My wife and I have recently been down south catching up with relations across three generations and both sides of the family. Our travels around England have given me the opportunity to observe a few things about contemporary life.
Firstly there is far too much traffic on our roads. We drove about 1500 miles because it was the only practicable way of fitting in the various visits we wanted to make.
Even though we travelled entirely outwith commuter times we were often travelling on roads near capacity, in conditions where the outside lane was continually accelerating and slowing, and the slightest incident caused immediate tail backs.
A surprisingly high percentage of the other cars seemed to be occupied only by the driver.
Given that I was one of those causing the congestion I can hardly blame the others, but it is pretty clear to me that we have to change our travel habits and expectations if we are not going to grind to a halt soon.
I suspect the break point will be the arrival of self driving vehicles because we’ll be able to do something else, including sleeping, while the car drives itself and our schedules will change. It will also be much cheaper to “hire” a vehicle than a taxi because you won’t be paying for the driver, and patterns of ownership and usage will change to work around the limiting factor which will then be understood to be road space.
Secondly, I have been reminded of the international scandal which is teapots and milk jugs. Stop off at the motorway service area, the wayside cafe or the tearoom of a stately pile for a cuppa and you will find that on average both the teapot and the milk jug will drip - and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!
Gone are the days when every car’s engine dripped oil all over the driveway or garage floor. Gone too are days when your favourite radio programme was regularly overlaid with the signature tune of some continental station on almost the same wavelength.
And it seems we can even do some rather nifty radar stuff to establish whether or not that tennis ball did or did not land on the chalk line of the Wimbledon court. When, I ask, are we going to establish how you design spouts which do not drip?
And speaking of things which should be done I turn to one which surely should be done promptly.
Last weekend my sister in Oxfordshire was organising a tea for the local community and joined in the process of delivering leaflets about this in the area. Unfortunately she found a dog immediately behind one of the letterboxes which made a serious mess of one of her fingers. I have the scars which witness to a similar experience a few years back and I have to say it think it should be a thing of the past.
In general, I can live with the idea that dogs should not automatically be branded as biters, but I cannot see why it should not be obligatory to provide a protective wire mesh or equivalent behind a letterbox if you keep a dog. I don’t normally support strict liability but in this case I’m struggling to see the objection.
Lastly, I note that my National Trust for Scotland membership card got me into properties in England without comment; a classic example of the way organisations co-operate and provide reciprocal services.
International relations at every level are based on good will and co-operation. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.