Dreams Don't Always Come True.

I have an iPod Touch on which I can read the online version of The Independent, so that I have some knowledge of what's happening back in the UK. I was saddened this week, to put it mildly, to read that last year there were only 60 children adopted in England.
This article particularly caught my attention because when I served as a magistrate a part of my duty was to sit in the Family Proceedings Court which deals with local authority applications for care orders. It was the most challenging and difficult work that I had to do. The decision was in our hands as to whether a child remained in its birth family or was taken into the care of the local authority, perhaps then to be adopted into an entirely new family with no further contact between itself and its birth parents.
Our deliberations were structured around the 1989 Children's Act,(new legislation has now been passed, but the basic approach remains the same) which has at its core this principle: "The welfare interests of the child shall be paramount." There is no stronger word in the English legal language than 'shall'. It brooks no exceptions; it describes something which is mandatory.
In an ideal world, of course, the welfare needs of the child are best served by being brought up in its birth family, but this is far from being an ideal world. Sadly there are many parents who are unwilling or unable to give priority to their children's needs over their own, often to the point where the child suffers actual emotional and or physical harm in its own home. Too often, if no one intervenes this leads on to problem, antisocial behaviour by the child, leading very often into petty criminality and worse.
The welfare of such children demands that they be given a fresh start in a stable and loving environment. That means that there must be a supply of people willing to put themselves forward to be assessed as potential adoptive parents. This is crucial, because if there is not an adoptive home for the child to go to, then its fate is likely to be life in a local authority home (even the best are institutional) or to be placed in a series of short and medium term foster homes with the inevitable instability and anxiety for the child. Children who have had this experience feature prominently in our prisons, drug and alcohol rehab centres and hostels for the homeless.
A side effect of the success of assisted fertility services has been to reduce the number of couples who, having failed to conceive their own child, are prepared to give their love instead to a child whose own start in life was one of abandonment.
Without sufficient prospective adoptive parents, these children can only dream of a better future.


A Bit More History

A particular delight of the Three Cultures Festival is the series of lectures which are given on the history of the village. This year I discovered that it occupies a pivotal place in the transition from muslim to christian Spain.

The Reconquista was essentially complete by 1236 when Córdoba fell to the christian forces of Fernando III. All that now remained of Al-Andalus was the Nasrid kingdom of Granada extending through Almería to the border with Murcia to the east, and to the mountains beyond Málaga to the west. Constituting no real threat to christian Spain, the Nasrids were tolerated for some 250 years until, for largely political reasons the Catholic Monarchs (Fernando V de Aragón and Isabela I de Castilla) launched their military campaign to bring the whole of Spain under their rule. This they achieved when Boabdil surrendered the symbolic keys to the city of Granada at the end of December 1492, the official end-date of muslim Spain.
The muslims in the newly-conquered territory were given the customary choice; leave, convert or die. Many left, many died and many converted living on in the region as moriscos. They formed three broad groups; around Granada itself, into the vega, and across Almería was one, the area between Málaga and Almuñecar, known as La Axarquía, was the second, and the mountains to the west of Málaga the third. Notwithstanding generous promises of acceptance into christian Spain, they were poorly treated for the most part and there were frequent skirmishes and rebellions. In addition, the catholic church was far from convinced of the veracity of their conversions. The moriscos of Ronda and what are now referred to as the white towns were the first to be put to the sword, followed by the moriscos of Granada who rose up in large-scale rebellion in December 1568; they too were soon put down. La Axarquía could not survive for much longer, and indeed resentment in the region was already smouldering. The whole area had the status of a qlima, and was divided into two tahas for purposes of administration (Bentomiz to the west of the Rio Velez, and Frigiliana to the east.). Of the two, Frigiliana was by far the more easily defended, and so moriscos throughout La Axarquía gathered their possessions and set off across the mountains to gather in Frigiliana. The christian armies arrived in April 1569 to find the moriscos occupying the heights above the village and the ridge leading up to the summit of El Fuerte. Christian reinforcements were sought and obtained from the pope in Rome. They came ashore at Burriana and marched directly up to Frigiliana in early June. The assault on Frigiliana began and ended on 11th June 1569, and with it came the distinction of being the site final end of islam in medieval Spain.


How Does The Climate Know The Date?

This time last week the Festival of Three Cultures was drawing to a close in the August heat. Daytime temperatures were peaking around 30 or 31 degrees and only fell overnight to around 27 or 28. The trick was to switch on the aircon in the bedroom before setting off to the evening concert and closing doors and windows to trap the cool. Then, on returning we would turn off the aircon and switch on the ceiling fan at a low speed for its cooling effect through the night. We began this week in similar vein. Then, around mid-week, something changed. A breeze came in from the west, maximum temperatures only got to 25 or 26 and nighttime temperatures started dropping to the high teens. No aircon, no fan, window open all night. No problems.
So what happened? Well, Wednesday was the last day of August, our notoriously unpleasantly hot month, and Thursday was the first day of September when we know that everything becomes tolerable again. I know that, but how does the climate know? All explanations welcomed!