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The Scrivener: Being Approved

Leading columnist Brian Barratt suggests we should be alert for things of which we can approve.

Sixty years ago, my father disapproved of a friendly local Methodist minister who smiled at him and greeted him. My oldest brother, a police officer, disapproved of my purchase of a motor-bike when I was about 20. But he liked horses. One of my sisters disapproved of her grandsons having long hair. And so it goes on. It must run in the family. I fear that I do it, too. The remedy, of course, is to be on the alert for things of which one can approve.

Take shopping bags, for instance. Every time we go to a supermarket, we see customers walking out with trolleys containing up to about ten plastic bags full of groceries. Plastic bags are something we can certainly disapprove of. One day, I took the opportunity to approve of the alternative. Someone had her trolley full of green bags, you know the sort, canvas or hessian. She had heard the message and was doing her bit for the environment, so I surprised her by approving and complimenting her.

When we hear or see so much bad or disturbing news in the media, it's good to come across something to brighten the day. Such was the announcement that a World Conker Championship was being held in England.

A fine row of horse chestnut trees flourished just over the road from our family home in Newark-on-Trent (that's the original Newark, in England). My pals and I would collect fallen nuts, carve the thick flesh off with our pen-knives, inspect them, polish them, sometimes secretly harden them in a warm oven (that's cheating), find a skewer and some pieces of string, do the necessary, and behold, we could play conkers. I heartily approve of a World Championship, especially as many folk might judge it to be a somewhat eccentric sport for grown-ups to play. I look forward to it being an Olympic event.

Then there was the news that Druidry has been recognised as a legitimate charity. In Britain, of course the coast-to-coast Bible belt would disapprove at fever pitch if it happened in the USA, wouldn't it? That doesn't mean that Druidry is widely accepted as a religion in Britain, of course, but it certainly has a deep spiritual content and a healthy view of the natural world. I'm not sure about the people who dress up and prance round Stonehenge and other sacred sites, but I quietly approve of the idea of espousing the primordial deities of streams, lakes, rocky outcrops, significant trees, and mysterious forest glades.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, I'm rather chuffed that my bank approves my transactions when I use a debit card to pay for my groceries. There it is on the tiny screen: Transaction Approved. It means I'm still solvent. But the other day, at an Australia Post Retail Shop (we used to call them Post Offices, remember?), I was delighted when the little window showed just one word: Approved. One reassuring and morally uplifting word. Wow! After a lifetime of ups and downs, ins and outs, flights and falls, hithers and thithers, I have been personally approved! It does a chap good, y'know. Now I can stop going on about my brother and that motor-bike.

Copyright Brian Barratt


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