I was listening to the news at lunchtime - the crazy, crazy news that we take for granted these days - as I ladled fragrant, spicy soup into bowls and sliced hunks of freshly baked sourdough bread. Outside Storm Erik blustered and a formation of geese struggled against the wind to fly over the farmhouse chimneys. I took off my apron and we sat down at the table to eat, a fire blazing in the wood burner and daffodils glowing brightly in a pea green jug.
The kitchen is filled with old things; an inglenook fireplace which used to have witches' markings scratched into the brickwork to ward off evil spirits. It still hosts a small irascible looking figurine of a bishop, surely a talisman that has something to do with superstition and protection.
Our Scandinavian fireside chairs date from the mid-seventies and Vinny, our hefty black labrador, has sequestered them for his sole use. We have an old Irish dresser upon which a precariously balanced selection of vintage crockery tinkles and shakes whenever he leaps for joy at the thought of a walk. Copper pans hang from a rail and our kitchen worktop is a big old engineers' workbench on castors. At the opposite end of the kitchen from the inglenook fireplace is a 1950's Aga which we no longer use because it gobbles up coal and belches out black smoke like a mythical dragon.
As we sat at the table taking a break from work to have a simple lunch together and listen to the radio it was as if this scene could have been played out almost exactly the same at any time over the last seventy years or so by any number of the people who have lived here before us. The daily routine, the simple shared lunch, the pelt of bad weather outside slapping against the brick walls of the house, the fire crackling, and the sober voices of newsreaders unmoved as they report daily - nowadays of huge political and climatic turbulence the world over.
We live in extraordinary times, so we are told these days, so often that it ceases to unnerve us or excite us any more. That sentence has become a hollow saying, a mantra by which almost anything can be excused or explained away.
No matter what we perceive the future to hold, the present is always with us, mostly comfortingly mundane, marked by daily routine, little sparkles of pleasure and occasional tribulations. We take them all in our stride; we have no need to be anxious about the present, but we must live it and not let it pass us by for fear of the future.
Running a small B&B affords us the real joy of meeting people from all walks of life and all parts of the globe. We get to talk with our guests and there seems to be a great meeting of minds, an awareness and consciousness of how we must all think about how we live in these modern times to sustain the future. Every choice that we make in our daily lives, right now in the present, from taking a shorter shower, to choosing unpackaged fruit and vegetables in the supermarket, and so much more, is a proper and powerful decision that each person can make to have an effect on the future. We just have to think about the consequences of our everyday habits and actions.
And, for thought:
"The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle - those things are good gifts.
The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn't make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn't live without them." Wendell Berry
"If the world is to be healed by human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear." Joanna Macy
"Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world." Howard Zinn
'No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now." Alan Watts