steady. He had a smile on his face, many of us had a tear in our eyes.

Afterwards, when I had a chance to process this in our steaming bedroom, (no A/C in these parts,) I thought of all the troubled waters Covid and the rest of the world’s awful problems have brought, and I wondered,

Where are our Bridges?

Smoked Paella

Advance praise for A Glass Darkly

“The emotion is palpable and there’s an innocence of an earlier time that not only feels nostalgic, but simultaneously relevant today as we find the world grappling with similar issues.”
~ JLS

End Notes

Reading

Listening

Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon and Garfunkel
Arranged by Audrey Smythe (SATB choir)

Beach of My Own
Music Carolyn 

Viewing

Come From Away
Official Trailer

Poetry

The Whitsun Weddings
Philip Larkin
(Note:  Whitsun is another name for Pentecost. The poet is on a train to London).

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