Trump-Free Orange

I have banished all thought of Trump from these posts, of the sight and the sound of him, but he’s pushed his way in here with his escalating threats of nuclear retaliation, beginning on Nagasaki Day (Steve Bannon’s idea?). As I’ve watched the news stories recounting the North Korean threats and Trump’s irresponsible counter-threats in comic book speak, I’ve noticed how very orange he seems this week. A man on vacation might choose to spend time outdoors, and accumulate some sort of natural glow, even if careful about skin damage.

Trump does not seem concerned with anything natural, other than the desire to exploit and abuse nature in order to make more money, but the threats of annihilation, ruination and the alteration of the natural world send me in the other direction.

The Monarch butterflies are flying over the fields and gardens of New England now. Even though a cool and wet summer, it’s been warm enough for them to complete their life cycles, and I see one or two every day as I walk in these beautiful hills, reminding me to realize my life, every, every minute—

To my eye, the Monarch orange is the most pleasing color imaginable, warm and rich, as pleasing as their size and shape. Photos of them do not do the color justice, again, to my eye, since there’s no guarantee that each of us sees a color identically. Watching them fly past or flutter around reminds me in an instant of what is wonderful about our planet, condensed into a small and delicate-looking being. Delicate they are not. Next month they will migrate, the only butterflies to do so, to their winter home in a mountain forest in Central Mexico. One September afternoon I was walking across the Salt and Pepper Bridge in Cambridge Massachusetts when a kaleidoscope of Monarchs crossed the bridge, flying southwest. I wished them bon voyage.

This week I saw a pair mating while flying. They rested on a leaf at my eye level, and in unabashed voyeurism, I was able to study the two at a very close range. Off they flew, locked together. “Show offs,” I muttered.

Every year I try to imagine the Monarch trek, and worry about the number of survivors. This year, I worry that the Monarchs may face high levels of radiation blowing in the west-east winds across the oceans and earth from Guam or North Korea.

I’ll walk in the hills again today and hope to glimpse that wonderful orange color fluttering over a field of green, and I’ll avoid looking at an unnaturally orange face mouthing a threat of fire and fury to the entire world. Our world holds both in precarious balance at this moment, as we revolve around the sun at 18.5 miles per second.

http://www.amazingbutterflies.com/frequentlyaskedquestions.htm

http://www.monarch-butterfly.com/

Every, every minute

I volunteer for our cemetery association, functioning as its secretary. If the position sounds sedentary, it is only partially so. Much of the time is spent on my feet, walking around the cemetery with the schematic of the graves, probing plots for unheralded occupants, measuring, marking, and placing flags at the veterans’ graves.

The cemetery dates to 1771, when the resident colonials living in these hills did not care to carry the caskets of their dead very far. Every gesture in those days required backbreaking effort by woman, man and beast. It’s a tiny cemetery, and situated on a hill, too steep and too small to farm. Tucked into the surrounding hills that are a lush green in the warm months, aflame then quenched into a muted brown each autumn, and white and gray during the long winters, it is always beautiful.

It is very quiet in our cemetery, except when the field below is being mown. Mostly there is only birdsong to disturb the silence, but often there is nothing but the sound of the wind. The air is nothing short of delicious, like silk in your lungs; clean and sweet smelling. It is a place for the living as much as the dead, and as I move myself around sorting the rows of headstones into some sort of grid, I find that the special quality of the quiet has entered me; a peaceful intruder.

Our family members are buried there, and we will join them, nestled together in between our mothers. I am aware that I will join them, that I will move from life to join the dead in this cemetery. Being human, I can’t quite imagine it, even though I am certain it will come, as it has and will for everyone.

Still, I am happy rambling around the place I know very well now. Comforted to see the family names of friends and neighbors, saddened to read the names of men who left New England to join the Civil War, and were shipped back to this small and quiet place. There are probably Revolutionary War veterans in the cemetery, but those headstones are illegible and list like aged teeth.

When I first visited the cemetery, I thought of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, Our Town. Near the end of the play, the dead in the town cemetery speak to one another, and one of them, the young protagonist Emily, wants to go back to her life for a day, just a day, to recapture her lost life. The dead warn her not to go, that it won’t be what she hopes for, but she goes. Emily’s visit to the day of her twelfth birthday is agony for her because she can’t go back, of course, and she asks in anguish what we all ask, what we all wish we would do:

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?

The Stage Manager, who serves as Greek Chorus, answers:
No. Pause. The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.

I am reminded of Emily’s question every time I visit our cemetery, and leave vowing to realize my life while I live it—every, every minute. Being neither a saint nor a poet, I fail.

http://www.thorntonwilder.com/drama/full-length-plays/our-town/

 

A Lucky Man and The Voice of An Undertaker: E.B. White and Jean Stafford


Writers E.B. White and Jean Stafford were born in July, he in 1899 and she in 1915; he in Mt. Vernon, a suburb of New York City, and she in California. Their life stories were as different as their writing, although each was touched by greatness, and much in their lives unfolded in the midtown Manhattan offices of The New Yorker magazine.

E.B. White needs no introduction, but it is sad to write that Jean Stafford may. Stafford published three novels (Boston Adventure, The Mountain Lion, and The Catherine Wheel) in the 1940s and 1950s, and published wonderful short stories in The New Yorker containing characters like Lottie Jump in “Bad Characters.” Her habits served her private life on a platter, and at times overshadowed her talent during her life, and certainly after her life, since her biographers tended to embrace what Joyce Carol Oates termed “pathography.” Stafford’s alcoholism was described as the stuff of legends, and is generally recorded in anything written about her in the first or second sentence, often overshadowing her great talent as reported by those with much less. Anything written about her first husband, poet Robert Lowell, generally begins with a phrase like “brilliant but mentally unstable,” and only eventually reveals the story of his drunken car crash in which Stafford nearly died (he walked away unscathed).

In spite of all the turmoil, she continued to write and publish, winning the Pulitzer Prize for her Collected Stories in 1970. Describing her writer’s voice as “the voice of an undertaker,” Stafford may have referred to the authorial vivisection she practiced with wry humor, to the great enrichment and pleasure of her readers. There are few better examples of this talent than the non-fiction book she wrote about Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, A Mother In History. A remarkable book, it was written using the interviews Stafford conducted while living with Mrs. Oswald, as they sat in the kitchen, each in their dressing gowns.

In mid-life, Jean Stafford enjoyed a good marriage with journalist and New Yorker regular A.J. Liebling. He died a few years later, and she was not saved from her progressive illness, but she continued to write, although she never wrote fiction again. They are buried together in the Green River Cemetery, East Hampton, New York.

E.B. White had the perfect life. His childhood was idyllic (he and his siblings were raised by tolerant and affluent parents in a large house and yard from which he was free to roam, and the family spent every August together on a lake in Maine), and he enjoyed an adulthood nearly free from health problems and scandal (except when he married the divorced Katharine, and published, with James Thurber, Is Sex Necessary?), his one, long marriage a good one, with a family that included a son, a stepson, stepdaughter and grandchildren.

His writing was broad ranging, successful, and still cherished today; the clarity and simplicity of his writing is the perfect communication of his depth of feeling and the unique variety of his knowledge and interests. White wrote for The New Yorker (where he met his wife Katherine Angell, then the fiction editor, and later the author of Onward and Upward in the Garden), but he also wrote children’s classics Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, and essays “Death of a Pig” and “Here is New York,” among so many other essays and letters. He also introduced the world to his Cornell professor’s grammar and style textbook, The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., with White’s own several revisions, introduction, and a new chapter. Hence the birth of “the little book.”

E.B., or “Andy,” spent much of his life in small boats, from sailboats to canoes, fishing or hanging on by his fingernails when the crosswinds hit. He enjoyed everything about his large, old farmhouse and barn in Maine, including the inconveniences, his wife’s garden, the humor in the disasters, his constant observance of nature, and the long summer nights; everything, until his wife died. His biographer, Scott Elledge, reported that White responded personally to the hundreds of letters of condolence he received, many from those who had known his wife only through the Letters of E.B. White. To one he wrote, “I don’t know what I ever did to deserve a wife with Katharine’s qualities, but I have always had a lot of luck, and she was the most notable example.”

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/175078.Jean_Stafford
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10810.Letters_of_E_B_White
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5665549.Katharine_S_White
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10812.E_B_White

My Father’s Tomatoes

I started my first vegetable garden in a long time this year. It’s very small, consisting of two white cedar raised beds (gardenraisedbeds.com) and a few extra planters for patio tomatoes and herbs. The lettuce and Swiss chard in the raised beds seem stunted, possibly due to the chilly and wet spring and early summer, possibly due to the soil-compost mix, probably because I don’t know what I’m doing.

My circle of local friends is absolutely chockablock with master gardeners, one of whom writes a gardening blog (http://www.commonweeder.com). I turn to all of them for advice and if not too late, I take it. However, we already have eaten one ripe tomato and have another red one on a vine, both very early for gardens in these hills. One of my master gardeners accused me of painting it. Beginner’s luck, I said.

His wife, another master gardener, warned me that gardening is an addiction. She’s correct: I’m already plotting and planning expansion, especially for asparagus, which will keep us waiting for two years, at least. We are low on room with sun near the house, so the plotting may be thwarted. We have a large field next to the house, but we’re staying out of there with the exception of planting fruit trees and plants the pollinators like, leaving the space to the deer, the bears, the bees, butterflies and birds.

My father was no gardener, but he spent a lot of his childhood on his uncle’s farm outside of Philadelphia, and so was familiar with the rhythm of the seasons and planting, a fact not revealed to me until one of the last summers he was well. He carved up the yard behind their small house in North Carolina, to which they retired from Brooklyn. He knew to dig it and dung it, a feat of backbreaking energy that was also a revelation.

He planted tomatoes and nothing else. Rows and rows of tomatoes, possibly all the one type, because the harvest was overwhelming. My mother, a real city gal, had them coming out of her ears, but she had no impulse to can them, nor room to freeze the sauce that she made. Spaghetti sauce and sliced tomatoes appeared on everything.

That was it, though: the start and the end of his foray into gardening, possibly because he got sick that year, possibly because he’d gotten it out of his system. I can’t remember and there’s nobody to ask. My father died in that house after a very long illness, during which my mother hired a fellow to mow the yard weekly, but I still could see the outlines of my father’s hard work, of his tomato patch, the day I moved my mother out of that house.

July 12th, 1690

Today marks the 327th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in County Meath, Ireland. The forces of the deposed and Catholic King James II of England were defeated by those of the Protestant Dutch Prince William of Orange, who with his wife Mary II had acceded to the crowns of England and Scotland.

It’s a vaguely interesting bit of history, but does anyone care enough to hold hundreds of parades? Thousands of Orange Order men and women in Ireland, Scotland and around the world do, and today is their day to march to celebrate the event. Briefly, the Orange Order is pro-Protestant, pro-union with Britain, quite conservative, and to quote their pledge, they “…oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome and other Non-Reformed faiths…”

In the past, the July 12th parades marched through Catholic neighborhoods, inciting violence between marchers and residents. Today they went through a Catholic neighborhood in the north of Belfast with little attention from the residents and no violence, thanks to ongoing community work on both sides and the 1998 Belfast Peace Agreement.

However, there were too many bonfires burning effigies of the late Martin McGuinness in a mock coffin (an Irish Republican Army officer in his youth, McGuinness became a disciple of Nelson Mandela, a friend of former foe the Rev. Ian Paisley, the founder of the Democratic Unionist Party, and like Paisley, a peacemaker late in life),the Tricolour flag of the Republic of Ireland, and other representations of Republicanism, but there was no violence reported against a living person.

There’s a new element to this story now, and that’s the 1 billion pound bribe UK Prime Minister Teresa May and her Conservative/Tory Party gave to the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which won less than 1% of the recent UK election to the Westminster Parliament, but won the most seats in the Northern Irish Parliament, Stormont. The DUP, like the Orange Order, is pro-Union with Britain, pro-Protestantism and very conservative, but the DUP also is anti-climate change, anti-abortion, anti-the 1998 Peace Agreement and anti-same sex marriage (which the Orange Order most likely is as well), the latter in line with the lack of legality and recognition of same sex marriage in Northern Ireland today.

May bribed the DUP to vote with the Tories in Westminster after she called a snap election last month to consolidate her base, only to end up hanging from a trapeze without a net (see my Brexit-themed posts of June 6 and June 14). The 2017 Tory manifesto (a depressing attack on the elderly, small children and their free lunches, immigrants and the National Health Service) does not address climate change at all, and since same-sex marriage is finally legal in Britain, it’s thankfully moot. Many Tories are appalled and exasperated with May’s disastrous strategies and this partnership with the retrograde DUP. British left-wing voters are not happy with the extra funding given to Northern Irish hospitals, while hospitals in the rest of the UK, already under considerable stress, will receive less.

The DUP may be viewed as heroes to some in Northern Ireland after their canny negotiation (should they negotiate Brexit for May?), they certainly hold the purse strings, and since they won Stormont last month, they hold the cards. Aligned as they are with the Orange Order, July 12th, 2018 may not be as peaceful as today was. A parade went through a Catholic neighborhood in North Belfast today, not around it, and there were bonfires all over Northern Ireland now being investigated as hate crimes. How far will the Orange Order push to return to the violence of the past, and how far will the DUP push back, and how can Teresa May and her government push at all, should the return to sectarian violence see the light of day? All parties should sit down and read the Belfast Peace Agreement to understand the benefits to keeping the fragile peace it wrought, and if they burn it up, the penalties to trade, the economies and the quality of life in each country that will result.

A Fourth Grade Friend

My wife Sally has a friend whom she met in the fourth grade. She also still has friends with whom she went to high school and college. Suffice it to say that they met a long time ago, and lost touch in between, but we just spent the fourth of July with them.

I had a friend in the fourth grade named Cathy Lynch, and I don’t think I’ve seen her since the fifth grade. We were skinny and we scratched at violins together, and we didn’t look like the two in the photo above, who are far more competent, confident and fashionably dressed than we were. When we played in our school orchestra, we wore black skirts, white blouses and white anklets with our loafers, or in my case, five eyelet oxfords.

Cathy’s household consisted of a mother, a little brother, and an “uncle” who visited on the weekends; mine held a father and a mother and a beloved dog. Both families lived in apartments in White Plains, neither had much money.

Kids of our generation roamed around a lot on their own, and one afternoon Cathy and I had the brainwave to hide in a car parked in the lot between our two apartment buildings. I think that we knew who the owner was, but I can’t be sure. We got in and we waited. We giggled. It began to get dark and more cars arrived and parked as their owners returned home from work. We hid in the back seat. It got dark and we got bored, then we realized what a mess we’d created and we left the car and walked to Cathy’s apartment. Her mother called my parents.

It was no accident that we gave ourselves up to Cathy’s mother instead of my parents. By doing so, I bought a little time before facing the music.

I think now of how jarring the ring of the phone must have been for my parents, who were beyond worried and thinking the worst. What news would there be from the caller?

My father fetched me and did not say one word as we walked home. He opened the apartment door to reveal my mother, seated and facing the door, Sitting Bull style. My memory tells me that one swift hit on the backside sent me flying to land in front of her and on my feet, but that’s a memory. The harangue that began then lasted for days, weeks. Why did we do it? I don’t know, why on earth did we? It seemed like a funny prank at first, but then the longer we stayed, the more we dug in, even though we became sick of it and scared of the consequences. I have no idea what I said to my parents through my tears of regret, but now I can say this: we were in the fourth grade.

I don’t have more than a Facebook connection with anyone I went to high school or college with, let alone the fourth grade. They gave me up and I gave them up, just as I gave up the violin as a senior in high school. Sally tells me that people resurface over time and some of my friends may, but there has to be a ringleader to pull everyone back together, or a trigger for the reunion, such as a high school or college class reunion, but for the fourth grade? The chances seem slim. Cathy, are you out there?

https://www.whiteplainspublicschools.org/site/default.aspx?domainid=553

 

The Wind Among The Reeds

Among the many writers and poets born in June, W.B. Yeats is the subject of choice for this post. Irish nationalist, Nobel Prize winning poet, Irish Senator, romantic, a founder of the Abbey Theater in Dublin and spiritualist, Yeats’ poetry has spoken to me always.

When I look at a photo of him, young or old, I see a handsome man, one who is perhaps a little prissy (the pince-nez don’t help) or delicate, one with a sensual mouth. When I read about him, I am astounded at the opposition found in the constants of his life: poetry, Irish Nationalism and the occult. Yeats belonged to a spiritual society for decades. He and his wife, Georgie Hyde-Lee, whom he married late in life, practiced “automatic writing,” in which they believed that her hand was guided by a spirit as it wrote, pen to paper.

Through interest in the occult as a young man, he met an ardent young Irish Nationalist, Maud Gonne, an English heiress working in the women’s movement dedicated to the creation of the Irish Republic. She both led and followed Yeats down a tortured path for decades, as she turned down his marriage proposals four times. It was not until late in their unfortunate entanglement that they consummated their affair, although the delay was not caused by innocence or aversion (he had affairs with women throughout his life and she had given birth to two children as a young woman), but the consummation put a merciful end to the affair.

A member of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, Yeats spent much of his life in London, but unlike many fellow members he did not consider himself an Englishman who happened to have been born in Ireland. He maintained a deep connection to the Dublin of his birth, to the Sligo of childhood summers, and to the ideals of Irish Nationalism until his older years, when he bemoaned the decline of Anglo-Irish influence on Irish society and culture, ruining his longstanding reputation as an Irish Republican.

Yeats wrote poetry, essays and plays with great productivity and to the end of his life. Two generations later, fellow Irish Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney lauded Yeats as a giant of poetry, as well as his willingness and ability to change his style as he aged, to continue to produce poetry of the highest level.

He published The Wind in the Reeds in 1899, the year he met Maud Gonne, with whom he shared anguish for much of their lives. This beautiful poem was published in that collection, and reveals his masterful and creative hand at age twenty-four, as well as the pain he’d already absorbed and could express.

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

 

For more of Yeats’ poetry, the collected works may be found here:

http://www.csun.edu/~hceng029/yeats/collectedpoems.html

Do not seek the poems on PoemHunter.com, which hosts robots reading poetry!

 

Arthur, not

We met our dog Arthur in a shelter run by the county sheriff’s office. The place is managed by a wonderful group of people, mostly women, who care for their charges with diligence, intelligence and compassion. Arthur was young and he had issues, as most abandoned dogs do. He’s adorable and they thought we’d be a good fit. We are.

Our dog Arthur does not look like the Airedale Terrier above, except perhaps in his own mind. He’s little, about nineteen pounds, mostly a lustrous black with ginger legs, ginger springing eyebrows and a ginger beard. His fur is a little long and curly. The back legs are a tad bandy. His nose is black, his ears floppy, his countenance noble. Arthur’s eyes are the most beautiful dog eyes ever, and we get lost in them. He was reported to be and he looks like a terrier mix. When asked, the vet and the shelter folks offered Schnauzer mixed with Yorkshire Terrier, and indeed, that is what he looks like.

Still, there is something in the set of his neck and head that looks like an Airedale, writ small. Curious to know what his ancestors were, I sent off some of his swabbed cheek cells to a canine DNA testing company. I chose Embark over the several others because of good reviews. The amount of information that came back was astounding, and far more than I got with my own test (see the post “Origins: Hello Sailor!”). We learned that Arthur is in quarters: Chihuahua, Pekingese, Yorkshire Terrier and Miniature Pinscher. Arthur is taller and weighs more than any of those dogs, and while the looks of the Chihuahua and Pekingese are lost, the Yorkie and the Min Pin come through. We’ve owned a Pekingese, and I don’t see her personality in him. The other breeds are a mystery to us, but I’ve read that the Min Pin are fairly feisty, and so is Arthur.

His mixed relations have given him no propensity for any of the genetic problems purebred dogs tend to have, and his alleles for coat color are evident. I chose not to send a photo of him with the test; some of the physical descriptions resulting were accurate, some not (he is larger than he ought to be). According to his test results, the levels reported for a certain liver test will be low, and should not cause concern.

No, Arthur is not an Airedale, one of the dream dogs of my life, but he is our “terrier mix,” our beloved fellow. We work on his faults and ours with a dog trainer, and one day he may yawn and ignore dogs we meet on the road. He is a ready made watchdog, a charmer for us, for his circle of our human friends, and for his one dog friend, Marcus, an amiable Dachshund. It is enough that Arthur adores us. The feeling is mutual.

 

 

 

Will Ireland Redefine Brexit?

Theresa May kicked her own goal last week, calling an election she didn’t have to call, only to lose enough of her Conservative/Tory party seats to put her own office of Prime Minister in distinct jeopardy. Parliament has no clear majority now, including a Conservative one.

Scrambling to put one together, May is calling on the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to prop the Tories up in the Westminster Parliament (the DUP won the most seats in the Westminster Parliament election, ten to Sinn Féin’s seven, with no other party winning a seat, and the DUP won one more seat than did Sinn Féin in the NI Parliament, Stormont). The DUP platform is anti-same sex marriage, anti-abortion, climate change denying, anti-special relationship with the Republic of Ireland and anti-EU. The DUP is also the only party in Northern Ireland that did not agree to the groundbreaking treaty known as the Good Friday Agreement, or the Belfast Agreement of 1998, which created the fragile peace that still exists today, and defined the relationships of Northern Ireland to Britain, to the Republic of Ireland and that of Britain to the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in 2016 (56% to 44%), the referendum that May’s predecessor, David Cameron, called needlessly, only to lose and resign. Since that day, a hard Brexit has been on the near horizon for Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The charge was taken up by the new and possibly ex-PM Theresa May.

But now? It seems as though everyone forgot about Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which naturally have a special relationship. The Republic of Ireland has not considered leaving the EU. The Belfast Agreement gave everyone in Northern Ireland an absolute right to Irish citizenship and therefore to EU citizenship. That special relationship is the definition of the “special status” that Sinn Féin hopes will open a back door to a reunited Ireland.

After the UK voted to leave the EU, the EU could do nothing other than offer Northern Ireland a special Brexit, one which is refundable: if Northern Ireland chooses to join the Republic, it may re-enter the EU, which Britain can never do.

The DUP is in favor of tearing up the Belfast Agreement. The treaty is registered with the United Nations, and guaranteed by the EU and the US, including its human rights protections. Will the countries willing to enter into trade deals with Britain post Brexit and post the tearing up of the Belfast Agreement please step forward?

The EU Brexit negotiations are set to start June 19th, and as with all divorces, there will be steep financial and emotional repercussions. By negotiating with the DUP, Theresa May seems poised to kick another goal into her own net, as interest in the UK increases for a second referendum on Brexit, a second look at leaving the EU.

Will Brexit Reunite Ireland?

Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union, will drag the rest of the UK kicking and screaming with it. A couple of years away, it is already having effects far and wide, from European footballers on British teams eschewing their salaries in pound sterling for Euros, to Republic of Ireland real estate developers licking their chops at the prospect of European businesses fleeing London for Dublin.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin, the Irish republican party throughout Ireland (the Republic of and Northern), is attempting to secure “special status” for Northern Ireland within the EU, asserting that it should be exempted from paying for the damage that will be caused by Brexit. Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and was joined by the opposition party to Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party, a party that works to keep Northern Ireland in the UK, not in a reunited Ireland. The UUP leader describes the call for special status as an attempt to achieve a reunited Ireland by the “back door.” The leaders of Sinn Féin may smile when they think of that back door.

In April, Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK, called for a snap election to take place this Thursday, June 8th. The purpose of the election is to consolidate the power of her party, the Conservative or Tory Party, and undoubtedly to send a message that Brexit will go ahead, via the mechanism in Article 50, no matter what the people of Northern Ireland or Scotland, which also voted to remain in the EU, want. The PM had promised the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, that no such election would take place, but is it possible that Ms. Sturgeon’s letter to Theresa May at the end of March gave birth to the hastily called election? In her politely provocative letter the Scottish First Minister announced her intention to bring another independence referendum forward to the Scottish Parliament (the independence referendum of 2014 brought out 85% of Scottish voters and lost, 55.3% to 44.7% independence seekers).

Theresa May has nothing but problems, having been the PM during the three ghastly terror attacks of the last three months. She has responded by casting blame liberally, forgetting that before her election, she was the Home Secretary for six years under former PM David Cameron. The Home Secretary is in charge of counterterrorism. The Guardian newspaper reports that Theresa May reduced police forces by 21,500 officers, both as Home Secretary and PM, and the counter-terrorism budget, starting in 2010. Her opposition, the Labour Party, is naturally making a meal of the numbers, despite May’s defensive countercharges. However, the voters in London and the rest of the UK are feeling the shock of the terror attacks, and that may not be a good thing for the Conservatives or Theresa May on June 8th.

Brexit also brings up the question of borders in Ireland. A tourism lobby group in Northern Ireland, Hospitality Ulster, contends that any return to a border, hard or soft, between Northern Ireland and the Republic could hurt the North’s economy. More than half of external visitors to Northern Ireland come through Dublin first. After Brexit, will they need a visa? Will they bother to come at all, to wait at the border crossing, or choose to remain in the Republic? Tourists pay a 20% tax on purchases in Northern Ireland, and 9% in the Republic; so, no, they may not bother to go north.

More importantly, a noticeable border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would bring back memories of the bad old days of The Troubles in the 1970s, a time everyone would like to forget. These days the train from Dublin to Belfast slips across the border, its passengers ignorant of the fact until they see red post boxes instead of green ones, Union Jacks instead of the Irish Tricolour. When the Dublin train nears the station in Belfast, it passes a Guinness factory, and all is well: the two are the one Ireland, after all.

Will Brexit reunite Ireland? It’s a lovely thought; one Sinn Féin will try to make reality. The companion question is: will Brexit blow the United Kingdom apart? Pay attention to the British election results on Thursday: the answers will begin to emerge with those results.