We live on an island, as Shakespeare reminds us:
“This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,…
This precious stone set in the silver sea.”
But we don’t appreciate it! What do we do when we need/want to travel? Do we use the lovely stuff that is all around us? No! We rush off to wait for hours in queues in the likes of Heathrow and Gatwick and cram ourselves in metal boxes to be flung across the sky. How much better to travel by sea? To enjoy a relaxing time on the ocean watching the sea, the weather and the sea creatures.
Once upon a time travel by sea was the normal way to get around. (I don’t juse mean in the days of the Vikings!) In the 1900s if we are to believe the tales of P G Woodhouse people travelled from Liverpool to New York by steamer. It must have been pleasant – at least if you were one of the upper class waited on and cossetted.
At one time you could get a train from London to Fleetwood and then board a boat to Scotland. If only that were still possible!
You could go further afield too. Kipling writes of:
“Great steamers white and gold
Rolling down to Rio.”
It’s such a shame we no longer have vessels like these.
Now I’ve reached retirement I have time, time to spend as I want and travel as I please. I am not constrained by a nine-to-five job or family commitments. I’d love to travel by sea in a slow comfortable vessel something like the lovely Calmac ferries sailing to the Shetlands. But there aren’t any transatlantic ships now only cruise liners, huge floating hotels with hundreds of staff and thousands of passengers. Not a pleasant prospect. Such a shame.
I’m beginning to think the first two initals of BBC stand for Big Brother.
Today I wanted to catch up on an episode of “The Archers” that I’d missed. Previously you could simply click on the schedule for a programme and listen again. Not any more. You now have to be registered and and each time you want to use the catch up facility you have to sign in with an email address and password.
How long I wonder before this extra piece of unnecessary bureaucracy is spread to all BBC radio and TV services? I bet it won’t be long before we will sign in with username and password to watch BBC News or Eastenders. We’ll probably have to identify ourselves just to check the weather forecast or the traffic reports on local radio.
What will happen to people who don’t use a computer? (There are such folk, though they are rapidly dwindling minority!)
The BBC seems to be following in the wake of Google – they say they are going to “personalise” my “account”. In other words they will look at my record of listening and viewing (incidentally as I don’t have television my viewing figures should be zero – but I bet it won’t be!) They will then decide what I am interested in and push these programmes at me. No thank you, Big Brother, I prefer to make my own choices.
I’ve has enough of clever computer algorithms deciding what I want to see – Facebook gets some very odd ideas about what sort of articles are suitable for an elderly pensioner.
When I was asked for personal data for my account, date of birth, gender etc., I admit I was very tempted to put in false info just to be awkward. What would the computer make of an obviously fictitious date of birth? January 1st 1066 for example? Probably just send me a patronising “Oops, you’ve got it wrong again!”
I feel I just have to get this down after the massive holdup at Heathrow over the bank holiday weekend and the attitude of the people involved. I just couldn’t believe it!
- There was a problem and a vast number of flights were delayed. As always the fault – or rather the blame – went to the Computer. And once the all-powerful computer system was off there was nothing they could do about it. They couldn’t let the passengers, the tired passengers who’d already endured a long flight, disembark because the computer system wouldn’t disgorge their details. They couldn’t let the aircraft waiting on the tarmac take off – the computers were down. Now I’m not a computer expert, but surely if the main system and the back-up both failed, then what you do is go back to the old fashioned way – pencil and paper and people shouting out names from a list. Perhaps it’s like Scorton village shop when the till wasn’t working and the only people that could add up bills and give change accurately were those over 50 who had never become dependent on the computer.
- What really bothers me though, is the sheep-like attitude of the customers; they endure indefinite delays, lack of information and a totally uncaring attitude towards the public. Yet no-one seemed even mildly surprised at the treatment they got. You expect this if you travel by air especially if you use British Airways. Why were the punters not storming the check-in desks, demanding to see the person in charge, making a fuss and demanding redress? Are we really so feeble that we allow the airlines to treat us like sheep? Sorry, scrap that last bit, sheep would get better treatment; RSPCA, Animal Rights and other organisations would see a sheep had food and water and somewhere to bed down.
- Then the chairman of British Airways boasts that he is not going to resign over the shambles. Resign? It shouldn’t be a question of resign or not resign; it should be whether or not he will be sacked! Personally I think he should.
- Further to paragraph 2: what were the repercussions to this massive cock-up? Did the shares in B.A. go through he floor? I doubt it. Did the major holiday firms and the business travellers cancel their contracts with B.A. and refuse to use Heathrow or Gatwick again? I doubt it. Did even the ordinary airline travellers who fly to holiday destinations in sunny climes make sure they never travel with this airline in future? I don’t think so. We are too forgiving – or do I mean too spineless?
- A final grim thought: if the problem had been a bomb – or even just a false report of a bomb – would Heathrow and Gatwick have reacted any more efficiently? I doubt it. So obviously the message this sends to any would-be terrorists: don’t bother with bombs and bullets, target the IT systems, it’s less hassle and more disruptive!
If you have to fly, this is the way to do it!
Yesterday I went shopping in town. Not a big town, a town not a city. I live in a rural area on the outskirts of a village and most of my day-to-day shopping – bread and butter, tins of beans and bags of potatoes and veg is usually done in the small market town two miles down the road.
Yesterday I went into a larger town and only after I’d done it did I realise just what to experience would be like. I’d forgotten what it feels like to be surrounded by people you don’t know. For various reasons I’d not been far outside my local area – I suppose what some people would call my “comfort zone” for quite a while.
I’d forgotten what the larger department stores were like and just how difficult they could be to navigate. One thing that struck me and that now really worries me is that there is no indication of the nearest exit. When I’ve been in a public place -anything from a small village hall to a sports arena or a theatre one of the first things an organiser does is point out the emergency exits and tell you what to do and where to go if a fire alarm sounds. I could see no evidence of this in the department stores I visited. Yes, there were signs, plenty of them, but they only told me where the food hall, the lingerie department, the restaurant, the children’s wear etc were located. Nothing as far as I could see indicated which way was OUT.
If the fire alarm had sounded I would have been totally lost and wandering futilely round the different departments. We are told not to use the lifts in a fire. I don’t know if the same applies to the escalators – do they get automatically switched off when the alarm goes? Do customers have to find stairs to escape and what about those, like myself at the moment, who can’t walk fast or run down a flight of stairs?
I can only hope that if the stores had to be cleared members of staff would run round shouting “This way…this way out…follow me!” and lead the customers to safety. Even then, would I be able to fight my way out or would I be mown down by crowds of shoppers behaving worse than they do on the first day of the January sales?
“Lie down there, Judy. Good dog. What’s the matter? Why are you growling like that? Is it the cars across the road? One of them is a police car. I wonder what’s the matter? Has someone had an accident? Or a robbery? There’s not much anyone could steal from the poor old Mrs Pauley. She looks so frail and sad. I don’t think I’ve seen her smile since Mr Pauley died. A shame none of their sons live nearer. They all came for their dad’s funeral and stayed for a couple of days and then rushed off. Said they’d got things to do. One of ‘em has a shop and another runs a business making some sort of farm machinery, I think. But they might’ve stayed a bit longer with their mum or taken her to stay with them. You’d do that, wouldn’t you Judy if someone was left on their own, you’d go and help them.
Whatever is happening across the road? I’ve seen that man before. I can’t think where? Yes, I know. he owns most of the houses on that side of the street. He looks a fat cat – at least that’s what Jamie the youngest of the Pauley boys called him. Good name, suit him down to the ground. That’s right, Judy, you growl at him. He deserves it.
No! I can’t believe it. They’re turning Mrs Pauley out. She’s standing there in the garden with just a suitcase. She’s crying. She cried at the funeral but this is different. I suppose it must be because she can’t pay the rent. Oh, this is awful, isn’t it, Judy. Can’t someone do something? Look there’s Mrs Parker. Will she help Mrs Pauley? She’s talking to her, patting her arm. Now they’re going off together to Mrs Parker’s house.”
In case this isn’t obvious I am trying to write this in the style of Jane Austen.
Esmeralda the eldest daughter of Mr Fitzpatrick Polkington of Hesmondwaite Manor in ****shire was by nature and upbringing a somewhat fearful girl. The absence of any brothers or sisters or male cousins no doubt contributed to this state of affairs. One of Esmeralda’s greatest fears was that of being alone and lost in some strange city where she had no friends to turn to for assistance.
Up to the age of eighteen her life had been passed in the quiet country around Hesmondwaite Manor and even an excursion to the nearest town let alone the bustling metropolis of Bath was viewed with trepidation. When an invitation arrived from her godmother, Lady Miranda, to spend a fortnight’s holiday at her London residence, Esmeralda turned pale.
“Papa, I can’t possibly go,” she quavered, “Pray make some polite excuse on my behalf. Say I have a bad attack of migraine or there is an outbreak of bubonic plague in the village.”
“Rubbish!” said her parent, “Of course you must go. How else can I expect to find an eligible man for you to marry? Besides, Lady Miranda is extremely wealthy and she had intimated to me – in strictest confidence – that you are the sole heir to her considerable fortune.”
Our W.I. our local W.I. the one in our village is to close. I can’t believe it. It’s just not possible. I remember when we first came here. I knew no-one. I was stuck at home most of the time with an eighteen-month-old toddler. My husband took the car to go to work every day and I was left on my own in a little bungalow on a country lane half a mile from the village.
Soon I was walking to the village shop and post office. Then I saw poster advertising the next W.I. meeting. It was only a couple of days away. I turned up. I explained that I had been a W.I. member when we lived in Wales and asked if I could join. The ladies were surprised. I don’t think anyone had just turned up before. Most people were introduced by friends. I didn’t have any friends in the village – not then.
I soon settled in and felt at home. In the village, in the community, in the Women’s Institute. I’ve been on the committee; at different times I’ve been treasurer, president, secretary and press officer. The secretary’s job is definitely the hardest.
And now they are going to close. Lack of interest, they say. No young members. (By “young” they mean women in their forties with kids at school.) No one willing to be officers or committee members. It’s saddening. We had such fun. I got to know women I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I went to meetings, not just in our village, but further afield. I’ve been twice to Denman College, the W.I. residential courses centre near Oxford. But that’s another story – and a fascinating one.