Hi, I’m Carol from the United Kingdom, not England, and I’ve been asked also to say a few words about my experience of the European Forum and about our key passage from Ezekiel.
I’d like to begin just by saying that I love Polish people, especially Jan, who had the privilege of sitting opposite me at breakfast and I can’t wait to come to Poland next year. You will understand in a minute why I am expressing such love of Poland and it’s not to get a free airplane ticket.
When I think of this passage from Ezekiel, I think immediately, as do most of you, of trees and of diversity. I also think of a little job I had earlier this year in a plant nursery or garden centre. This garden centre was located in a very nice posh village on the outskirts of Winchester, rather like the sort of village you see in Midsomer Murders, or Inspecteur Barnaby for the benefit of my French friends. Winchester is a place so posh, that even the station announcer says WINCHESTAH! THIS IS WINCHESTAH! The clientele of the garden centre were like characters from Midsomer Murders, too. Upper-class, white, usually called Margaret, and, unfortunately for me, very knowledgeable about plants.
I am, you see, no gardener. My late mother in law was a horticulturalist at Kew Gardens in London. She tried in vain to interest me in plants, to which my reply was always: ‘Gardening, it’s just outdoor housework.’ It is fair to say, I had a bad case of biophobia, an irrational fear of plants and living organisms. It was thus rather ironic that I landed a job in a Garden Centre. It soon became clear to me that my life was in danger on account of my lack of gardening knowledge… in danger from the Posh Ladies of Winchestah.
This little anecdote I am about to share does not reflect well on me, and I hope you will forgive me, especially if you are Polish. But I am ashamed to say, rather like Adam in the Garden of Eden, I hid. I went right to the end of the furthermost greenhouse behind the hanging baskets and hid. But still these ladies would endlessly pursue me with their questions about plants. It appeared there was a richness in diversity of trailing geraniums and acer plants. It was time to resort to more extreme tactics.
So friends, I confess I did this: I bought a red t-shirt with the words POLSKA emblazoned across the chest. That’s right, I pretended to be Polish. We have a lot of Polish people working in the UK and narrow-minded posh ladies from Winchestah would be far more likely to ask a British person about plants. Or so I thought.
It did not work. Still they pursued me and to cut a long story short, it was not the job for me. I left and am now back working with books in the University library. Where there is also richness in diversity but at least I kind of know what I’m talking about.
What is the point of this strange little confession, you might ask? Well my point is this. Sometimes we don’t know all the answers, and sometimes we’re bewildered, even threatened by the diverse range of people or indeed plants all around us. But is it acceptable just to hide from things we know nothing about? To let someone else come up with the answers? Should we not at least attempt to find out more, so that we can give informed answers? There is not one kind of man, one kind of woman, one kind of sexuality, one kind of relationship, any more than there is one kind of acer tree or one colour of geranium.
This has been my first forum and it won’t be my last – sorry! I have loved this weekend, and I have made so many friends. I think there is much work to be done but I want to be part of it.