“Aren’t these things marvellous!” exclaimed 94 year old Uncle Walter as I showed him photographs of the children on an iPad, “It’s a different world!”
It’s a different world.
I paused to think on that. How the world has changed even in my lifetime and I’m only half Uncle Walter’s age. Don’t you think it’s amazing how quickly things change? There are things which have always been, which we take for granted, and then in a heartbeat they are gone; consigned to the pages of dusty history books and historical society photograph exhibitions.
If, like me, you happened to live in, or visit, South Yorkshire before the mid 1980’s you will remember the iconic pit head winding wheels which stood proudly in virtually every village in the area. They were symbolic of the people who lived in those villages, the working class Yorkshire folk – proud, gritty, parochial, hard-working and generous to anyone who was prepared to put in the time and effort.
The rumble of coal wagons and the steel hammer of a distant foundry provided the soundtrack to my night-time as I lay in bed as a boy; an industrial lullaby as comforting as the tap tap tapping of sleet at the window on a cold winter’s night when you’re all tucked up under a lovely warm duvet after a mug of hot chocolate. Cosy. Sleepy. Lullaby.
Now the collieries are all closed, the coal wagons are redundant and the winding wheels are only seen amongst the flower beds as you enter a village; a tombstone, a memorial to days gone by; a reminder that time stands still for none of us, things change whether we like it or not.
(Yes it is a bit melancholic isn’t it? Stick with me, it may get better....)
I took a walk with Emily recently on a beautiful nature reserve. We never made it as far as the lake where swans were protecting their young, but it was just great to be out breathing the fresh air as the evening sun set the clouds on fire in the western sky. This is the place I feel closest to my dad, who died back in 1987 when I was still a teenager. This nature reserve was where he worked. I met him here many times as a child and I still do today. As I bent down amongst the tall grass I pulled from the ground a shiny black rock; a reminder of why he came here. Coal. My dad worked at the colliery on this very spot. This is where he met the Queen! When I came here as a boy it looked so different. The red brick buildings, the dirt, the grime, the noise, the lorries, the railway, the miners – now all gone, silent, replaced by grasses, thistles, wild flowers, hares, skylarks, peace, stillness and the ghosts of my memories.
It’s a different world.
What will our world look like when our children are older I wonder? It’s a sobering thought that the things we take for granted now may be consigned to the digital version of a dusty history book (an archived web page doesn’t sound half as romantic does it?) But it has made me realise once again that life goes on, change happens, people come and people go but we leave a legacy that lives on in our children and for our children. I want to make sure that what I leave is worth leaving. I want to ensure that change has happened because I could be bothered to make positive change happen rather than leaving people to complain about the effects of negative change, when I could have done something about it. I want to help ensure that people with Down’s syndrome, those already alive and those still to come, have better access to services they need. I want to help ensure they have a fairer education where their needs are not just met but where they have the support that will enable them to thrive and flourish. I want to help change the perception of Down’s syndrome so that health professionals and expectant parents see termination as a last resort rather than a default setting.
Now that would be a different world!