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Modern and not so modern life

Even for those of us who abandoned trying to keep up with modern 21st Century life in or before 2001 – simply because it was so much easier and less stressful – it is always comfortably reassuring whenever you come across new developments that contrary to all expectations do seem to be constructive and potentially positive.

I came across one today that might be in this category – see here for a link to a report by Sophie Borland upon St George’s Barracks, the UK’s first-ever dementia-friendly community village that is being built near Oakham in Rutland, that appears upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL

I don’t know about you, but – to me – the concept of volunteering or choosing to live in an ‘oldie-friendly’ community is not wholly unattractive in prospect.

The thought that one might be able, when out and about, to be reminded of where one is, who one is, and why one set off from one’s home in the first place could be very helpful. There have been times recently when I would have found such an amenity most welcome.

That said, I’m not entirety sure that in this particular case St George’s Barracks is presenting itself in a manner that would necessarily be appealing to a discerning gent of a certain age like myself.

For example [looking at the image on the right] the idea that my new local community would feature, coming round the corner a cyclist – a species I would like to see shot on sight if not exterminated on principle – is most off-putting.

As, incidentally, is the possibility that when I am off to the shops I might come across a wizened old trout pushing a zimmer frame getting in my way – but I suppose one mustn’t grumble (or indeed take life-changing decisions in haste) without actually visiting the site in person.

I’ve never knowingly been to Rutland in my life, unless I fleetingly missed it as I blinked as I sped by at 78 mph driving on a dual carriageway to somewhere else more important, but I do know that it is somewhere near Leicestershire and is proud of its alleged status as England’s smallest county.

My family’s personal connection with it is/was that legend has it that my now-deceased uncle Patrick, who went to Uppingham public school, once played a minor part in saving Rutland from one of several attempts over the centuries to subsume it into Leicestershire.

These were usually advanced for scrutiny on the basis that they would improve the delivery of local government in the area generally and also make it a damned sight more cost efficient by ridding the world of Rutland county council and all the costly administrative circus that inevitably accompanied it.

When Uncle Patrick was 17 or 18 and a cross-country runner of some school repute – based upon the fact he was born in 1930, I should therefore hazard a guess we are talking about either 1947 or 1948 – the local populace was dreaming up ideas to further their campaign against Rutland losing its independent status. Some cove, possibly an Uppingham master, came up with the wheeze of gaining publicity for the cause by staging an event to see if someone could run around the entire perimeter of Rutland in a single day.

(I should add here that I have not the slightest idea about what distance in miles and yards the course would have been equivalent to, but let us for this example imagine that it was a fair whack).


Uncle Patrick and two other Uppingham boys were duly entered for this quest – I’m afraid I have no idea whether they were the sole participants, or whether the event was open to the Rutland population at large, but frankly I don’t suppose it matters.

Off they went.

It was a hot day and, despite the availability of refreshments and water at various staging posts along the way, it became something of an endurance ordeal.

The two other pupils dropped out en route but Uncle Patrick gritted his teeth and kept going.

Eventually he duly completed the task and collapsed into the arms of an Uppingham master as he crossed the line, rather like Jim Peters did as he attempted to finish the Marathon at the 1954 British Empire Games held in Vancover, Canada – see here – courtesy of – YOUTUBE

I must here add a small postscript to the story which may go a yard or two towards calling into question the bona fides of this epic tale.

About ten years ago Uncle Patrick’s son, my cousin, came to London from his home in New York State and stopped by at my gaff for a dinner, during which he announced that his mother, just before she died, had confided in him that for several decades she had been a spy for MI6 and that Uncle Patrick’s career in duplicating and photocopying sales – taking in stints in Singapore and New York State – had been a British Government set up to ‘cover’ her covert activities.

I have to mention that, after my cousin had departed these shores, when I met up with my brothers and their families and recounted the tale, there was an outbreak of hilarity and mirth the like of which had not been seen since Max Miller completed his last-ever national tour of the UK’s music halls.

The thought of Uncle Patrick – a man of considerable odd-ball and zany eccentricity – and his wife having been lifelong MI6 agents seemed exceedingly unlikely.

Well, unless it was in the context in which they starring together in a comic movie as a pair of hapless British spies in the style of Rowan Atkinson acting in his character roles as either Mr Bean and/or Johnny English.












About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts