I’m not a betting man – well the occasional lottery ticket but that’s about it really – but I’d put good money on betting that I’ve heard something in the last week that you have probably not; a ‘bloke’ whistling a tune while walking along the street. I did hear a loud wolf-whistle in the spring but that was from a young French lad, part of a coach party of students, whistling at a young French woman. Well, I assume it was a women, these days it can be difficult to tell.
Anyway she seemed to enjoy the attention and was all smiles, but there were a few murmurs and tut tuts from po-faced fellow citizens walking in the same direction. It did seem rather strange I admit as I thought wolf-whistles had been banned here as ‘offensive’ some years ago, but it seems ‘our friends and neighbours across the channel’ as Bo Jo puts it have different ideas or laws or something.
That apart, when did you last hear somebody whistling? At one time it was quite common to hear the latest ‘tune’ of the moment or some other tune being belted out by someone walking along – as a popular song once ran ‘whistle while you work.’ It would seem that as a nation we are not as tuneful or as happy as we were, although in town most days and particularly at weekends we do have lots of people singing, belting out something or another usually with the aid of a karaoke machine. I assume that must have been something to do with that ‘Pub Singer’ in Worcester making the headlines earlier this year.
The pleasantries of life seem to be a fading tradition even here in St. Mary on the Wold. People are just not as pleasant and friendly as they were a dozen years ago and in the urban areas it seems already a thing of the past. Younger schoolchildren walking to the bus stop (yes we do have a few who walk) will walk straight past you, obviously having been told to ignore any adults, even those who live in the same road, but actually if you say ‘Hi’ or Hello or something they will respond with a smile and a ‘Hi’ so hopefully all is not yet lost.
Speaking of walking, if someone walks towards me, say in a corridor or pathway, I invariably move to the left. Why is lost in the mists of time, probably something to do with school days when you walked on the left because that was the way that it was done, and it got people around without the inevitable barging. That was when schools had some standards and rules mostly for the common good even if it didn’t seem like it at the time. A visit to any school now will show how far away that particular concept has gone, probably removed from school life in the mid-1960s at a guess, judging by the age of the many people you see barging around the streets and shops who would have been at school at that time.
Crossing a city road at something called a ‘Toucan pedestrian crossing’ is like being at the opening of the gates at a retail mega sale. As people just barge across, as we used to say, ‘willie-nillie’, woe betide an older or slow-moving person trying to cross, and what is it with young women with all terrain children’s buggies who use them as some sort of attack vehicle? No wonder huge four-by-four vehicles are so popular; these buggies are so big they need a huge space to stow the things. They always remind me of ladies of a certain age who years ago used two-wheel wicker basket shopping trolleys in a similar manner – those came complete with a single wooden stand sticking out at the front ready to impale the unwary.
What is interesting, though, is how people suddenly become quite different when queuing, for example in a cafe, or getting to their allotted seats in a cinema or theatre, where ‘excuse me, sorry’ and so on are the order of the day. Pity the same doesn’t happen in supermarkets, when it’s easy to get barged out of the way while looking at an item in the freezer cabinets or have someone walk in between you and the shelf you are about to take something from.
This behaviour carries on in the queue at the checkout, where invariably nobody speaks to the next person, or worse, has a loud conversation on a mobile phone even while being served by the assistant, and transaction completed, just walks off. It’s not just younger people either; staff working with the public will tell you how just plain rude some of the older generations are, particularly those who, by their dress and behaviour, think of themselves as either very important and middle class or both. Supermarkets where the whole community meets can be very illuminating places to see how sociable or otherwise people are. It’s obvious that some older people have little social interaction and look forward to a conversation with the checkout operator, which seems to irritate other people in the queue. I did hear some years ago now that all sorts of conversations and meetings took place in supermarket aisles at certain times. What a good idea, I thought, large stores helping out with community cohesion and this one advertised the fact with a large sign marked ‘pick-up point’. Waiting to be served one afternoon, I watched the area with interest but saw no activity so presumably there was little local interest in the project. It must have been one of those urban myths you hear about.
Part 2 will be published here tomorrow.