Sarah Sands: Thugs killed my favourite tree. But a new one is growing

Share
Related Topics

Compared with the desecration of the Cenotaph, the chopping down of an old hawthorn tree in Glastonbury is low on the emotional Richter scale. There are no statements from the Prime Minister, no counter-reproaches from youthful revolutionaries. It is just a tree of no great beauty, which was significant to people of no interest to the famous or the fashionable.

But I loved the Glastonbury Thorn, and always stopped by it after weekend walks to the Tor. According to legend, the tree sprouted from the staff owned by Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus's uncle. It was visited by Christians from all over the world.

Can one link the WikiLeak freedom-of-information fighter Julian Assange and protests over student fees with the lopping of a hawthorn tree tree in Glastonbury? Was it a literal form of hacktivism?

Maybe the youths of Glastonbury felt left out watching the flames lapping round the Houses of Parliament. They could not take out their frustration or boredom on MPs or the Met or Topshop. They lacked headquarters of institutions, but not landmarks. The tree gets it.

If the Christian legend were not strange and lovely enough, there is the additional poetic quirk of the tree's flowering at Christmas. The Thorn has been destroyed once already by Cromwell's Puritans, but has grown again through cuttings. A sibling plant shelters in the ground of Glastonbury Abbey, otherwise known as Avalon.

If you are seeking solace and reflection, Glastonbury Abbey is about as good as it gets. Even if you do not believe in its holiness, you will respect the harmony of the surroundings and the preservation of values as well as stone. It is pitifully lacking in the glamour of protest, although it has faced greater peril during the dissolution of the monasteries than students need fear from Nick Clegg.

You choose in the end, order or dissonance. On Thursday night, I went to listen to Latin carols at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, sung by the The Sixteen. You can imagine the culture clash, as the audience left the hall, humming, and encountered lines of riot police and the ecstatically violent protesters.

The following day, Facebook and Twitter burned with excitement – it has been the rave of the new century. The clean-up the next day looked like a civil version of the Yellow Pages advertisement. Sorry mum. I don't think that the adrenaline of idealism and violence on display in London amounts to a new world order. Year Zero doesn't suit a country such as Britain. History reasserts itself like cuttings from the hawthorn tree.

There are many theories about the vandalism of Joseph of Arimathea's tree. Is it a mild symptom of the grave persecution of Christians taking place in parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa? Or does the contempt for authority among the young extend from Westminster to an ancient and peaceful tree near the Glastonbury Tor?

There is another theory that it is not part of global movement, or generational uprising, but more to do with a local dispute with a landowner. Vandalism is not usually strategic.

As John Coles, the mayor of Glastonbury, said, the stricken tree is "a sad, sad sight". But as a metaphor for Christianity and social order, it is comforting to know that trees from cuttings will flower again, if not exactly here, then somewhere close. Anger and disorder are not the natural way of the world.



Sarah Sands is the deputy editor of the London Evening Standard

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried