It all began with daffodils: the ones on Tavistock Square coming up between the autumn leaves. And the snowdrops coming up in someone’s garden in November. And it ended with an image of the world as a lump of coal.
My favourite book as a child was “Pookie puts the world right.” Pookie is a white rabbit with blue eyes, wings and a penchant for hanging out with fairy folk at night. Because he’s different from his nut brown family, he runs away to find his fortune and is rescued by the woodcutter’s daughter, Belinda, who kisses his pathetic little wings. Magically, they are restored and suddenly he can fly. In this book, (there are several) winter comes too early and floods the nests and burrows of woodland creatures. Wet and miserable, they are rescued by Pookie and Belinda, who make little beds for them and warm them by the fire. Pookie rages at Winter (who is spiky like an icicle) and chases him away. Without winter, all the spring flowers start coming up between the autumn berries and leaves. At first everyone thinks this is fab until they realise that, actually, the animals need to hibernate and the trees need to rest etc etc. So Pookie flies north to find Winter and, half dead, begs him to come back. After much argument, he does and the world is put right. An exhausted Pookie is sent home on a cloud.
The book is very sweet and very, very old-fashioned and doesn’t have the profoundness of, say, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” nor does it ever come up on any best children's lists, but it does strike me as being scarily prescient. We get very little winter in London. The daffodils are up before Christmas every year. This is only a tiny thing but as someone who is unbelievably tired of being overheated all the time, those early daffodils are a depressing sign rather than one of joy. I’m sick of being hot. It’s hot all summer, which now lasts for about eight months. As soon as October arrives, no matter what the weather is doing, all the shops and buildings turn on their heating as if there is a blizzard outside. Even in light winter clothing (a single jersey and a jacket, rather than a coat), the shops are a nightmare of heat. Gone are the days that a decent store had a booth where you could leave your coat (I still remember the one in John Lewis.) At work, I have a colleague who wears summer dresses to work in the middle of winter because her office has been heated up to about 30 degrees C. In summer, I’m frantically trying to escape temperatures of 30 degrees. Most people get out their fans when it hits the thirties. So why would anyone want their building or shop to be that temperature in winter? Because it bloody well isn’t winter. It isn’t cold outside. There is no “brrrrr” factor. Not in London, anyway.
Imagine the world as a burnt out cinder, black with ash, deader than a lump of coal. Where would we be? Also dead? Gone? Forgotten? That's the easy option. It's more likely that we'd be stuck to the dead world, unable to move on, seven billion souls, all lost, all wondering what to do – or not wondering as we would be past even that. It would be too late. We’re not much good without bodies. We can barely communicate with them and without them, there is no life possible. Even the ghosts that hang about cemeteries have a better time of it – at least they’ve got trees and flowers to wander through, some pretty gravestones to cling to, the occasional visitor to inspect. It’s the art I worry about. The paintings and the books and the music. All the beauty we’ve created and the horror if we lose it. It seems there are two forces at work on this planet: the creative and the destructive. The creative forces bring about heaven and the destructive forces hell. Those people who think they are going to go to heaven when they die are the ones without a shred of responsibility. Heaven has to be made here. It isn’t a place you go to. It’s a place you create. More frightening is that the destructive force is winning through corporate greed – and I don’t just mean big corporations, I mean greed on every level. These are the people that having destroyed themselves by turning off their conscience switch are now intent on putting every living creature on this planet on an extinction course. But it won’t be enough: they’ll not stop until the planet is cinders.
I’m not standing on my soapbox shouting about global warming and the end of the world. I’m shouting about the Pookies of the world. We need more of them. But my voice is very small and mostly quite unheard, rather like Pookie's who almost died trying.
I have no idea where I’m going with this. What more can I say that hasn’t already been said. All my profound thoughts I’ve left under the duvet. Perhaps I should crawl back under it until winter arrives.