celebrating a century
This small town burst with people last night and our street was jam-packed, they even crowded the retaining wall of the Arts Centre opposite. The keenest arrived before six with their camping chairs and by the time the thirty or so polished bikes purred and revved slowly past us, there were crowds to clap at the retired Hell’s Angels astride their holy treasures. And then came the fire engine whose strong young men were bound to fill their offered buckets by the time they’d moved through this quaint Georgian town.
They were celebrating 100 years of Carnival in Ilminster and tractors and combine harvesters and lorries and even motor bikes had been carefully adorned with a range of themes from the Wild West to the Enchanted East, with a few witches and ghosts thrown in. The children, despite what you hear in the press, loved and adored the three young farmers dressed in tradition clownish garb.
The noisiest blast of blaring music was from the most attractive seaside town and the best dancers were from a long drawn out village close to where we used to live, their girls were as keen as mustard, every move alive, jaunty, perfect. By the hour’s end, I was exhausted, it being my first day up in 11, having been revived by emergency treatment three days before. A conundrum we face today is the consumption of poison to save our lives, but when faced with the real possibility of termination, as I was warned was a high probability, you consume the level down from worst antibiotics. We are programmed to keep living, even the simplest life forms want not to end their existence and that drive has fuelled evolution, producing the complex, varied creatures which surround us.
And it was these to which my mind turned last night as fumes billowed out from the engines of those hefty vehicles, as the blasts of music frightened the sleeping birds. We love living, we love celebrating, but in this machine age, simple enjoyment can be so destructive.
I’d had to go to the doctors, it was an emergency, without Camilla, who is giggling and camping in Spain and France with her best friend, I had to act, for I’d told the surgery that ambulances are for those in dire need. When my lung collapsed 18 months ago, I cycled to the emergency rooms. Yes, that was stupid, but I didn’t want to bother anybody. It took me fifteen minutes to crutch the usual four minute walk to the attractive square by the church.
As I opened the car door, I heard a voice. “I’ve a proposal for your parking problem.”
“What problem?” I asked.
“You’ve taken my place,” he glared at me.
It was the last thing I wanted, but I steeled myself again. “We all pay road tax and so we can park where there’s a space.”
“I’m talking about morals.”
“What moral problem?” I needed to get going.
“Only people who live here should park here.” We were in for the long term, so I sat on the handle of my crutch, which acts like a shooting-stick seat. “That’s not a moral position, that’s desire.” “I’m not here to argue, you are morally in the wrong, please move.”
“I’m legally in the right.” “I always think about the people who live somewhere that I wish to park, and go elsewhere. That is my moral position, something which you obviously have no moral qualms about.”
“Wherever I park there’s one person who will complain.”
“That ought to tell you that you are in the wrong.” “It’s NIMBYism. It’s elitism. It is entitlement. We’re all in the same boat. People park outside my house and I accept it as just. I’m doing nothing illegal.”
“Your moral position is wrong.” “That’s the problem with morals, they shift depending on the person or the group’s desires, whereas the law is objective and fair to all.”
“That’s cynical.” “No more than your saying I’m in the wrong.” “But you are.” “Look at his car, he parks in the middle of this slip road, that is legally wrong.” “He moves when we ask.”
“So a man who parks illegally, blocking a public road is morally OK, but a man who parks legally but where you wish to park has lesser morals.”
“You’re twisting what I said.” “Clarifying it. Anyway, what’s you proposal?”
“Park in the town car park, where my car is right now.”
“Why pay when I can park free in the streets?” “Because it’s the superior moral position.” “Rarely can I park where I live, but I understand that parking is a lottery.”
We were going round in circles, I was feeling much worse and needed to get to the doctors. I put out my hand and asked his name. He shook my mit and suggested I pay to park and I laughed and said that I’d be back in this same spot when ever it was free. He shook his head and walked away. Others watching said that my voice was calm, unemotional, whereas his was tinged with anger, though he too was civil. Difficult as it may be, agreeing to be different and tolerating one another is the only way to avoid deterioration.
a dog’s freedom
Talking of parking, a couple of months ago here in our street, somebody had the audacity to complain that we ought to park our van elsewhere because it made it dangerous for their dog to run freely across the road at night. If it had been me, rather than Camilla who had opened the door, I would have said that it is illegal to allow dogs to roam off the lead near roads, and specifically in urban areas. That that exact parking space by our house is often filled by 4x4s which are as tall and as wide as our VW van, made us smile.
“Paleolithic diet,” is what he said and his next words made me wonder if he might be from that period. “I don’t eat bananas they’re from black lands!”
Stifling a chuckle, I asked rhetorically, “Are black people different because they eat bananas?”
“Blacks are different in ways I don’t like.”
It always baffles me when people are racist. I take people as they are, no matter their status, background, sex or colour.
Gathering myself, I said, “I love bananas and black people.”
He mocked, “How can you love all blacks!”
“It was a retort, not an accurate statement.”
His mate winked and asked how I was. I said, “Muddling along and you?”
“Back’s an issue again, but that’s part of the job….”
And so we chatted as they leaned over the scaffolding, dust coating the faces of these men whom I know to have helped anyone, whatever their colour, status or accent. I once had to stop them from chasing a builder who owed us money. Yes, one of them is an out right racist, but he is as kind hearted as the other, who once took time off to go abroad and help earthquake victims at his own expense… in what his mate calls a ‘black’ country.
All of these are First World problems! One has to be civil during such encounters, no matter that you meet racists, are called immoral, given names, told that you unreasonable because you have the nerve to disagree. It helps to see these people and yourself as little egos. That they try to assert their desires as their rights is a normal human trait and we are all guilty of it. Nature programmes us to fight our corner…. This is why wise folk created laws, which are there to level what would (and does) become inequalities. Relying on morals means entering the confusions of a thousand different views and desires, for most morals were devised for specific cultures facing exacting problems. The universal morals, we all know in our guts, it is the others which are dangerous.