I drove up the King’s Road the other day and noticed the hundreds of tiny boutiques and independent shops that line the road. It made me reflect on the changes that I have seen in the high street and beyond over my lifetime.
I was struck by the amazing creativity that has happened in this country and the extraordinary choice of products and services we now have. Thinking back to the High Street of my 1950s youth, there was a dullness in the displays, the products, and few of the services, personal or professional, that are now on offer were available then.
This was emphasized again when David and I went into Winchester last Saturday to take his granddaughter, Bo, to the panto – Peter Pan. On every street corner there was a band or a choir, stalls selling home-made food and crafts. The colour, care and creativity of these community groups and individuals was startling. And, of course, the pantomime was fantastic – up-to-date with its Brexit jokes but timeless in the “oh yes we do” and “it’s behind you” that sent the small children wild with delight.
I remember my mother doing some AmDram with her Women’s Institute group, and there were cakes and jams but now countless small towns have Literary Festivals, Poetry Festivals, Music Festivals, Open Mic poetry evenings. Every village has it book groups, meditation groups, yoga, mindfulness and therapeutic workshops. The choice is staggering when you add to that the U3A and other local courses and education. And choirs and rock groups. Wow, aren’t we lucky?
I used to set my workshop groups an icebreaker to draw something that made them go wow. Some things are changeless – a sunset or sunrise, a child, the moon, a tree, nature, birds. Others change all the time and many that make me go “wow” today were not around in my parents’ day. SatNav, how cool is that to have someone tell you in good time which way to go in complicated cities and one-way systems? He occasionally has a mad moment and sends me somewhere ridiculous but most of the time he gets it right. Even in the remotest winding country lane in deepest Wales, Scotland, Eastern Europe and almost anywhere on the globe you no longer have to prop a map dangerously on your knee and try to fathom out where you are. And he will even read me my text messages.
My mobile phone amazes me daily with what it can do and what it can tell me – and I can bet you that even then I probably only use 5% of its facilities! The apps that my 6-year old granddaughter uses to learn, to write computer programming script and improve her maths are so useful, and creatively programmed to be entertaining as well as educational. There are emails and skype to keep us in touch with family. friends and work colleagues who may be far away (or sitting next to you!). And the internet, mainly a source for good though, like human society in general, also a source of evil. It can bring together communities in compassion and altruism but also in terrorism or paedophilia. But that’s humans for you.