One can take many things for granted but having a post office and bank, locally, is something I have always appreciated. Popping into the bank yesterday, however, I was informed that it will be closed for three weeks – from today – to enable its transformation into a digital theme park! Honestly. There will be no counters but, instead, computer stations at which one can key in one’s account details with a view to carrying out the transaction of one’s choice. No human contact. Perfect. All contributing to the concept of isolation and to what end? To save money? To reduce employment? To make life more difficult … and more grey? Best scenario is that it will work as well as the self-checkout in supermarkets!
The particular bank in question is frequented by an elderly clientele (comforting for the future) who, I’m sure, have no desire to be faced with a computer. These suburban retail enclaves are more than just convenient; they represent community and, for many, provide an opportunity to socialize. I should know. For many years, I drove my dear, elderly neighbour up to the post office on a Tuesday to collect her pension and do some shopping. I would sit in the car, listening to the radio or reading, to afford her some freedom and the opportunity to chat. There were many occasions when, over an hour later, I panicked and went to look for her only to find her engaged in conversation with a fellow dog lover or just someone she used to know. It made me smile and I learned to write off my Tuesday afternoons … With this in mind, I pointed out to the bearer of the news that this was a branch with an elderly catchment and, therefore, the concept of going digital seemed entirely inappropriate. She agreed with regard to the elderly clientele but added that this was only true ‘for now’. Of course, put them all in homes! De-personalise life entirely. Save money and go for bland!
Don’t worry, on the plus side, I heard on the radio today that the working population of this country are afforded one hour of daylight per day in the winter. Getting up in the dark, coming home in the dark and often sacrificing a lunch break, eating bucket loads of carrots is just not going to cut it! A deficiency in vitamin D is a given but it’s more the effect on one’s mental health. Somehow I do not remember there being such a thing as S.A.D. in days gone by nor a call for lights mimicking the sun …
There is a necessity, however, for the ability to read and I was privy to another scary statistic this week: namely, that one in five children, in this country, cannot read well by the age of eleven! At once, inexcusable, and the explanation? In this digital age, one’s technical skills are paramount and, thus, pre-school children are given ipads and taught digital terminology from the onset. Homework is no longer learning little words, spelling or the next chapter in the obligatory multi-racial story book. How many parents still read to their young children at bedtime? It is a different world with topsy turvy values and it is left to an increasing minority to bemoan statistics of this nature. The ability to read, however, is inherent in the ability to write and, sadly, there is little call for any prowess in the latter. It would seem that, in most cases, bullet points suffice.
I fear the mood is sinking. Time for ‘something good’! Let me tell you about The Emperor’s Old Clothes … During our festival ‘day’, Becca and I happened to be partaking of a glass of wine at a hostelry in the Grassmarket. Dangerously close to shops, Becca discovered Godiva, a predominantly vintage shop with a twist. She emerged with not only a dress but a skirt and top (meet Becca!) both unique in that the material is vintage, much of it sourced in France. Godiva is, at present, the only outlet in Scotland for The Emperor’s Old Clothes, an independent clothing label based in Brighton. Drawing inspiration and material from the past, the clothes and accessories – for women and men – are designed and hand-tailored; each item unique. A true find for Becca (and myself) and vice versa! She has been emailing Cecily – the Empress, as it were – ever since and, subsequently, we are, both, members of The Emperor’s Old Club benefitting from hand-picked vintage material swatches from which to choose for our next bespoke wardrobe staple. You could be forgiven for thinking we had a tendency towards affluence! One must always remember that appearances can be deceptive.
Suffice to say, Cecily – and Lou (Marketing Assistant) – were up, last Thursday, for an open evening in Godiva and it was lovely to meet them, both. A success for all, the idea of a bespoke wardrobe derived from vintage fabric is a fitting antidote to a world, today, which does little to encourage individuality.
More positivity? Manny was up at the weekend and, on our travels, we decided to go somewhere different for lunch. Both agreeing a preference for the old side of town and the environs of the university, we ventured into The Old Bell in Causewayside. Susan? One of our old haunts, it remains the same, seemingly immune to the passage of time were it not for the TV screen at one end. Very much old-style pub, it was anything but busy and we shared it with locals, most in advancing years, who were welcoming and friendly. No loud music, no nouvelle cuisine, the food was homemade and traditional and the wine, definitely above 13%! Tick.
As the years go by, I appreciate Remembrance Sunday more and more. My parents would watch the Service avidly, when we were growing up, and then came a time when we would go, annually, to the chapel at Loretto followed by lunch at the Open Arms in Dirleton. Another life. Becca drove back to school on Sunday morning especially for the Service and, having 3 poppies on the island in the kitchen, I tied them together and pinned them onto her Austrian coat – an idea stolen from the Royals which, I think, affords an added je ne sais quoi. It was only later that I learned that said embellishment was the catalyst to what was tantamount to ‘poppy wars’! Several others arriving for the Service, unbelievably unadorned, bemoaned the fact that Becca had 3 poppies – as though some sort of diva – and went as far as to attempt a dismantling of my handy work. Is there humour in such an open lack of respect?! Not entirely convinced …
Before I go, it is Children In Need week and there is none greater than Matt Baker! I have found the tears tripping me, repeatedly, whilst watching the Rickshaw Challenge on the One Show. Yes, the courage of these children is a lesson to us all but it is Matt’s interaction with them which is so touching. He is the Rickshaw Challenge; without him, it could not be. Year in, year out, he cycles every inch of the way with a team of children, each struggling with life’s cruelty. Often pulling the handlebars, he wills them up every hill and through every storm. He is their strength but he, too, seems to light up when he is with them. One of a kind, he deserves a knighthood. For now, Matt Baker, I salute you!
I am reminded of, perhaps, my favourite quote of all. I know I have included it before but seems appropriate, once again …
‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’
Nelson Mandela, 18th May, 2002.
This is Trish, signing off.