What an amazing month for Britain. And barely halfway there. May has surpassed all expectations. Obviously it started with a bang as May Day saw folk dancing round poles and celebrating the arrival of summer. International Workers Day (rightly expunged in the Thatcher years) happened in other countries. But then the UK floodgates opened.
There was, or will be, Dawn Chorus Day, World Asthma Day, World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, Europe Day, World Fair Trade Day, Limerick Day, Friendship Funday, World No Tobacco Day, and Oak Apple Day to celebrate the restoration of the monarchy in the 1660s.
We have enjoyed, or will enjoy, Education Action Week, National Firefighters Week, Deaf Awareness Week, National Doughnut Week, Christian Aid Week, British Sandwich Week, Be Nice to Nettles Week, Walk to School Week and Noise Action Week. Finally, May is National Share a Story Month.
Clearly, these are all naturally occurring events rooted in great British traditions and values. Or not. As a young man wriggling my way into the world of public relations, I was directed towards Stephenson's Handbook of PR
, which amidst a panoply of actions recommended the creation of celebratory events to attract public and press attention. Even then, my eyebrows rose at the example of National Funeral Home Day. One or two of May's events emit a similar odour.
It is all so far from the simple joy envisaged by Thomas Dekker in 1599 when he penned the immortal lines 'O the month of May, the Merry month of May. So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green!' However, he gave the month a good name which 2023 has certainly embellished.
I have no doubt that there will be the odd special event missing from my research but it is unlikely. And whatever it was, few will have noticed. Mind you, I did see a pile of reduced price cakes and quiches in our local supermarket yesterday.
I used to be a car driver and still am, or could be. I currently have my license which states I can, if I choose to, take control of a motor vehicle. However, it is some time since I have sat behind the wheel – I'd say around five years now – since that fateful day I was cruising along the M8 from my home here in Edinburgh, towards Glasgow. As I recall, it was a bright sunny day and myself and passengers were looking forward to the match. Ironically, we were playing Hearts in Glasgow and were heading west.
The car was performing well as I pushed the pedal to the floor and overtook some young buck in his souped up, alloy-wheeled pride and joy. That will teach the whipper snapper, I thought, as I passed, with what I imagine was a look of self-satisfaction. However, it was to be, as the saying goes, a pyric victory, as no sooner had I sailed past, than I heard a strange noise which appeared to be coming from under the bonnet and the car started to lose power.
I managed to steer us onto the hard shoulder just in time as we came to a stop. Confused and knowing very little about combustion engines and the various other mechanisms which constitute a motor vehicle, I naturally tried to restart several times but to no avail.
Long story cut short,:we missed the game and after a few hours sitting trying to ignore the relentless traffic, passing at top speed a few yards to the right of where we sat, were transported back to the capital by a breakdown pick-up truck. The mechanic, having arrived on the scene, lifted the bonnet, looked in, sharply drew breath and declared we were likely looking at a 'right off'. My attempts at trying to restart the vehicle had contributed greatly to that status.
The rest as they say is history and I have not driven since. A recent experience has solidified my resolve to keep it that way. Nowadays I am either a passenger, travelling free of charge, using my concessionary bus pass or for longer journeys by train, my senior railcard, saving me a third of the journey cost. More likely, you will find me hoofing it alongside my wee pal Daisy. It was while out for a short walk together that I was nearly mown down by a driver turning right as I attempted to cross the road. This man had obviously not read the Highway Code, you know, the bit about always giving way to a pedestrian who has stepped into the road. And, adding insult to potential injury, he reached for and blasted his car horn at me. Not, again, as the Highway Code states to warn me of danger, but because he was extremely pissed off that I was on the road as he sought to cut over.
Rewinding the incident, I came to realise the reason he was so cross was that when he witnessed oncoming vehicles coming towards him at pace, in his mind he was replaying the first-year philosophy conundrum. The one where in a situation you are faced with killing one or many through your actions. He had obviously decided in that case that I was to be the one
. Luckily, I'm still reasonably nimble and managed to reach the pavement, where we exchanged a few oaths and curses, along with hand signals.
A couple of days later and nearby, someone nearly knocked me over by attempting to reverse from a side street onto the main road. I'm beginning to think no-one actually reads the Highway Code.
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