Always changing always the same


There is something very reassuring about Roman building remains. They have stubbornly refused to completely disappear through years of uncertainties and disasters.

We went to Uriconium this week and saw the largest free standing Roman wall in Britain. It has survived fire, battles, abandonment, and the pilfering of stones for other buildings. It is defiant of change and catastrophe. I looked through the gaps in the walls and saw the Shropshire hills, the Wrekin and Wenlock Edge and then the Welsh hills. The Romans must have seen them too as they went about their busy lives. They could have been bathing whilst looking out at this very same view.

It has not been too reassuring though when looking at our new Highway Code which has had to alter to keep up with our new ways of life. It has been updated but at first it was difficult to be sure about what the changes are. There is now a hierarchy of road users. We are encouraging more environmentally friendly users – walkers and cyclists, so they get more protection. And with that comes the ‘Dutch Reach’. I have been practising this. Open the door with your left hand if you are the driver and your right hand if you are the passenger. It means that we will naturally turn our heads to make sure there are no pedestrians or cyclists that could be hurt.

My father did not have to take a driving test at all, and I doubt if he ever read the Highway Code, which was first published in 1931. In those days you did not have to bother with mirrors, and you could sound your horn if you were overtaking which was a rare event.

During WW11 driving tests were stopped as the examiners were needed to fight. I still have my father’s first driving licence; it is a little red cloth-bound book. He first signed it in March 1945 and paid five shillings at the Post Office. It was stamped and authorised. There was no mention of the driving test or Highway Code. Mind you he did not meet much traffic, if any, when he drove to the next village.

Traffic now-a-days is hectic, but the thrush has begun to sing above it all. I can hear it in the early morning on the topmost branch of the fir tree. The blackbirds stand waiting on our lawn. The moles continue to heave huge heaps of soil, dark brown against the flat fresh green. The worms flee to the surface to escape the moles but are instantly grabbed by the beaks of the waiting blackbirds. It happens every year.


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