Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Inauguration Day

(All photos courtesy of Ana Gross, who really was there)

"Where were you when Barack Obama was made President, Great grandad?" We are supposed to always remember where we were at important moments in history. So where was I: when Germany marched on Russia - being born, on VE Day - Portsmouth watching fireworks, on Kennedy's assassination - Sliema Malta listening to news on the radio, on the moon landing - middle of the night in the UK got my eldest son up to watch B&W grainy pictures, and so on. You get the picture. So what about January 20th, 2009?

1am - aroused from sleep by call of nature. Remember when a 1am visit to the restroom was to fix make-up (partner, not me) or get a packet of something for the post-dance activities.

1.05am - sleep elusive so sit down to read Guardian online. Wonder if Barack (he's going to be the people's President, so I feel able to call him by his first name) is up too: wrestling with affairs of state to come, polishing off his speech, or maybe trying to decipher the book of swatches Michelle gave him 3 months ago.

1.30am - finished Guardian, looked at e-mails, still can't sleep. Decide to write erudite post on Inauguration. Unfortunately, wee small hours not best time for erudition and 2 hours of work produces patchy piece at best. Never mind, it was truly felt, which is all that matters.

3.30am - search for suitable photos, as am told blogs without pictures are boring. This was actually quite rewarding and perked me up for the day ahead. So much so that I actually managed an hours sleep before Jorg's alarm routine woke me.
6am - normal day's work for Jorg, well maybe more if the traffic levels turn out to be as expected. Rumors of long lines of coaches stretching down I95 from DC to SC. Dull gray day here in Southside, am relieved to see lovely sunrise in DC, wouldn't want him to start his Presidency in gloomy weather.

7am - lunch box packed and Jorg dispatched to slay dragons, and bring home bacon (love mixed metaphors, don't you!). I look forward to a cosy day in front of TV, pointing at screen and shouting "I've been there, and there". I have a childish delight in seeing places on TV I know! Reality is that there are house pets to feed and water, and a similar task for horses, sheep, and hens, plus the cows to milk. Time to spare a thought for all those hard working people out there for whom today is just "another day, another dollar". Although I suspect that there will be plenty of people in America today who will manage to be in front of a TV screen at Noon. Even now the Mall is choc-a-block with people, many who have been there all night.

8am to 11am - in the cold everything seems to take so much longer. Remembering to remove hoses from standpipes is always a bonus, but draining them as well not always achieved. Having heated troughs is a boon when we get the weeks of low temperatures we are experiencing. Nothing like further North and the mid-west, however, and I wonder what farming there must be like. We get accustomed to working in our own part of the country I guess. Thankfully, milking machine decides not to play up this morning - the cover and heating pad seem to be working. Have been listening to events on NPR, having fixed radios in each barn so that I don't miss anything. It's a little disjointed as I walk between barns but generally I get the gist.
11.30am to 4pm - at last, now I can really sit down and enjoy the moment. Hot chocolate, a cheese sandwich, and a warm house, what more could you ask? Perhaps that is the real message of this Presidency - look around at what you have and be very thankful. For many of us these next months, maybe years, will be hard but, hopefully, not fatal. We will learn not to expect to buy the latest gizmo the second it comes out, and industry will slow down to accommodate slower buying patterns. That is not to dismiss the trauma of losing jobs and houses and savings that people are going through; the hope is that we can come through, stronger and more able to prevent it happening again.
Musings over as President takes the oath and CJ appears to have lost the plot - whatever happened to prompt cards, or notes on the palm of your hand. You, no doubt have your own take on the acceptance speech, so I won't comment except to say I found it stimulating and thought provoking, and am drawn to good oratory, which he undoubtedly has a flare for. The whole inauguration is well crafted with a nice mix of the visual, aural and cerebral for all. Nice to see a little levity in the Benediction, even on such a solemn occasion.
One of the hazards of a combination of losing sleep, and a morning's hard work, is the likelihood of middle of the day snoozing. I am not immune to that ( I blame it on my Navy days as a watchkeeper, when afternoon sleeping was a must when carrying out rotating watches) and as the event slips into lunch, and then the drive from the Capitol to the White House, my post-prandial "dip" takes over. No doubt the many 10's of thousands waiting in the cold didn't have that luxury, and I will forget that part of the day when recounting "what I did on Barack Obama's inauguration" to my Great grandchildren.

4.30pm - all good things must come to an end and, as Jorg and I have not been invited to any of the Inaugural Balls, I will get on with the evening chores as usual, and Jorg will wend her weary way back from Ashland in an hour or so. The radio keeps me informed of world opinion, as well as pundits' assessment of the day's events. I have usual shouting match with radio when in disagreement with opinions expressed, although animals are unimpressed with my oration.
7.30pm - *!@#*! milking machine has decided that tonight is too cold for any self-respecting vacuum pump to work, and why don't we have an enclosed milking parlor like sensible people! Carry out all previous mechanical and electrical engineering tricks that made it work before - cursing, hitting with hammer, pleading - all to no avail. Finally call quits on it and milk by hand. That I can actually milk Bessie by hand without her removing what little hair I have left is a feat in itself. To do so in sub-zero temperatures (well it felt like it!) when I could have been indoors watching well coiffed, bejeweled and elegantly gowned ladies besporting themselves on the ballroom floor, was pretty much a miracle.

But all good things must come to an end, and so I finish the day with a large Irish Whiskey, a toasted egg sandwich and my main squeeze by my side. Mulling over the day and able to say I was there in spirit if not in person. And, yes, it was a day to remember.

My thanks to Ana Gross for permission to use photos from her inauguration day album. Ana, a colleague at my old firm Evans Incorporated, braved the 3am cold and joined the throng on the Mall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cometh the hour, cometh the man

(Photo by Alex Brandon courtesy of AP )

If ever the above were true not only the USA, but the world, needs that man. Whether Barack Obama proves to be that man only time will tell, but there is certainly a collective hopefulness that he will prove to be a great President; that he will not only meet and deal with the economic crisis, but also be a world leader to be proud of. Looking at the TV pictures from DC, all over the US, and also from around the world, it is obvious that there is a palpable sense of occasion, of something special happening. The African-American population, rightly, sees his inauguration as historic, but shut your eyes and listen to the speeches and there is a message there for every man, woman and child in this country, and beyond.

He, undoubtedly, has a heavy burden to carry and to have so much hope heaped onto the shoulders of one man is an awesome responsibility.
Watching a review of his life on TV last night, and seeing his meteoric rise from community activist to a world leader one can only feel that there is something extraordinary in the man. Jorg and I have also been struck by his ability to take time out (from what must be long hours preparing for office) to do "ordinary" things - like helping at a shelter for teens the day before his inauguration, or writing an open letter to his daughters for Parade magazine.

It does seem that crises bring out the persons with the capabilities to overcome them - Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill. But of course those same crises were failures for the men who preceded them - Buchanan, Hoover, Chamberlain. We can only hope that Barack Obama goes down as one of the greats, because these times demand nothing less. On a personal note, I am proud to be living in a country that has elected President Obama as its head of state, and it has spurred me to apply for US citizenship. The final step in my US journey, and one that I have agonized over since becoming a permanent resident.

(Photo by Alex Brandon courtesy of AP)

The origin of the quotation is not really known, but some notable variations and one actual use are as follows:

John 4:23 has ‘But the hour cometh, and now is'.

William Yancey, said about Jefferson Davis, President-elect of the Confederacy in 1861: 'The man and the hour have met'.

It was notably used (about himself) by Cliff Gladwin, the Derbyshire and England cricketer, during the first Test Match against South Africa at Durban (20 December 1948). England were 117 for 8 requiring 128 to win, when Gladwin walked out to bat, remarking to Dudley Nourse, the South Africa captain, as he did so: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man!’ The last ball of the match hit Gladwin on the thigh and he and Alec Bedser ran a leg-bye to win the match for England.