I do not follow royal events as I am neither a royalist, nor a republican. Rather, I take people at face value but I do not suffer fools gladly. I am a woman who loves life and wants everyone else to love life. I do not break the law, write protest letters to MPs or chalk slogans on walls. However, there are some things that happen in royal circles with which I can relate, and I feel that as a UK ‘commoner’ I must speak out.
The question of whether Prince Charles should be King or whether Prince William should take the throne instead has been much explored in the media. It is a real humdinger of a story and of course headlines must be made so the issue raises its head in the media many times over the year. This will of course continue until the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles, with his many perceived blunders (though I do not necessarily agree that his right to free speech means he commits blunders each time he exercises it) is a prime target and he has delighted the media with something to write about on many occasions. However, nothing in the royal household has captured the media attention so much as his affair with Camilla, except perhaps, the tragic death of the much loved Princess Diana.
Diana’s arch enemy, Camilla, who it is fair to say had an effect on her marriage to Prince Charles, had occupied the prince’s heart for a long time before she entered the marriage arena, and the press castigated the two lovers, rightly or wrongly for it. Whilst Charles and Camilla were married to different partners, conducting their affair as secretly as they could, until exposed by the media by sneaky and sometimes downright illegal methods, some members of the public, upon reading or hearing about it over their breakfast porridge, sanctimoniously condemned them out of hand, leading to the question still mooted in the press today, “Should Charles be King?”
I have a problem with that, not that adultery is or should be acceptable (though the world knows it happens all the time and being a divorcee I know this first hand), but that the reason for their adultery was in plain sight to the world before it ever happened. It is impossible that anyone could have believed (at the time) that no-one imagined the affair would not continue once he married Diana. Camilla had married someone else knowing that as she was known not to be ‘virginal’ she would never be accepted as a suitable wife for the heir to the throne because of the out-dated attitudes of the monarchy, and government. Charles loved Camilla, and their relationship was well established, and apparently very strong, for whatever reason and any of which the public did not need to know about. Love is all powerful and it will not be quashed if it is genuine. For Charles and Camilla it obviously was or it would not have lasted. Having a compatible companion is something everyone dreams about. A compatible physical relationship is a wonderful thing to enjoy, and it is important in all relationships. It should not have been the source of scandalous revelations in the media. Are you ready to reveal all about your sex life to the press? Who would want to know? Why did we need to know what happened between Charles and Camilla in the bedroom, or on the telephone? Their sex life however it was conducted should always have remained private, as anyone has a right to expect. At that time, Charles had effectively been forced to behave as he did. It is no good saying ‘he should not have done it’. He is a man and like every member of the human race, he is not perfect. If you have a son, consider this; would you ask your son to give up a woman when you know how much he loves, wants and needs her? I hope not! If I had a son I would not be so callous. I would never ask my daughters to do likewise with the men they love. Being ‘royal’ does not change anything.
What is ‘royal’ anyway? The Oxford Concise Dictionary has a long list of meanings but in the context of ‘the royal family’ it states “collq. A member of the royal family.” That still does not explain what ‘royal’ is, only what it takes to ‘be considered royal’. Since its inception in the dark ages, the royal family has been chopped and changed so many times that its history is as chequered as a chess board. There are good and bad Kings and Queens all down its illustrious line. These days ‘royalty’ is synonymous with ‘rich’, ‘public’, ‘tradition’, ‘diplomacy’ and politics. There is still a monarchy in the UK only because the English population did not emulate the French and so brutally dispense with it. It was a horrible thing for the people to do, as was the shooting of the Tsar and his family. I imagine that if we ever did collectively decide to dispense with the British monarchy, we would do it in a much more civilised way and without bloodshed. The queen has one foot in parliament, even if it is superficial since she cannot rule ‘absolutely’. As I said, I am neither a royalist, nor not so, but I think the country benefits economically and historically from having a monarchy so I know without doubt I would support keeping the monarchy if it ever came to a public vote. However, I view the members of the royal family in much the same way as I view everyone else who catches the media attention. I either decide to like them or not. As it happens I admire Charles and Camilla for their steadfastness to each other. A lot of relationships do not last as long these days.
All that I have read over the years suggest that Charles and Camilla had something special. Why should Camilla have been forced to stand aside for someone that Charles could not have given the necessary priority in his heart? His reply, “Whatever in love means” to the question, “Are you in love?” when the engagement was announced, told me at the time, and probably millions of other television viewers, that he most certainly was not “in love” with Diana. Diana’s coy “Of course!” was also a public admission that she probably was not “in love” either, in my opinion. Hard as they tried, the ‘Look of Love’ was in neither of their faces on that day. I know what love is. If you know what love is, you will also know that you cannot hide love when it exists. They both seemed rather awkward at the announcement and their body language sent a clear message of this. It was clearly a staged event. A single loving glance shared between them would have rendered the reporter’s question unnecessary. Perhaps he knew too, and that is why he asked it?
The hypocrisy of expecting the King or Queen of any country to be virginal is beyond belief in this age of so called enlightenment and freedom (as it was when Charles and Diana married). Kings and queens, princes and princesses are above all else, people. They are not gods. They are not perfect. That is why Prince Charles should not have been forced into a marriage which was fated to fail before the banns were posted. We have laws about forced marriages in this land. Was this so different?
I am not blaming or excusing any one person, but The Establishment created this scenario. Requiring and ensuring virginity might have been acceptable 500 years ago, but it is not necessary when the medical technology exists to ensure, or check paternity if there is ever a doubt about right of succession, which is probably what the concern was at the time. Why can members of the royal family not just be people? Why do they have to pretend that they are any different to the people they serve? They do a job. That is why we taxpayers still fund them.
Charles’ son, Prince William is fortunate in that he has married Kate, a so called commoner, the lady he loves. I hope their marriage lasts a lifetime, and that they are always happy. If the marriage fails, it will be something for them to deal with, not the media, as happens in real life. He made his own decision about marriage. His father should also have had that right. It was morally wrong to deny him the right to choose his lifelong companion when it mattered most, when he was young enough to build his life possibly with children borne out of love for the woman he had chosen. I am glad he has William and Harry of course. Instead, if you believe all the post wedding hype, especially after the death of Diana, he was pressurised into marrying a young woman who was chosen probably for no other reason than because she had kept herself ‘tidy’ so that she could marry a prince. It is a horror story! How could a ‘tidy’ young lady ever hope to satisfy a (by then) sexually experienced young man? Agony aunts drool about sexual intimacy and ‘learning together’. Was Diana to seek advice about how to satisfy the young prince before she married him? What an embarrassing introduction to marriage!
Please can we stop this ridiculous nonsense about whether Prince Charles is good enough or has a right to be King? He is, by all that is legal, the rightful heir to the throne. Queen Elizabeth has been a dutiful and impressive queen, and every royalist loves her. I have no personal feelings about her but she, and the people who dictate the attributes of the monarchy enshrined in the British Constitution do need to understand the age in which we live. Prince Charles is an impressive man in his own right and he has done many wonderful things for the people of Great Britain. I have no doubt he will be a great King. I am sure that the Queen as a mother would want the best for her son, as any other mother would. History will no doubt rate her as highly as any other female monarch, but when she dies, the right of succession has already been dictated by law. Charles WILL and SHOULD be King. When he is King of England Camilla will, by right of being Charles’ wife, be a queen. Get over it! No one person in this country has the right to judge another except when the law has been broken. Loving someone is not a crime. It is human nature. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. We should be focusing on this future kings’ strengths and leave him to deal with his weaknesses as we are expected to deal with our own.
Is it not time for a reality check? Charles has a life. Let him live it, and when it becomes necessary, as King of England! Is that not why the inhabitants of this great island rejoiced when he was born?
If you feel strongly either way, leave a comment.
© VW Selburn 2015
I cannot begin to count the number of web pages I have seen on prolonging one’s life – the vital information we all really want to know, is that not so? We all want a magic elixir but, I have come to realise, the secret ingredient that can make us live forever unfortunately does not exist. What we do not realise, usually too late (or nearly) is that we really need to know what we are actually doing to shorten our lives, and change it.
As a child I can remember thinking ‘I’m not going to die. I am going to live forever’. Yes, I really believed that. Death happened to other people, definitely not to me. Oh blissful ignorance! What a wake-up call I received as my body aged.
No-one needs to be told what we should be doing. There is a mountain of literature on that subject, and a whole world wide web of pages too numerous for us ever to read them all before we die.
The good news is that some of the things we should not do are obvious. However, there are so many things that are not so obvious.
Take vitamin pills:
Some years ago after feeling out of sorts for weeks, I took myself off to my local Boots the Chemist. I spent a long time looking at every bottle and box of pills and after half an hour realised I had not a clue what I needed, or what was best for me to purchase. I decided to ask the Chemist. He was helpful, and I asked him about taking vitamin C. Everyone should take lots of vitamin C, should they not? The bottles and boxes had various strengths, 100mg, 200mg, 500mg and 1000mg.
‘How much vitamin C do I actually need on a daily basis,’ I asked the chemist.
‘About 75mg,’ he replied.
‘If that is so, why are you selling these higher doses?’ I asked.
He replied, ‘Because people like you buy them.’
Obviously people like me are just a source of income! I decided not to buy vitamin C, but made a promise to myself to investigate more natural sources of vitamin C.
The point of relating this tale is; Do not self medicate. You could be doing yourself more harm than you realise. Your body functions well most of the time if you eat a balanced diet. Overdoses of any vitamins can be detrimental to your health, even vitamin C, the scientists have confirmed. Buy vitamin pills only after being advised to do so by a qualified doctor. Even the simplest overdoses can be harmful. An overdose of water can kill you – did you know? There are numerous examples of ‘death by water’ (not drowning) online.
“Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning or dilutional hyponatremia, is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside safe limits by overhydration.” From Wikipedia. Accessed 30 June 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_intoxication
Another less obvious way of killing yourself is not to have hobbies, especially if you are the academic type. Academics are clever people who focus in one area of expertise (usually). They know a lot about that subject, and I have great respect for them. People with demanding jobs or professions, like directors, senior managers, specialists in their field, usually work really hard throughout their lives, until retirement.
Having been at the top of their professions, these people who do not have hobbies feel like stranded, isolated, whales. They do not know what to do with themselves and they can become bored by the lack of challenge in their daily lives. They do not always keep in touch with ex-colleagues and become out of touch with their chosen area until they begin to feel useless and unwanted. That is a time when it is all to easy to sink into a depression.
Depression is a silent killer. Hobbies are vital for everyone, to help keep the mind active and provide a source of pleasure and interest. They do not have to cost anything. Walking is free (take exercise). Write a book, or poetry (stretch your mind). Volunteer somewhere (meet new people). Take up a new interest, any interest. Hobbies provide happiness, satisfaction, challenge, and contentment. It does not matter what the hobby is. Just get one, preferably before retirement when you can look forward to retirement knowing you will have more time to spend on your hobby.
Of course there are lots of ways to inadvertently shorten your life, but I think these two will (I hope) be enough to set you thinking about your lifestyle, for now.
As you know, we all die sometime, but why not have something pleasant to do in the meantime, especially after your working life has ceased? All work and no play really is not good!
Life is as good as you make it. Is it not?
© VW Selburn 2015
In the United Kingdom we are bombarded with television advertisements designed to push us into spending money. Are you bewitched by those offers? Does the interest free, buy now, pay later idea appeal to you? Do you believe you are getting good value by buying the half price or buy one, get one free (BOGOFF) offers? Do you really believe that you are getting something for nothing from those gambling advertisements when they say pay £10 and play £50?
You do? Then you are definitely MONEY BLIND. Why?
Firstly, there is no such thing as getting something for nothing, unless someone gives you something for which you do not have to pay a single penny, now or in the future, or ever.
Secondly, any business needs to cover its cost. That is a fundamental rule in any business. There are expenses involved in running a business. Stock, warehousing, energy, staff, delivery, and clerical supplies and equipment needs all must be paid for (Do I really need to tell you that?). No business can provide these things at no cost, even family run businesses.
When you see a company offering buy one, get one free (BOGOFF – a very apt acronym in my opinion) they can only do this if the total cost of the two items are included in the price you pay. They are not giving you the second item for free. Why would they?
Let us take an example:
You are a double glazing retailer. You buy 100 windows at £100 each, total cost £10,000. In order to make a profit the cost of every window must exceed £100. In order to offer one free, the minimum that can be charged for the two windows is £200, but that would leave no profit for the retailer, so the total cost of the two windows must exceed £200, say £300 (or any figure above £200). In this case the retailer profits by at least £100 per window, before fitting costs are calculated.
The reality is that you have paid for the total cost of the two windows, i.e. you have received nothing for free at that stage. You would also be charged for fitting. Window fitters do not work for nothing. In order for the fitters to be paid for their services and make a profit, they need to charge the window retailer, who will in turn pass that cost on to you. If the fitters work for the retailer, their employment and travel costs will need to be met by the retailer. The retailer cannot afford to employ fitters for the sole service of free fitting. You will be asked to pay the total cost of the windows and fitting and that is what the retailer will advertise as a Buy one get one free deal. What have you received for free?
Now let us look at Buy now, pay later. A furniture retailer is offering 4 years interest free credit on its range of sofas in a half price sale. How can they afford to do that? The first thing to remember is that they are not doing you a service. Think of your payments as a savings scheme in a bank. You pay say £25 a month into a bank. That is a guaranteed income for the bank, or the retailer. Buying a sofa may be a lot more use to you than opening a bank account and saving £25 a month if you need a new sofa, or you just want one, but do not necessarily need one. The furniture retailer has you as a client for the next four years. Unless you pay off the balance early you cannot escape them.
This is a psychological trick which seems to work well. What they (perhaps) did was persuade you (with their hype) to buy a new sofa when you may not really have needed one, and tied up your finances with them for four long years in the hope that you will buy your next sofa from them. You will only benefit from this trick if you are on a low income and are not able to pay up front for a sofa. There is no disputing the benefit to the lower paid and I do not wish to discourage their use of such services.
The intention of the retailer is to keep their company name in the forefront of your mind on a monthly basis. Anyone who manages their finances or can afford to part with large sums of money as desired will know that it is better to save up the cost of a new sofa and then buy it. Whether or not you pay interest, if you take advantage of the interest free over four years option on your half price furniture, you will be in hock for the next four years. Do you really want that if you do not really need to do it?
Window shopping is great fun and the temptation to buy something in a sale which you do not need is very high when you think you are receiving a benefit, i.e. interest free credit. However, again, the retailer needs to profit from the sale so as you are paying back the cost of the sofa you buy over a four year period there is a price to be paid for this service and it will be added on somehow to the price you pay, though this may not be evident at the time.
Invariably the price tends to be lack of perceived quality of the goods you buy. A sofa advertised at £1,000 for 28 days and then reduced to £500 in a sale must be of good quality must it not? To make a profit which can be accounted for each month, as with the double glazed window retailer, the furniture retailer needs to add to the price of each sofa, the cost of the interest free service it is providing. The reality is that the sofa is only worth £500 (The retailer probably paid less in order to make a profit). In all reality if a sofa costs £1000 to make and this is what the retailer paid for it, it needs to be sold for at least £1000 in order for the retailer to break even.
Half price does not mean that you are getting a good quality item for half the price it is worth. What it means is that you are paying above the value the retailer paid to the manufacturer or wholesaler, and the retailer still makes a profit. From a purely moral perspective, if retailers can afford to sell an item at half price in a sale, why advertise it at double the price in the weeks prior to the sale? Simple. The retailer wants you to THINK you are getting a bargain. You probably are not getting the good quality bargain you think you are!
The same principles apply to the gambling advertisement pay £10 and play with £50. Get real! Who gives away £40 for every £10 without wanting something in return?
The advertisement is just another psychological trick to persuade you to part with £10 and possibly become so hooked by gambling that you will become addicted and spend more than the £40 credit initially supplied to you. Especially if you actually win something before you have spent the extra £40 (which you will probably lose after you have gambled on to more than £50). Gambling sites warn you to play responsibly in their advertisement but if you are weak enough to believe the hype, you probably will not. They are in this business to make a profit, not to give away money. My advice to those who find themselves unable to resist the £10 play £50 offer is, play £50 and then STOP, if you can!
Are you MONEY BLIND?
© VWSelburn 2015
It is January 2015 – another new year. It is also a new beginning for me in some ways. Last January (2014) I had returned to the office with a sense of purpose, all the while knowing that 2014 heralded only a repeat of 2013. So I sallied forth and got on with it. By mid-year I found it increasingly hard to drive up the enthusiasm to go to the office. As I drove each day to work, by the time I reached the Simpson junction crossing just minutes away from entering the university campus drive, I wanted to turn around and go back home. I was dreading another day of doing the same thing for yet another week in my twenty sixth year of service. My role at work had become so predictable my days were ending with a repetitive, inward cry to myself, “Why am I doing this?” I felt like a puppet going through a mechanised cycle of movements, with my eyes glued to a computer screen all day.
It took another month or so before I began to explore my options. Continue to repeat the cycle or make a change. The only changes possible were a change of role at the university, or to retire. I really did not see a change of employer as a viable option. Another employer could not beat the existing pension scheme at the university so it seemed silly to walk away from that. Changing my role was not really viable either. After having given this option a lot of thought, I realised that I really did not find any other role in the list of vacancies on the university website at all attractive. I felt indoctrinated into my role and less willing to go into another area of the university.
Thoughts of retirement crept into my brain regularly because the R word had already been uttered. From the very first mention of the word, like a worm it began to wriggle into my brain filling the gaps whenever frustration manifested itself, growing larger by the day. By July I had very little space left in my thoughts for anything else but the prospect of retirement. I drove about every day with it uppermost in my mind. It kept me awake at night. I dreamed about it when I finally slept.
Retirement is a scary word. It means ‘The End of Working Life’. No regular salary at the level to which I had become accustomed. No daily commute. Loss of the presence of my colleagues on a daily basis, all of whom I respected and had enjoyed the company of over my almost thirty years of employment. There are also the practical aspects relating to going out to work, like not using energy during the dark hours of the day in winter. Being at home as a retiree, energy bills would undoubtedly double because I really like to be warm during the winter season, but fuel bills for my car would be much reduced because I have no daily journey to make. It is a balancing act, managing on a pension or two when one chooses not to work.
Eventually the R word became so large in my thoughts that I could not shut it out. I wanted it so much that I discreetly discussed my intention to retire with a colleague or two, until I announced my official statement of intent during a meeting, which probably surprised everyone except those whom I had taken into my confidence. The only factor of which I was uncertain was when to retire. I had thought I could last another year, but the reality of how I felt about spending another year hit me hard every time I thought of it. I just did not want to do that so I eventually handed in my resignation after all the pension administration details were finalised. What a relief!
Each day after that I looked forward to the prospect of participating only in those pursuits I enjoyed, like photography, writing and oil painting. I also had a list as long as my arm of things to do after I retire to look forward to.
About a week or two before R day, four of my colleagues very kindly took me to lunch in the Mulberry Suite (restaurant) on campus because they knew they would be away on my last day. ‘How very kind and thoughtful of them,’ I thought. It delighted and surprised me to find several more of my colleagues waiting for me when we arrived, and after a very enjoyable meal we all left, with me clutching a bottle of champagne and a retirement balloon. I counted down the last 10 days in the office with yellow crepe flowers and stars stuck on the wall behind me just for fun, taking one down each day until only one remained.
One of the most charming customs in most places of work is that when weddings, birthdays, leavings and retirements occur, the celebrant’s workstation is decorated profusely with flowers, garlands, balloons and appropriate confetti.
On my last day pictures of me were plastered all over the corridor entrance and around my desk in the open plan office in which I worked. Later in the morning, as lovely a collection of colleagues one could wish for, along with my elder daughter, who also worked at the university, stood around me and one of the managers during the customary formal presentation, with cards, presents and much reminiscing, which was followed by my somewhat brief speech. This in turn was followed by a cold lunch, supplied and prepared by my colleagues. It really made my day.
Retirement is a big decision. If you have given it some thought already, be aware that it will haunt you until you give in and do it! Be assured, though, once you have made the decision and gone through the practicalities, it will be worth it.
Every day I wake up with a big smile on my face. I love my life. I love being retired. I love being free to do as I wish.
When your turn comes, I hope you will too!
© VW Selburn 2015
In my retirement I now have the luxury of being able to view the television screen at anytime I chose during the day and evening. I do not spend too long in front of the box but I am horrified to see an all too familiar disaster looming!
“What is this disaster?” I hear you ask.
One word … GAMBLING!
Gambling is a business, not a charity. No matter what the enticements, the proprietors are out to make money, not give it away. It would not make for a viable business if everyone won all the time.
Advertisement after unrelenting advertisement appears during the programme daytime and evening breaks, and even worse… with familiar actors promoting this shocking habit.
The (sorry!) idiots, who believe they are likely to become rich overnight by linking via their 3G/4G, phones, tablets and computers to the games (rigged to earn the promoter the most profit, and the punter the least), really do not know what kind of a trap they are falling into. They are easily led, like sheep, and are betting away their food, energy, or mortgage money. Once their money has gone, it has gone!
Why do you think all these advertisements are being permitted at (seemingly) any time of day?
I think the Government, after losing the tax benefit provided by the ever reducing cigarette market (especially the black market, now that smoking is actually recognised as the dangerous habit it is) is now looking for another mechanism to raise a few pounds. They cannot very well start to promote alcohol again, can they? Why are they (or Brussels) not bringing out another law relegating gambling advertisements to the late, late hours, if we must have them at all? Politicians cannot fail to be aware that such an addiction is as bad for one’s health as smoking and alcohol. With typical short term perspective on the real world, they seem to be smugly saying, “Let’s deal with the fallout later, after we’ve filled the coffers. We have to pay off the national debt somehow!”
The less well-informed or those who are easily led, and therefore more prone to addiction, will drown in the ocean of advertisements that seem to follow every programme. Then they will start to tap into the links, and believe the hype about pay £10 and play with £50, not realising that this is how they are meant to be sucked into the gambling habit. That is the sort of persuasion the gambling marketeers rely on to pull in the unwary.
Children watch the advertisements too. For goodness sake, MacDonalds cannot advertise to children directly to sell them a burger, but Casinos can place advertisements that can be seen by children! They have school holidays (in case you politicians have forgotten!). Gambling is being promoted amid glitz, stars and glorious trumpets, like sweets, and it looks an exciting thing to do online, on their phone, and not tell their mum (they have access to your bank details, parents, unless you hide them away) and they are perfectly capable of lying about their age online, who checks?
After watching those advertisements, gambling appears almost as benign as Byker Grove, (following which, the UK’s child population grew into little monsters at the age of eight years and stopped believing in Santa Claus), because they often believe what they see on the TV. They do not always understand what lies behind what they see on the screen.
The three main addictions, (as we all know) for which clinics have been set up throughout the UK and the rest of the so called civilised world, are alcohol, drugs, and gambling.
Are we, as responsible adults going to stand for this onslaught of gambling advertisements? Are we going to put up with another epidemic of addiction that will further fuel the already intolerable drug pushers and violent crime in this country?
What can You do?
Please email your local MP, and ask for gambling advertising on the television to be stopped, before some family member falls prey to this addiction. People who enjoy gambling (and can afford it) will find a casino without all the hype on television.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. If you feel as strongly as I do about gambling (never done it myself, but I have seen the misery it can inflict on families), you will understand why I wrote it.
How easily we take for granted the routines that we allow ourselves to adapt to. What a fuss the slightest change can make.
Every morning I drive the same route to the office. Each day I see sometimes the same scenario play before my eyes and on some days, a different scenario. Sometimes I notice things I had not noticed before, and am reassured in my world when I see the same thing day after day.
At the risk of seeming compulsive, I pick up my silver flask from the floor in front of the door to my garage, where I habitually leave it after filling it full of boiling water every morning. At the bottom of my internal stairwell I unlock the door to my integral garage and fumble for the light switch. After illumination I ease my way around the front of my large car, which is tightly parked, to the up-and-over garage door at the front of my house. It always sticks when I raise it so I give it an extra thrust as needed and hear it grind into place. I really must spray it with a silicon spray to make it easier to raise it!
The harsh beep of the park-assist facility helps me to ensure I reverse the car straight out of the garage. It is too tight a fit for me to be careless, which could prove expensive. Once on the drive I straighten out the side mirrors and lock the car. From the inside, I secure the garage and leave the house through the front door. As always, I double lock it and give it a push to ensure it won’t give way to some intruder – knowing full well that they would probably not choose the front door as a first option to break into my home. It works for me!
On a sunny day, I reverse the car off my driveway, checking the front door is closed, and drive off to the junction, giving myself the pleasure of checking out my own and my neighbours’ gardens. It is always a pleasure to see so many beautiful flowers and shrubs. (There are not many of those in the office in which I work.) I drive off to the by-pass for my daily journey.
Before the by-pass was built, I used to travel along a narrow road, on one side of which, at the end, (or beginning if you approach in the opposite direction) of a double bend, stands an old horse-trough. I really like that horse-trough. I do not have a horse, but that is unimportant. What is important is that the horse-trough still exists. The metal crown at the top of the structure has somewhat disintegrated, but that only adds to its character. Its facade is made of stone and brick, housing a stone sink with a metal fitment which ejects water that once fed thirsty horses.
The structure reminds me of days gone by when no-one dashed off to work in a car but took the slow, picturesque route along a narrow, winding road, listening to the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves. Horse-riding and horses and carts have, sadly I say, passed into the world of leisure; no more are they a necessity for transport.
My thoughts pull me back to my journey along the by-pass, but I miss seeing the horse-trough on my daily ride.
When it was new and unknown the by-pass was convenient and easy to access. Over a year later, the whole world knows about it and it is as busy, at times, as most urban roads. Happily, I do not need to traverse the whole distance via the main road. Once off the by-pass I travel along the road edging a housing estate.
The housing estate is huge but it is bordered by a wide stretch of grassed verge. There are small groups of trees dotted about and their foliage changes throughout the seasons. I have enjoyed photographing one particular group of trees through all four seasons. The winter snow, spring daffodils, beautiful summer green leaves, and magnificent winter skeletons are all etched in my memory forever. I know I will miss watching the passing of the seasons in that spot, especially autumn, when I retire and no longer need to make my daily journey.
Onward, past the housing estate, I drive through the town, passing the spot at a mini-roundabout where a driver beat up the rear end of my last car with her carelessness as she failed to notice that I was at a full stop allowing a parent and child to cross in front of me. I bristle with annoyance momentarily and continue my journey, passing the small shops, which are not yet busy because it is only eight forty-five or thereabouts.
I drive over a level crossing, ever thankful that the gates are not lowered, hoping that they work and that a train is not on its way to push me along the tracks to my doom. Of course they work and I make it to the other side quite safely. A short hop takes me toward the traffic lights that must turn green to allow me to drive over the canal bridge toward a small village which will signify that I have almost reached my destination.
Once over the canal bridge, with a quick glance to either side to enjoy the view, I head on, watching out for the elderly gentleman I see each week, riding his disability scooter back toward the town, probably to do his shopping, or maybe visiting friends. I spot him, and raise my hand to greet him. I do not know if he sees it. I just know that when I see him I am always relieved that he is well. There was an occasion when I did not see him for weeks and feared the worst, so much so that when I did finally see him, I always wept with relief. I do not even know who he is so I cannot imagine why I would react that way.
Maybe it was because he was a small but significant part of my day. I mean it kindly that no matter who or what, every element of my journey to work is like a small part in the cog of the wheel of my life. Something human in it, on a daily journey with no-one in the car with whom I could have a conversation. Maybe that is how we human beings work. We take contact from strangers, with whom we will never have a conversation, when we sit watching the world go by from a seat in the park or at the seaside. The conversation is unimportant, but the visual contact is.
I always watch out for the man on the scooter, even when I give a lift to the office to a colleague who lives nearby. I see many odd sights on my way to work and wonder at their significance. I once spotted a rabbit which did not move even when I parked the car and walked right up to it. Unfortunately it was quite ill, and just looked down at the ground, not caring that I was so close to it. It was so sad.
After leaving the village I am obliged to cross a dual carriageway which has a divided area in the centre of which I can park safely before driving onto the opposite side of the carriageway.
The traffic can be quite insane in the morning, just before nine o-clock. Cars race madly along, passing me from the left. I can become impatient when there is a car whose driver needs half a mile of space prior to driving onto the carriageway.
‘Go! Go! Go!’ I shout to the driver. I can’t bear sitting behind a hesitant driver, but I hold my horses until they go. Once onto the carriageway I head off to the left turn onto the campus, my ultimate destination. I slow at the speed ramps and make my way to the car park. There are two. I try for a space in the car park nearest the office, and if I cannot find a place to park, I have no alternative but to drive back along the road to the larger car park. I console myself with the thought that I will at least have a bit of exercise before I return home after sitting at a computer all day.
I am at my journey’s end. I wonder what I will see when I return home later?
How was your journey to work today?
© VW Selburn 2014