I am sometimes accused of being a bit stuck in the past. An accusation I totally refute whenever it is made. I do however admit to making long admiring glances over my shoulder at some aspects of life as they were. This does not mean I want to go back but it does mean that I recognise what we’ve lost often with some regret. Don’t get me wrong I would not like to return to harsher times – I’m far too comfortable for one thing but simpler times do have their attractions. I think we should recognise what it is that we’ve lost and consider whether the change that caused the loss is actually for the better. My employer is always changing – it is perpetual and ceaseless in its drive to ceate new structures and systems and to drive out the old. I happen to think that change for its own sake is totally wrong and just creates the worst of all things – a system that doesn’t recognise the best of the past and embraces all aspects of the future without a chance to assess whether it’s for good or ill.
History teaches us that nothing is new. Granted the technology is always new and the people are different but the circumstances are not new. We are currently in an economic turmoil which has been repeated many times down the ages; food prices have risen in the past and then fallen back (eventually) and riots in the streets go back to roman times. The situation at Dale Farm is not new as the settled community have always had issues with the travelling one as far back as the collective memory of the Roma exists. The problems in the middle east were first documeneted in biblical texts thousands of years old. So what would I like to see retained from the past here and now?
A difficult question as there is much that I am glad to see the back of mostly, it has to be said, to do with equality and social justice. I mourn the slow lingering death of the pub; not for reasons of consuming alcohol but as a centre to local life. My own village of Brampton had two pubs and now has none. You can travel through large towns, Norwich included, where you will see the rotting remains of once vibrant centres of communal life. I can’t help it but I just know those communities are poorer without those public houses. Likewise I mourn the loss of our rail network in the 1960’s following the short sighted campaign to force people and goods on to rather than off the roads. Once closed and lost such infrastructure is very difficult to re-instate. The railway preservation movement does a good job at creating tourist attractions but they are not lines part of a larger network and capable of sustaining mixed traffic.
In the context of this blog I also mourn the loss of facilities such as the Aylsham Navigation. I know it would have a role were it still here and not just as part of the tourist industry. This is not an appeal for restoration, I don’t have the energy for it and, in my judgement, it is un-supported locally. However if it were still here we could campaign for it to carry sugar beet again and get those juggernauts off our narrow country lanes. It might also carry gravel and, of course, people. It would create jobs both on the water and at its edge. Would I want to skipper a modern cargo carrying barge on the Navigation for long hours and relatively poor money? You bet your life I would.
The local environment would be different and I suggest better for a working Navigation even now in 2011. On the theme of there being nothing new; a pleasure wherry (see below) was available for hire from Buxton in the last years of the Navigations existence.