River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

August 2005

Marion wakes up to reality...

When I was young and harassed by life's ups and downs, I used to gaze with envy at middle-aged people and look forward to the time when, like them, I would be comfortably settled. Mortgage paid, children grown up, safe haven reached.

Ha! How wrong I was.

If we learn anything from life, it is to expect the unexpected. I like the example of the experts who, in the 1890s, were very worried about the increase of horse-drawn traffic in our cities. They predicted that within a short time the streets would be made impassable by vast quantities of horse manure, creating all sorts of problems for the authorities. And then along came the motor car. Horses disappeared from our thoroughfares and the experts were faced with a set of new unforeseen challenges such as pollution from petrol fumes.

Events have a way of never working out in the obvious way. Who would have predicted, for example, when the Pill was introduced in the 1960s that fifty years later there would be more single mums than ever before? It was assumed that

just the opposite would happen and in future families would be carefully planned.

The placid plateau of middle age I dreamed of was always an illusion - probably the result of listening to Mrs Dale's Diary in my formative years. It was always very cosy in Mrs Dale's world. But these days we seem to be beset by a whole host of uncertainties. Few of us can look forward to a generous pension or even expect a good standard of health care in old age. The prospect of terrorism hangs like a dark cloud over the immediate future. And it was ever thus; this is Robbie Burns talking to a frightened mouse over 200 years ago:

'Still, thou art blessed, compared wi' me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But Och! I backward cast my e'e,

On prospects drear!

And forward, tho' I canna see,

I guess and fear!"

And much more recently Noel Coward sang:

"There are bad times just around the corner.

The horizon is as gloomy as can be.

There are black birds over

The greyish cliffs of Dover

And the rats are preparing to leave the BBC."

But just writing those lines has made me smile. Thank heavens for a shot of humour to restore a sense of proportion. Because, when you think about it, expecting the unexpected means that good times are just as likely to happen as bad ones.

Most of our worries would disappear if we could recapture the wonderful childhood ability to live just for the moment. These days, I try hard not to let unpredictable tomorrow spoil the pleasure of today or, as those cheery workmen on building sites always advise: "Cheer up, love, it might never happen!"

Marion Clarke

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