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Friday, April 13, 2012

Where have all the people gone? Walking the streets of Wolverhampton in search of a vote.

Never have we had a society with so much communication and yet so few people to see. What am I talking about?

I have spent the last couple of weeks walking the streets of Wolverhampton. This is council election time after all. This is when eager canvassers and leaflet droppers walk the tarmac. This is when you hope to engage with the public and press the flesh. The reverse is the case.

The reality is that our residential areas are now reminiscent of the Marie Celeste. Notices on the front door tell you that hawkers and freebie papers are not wanted. The cumulative impact is “keep off the grass”.

Over the decades we have retreated into our homes. People don’t seem to engage over the fence or share a conversation in the drive. Children seem an extinct species and signs showing “no ball games” just close down their options for fun.

Parked cars tell you that there is life and delivery vans from Amazon or the supermarket provide the umbilical cord between consumer and retailer. The town centre is a casualty.

Irrespective of ones politics, the reality today is that somehow a spirit of community has been lost. It existed in the terrace streets of old. Our housing layouts and lifestyles today just preclude communal relations. No wonder the soaps are so popular. They provide a surrogate family. There is a fair amount of loneliness out there but that seems to be something not on our political agendas.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

An Arriva train journey from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. A choice of words and motivation.

Taking a rail journey with Arriva from Birmingham International to Wolverhampton recently, I noticed a guy emptying trash bins and generally tidying the carriage up.

It took me back forty years to when I had a succession of student summer jobs cleaning out trains for the then British Rail. This was the university of life and one certainly knew ones place, as your mop and brush signalled your cleaner status to the public. Never have I felt so lowly. So what you might ask?

Well, this 2012 guy seemed to take pride in what he was doing, going about it with purpose. His body language spoke volumes. Energy and motivation were there to be seen. We got into conversation. We shared some brief anecdotes of our mutual experience separated by the decades.

We said our goodbyes and as we walked away, I noticed some words printed on the back of his working fleece. They read “Train Presentation Team".

Funny how a few words can deliver a different perception of what a job is about. I went through the motions of the job with no thought of why it was being done and for whom. Not much commitment then.

For him the word “presentation” gave a different take on the job compared with my lowly “cleaner” description. The word “ team” would never have crossed my mind. Arriva deserve a pat on the back.