As I get older, leaving many years trailing behind me, I am aware that nostalgia for the past creeps up on me more frequently than it used to. There are so many things now which are different from what they were, and though some of these differences are undoubtedly good (though here I have to stop and think hard without for the life of me being able to come up with even one example), many more appear to my ageing sight to represent losses which can never be made good.
small, apparently insignificant, but to me important, example of this is
something which happens every morning.
As I make my way out to pick up my newspaper and indulge in my early
morning coffee in one of the many coffee shops around here, I step over the wet
pavement outside the front door of a block of flats, and exchange good morning
greetings with a young woman who is busily washing down and sweeping the front
step and pavement outside clear of any rubbish.
She laughed when I told her that this piece of pavement is probably the
only one now in the whole of London where the age-old practice of making sure
that the pavements outside our houses are kept clear for passers-by by their
owners still takes place. Now we leave
all that to the road sweepers.
just as we leave it to others to clear the pavements outside our houses, so we
now leave many other things to others, without concerning ourselves with
whether in so doing we are making others’ lives harder or more unpleasant. I notice that if there is something like a
cardboard box in the middle of the road, nobody crosses over to push it to the
side away from the traffic. I remember
my father stopping our car regularly, and getting out to remove some rubbish or
a large stone to the roadside, because, he told us, “A bicycle or motorbike
might not see this when it gets dark, and come a-cropper.” The present reluctance to get involved
extends to people stepping over any obstruction on the pavement, often at some
inconvenience to themselves, rather than pushing it aside to the gutter. Let alone how very rare it is for somebody to
lift up a bike which has fallen over blocking the pavement.
seems that more and more people are reluctant to put themselves out in any way,
as though walking round obstacles is always preferable to removing
obstacles. Is this increasingly
selfishness, inattentiveness (everybody talking into their mobile phone – or
taking selfies!) or a fear of litigation, in case their actions cause problems? Whatever, as they say, it seems to me to be a
sad indictment of modern life that less and less people are concerned for the
wellbeing of others and apparently more and more engrossed in their own.
am I merely another example of an older person saying that “things were better
in the old days”?