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Always look on the bright side...

Childhood bean grief

Acting with the best intentions does not guarantee success, despite what proponents of ‘Karma’ may claim. Whether you’re a politician pitching a policy that sounds unpopular, but will hopefully lead to increased economic growth and a more prosperous society for us all to enjoy; a brave author who tires of the gravy train and opts to write something challenging and against the grain, while all their adoring fans really want is more of the same please; or a loving parent looking for a stress-free way of educating his/her four-year-old about the weighty topics that life loves to throw at us. Karma does not have your back if you choose the path less travelled. That’s not what Karma is, ask any Buddhist. How dull would life be if it was just a long string of successes?


Adversity is an important part of the human experience. It’s often the trials that make us into better people. For example: When the BBC commissioned Doctor Who in the 1960s, they refused to spend any money on it. Had they showered the show’s producers with cash, the creative department would have gone to town on the Tardis, submitting multiple designs for ‘the most powerful ship in the universe’, all sleek fins and curvacious lines. And the show would not have made it out of the sixties. The tatty blue box and its pepperpot enemies are exactly what made the show a hit with fans. So, adversity + resourceful innovation = iconic show. To get back on topic, there have been a number of well-meant political miscalculations of late (take your pick!), and many successful authors who struggle to pander to their adoring fans: ask any Ian Fleming fan who bagged a copy of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, expecting it to be similar to any of the previous Bond books, only to find themselves reading a dark feminist fable. But you can do your own research on all of that using the internet or your local, friendly, community library (use it or lose it!).


Here’s another tale from the vaults... My dad is a passionate gardener; always has been and, at 88 years of age, always will be. As parents, we love to instill the values that we cherish into our children and my dad was keen to furnish me with a love of greenery, good soil and growing things. To which end he dreamt up a project to inspire my four-year-old self and ensure that I spent any free time I found myself tasked with filling (in future years) with my sleeves rolled up, muddy to the elbows and beyond, and a big smile on my face. The plan involved a wrinkly old bean that we planted in a little pot (I helped!) and left out in the garden at the mercy of the elements. Patience is not a quality possessed by many toddlers, but I slowly became intrigued as a sprout sprouted and began to grow.


We had to move the growing plant from the little pot into a bigger pot (I helped!) at which point it seemed to get bigger every day until finally there were the beginnings of a new bean. The bean grew (we may have named it - I don’t recall, but if we did it would have been Jack the Bean, after my grandad and the popular children’s tale) and grew and grew... until. It was a Sunday lunchtime and my dad was clearly excited (four-year-olds can spot adult excitement a mile off!). He said there was a surprise waiting for me with my lunch and I thought maybe I was due extra pudding for helping so diligently to raise Jack the Bean (yeah, we’re going with it) to full beanhood. So, maybe you’ll understand why the sight of my beautiful bean, steamed to perfection and taking its place amongst the mash and carrots made me burst into tears and wail like a grieving parent. I was inconsolable, so much so that rather than eat the bean I was permitted to keep it in a matchbox until it turned to dust. I got over my childish grief in time but never took to the brutal world of gardening. So, never underestimate the empathy of children: they’re loaded with it, having still to fully understand our complicated world. Some may advise caution, but I believe it’s better to just aver that to err is human and blunder on like a well-meaning but catastrophe-bound modern ape taking the rough with the smooth. The smooth wouldn’t be so smooth without the rough. 

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