Editor's Page 00-11-1987
The second half of this editorial is an allegorical reference to the intolerable behaviour of the Italian backers of World Magazine which had by this time made my resignation as editor inevitable!
Editor's Page by Christopher Long
One can't help wondering what went on in the mind of the gentleman on my right [picture of an elderly mountain peasant examining a copy of World Magazine] when he met the adventurous John Pilkington in one of most remote parts of the populated world.
A tall bearded Englishman is a rare sight in the ever-troubled and oft-disputed North-West Frontier on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He may have revealed that this village marked the half-way point along Marco Polo's old Silk Road. And perhaps the old man nodded sagely as he tried to imagine anything that didn't resemble this valley or any other within a 20-mile radius. What, then, must he have thought of an Englishman who presented him with a battered copy of a glossy magazine containing pictures of people, places, races and wildlife as bizarre as anything from another planet ?
The situation had, I'm sure, its quaint and humourous elements. It is, after all, a small miracle that there still are people in the world to whom the sophistication of the West is as foreign as a valley 20 miles away.
Such meetings will soon be a thing of the past. Modern satellite communications will have brought television to the most remote regions of the earth and Western 'values' will have reached deep into the hearts and minds of people who will then have no choice but to march in step with the rest of into the 21st Century.
With any luck the present generation of children will be able to say that the world is better fed, better clothed, better housed and in better health than it was when Pilkington ventured into the North West Frontier. But sadly I suspect they will not have the chance, as he had, to round a track in a mountain pass and meet a man with whom they have nothing in common but their humanity and everything new to discover. The miracles of chip technology will have to be wondrous indeed to make up for such a lost opportunity.
Nearer to home and having spent a couple of days ill in bed, I am reminded of last Spring when I was laid down by 'flu. The misery was made more tolerable by the frenetic activities of a pair of thrushes building their nest in a thicket at the back of my neighbours' garden. For two days I watched the ceaseless, wearying effort that went into their creation, the perfect harmony of their construction plan and the unrelenting risks they took to bring home the thousands of tiny wisps that they wove into an intricately fashioned nursery for the next generation. Watching all this skill, energy, dedication and courage from two such tiny creatures did more than the endless glasses of hot Scotch and lemon to revive me.
By Sunday lunchtime most of their remorseless effort seemed to be done. The sun came out and with it came the first appearance of my neighbours. They unloaded boxes of pot-plants onto their terrace and set about assembling a new, white, plastic table in the garden.
By two o'clock they had finished lunch. By three o'clock they were busy gardening. By four o'clock the thicket at the end of their garden had vanished and by five o'clock both thicket and nest were sitting in a black plastic bag at the front-door, waiting for the dustmen.
The garden looked very attractive. Several months later it was a spectacular display of well-trained loveliness with plenty of opportunistic sparrows but no thrushes.
But it took several days before I could look out of my window with any peace of mind. The hole where the thicket had been haunted me. So did the thought that I might catch sight of my two thrushes. There were thousands of thrushes in London last summer, so their little tragedy probably didn't matter. But strangely that garden will never be quite the same for me.
Instead perhaps I should try and put it all out of my mind by taking the Pilkington trail to the North West Frontier where there's still, just, magic lurking round a mountain pass and where we still have the chance to get our relationships with our fellow creatures right.
© (1987) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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