Aleppo souk on fire.jpg

I just can’t bear it. Having had friends who have lived in Aleppo, the sight of the firestorm there these week has been heartbreaking. Destruction and slaughter, despair and savagery. When will it stop? Where’s next? Who’s next? It doesn’t bear thinking about. But it will happen. That much is guaranteed.

But for those millions who escaped from here, there and everywhere, and flee to Europe, America, even Trinidad, and everywhere else, there is only fear, uncertainty, ignorance, hostility. Can there be more words. Only action.

I was recently sent this by a good friend. It is overwhelming. But so wonderfully human. And represents something so important. Sure, it’s just a gesture. But it is also about a connection. With people who are different. Connections are rarely something we have with anyone, as it happens, let alone those who are different. Which is what makes this so poignant.

I encountered this poem a while back, but rediscovered it this morning while doing some research for something. And it is haunting – but also wonderful. D H Lawrence is more known these days for his culture-changing fiction, of course. But this is a much treasured poem. Hopefully it is obvious why.

I couldn’t help but think of Aleppo in those last lines: the longing for freedom from

the endless repetition of the mistake

which mankind at large has

chosen to sanctify

Because firebombing a city and destroying life and limb seems to be the only way, and thus sanctified.

The healing for those countless migrants is going to take a very long time, because their wounds are soul-wounds – invisible, but aching. What’s needed? Surely it is connection. Human connection. Just 4 minutes of connection? It’s a start… It’s not just true of those traumatised by war. It’s important for all those struggling with heart and soul sickness of any sort. But it has a particular resonance this week, because of the UN Summit on refugees that has just taken place.

Who better to combine this with than Paul Nash, that extraordinary English war artist of two world wars, and so much more, who is the subject of a retrospective starting at Tate Britain next month. Can’t wait.

Here he captures the darkness and despair of the Ypres trenches. From which many never returned, and even more perhaps were never healed.



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