Sunday, 17 April 2016

Does being 'nice' get you anywhere?

       It all depends where you want to go.

       Columnist Liz Jones* believes niceness gets you nowhere, citing several unpleasant experiences she’s had of late with ungrateful and uncaring people. Sadly, the world’s like that. Not so much ‘do as you would be done by’ as ‘do others down before they do you!’

       Yet I firmly believe that true niceness gets results. My daughter (who despite being extremely nice is certainly no pushover), works for a building society and, as you can imagine, receives her fair share of complaints. Many customers are indignant and some are downright nasty, but is she phased by this abuse? Not on your life! The worse they are and the more they rant and rave about their overdraft/failed payment/interest rate or whatever, the calmer and more intractable my girl becomes until even the most determined plaintiff slams the phone down in defeat, exhausted and a good deal poorer!

       On the other hand, a customer who is apologetic for their error (in banking, the customer is rarely right!), is reasonable and nice gets 5-star treatment. In fact, my daughter will go out of her way to help them, even persuading the powers-that-be to reduce or drop any penalties.

       None of us are perfect, of course, and however hard I try to be a nice person, I’ve had my moments. Impatience, pride, anger, envy, resentment and sheer selfishness can influence us all at times, while the world we live in seems to foster such negative traits. No matter who or where we are, there will always be challenges from others and, when slighted, insulted or faced with aggression, it takes huge self-control not to retaliate, to keep one’s cool. To be nice.

       But does being nice, as Liz may argue, simply get you trampled on? It depends what you mean by nice. According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘nice’ has 3 meanings: 1) ‘good natured, kind’ 2) ‘subtle, slight’ 3) ‘fastidious, scrupulous’.  For me, however, there can be no better description of all round niceness than Galatians 5:22 which lists the spiritual fruitage of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control." Far from being weak, such qualities can have a powerful and positive effect. 

       With so much violence, selfishness, haughtiness, pride and greed surrounding us, it may seem easier to follow the crowd, but please! don’t go that way! Don’t let this horrible world grind you into its mould. And don’t let anyone stop you being NICE!

The Book of Proverbs by King Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived, highlights some nice benefits:  

“An answer when mild turns away rage”

“A mild tongue itself can break a bone”
“He that is slow to anger (patient) is better than a mighty man”

“All his spirit is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.”

“The one who is slow to anger has great discernment, but the impatient one displays his foolishness.

“The desirable thing in earthling man is his loving-kindness,” 

“The goodness of the righteous makes a city rejoice”

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A walk in the Peak - Eyam

       I’ve been meaning to write this post for a fair while now but, you know how it is……’time and unforeseen occurrence’......
       Anyway, having been dragged away from the computer by a group of friends recently, I joined them for a walk in Eyam, a quaint little village in the heart of Derbyshire’s Hope Valley where I learned some fascinating facts for all you history buffs.    

       Eyam (pronounced E’em) has quite a history, dating back at least as far as the Romans who discovered a rich vein of lead in the area.  The village was recorded in the Domesday Book under its olde English name, Aium – and would have remained an attractive yet obscure hamlet but for a shocking, heartrending disaster 6 centuries later.

'Black Death' illustration courtesy of
       In 1665 the Bubonic Plague (aka Black Death), already raging in London, arrived in a bundle of cloth infested with fleas.  The first victim, the local tailor’s assistant George Vickers who took delivery, died within a week of contracting the disease that was already spreading like wildfire throughout the village. 
       Attempting to contain the infection, the village rector Reverend William Mompesson and Puritan minister Thomas Stanley, drew up an emergency plan of action, which called for supreme sacrifice from the residents.  Bodies were to be buried by their own families, church services were relocated to a natural amphitheatre in Cucklett Delph, and, most famously, the entire population agreed to be quarantined, cordoning themselves off in order to protect neighbouring communities. 
       For 14 months, the plague decimated the village, causing at least 260 deaths. The exact figure is unknown, although, according to one account, only 83 people survived out of a population of 350. 
       These survivors were later thought to have had exceptional immune systems, which according to one research programme, were passed down to their descendants...some of whom are thought to be resistant to HIV/AIDS!*
Rose Cottage, home of the Hawkesworth family

One of many plaques relating to plague victims
       Today, Eyam is a thriving tourist centre, populated mainly by well-heeled stalwarts of St Lawrence’s, the parish church. 

St Lawrence's Church, Eyam

       Architecturally and geographically, little has changed since the 17th century. Most of the buildings in the centre of the village have remained intact, frozen in time for curious visitors. 

       Even the stocks remain, ready to punish the drunk and disorderly!

      Our walk took us past Eyam Hall and the local Museum (sadly shut at the time!).....

.......through the village square with its dainty tea room, to the Miners Arms public house, which has quite a history of its own. (See Plaque) 

Miners Arms, Eyam

       From here, we strolled up a steep lane towards open country where we met a herd of llamas looking beautifully snug with their amazingly soft coats.....enough wool for a few hundred pashminas, no doubt!

The views were spectacular......  

View of Eyam
 ....with bags of stile!

Stile and signpost to Mompesson's Well

  ....although the going got tough occasionally!