As a comparative newcomer to North Devon I told a local farmer that I was interested in healing the hates of history and particularly in the role of apology and forgiveness. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘Do you know why Bideford is not talking to Barnstaple?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘They didn’t send enough ships to the Armada.’
Sixty years ago my brother and I sailed eastwards across the Atlantic . We were two of the three thousand British children who had been given wartime sanctuary in the United States. In 1940 Britain stood alone.
1998 was the year of Mitch for some. The year of Monica for others. Natural disasters and unnatural disasters. Yet, to me it was the year of Mandela-type attitudes and actions, people who rose above the unfair hands dealt them.
1998 has been a good year for Ireland. Some setbacks with, for instance, the tragic Omagh bombing. But, with many fingers crossed and many Protestant and Catholic prayers, there is hope of an end to the violence.
Mother Teresa is being laid to rest, a well deserved rest after a lifetime poured out for others. What a remarkable tribute that India, her adopted nation, should accord her a state funeral and that the Indian president should link Mother Teresa's name with Mahatma Gandhi in what she meant to that great subcontinent.
When you pick up a book by an American that dares to carry an endorsement from Fidel Castro and prints a picture of the author this year with the Cuban leader, you know that you are dealing with an independent-minded person.