My grandmother passed away last summer. I said at her funeral that she was the salt of the earth, and represented what was best about the English soul, its moderation, frugality and tolerance.
In September we buried her ashes alongside her parents, her brother and sister, in the graveyard by the little church in the Surrey village where she grew up. A handful of black English soil in my hand to sprinkle on the wooden box. The good English earth where she shall lie until the end of time, overlooking the winding river and the green meadow where a white swan is cropping the grass. England is here and will be here until the end of our days. It was a good end, a peaceful end, and my mother laid a single yellow rose beside the hole which I hope the sexton will quickly cover over. The soft rain fell. In these divided days when I hear people say England is under threat, that our land is full up, I see this quiet green land, this river and this meadow where no house will ever be built, I think of the forests without end that I drove through on my way here, from Gloucestershire to Surrey, vast acres of green land, fields, trees.
Is England so frail a place that it is under threat, are a thousand years of slow history for nothing? We are stronger than that.