Who would have suspected that a seemingly little natural occurrence such as some ash spewed from a volcano could have caused such worldwide chaos? Well it has been proved conclusively that indeed, it can. Flights suspended, holidays extended (which of course has caused a lot of bother for a lot of people but I suspect for anyone of school-attending age it was also the cause of much delight for a prolonged Easter holiday), paying ridiculous amounts of money for various non-airborne methods of travel… on the upside, if you happen to live within close proximity to any of the UK’s major airports it meant you got a bit of peace and quiet for a change thanks to a lack of planes booming overhead. Plus it also meant that certain television channels and sections of the press could take yet another opportunity to sensationalise and scaremonger – as if there weren’t enough of those around already – telling obscure stories of ‘flights from hell’ caused by ash particles in the atmosphere.
Being something of a permanent home-bird – the furthest I ever travel is somewhere reachable by train, for the current time being – I was lucky for the whole scenario to pass me by unscathed, yet a friend of mine had to cancel a long awaited break due to flights going haywire, and we can all identify with that stinging sense of disappointment. I can’t say I’m too familiar with being stranded for a significant amount of time though – the closest I’ve been was having a panic for about half an hour in the middle of London when I thought I’d got lost by the Houses of Parliament…I feared spending the night huddled by Westminster Bridge until I hopped on a random bus and managed to get back to my hotel. Watching the news reports over the last few days has made me feel at times frustrated but largely anxious, thinking what exactly I would do in that situation. I suppose there’s nothing much to do except sit around feeling a bit helpless and hoping in vain for a boat, train or automobile to come along and rescue you. But I’m pretty sure that whatever the feeling, regardless of whether you had the time of your life while away, the longings for home comforts would be immensely strong whilst being stuck in that limbo.
Therefore, while things are still getting back to normal, I think it’s apt to feature this poem by Robert Browning for anyone who is still away from home – be it England or otherwise – and has home very much at the forefront of their mind. For me, it recalls the fact that your home is often taken for granted and even disregarded when you’re there but when you’re away for a significant period of time, everything about it seems precious and all the small things are amplified. Aside from that, it does paint a very pretty picture of England in the springtime which can really be appreciated as the weather gets increasingly brighter. And, to add a third dimension, it can also be used as a belated celebration of St George’s Day and the virtues of England.
Home Thoughts, From Abroad
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossom’d pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide awakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
Robert Browning (1812-1889)