History in the here and now

Despite it being May, it is cold here, misty too, as Dog and I perambulate around the Park.

Once crisp views of the city in a chill winter are hazed to a blur, technicolour leached to monochromes. The radio talked about the French election and whether Macron was the French Kennedy even if, to anglicised ears, he sound like a sticky food. Is this history in the making they ask?

I fell in love with history, as an academic subject rather than something I was road-testing for the future by living it, when I joined Mrs Hamilton’s class at 14 in the lead up to my O levels. We did the Tudors and Stuarts, a rumbustious part of our national identity, full of stuff we abhor in other people today but, because it’s old and we’re related to it, we sort of forgive it and let the gratuitous pass with the good, giving each equal weight.

Mrs Hamilton was a stocky woman with short dark tight curly hair, a distant air and a smile that stayed hidden most of the time. Looking back I think her’s was a career too long. She was like the tuning on an old radio, going in and out of focus. She loved the subject and loathed the teaching of it I think. Especially those who didn’t engage with it.

Yet she inspired in me a love of those stories, the links that you can make across the years. I recall one particularly disruptive class when she seemed to pull in on herself, letting the fizzing distractions of Pugh and Carter, the class goons, blow themselves out. I asked a question, the subject relevant to what she had been explaining, and her expression took time to adjust to the reality that I was actually interested. She smiled and walked up the gangway between the desks and pulled across an empty chair. And while others chatted and sniggered she talked to me. She smiled, her eyes sparkled. And I got it, got how she simply adored the sweep of time that history allows us to enjoy, how, but for a decapitated King we wouldn’t vote today, how a Dutch adventurer allowed the space for a German to rule us while we fought his former nationals. How the here and now are servants to a continuum.

‘There’s nothing as remote as the recent past’ said Tom Irwin in the History Boys, Alan Bennett’ masterpiece on 1960s and 70s education;  today’s misty walk, its reluctance to reveal itself merely emphasises that. But today’s fog is just another jigsaw piece slotting into place. It might seem dramatic, a departure, a turning point but really? In a few short years it will be treated the same as Brexit and Trump and Kim and the like – neither necessarily good or bad, just one of many sliding doors moments,  and as long as we recognise the links, the ‘we did A because we’d already done X to Z’ in all this we will be fine. Of course we will.

And Dog?

He just walks because, well, that’s what you do when you realise, to use another History Boys’ quote, that History is just ‘one fuckin’ thing after another’ {Rudge} and the next biscuit is always the most interesting.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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15 Responses to History in the here and now

  1. Erika Kind says:

    Haha… dog is so funny 😄 Teachers have such an important part to play in a young child’s way of developing interest. What a great view towards London that is, Geoffle!

    Like

  2. Profound thoughts, Geoff. Mrs. Hamilton must have blessed you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Charli Mills says:

    Or as we say out west, “One bucking horse after another.” I had learned from one of your post about the remoteness of recent history. Too hot to handle perhaps. Enjoy your Misty walks, may they bring clearer thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nailed it!! I so often struggle to find the words to convey my certainty that this too shall pass – and in good time it shall come round again because that is how life is. I am sure that having an over view of history helps us understand the swings and roundabouts are just that – swings and roundabouts. I loved history at college, I had a teacher, an Englishman – we called him ‘the Englishman’ because of his posh accent – whose love and enthusiasm for the subject swept me along on a ride I have never stopped enjoying. He refused to teach it as a series of who fought whom, saying the real fabric lay in the stories of the great and the ordinary. In later years I taught history the same way. We sure can learn a thing or two from observing how our dogs go through their days 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I think it was when I realised nothing happens that isn’t the result if something happening somewhere else and if we could only work out what we’d work out Life the Universe etc but we can’t because there are so many component parts. Which is why it is endlessly fascinating and it only really gets v scary when something thinks they have either cracked it or that what they are doing is unique

      Like

  5. Mick Canning says:

    You can’t go wrong quoting ‘The History Boys’!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. merrildsmith says:

    I really enjoyed this.
    I agree with Mick above about “The History Boys.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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