Thursday, November 17, 2011

Once upon a time when I was very young I had obviously done something stupid, not unusual, for which I remember I got a good ticking off from my mother. A short while later she gave me some money and told me to go to the shops and get some common sense. Our next door neighbours were a family named de Jongh and Mister de Jongh was a shoe repairer whose work, I seem to remember, was carried out in an old converted garage. That’s what it looked like anyway and it was on the way to the shops so I popped in and asked if I could have one of his old tobacco tins which I filled with sawdust from his floor and took back to my mother with, ‘There you are.’

‘What’s this?’ she exclaimed, opening the tin.

‘Common sense,’ I said, giggling smugly. But her mirth was even louder and longer as she explained that she really did want some “Commonsense,” evidently a domestic product of some kind, I don’t remember and know not what for, a cockroach killer maybe.

The reason for my telling this little story is that I am beginning to think the commonsense of some people these days is on a par with that tin of sawdust. I am fully aware that life in the computer age grows more and more complicated and bewildering and sometimes one remembers how simple and comfortable life used to be but it would seem, with all the advances of technology, that commonsense in many cases has quite simply flown out the window.

I’m not just talking about silly children who never learn that, if they put out on the internet, Facebook, or Twitter (what a danger and a waste of time they are) the date and address of a party, they must expect to get a whole crowd of feral gatecrashers all out to make joyful boisterous mayhem and trash the joint. And I don’t mean big sabre-rattling scene stealers either making statements like “Iran is ready for war!” (It’s that Mad Mahmoud at it again) but ordinary people in every day ordinary walks of life, for example – Diane Taylor, aged 92 wanted to buy a bottle of whisky and was asked for ID, at which she promptly produced an over sixties bus pass, an OAP card and her pacemaker certificate and her purchase was refused. Why? Evidently none of these were worth diddlysquat as far as identification was concerned. No, indeedy, what she needed to produce was either a passport or a driving licence. At ninety-two she was hardly likely to have either, nevertheless a spokesperson (note that, PC, folks, spokesperson) for the shop said ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience but staff are required to ask all customers for ID. The shop has to enforce a strict policy or risk losing its licence.’

A man of 44 who was devoted to his collie dog named Beaky believed it might be getting aggressive and could attack someone so he had the animal put down and then hanged himself with the dog’s lead, leaving a note which read, ‘I’ve gone to be with Beaky.’ Questions – Had he never heard of muzzles? Such a simple commonsense solution, and why did the vet he took the dog to not try and talk some sense into him?

A lady was asked by her neighbours if she would keep a lookout on their property while they were away to which, as she was a good neighbour and on friendly terms, she readily agreed. One day, having inspected the house and finding all was well, she decided to take a stroll in the back garden, never dreaming for a moment of what lay in store. Her idyll was suddenly shattered when half a dozen burly policemen came hurtling over the garden wall and rushed at her as a prospective burglar. Talk about incipient heart attacks! They responded swiftly to the call having been tipped off by another neighbour who, knowing the family was away and seeing what she thought was a stranger in their garden, was obviously on neighbourhood watch. But was this amount of force from the intrepid boys in blue really necessary? Couldn’t a couple of them simply put their heads over the garden wall and say something like, ‘Oi, Missus! Who are you and what are you doing in this ‘ere garden wot does not belong to you?’ Or words to that effect. And chief constables complain that their forces are stretched to the limit and overworked. A little more commonsense should ease that problem but I suppose it’s too much to ask for. I’m only surprised they weren’t in riot gear, carrying weapons, or prepared to taser her just in case she proved to be violent and might hurt them. After all they have been known to refuse to climb ladders just in case.

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