Neil Oliver: Upcoming Months Will Determine Who Britain Is as a Country

“People are talking to me about the months ahead, and the winter to come. Many fear a winter of discontent. They dread the dark, and what the dark might hold. The troubles of recent weeks have been hard enough, they say, while the sun has shone, and it has been easy to be outside. How will it be though when the days are short and the nights are long? I say the autumn and the winter ahead will be what we choose to make them. It will be a test of who we are as people. I say that, in the most important ways, the winter should and could be the making of us.

We are divided now. It’s no longer just about physical divisions. Opinions have hardened to the extent that we cannot talk to each other. These divisions run through families, between friends and neighbours. Such are the differences of opinion it has become easier to avoid some people altogether.

I say this has been no accident. Our leaders have done their utmost to drive wedges between us. Apart from a few weeks at the beginning of it all, I see keeping us apart had nothing to do with health; and everything to do with keeping us demoralized, fearful and helpless. When pressed they will say it was for our own good. I say it was a bad thing to do that has had only bad results.

I don’t believe the pubs, and restaurants, and the rest of the places folk need to talk, had to close, whatever a threat to health. People who come together might stay together. A stick on its own is easily broken, but a bundle of sticks is unbreakable. When we are physically together we communicate in ways that are impossible through a computer screen. We were stopped from gathering and so the glue holding communities together has flaked away. Too many have been made strangers to each other even enemies.

Our leaders and their advisors are, I say, devoid of empathy that ability to feel what others feel. Either that or they don’t care what hurt they have caused – which is even worse.

It’s time for faith leaders more of them at least to speak up for the lonely and excluded. Places of worship have a sacred obligation to open their arms. What is a church without a congregation, after all? Just an empty building.

I say it’s up to us, now, to come together in every way we can, and remind ourselves – and each other – that there is no need to feel powerless and helpless. Each of us must find at least one other of like mind. To begin with that one other might be enough. The important thing is to meet and to share face to face.

I will not abide by any more lockdown. I’m not talking about militant action. My resistance will be peaceful and quiet. Of all that has happened since last march lockdown has hurt us most of all. Most people are in a worse place now than before either in terms of their physical health, mental health, financial situation, relationships with family and friends or a combination of all of those.

Of all the ways the enforced separation the bar on being together with our fellow human beings has done most harm. Too many people have been isolated.

At home I have a basket filled with letters – and more come every day – from people who have had no one to talk to to share thoughts with. I’m glad they’ve written to me but it breaks my heart to know so many have found it best to send a letter to a face on the telly.

Having said that I feel that every sender of every one of those letters is a friend of mine now – a kindred spirit.

But that so much misery and anxiety has been heaped upon so many people and for so long is shameful.

The loneliness drips from the pages. I honestly can’t believe it has happened that anyone anywhere can look at our situation and think it’s been for the best.

When it comes to vaccine passports I’m way ahead of them. By that I mean the introduction of vaccine passports in my homeland of Scotland will not exclude me from anywhere I want to be. I say that anywhere demanding such an abomination from any citizen is nowhere I would enjoy being anyway. If it comes to it, I would rather be outside in the open air – let the wind blow and the rain fall! I don’t care! I would rather be out in the world, with others of like mind, than in any place demanding Papers, please. I would no more seek access to a place demanding my papers than I would attend a dog fight. Those are not my kind of places.

Venues and businesses that exclude willingly or not and on account of government dictate will fail maybe not today maybe not tomorrow but soon they will fail. I have loved pubs restaurants theatres and the like. And when the atmosphere is right, I will love them again. But this winter if they’re closing their doors on those deemed unclean then I will be elsewhere. If i’m at home my door will not be barred. It will be open to my friends. Home is anyway my best place. Sometimes I will be in the homes of friends. In any event I will share space with those I love. We will share food and drink and bask in the warmth of fires and stoves. We will talk about what’s important. Our society grew out of such simple togetherness in the first place thousands of years ago. And it will grow again from the same seedbed.

I’m not afraid. Not of winter, not of long dark nights. The cure to all our ills is togetherness, inclusion and not exclusion. I say it’s simple, and that we must find ways to be together, however scattered and isolated we may have been made to feel. We are many. We are enough.

We are more than enough.”

We are luck to have Neil to speak for us. All of us living now will remember this coming time forever.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage; then lend the eye a terrible aspect; let pry through the portage of the head like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it as fearfully as doth a galled rock o’erhang and jutty his confounded base, swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height.

On, on, you noblest English, whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! Fathers that, like so many Alexanders, have in these parts from morn till even fought and sheathed their swords for lack of argument: dishonour not your mothers; now attest that those whom you call’d fathers did beget you. Be copy now to men of grosser blood, and teach them how to war.

And you, good yeoman, whose limbs were made in England, show us here the mettle of your pasture; let us swear that you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; for there is none of you so mean and base, that hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge, cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Writing Challenge 2023

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