"Why was it", Lloyd wondered, "that the people who wanted to destroy everything good about their country were the quickest to wave the national flag?”
By the time WW II finally unfolds, the Peshkovs, the Williams, the von Ulrichs, the Dewars, and the Fitzherberts are our friends and their lives grip us as they take risks in places as widely separated as Spain and Hawaii.
Predictably, we are amused as they meet and struggle together in various circumstances, awaken romance in us as they fall in love or break commitments, saddened as some meet their unexpected early death, angered us as the leaders of that time become blinded to their executors who take revenge on their enemies or advantage themselves by liquidating others.
To most, it was just horror and destruction but for others, it was the necessary destruction that comes before the building of a new society, or a new offer for people to take part in power within its society through the empowering of the working class. The image of the great fire bird rising from the ashes of destruction is well understood.
Follett lets history weave the context in which lives of people from a rainbow of countries and the gamut of social levels merge their relationships into a fabric of their work and commitments.
Think of how historical events mould people into the shape of heroes or villains, all to become survivors through risks and romance.
The life of a Mole does not sound attractive at first hearing but believe me, the nobility of the Mole species lives well and is the envy of the non-Mole remnant of the city’s population.
Okay, these are not short snouted, half blind fuzzy bodied moles. These are downtown Toronto condo hotel and apartment dwellers whose buildings link to the PATH, a 26 km underground shopping maze that has everything but an airport. Toronto maybe one of the world’s great cities but from November till March, the rain, snow, sleet, ice, wind combination means preparation for outdoor visits is a comedy act of hats and mittens and parkas or rain coats and boots or overshoes with scarves and balaclava face covers. Countryside winter has some fun to it. Downtown city winter is where moles are king.
During our last two week stay in Toronto, we hibernated in One King West, a wonderful residence midway on the Path between the financial district and Hudson Bay Company/Eaton Center. Everything was at our feet or perhaps beneath our feet: restaurants, supermarkets, clothing stores and the whole world of fashion. Entertainment centres require a 50 meters sprint outdoors. Even Grumpy can hold his greath that long. The Subway is in the Path and with that the Railway, Pearson airport and the whole world sits within the temperate zone.
You can feel the moles when you’re walking in the Path.
Non-Mole pedestrians are covered in layers of dripping cloth or leather and make quiet sneezy noises as they lumber by.
Mind you at lunch time they come down the 50 story shaft from their office bird perches to fluff their skinny pants and high fashioned finger nails at the much more casually dressed resident Moles.
In the evenings, the Moles own the Path. The 50 story office dwellers reluctantly return to the remote suburbs where they sleep and the peace of open and well lit walkways once again is the exclusive home of the Moles.
There’s a rumour that at least one visitor has been lost in the Path for some years and lives on the kindness of restaurant staff who speak little English but have agreed to mislead the poor Doofus for eternity.
But once learned, the underground Mole shafts make winter possible even enjoyable in what is otherwise a most fabulous city.
We're at the beginning of a sea of change in the whole world. Whether its Manila or New York, Phnom Penh or Shanghai, people want better. People will pay a little more for a little better. The day of the Happy Meal is over. The cheap t-shirt is toast. The appliance car will sit alone at the dealership.
I don’t want to be the same as you. My hamburger has to be different. I want my food to have colour and taste. I’m not interested in a stripe shirt and a tie. I’m more interested in experiences than things. I don't want television networks. I want my own Netflix. I don’t want to be part of anything. I don’t mind things being part of me. It's a new age, it's a new role. It's not just a new fashion. The starvation level of poverty is so unusual now even intrepid journalists have trouble finding anything to shock us. The new poor are looking for variety. They like to travel. The new poor can make a living and don’t live in the same desperate situation as before.
The desire for differentness has changed Europe from a world of lumpy babushkas to a culture of crazy colours, discordant ideas and bizarre hair cuts. Even the wealthy are chafing. They can’t give it away fast enough and there’s more prestige in the goodbyes of money than the hellos. The world's changing not at its edges but at the hard core.
ISIS young people wanting to do something because they’re sick of being nothing. They don’t want average, they don’t want everything the same. Good is better than cheap. Trader Joes and the rebirth of small markets in small towns is not the triumph of cheap it is the triumph of better.
For those who love travel, here are some of my top recommendations of places to visit.
Click on the picture to know more of these places: