I HAVE always said that I would never be brave enough to be a guest on Radio 4’s Moral Maze. And yet, a few weeks ago, when the call came, I found myself agreeing to be one of the “witnesses” in a discussion about reparations.
The debate was triggered by news stories of calls for the UK to return historical artefacts that had been looted from other countries centuries ago, including the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which was taken by the East India Company in 1849 and presented to Queen Victoria. The decision has been made that it will not feature in the Queen Consort’s crown at the Coronation in a few weeks’ time.
My argument in the programme — the morality version of Dragon’s Den — which, that episode, featured Matthew Taylor, Ella Whelan, Ash Sarkar, and Tim Stanley, was that it was all pretty simple, really: if you take something from someone else, then you give it back. We make it overly complicated with explanations of how it cannot be done, but it’s a concept that even my five-year-old understands.
It is also important for the story to be told, so that we understand our past. It is why a new exhibition on the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London to mark the Coronation will tell a fuller story.
Types and shadows
IT IS said that, if the resident ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the kingdom will fall. This reminds me of my son’s new alter ego: a similar black bird — Mr Crow. After requesting a “toy crow” from Father Christmas, he was delighted to receive one. This surely proved that Santa was real.
Our boy became immediately obsessed with Mr Crow, who goes everywhere with him. He sleeps in his bed, he sits next to him at mealtimes, he accompanies him on the school run, and is waved goodbye at the door. At various times, Mr Crow has represented my son’s own child, his baby brother, and, occasionally, himself — a way for him to communicate his own feelings: “Mr Crow doesn’t want cheesy pasta for tea,” “Mr Crow doesn’t want to go to bed,” etc.
We have become so paranoid about ever losing Mr Crow that “Father Christmas” has purchased a duplicate, lest Mr Crow should ever need to rise from the dead.
Eye of the storm
JUGGLING parenting and work over the past few weeks has been tough. Sickness bugs, school strikes, cancelled work trips, and little sleep make for fraught times as the “to do” lists at home and at work continue to get longer. And so it was that I found myself, on a school strike day, taking my eldest to a soft-play session where I logged on to the Wi-Fi and became the only parent with a laptop taking work calls — or, at least, the only parent with a laptop and a cuddly crow.
While my son burned off some energy and made new friends, I made work calls. It struck me that this is what life is all about — making it work, dealing with whatever life throws at you — and that the incarnation includes this idea that God is with us, right in the middle of all the chaos: the screams, the tears, the trips and the falls, and the stressed-out parents at the soft-play centre.
LAST month, I created a makeshift office in my son’s room as I took part in a transatlantic webinar around some of the themes of Parenting for a Better World — a book in which I have written a chapter on the importance of cultivating kindness among our little ones.
I thought about styling out the fact that I was speaking from a five-year-old’s bedroom (it was, after all, an event about parenting), but the reality was there was no other space in the house. My husband was working from the office in the loft, and downstairs was a chaotic scene as my parents had been enlisted to watch the children on a school strike day.
I had that morning rushed to our office in Westminster — navigating the Tube strikes, walking through hundreds gathered for the civil-service strikes — for an important meeting with an international guest. I’d then rushed back to relieve my parents momentarily, before speaking at the Parenting for a Better World conference. The book is a collection, written by parents of children of all ages, as we navigate how to bring up our families while striving for social justice.
DURING Lent, and as Easter approaches each year, I find myself feeling slightly hesitant about the symbolic heading towards the darkness of Good Friday: of death, pain, and anguish. This year — perhaps because, at Theos, we are exploring UK attitudes towards death, dying, and the afterlife — I have been particularly aware of those around me, and within the wider Christian community, who are grieving for loved ones.
At times, I have been struck by people’s ability to keep going in the shadow of this heartbreak; at others, I have appreciated the honesty of those who find their times of mourning unbearably sad.
Being in close proximity to death is not just about the loss of that loved one, but a reminder of our own mortality. We remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return; and, of course, that it’s only by going through the darkness of Good Friday that we reach the resurrection light of Easter Day.
Chine McDonald is a writer, broadcaster, and Director of Theos.