Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Modern choices

There's an advert on the Italian television at the moment which shows a married couple in different parts of their house. Each one is holding a cleaning spray , they are shouting out to each other the different merits of the cleaning power of the spray. All the while a small boy is rushing around on a tricycle blowing furiously on a toy horn like something out of 'Shining'. My first thought on seeing this advert was how far people can come from being a loved up couple, whispering sweet nothings and desperate to be together, to this. Of course it is just an advert..
Let's ignore the fact that the man is cleaning too, leave feminist issues aside, the fact that all that cleaning spray around a small child is very bad, all the shouting would have driven my dad up the wall, let's concentrate on what we hope for from married life, or couple life.
The other day in a shop. an old lady was bemoaning  modern relationships. She complained that marriages don't last long, people give up too easily, there are too many broken homes. The shopkeeper took on the role of interlocutor for all of us. 'That's the way it is', she said calmly. 'The world changes, we have to accept it'. The old lady shook her head' Yes but don't you think it is bad?' The shopkeeper just calmly repeated that the world changes. No-one wanted to get too involved while waiting for their Parma ham. It was a big subject, we could have got ourselves in hot water. Later on that day I had a coffee with a friend. She expressed concern about her daughter who is in her early forties and no sign of a man or baby around. Another friend that was present told her not to worry, let her daughter live her own life, not to interfere. We all agreed the world had changed and that is a good thing, no one would want to go back to people being trapped all their lives in miserable marriages . I wondered though if people's feelings change over the centuries. Surely the feelings of pain, disappointment, hurt, love, elation and joy have always been present in humans wherever they are born and in whatever era. The pain the wife of a Roman felt on being betrayed would have been the same as if it were today.

The poems of Alfred Edward Housman(1859-1936) would seem to bear this out. His poems express with remarkable force the regrets and frustration that we have all surely felt at some time. Here is an extract from ' A Shropshire Lad.

When I was one and twenty
I heard a wise man say
Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free',
But I was one - and - twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one- and twenty
I heard him say again,
The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain.
'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue
And I am two- and -twenty,
And oh, 'tis true,'tis true

 Listening to my friend describe her daughter's life, all her parties and friends, travelling and exciting job, I thought it sounded like she had made a choice. Maybe that is the important thing, being able to choose and then embracing your choice wholeheartedly, whether it is shouting to each other about the power of cleaning products or travelling the world, or whatever. The old lady in the grocers shop probably didn't have much choice.

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