I had intended to write this blog about Grey Britain. The day I arrived back from Canada it was grey and wet and continued like that for 5 days. But I got up on Tuesday morning to cloudless blue sky and again Wednesday and Thursday mornings. It was misty first thing Friday morning but it soon cleared. There have been overnight frosts, down to -6.5oC last night, and it has been cold out of the sun during the days. But it has been good.
The cloudless skies have meant that the sunrise over the hill on the opposite side of the valley have once again been pretty dramatic and at a civilised time for getting up to photograph them unlike during the summer months. There have been occasions when I have been outside standing on the roof to take photos about 05.00. This is much better.
Wednesday morning I was sitting having breakfast with the sun coming in through the French windows when I noticed the vapour trails high in the sky. This is a very common sight here because 2 major air-lanes cross more or less directly overhead. Sometimes as many as 10 vapour trails can be seen at one time, usually fairly early morning, slashing straight as a die, brilliant white against a blue sky. So it was Wednesday.
Except that in one part of the sky to the South East the trails were far from straight. It suddenly looked as if the planes were being driven by a drunk, zigzagging wildly. I know it couldn’t have been that but the high-level winds which were creating this effect must have been very variable and strong. Dramatic! I hope the passengers were strapped in, if the wind was blowing the vapour trails that much it must also have been buffeting the planes.
But Britain being grey is about more than just the weather. The brightness can be taken out of an otherwise sunny day by the lack of civility, downright rudeness and lack of respect for others which now seems to epitomize the general culture and attitude. The difference seemed pretty stark when I got back from Greece in the summer but in the week I have been back from Canada it somehow seems even more glaring. A couple of recent examples.
On Thursday, walking to the shops I had to cross a busy dual carriageway close to a roundabout. The pavement has dropped kerbs to indicate that there is an official crossing but no traffic control of any kind. Time and time again in Banff I walked towards a road junction or road crossing and the cars in all directions stopped to let me cross. That is the norm at junctions where there are no traffic/pedestrian lights. Not here. Cars accelerate across the roundabout and came out of it like a sling shot. No signalling to let you know if they are turning left or right or coming straight at you. Eventually I got tired of waiting for certainty and started to cross when the angle of attack of a car seemed to indicate it was turning right. It was but another car accelerated out from behind it coming straight at me, horn blaring. I tell this anecdote not because it is a rare occurrence in Grey Britain but because it is a common experience, the norm. Living here all the time you just come to accept it. But it really jars when you regularly see a different norm, behaviour which seems both more rational and more considerate of others.
It is the same with pedestrians. Again on Thursday, I stepped into a shop doorway to let a large lady get past on a narrow section of pavement and she just walked past as if I was something she didn’t want to step in. A little while later I turned a corner in the shopping centre and the bloke coming in the other direction continued on the collision course without a flicker of acknowledgement or intention to change his line. Again, this attitude is not unusual. It’s almost as if people think they would demean themselves if they gave way or acknowledge mild gratitude if somebody else does so.
This is not just me being a sensitive soul. There is an advert on the TV for a major insurance company at the moment which has people walking along a pavement and bumping into each other, shouting and screaming and getting overtly aggressive. The message? “You don’t behave like this on foot, why do it in a car”. But people are increasingly behaving like this when they are on foot. Look at how people walk around now, look into their eyes, and it is clear that the same aggressive “I get out of the way for no-one” attitude is becoming more prevalent. It’s all to do with lack of respect and contempt for other people. Read Lynne Truss’s book ‘Talk to the hand’ if you doubt this. In fact, read it anyway. Wikipedia has an entry on this rude phrase/gesture and its origins back in the 1990’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk_to_the_hand)
Having spent some time over the last 12 months in Greece and Canada and seen something of other cultures this lack of respect for people does seem to be more prevalent in the UK. And it contributes significantly to the view that life in the UK is not very appealing.