Sunday, March 27, 2022



This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter,

said President Obama following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.

Although the President was referring to a very different situation from the one the world is trying to respond to today, these are words that have stayed with me, for any one of us, through a combination of geographical position and politics, could find ourselves caught up in a war and having to flee. We think it is so far away, and yet it is so near.

Yesterday I read some extracts from the diaries of Ukrainians in Mariupol, and I cannot get out of my mind the distress of a journalist who had finally pushed her beloved dog down the stairs and out of her building, presumably in the hope that the dog would find a way to survive. That could be any dog-owner too, in a sudden change of circumstances.

When Mimi Lenox, the indefatigable founder of Blog4Peace, decided to launch a special Ukraine edition of the project this weekend - we usually do it in November - I, like many bloggers around the world, wondered how I could do it, although I desperately wanted to. How could I put my hands on the keyboard and write about the tragedy in Ukraine when experts on that country and Russia also find their fingers paralysed by horror? But Mimi is right - this is exactly the moment when we must start typing, to show that words matter, that people matter, that peace matters to us all.

My first reaction to the escalating situation a few weeks ago was, "Have we learnt nothing?" but of course it is a myth that we have had continuous peace in Europe since 1945. Man just isn't that wise! And every time, I ask myself, over and over again, "Why?" Every time I see that leaders on both sides of a conflict have at least got themselves round a table, I want to yell, "Keep talking, keep talking! If you can declare a truce for an hour, you can declare a truce for a day, a week, a month, a year or forever. And if you can agree thus far, you can agree to stop it. So stop it!"

I do know it is not as simple as that and I have no idea how you can begin to reason with a tyrant. Yet I imagine that one man does have an idea and that, of course, is President Zelenskyy, for who can fail to admire this brave and inspiring man? Derided at the beginning as "just a comedian", he has defied all the odds. "Just a comedian?" No one is better placed to understand tragedy than someone who has an understanding of comedy, for the two are intrinsically linked. Even in Shakespeare's tragedies, there is often a fool or a clown and much comedy hinges upon a point at which tragedy is (only just) avoided; for example, girl almost marries the wrong man, then something happens that enables her to marry the right one and, to bring Shakespeare into things once more, "All's well that ends well."

Comedians, then, certainly have a role to play, as do the protests of ordinary people and an example of the latter has given me hope today: In the occupied town of Slavutych (Northern Ukraine) citizens continued to protest peacefully as sten grenades and bullets whizzed across the sky above them. They demanded a Russian withdrawal and the release of their imprisoned Mayor. In the end, they got both. Words matter, people matter and peace matters to all of us.

And tonight I will hug my dog a little tighter.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022


March 8th, La festa della donna, is widely celebrated in Italy and you see mimosa blossom everywhere. Here's why it is a symbol of this day. Arrangements such as those in the photo above are sold in supermarkets and in the streets (the one on the left containing artificial mimosa, of course but it's a pretty idea) and I bought the one below this morning:

Also this morning in my favourite bar all breakfasts and coffee consumed by women were paid for by a local business and we were each given little gifts of flowers - something to brighten our day after two years in which we haven't really been able to celebrate this day.

The dark times, as we know, continue and my thoughts today are with all the women who cannot celebrate International Women's Day in their own homes or even in their own country and who, unlike me, have had no choice in the matter. I'm sure you will join me in wishing them peace.


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