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Life for the young

Two weeks ago I sat in the garden, watching my oldest granddaughter, Ella, just turned twelve, happily playing pretendy games with her younger sister. I know she is a very sensitive, thoughtful girl, but I had no idea just how much this sunny, apparently cheerful exterior hid such concern for the future of the world.

Unbeknownst to her parents, Ella had apparently submitted this poem, through the school, to an organisation Talent for Writing and it has been selected to be included in an anthology to be published shortly.

In case your eyes are as bad as mine, I have reproduced Ella’s entry in a larger typeface:-

I was blown away by it on two counts: her ability with words and the power of her sentiments.

I know I am her besotted Granny, but I enjoy her facility with language. I shouldn’t be surprised because she reads voraciously and, like her mother, has always had a preference for literature and ideas rather than science and sport (except prowess at swimming)!

But what about the passion of this poem? It was written well before the COP26 conference, but don’t her feelings strike a chord with those of the young people now gathered in Glasgow.

I find it so immensely sad that children should have to be – justifiably – so anxious and angry about the future. I am sure that the stress of both the effects of Brexit and the Covid pandemic have added to this anxiety, not to mention the usual barrage of stories about nations feuding , of poverty and of the suffering of refugees.

Ella has started her passage as a concerned future citizen young. At twelve I was handing out Labour Party leaflets – but only to support my Dad who was standing (unsuccessfully) for Parliament. I think I was 13 when I took my first real political action: holding a banner saying “Britain out of Suez” at the number 65 bus stop (and then being horrified when I spotted my Latin teacher looking out from the bus). Then followed activities with the Young Socialists, Anti Apartheid and CND. I did indeed have a very active political adolescence (all for causes which have still to see victory!).

If I were 12 today, I would focus on campaigning for the planet, which now becomes even more important than fighting against poverty, racism and war. I wonder what Ella will do next. Or maybe this is more a step in a literary and philosophical adolescence.

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