March 2024.  Hard to believe.  The years just whizz by as we promise, without fail, that this one is going to be better!  Hope.  Where would we be without it?  I could feel the cold, this morning, as the early burst of heating dissipated rapidly.  Too cold for the beach?  Perhaps, but, also, too cold for people!  Returning about an hour ago, I am only now reunited with my fingers as my nose, once more, adopts my face.  It was predictably Baltic – and predictably quiet.  It is a known fact that, in this life, some things just have to be weighed up.  Nothing comes for free.

Alexei Navalny knew that more than most.  It was his funeral today, his death always inevitable, its timing always in the hands of Putin.  For Navalny was prepared to live and die for his cause: to free Russia from corruption and its evil dictatorship.  Brave and charismatic, he was a symbol of hope but the brighter the star, the more dangerous the threat – to Putin and, thus, to his own life.  Following his attempted murder in 2020 – for a second time – he recovered in Germany, only to return to his homeland, the target on his back ever bigger.  He knew that but still believed that the fight for freedom was far greater than him.  A man of immense courage.  Putin may have ended his life but he is powerless to extinguish his light.  The name Alexei Navalny will not be forgotten.  Heroes live on – and inspire.  Thus, thousands of people lined the streets today, risking their lives to say their final farewells.  As they chanted his name, defiantly, there were even shouts of ‘Putin is a murderer!’, while all were acutely aware of the threatening police presence.  Today, however, Alexei Navalny’s followers were determined to pay their respects; to express their gratitude to the man who gave his life in a bid to help them; to show courage, as he did.  He would have been proud of them, as he would of his wife who could only be there via video-link, fears for her safety prohibiting her return to Russia.

Has hope died with Alexei Navalny?  Perhaps it is tarnished but his bravery has inspired so many, not least his wife, Yulia.  She is determined to continue the fight for his vision, her courage, now, gleaned from the memory of the man she loved.  The flame will grow strong again.  She has a purpose, and the belief in its fulfillment.  That’s hope!

Hope.  One cannot live without it.  It’s what must have sustained Dave Myers – one half of the Hairy Bikers – following his cancer diagnosis two years ago; the belief that he could fight it and win.  Sadly, it was not to be and he died on Wednesday.  Somehow, it is always the good guys …  Hope in an increasingly cruel world.  It just gets harder.  Winter seems never-ending and the news, ever more grim.  There is little respite …  No respite.  No hope.  Such must have been the mindset of Thomas Kingston, the 45-year-old who seemed to have it all, yet took his own life, last Sunday, at the home of his parents.  Reading that is terrifying; terrifying because it is so tragic but, also, because it is so difficult to reconcile.  Good-looking, successful and an all-round nice guy, apparently, who was loved by all, he had long moved in the ‘right’ circles, marrying Lady Gabriella Windsor – daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent – in 2019.  By all accounts, they were happy, last seen out together on Valentine’s Day.  What happened?  Who knew the hidden demons which drove him to this?  Hidden being the operative word.  He had, literally, just had lunch with his parents when, presumably, he never dropped the mask but my heart goes out to them; to his father, who found him, and to his mother, neither of whom can ever recover, nor – I am sure – ever forgive themselves.

Apologies, this is anything but cheery but, in the words of the late, inimitable Rikki Fulton, ‘It’s been a helluva week!’.  It just made me think about hope, and the importance of.  I am often accused of being a dreamer, living in Never-Never Land and, as a little girl, I did believe.  Do I still?  Despite everything, yes.  It is my coping mechanism, believing it will all fall into place.  Pop taught me that and, for that, I am eternally grateful.  It has seen me through a lot, rubbish though it may be!  It’s called hope …

Something the powers that be, seemingly, would like eradicated from our lives!  How many of us pay any attention to the adverts on television?  Personally, I mute them – especially the Scottish ones – but, suddenly, I came to and realised that every second advert is about health and dying!  One in two of us is going to get cancer … on repeat!  Do I need to hear that when I am immersed in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, trying to escape reality for fifty minutes?  Then, there are the adverts plugging funeral planning, life insurance, wills … even Petplan, reminding one that one’s dog, too, is mortal.  No!  The news is already too much: the constant fixation with Gaza and the political in-fighting over calls for a ceasefire, for one.  Yes, I understand the importance of the situation but the SNP calling for a ceasefire?  Seriously?  Are the Israelis just going to put down their weapons, the Hamas release the hostages because Humza ‘Useless’ says they should?  As utterly ridiculous as it sounds.  However, the constant debate is becoming questionable.  There is a big, wide world out there with lots going on.  Is this a distraction?

War, cancer … scaremongering?  Oh, and then throw in that lovely drama about the heroic NHS during Covid-19 – in between the adverts for funeral planning and life insurance, that is!  Insensitive, or what?  Haven’t we got enough to deal with in this increasingly lawless country hi-jacked by enclaves of religious extremists and the woke police?  Affirmative.  However, it is only going to get worse.  Listen to this …  In September 2023, one in four children starting school – in England and Wales (dread to think in Scotland!) – was not potty trained.  More than a third could not dress themselves, never mind those who had no idea how to hold a pencil!  Some teachers are having to spend up to two and a half hours per day supporting these children.  These are not orphans, I might add.  Oh, no!  In fact, apparently, half of parents do not think getting their children school-ready is their responsibility and claim that more affordable childcare would help …  Speechless.  Not surprised but speechless!  Hope?  There is none, and certainly not for these poor offspring.  Parents who should not be parents.  The root of it all.

My thoughts?  Watch Into The Congo with Ben Fogle, his latest series on Channel 5, Sunday at 9pm.  We dare to think we are superior; one of the great economic forces of the world.  Laughable, really, for we have, actually, lost so much.  In spending time with one of the native tribes of The Congo – the Mbendjele – Ben is struck by the warmth and community, the positivity and the respect of a people who, ostensibly, have nothing.  They live by values of old, untouched by greed and the material world.  They are happy.  Are we?  The power of hope.  Never have we needed it more.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease, forever, to be able to do it.’

J. M. Barrie

This is Trish, signing off.

P.S.  The BRIT Awards?  Ignore the last 1,200 words of wisdom.  Hope is definitely not enough!