Monday, 9 June 2008

Life Time

Several weeks ago, during the course of my daily round, I encountered an elderly gentleman who was experiencing minor technological trauma. Nothing too serious, and, as he readily acknowledged, nothing he couldn't have sorted out himself but for a slight lack of confidence. I marvelled at this wonderful old man's tenacity and mental agility, for I am quite certain that if (it is by no means certain) I ever approach his age, I will not be in any fit state to lay tool to whatever passes for information technology almost 50 years from now.

In fact, my chances of even understanding how it works will, unless I miss my guess, be fairly remote. A conversation along these lines ensued while I corrected the very minor errors he had introduced into an otherwise flawless upgrade, and, eventually, things turned towards the pace of change, in both technology and life in general. Without more ado, the old chap hunted through his bookcase and came up with a photo album.

Although I generally have little interest in old photographs of people I don't know, have never known, and who are not even remotely associated with me, I quickly became fascinated. For these pictures, taken over 100 years ago, are of daily life in the area where I now live.

I was absolutely captivated. Things have clearly changed; old houses, so sturdy-looking in the pictures, are long gone, replaced by a now-disused petrol station which will, itself, no doubt give way to something else before too long. The heavily becorseted Victorian women marching purposefully onwards, armed with baskets full of groceries, are equally long-demised, along with the shops they frequented. I should think that nobody alive today would even know who they were or where they lived, much less what they had bought.

But the road lives on. Its shape is still pretty much unchanged, threading its way through surrounding structures as impermanent as autumn mist, and even the junctions and turnings into ancient side streets remain, although one or two have, apparently, fallen victim to ill-advised "redevelopment" in the last 20 years or so.

All in all, it made an intriguing study into the nature of life, and of change. No matter what we do, or how carefully we live our lives, we will, sooner or later, go the same way as the dedicated shoppers in the photographs. Like the road, our achievements will live on, but we will pass into history without any great difficulty, only to be remembered for a short time by those with whom we have interacted in life. They, too, will eventually forget, or die, and our legacy will be nothing more than inanimate objects.

Many, like the houses and the petrol station, will fail the test of time and be banished from existence. Others, a very few, will last longer and perhaps become the road that others will follow as they build their own futures. Or maybe not. Either way, it should be fairly obvious that life is a very temporary thing, and we should enjoy it whilst we can.

It presents us with problems and opportunities, but none of them are so significant that another 40+ years and a funeral service won't get rid of them for us. Those with an obsessive interest in saving, and prolonging, lives might as well admit defeat - all they're doing is delaying the inevitable. Of course, the Nanny State doesn't think like that - we have to fit in with their ideas of fun, or Nanny will be Cross.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to look at my new collection of ancient pictures, kindly copied for me by my elderly client, and enjoy a smoke and a pint before Nanny Dawn and Nanny Gordon try to ban them - all in the name of prolonging our lives for our own good, of course!

Billy Seggars.

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