I read a story recently which said that the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall was under threat of being demolished. It seems that the land had been sold to a construction company and now they want to knock it down in order to build luxury flats. To be honest I was a little shocked. I had always considered that Germany had a pretty good grip on looking after its history and I hope that the recent protests are enough to allow a halt to these works.
It would be incredible to think that if these flats were built there would be no memorial of the chilling period in history where a city was physically divided. No matter how many photographs you see, or museum exhibits you encounter, nothing brings the brutal truth home to you than standing next to it and looking up. Imagining friends and relatives on the other side and yet you can’t even reach to the top of it. Even if you could, and you could sit astride it, all you would see is barbed wire, gun emplacements and roving attack dogs. It has only been a quarter of a century since it was still in use and definitely needs to stay in place for at least another quarter century as a stark reminder to what mankind is capable of.
On another note, I dragged my very pregnant wife out on a walk into the woods at Abbey Wood at the weekend. It was rainy and very wet, with sticky and slippery mud in places, but it was still good to get out amongst a bit of nature; to hear birds singing and woodpeckers pecking, and also squirrels amongst a more natural habitat rather than that of roofs and aerials (ironically as we neared home again we saw a very excited looking squirrel carrying a small muffin in its mouth!)
It may seem obvious to some of you that Abbey Wood may be so named because of an Abbey, but it is not quite so obvious that the ruins of Lesnes Abbey are very close by, and after a somewhat circular walk through the trees we came out upon them. The weather and the season being what they were there was barely anyone else about, barring a couple of dog walkers we were alone there. And how wonderful that was!
When you live in the middle of the city, with a busy A-road stuttering past your house, it is almost impossible to find some space alone. And yet here it was; a small nirvana on the outside of the city. It would be impossible not to draw some connection to the centre of contemplation that it once would have been, and not difficult either to gauge the grandeur from the ruined walls that remain. It was beautiful and I think for a while to come, if I need to clear my head a little, I will just imagine myself back there.
I can’t go without mentioning the rugby, and Wales’ historic victory over England in Cardiff. It was their best win since 1905 over them and the first time that they have retained the Five/Six Nations trophy since 1979; and what a resounding victory it was!
The most fascinating thing was how outclassed they were in the first match against Ireland, when after 42 minutes play they had conceded their third try and were 30-3 down. Roll on six weeks and they beat England by that same margin and in the process of winning the championship had not conceded another try. For almost six hours French, then Italian, Scottish and finally English waves of attack tried to breach that red wall of Welshmen – but failed.
It won’t be remembered as a particularly exciting tournament sadly. The total number of tries scored was less than half that of the 2000 competition and the problems of the scrum recur again and again. But it will be remembered in Wales for that incredible victory against England and for the even more incredible turnaround from the opening match.