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What really matters?


 

Over the weekend, I shopped.  I spent a bean or two on things I needed, functional stuff, not exciting stuff.

I didn’t though, meet anybody as I shopped.

I never smiled at a shop assistant.

I didn’t stop off for a coffee and a bun and as a consequence couldn’t ask Janet on the till how her son, David, did in his recent GCSE’s.

I didn’t see Mrs Jones pushing her trolley down the high street as she does every Saturday at 11am, and I never waved at Gavin the postman.

But I shopped.

Sat on my sofa. In my pants. Pushing buttons on my phone.

It is very clever stuff.

I will get my product in a few days time in a shrink wrap envelope, inside a sheet of bubble wrap in a cardboard box the size of a large Rottweiller.  Internet shopping is a wonderful thing.

Or is it?

I can’t help feeling that something is missing.

I miss shop assistants.

I miss Janet on the till.  I will probably never know how David did in his GCSE’s.  Is Mrs Jones still alive? And Gavin; is he still a postman?

The traditional high street shopping parade is in a critical state, probably terminal. Every time I use the internet to shop, I am driving another nail into Mrs High Streets heart.  I guess we all are.

The people in pin stripe shirts who study spreadsheets think it doesn’t really matter.  It’s cheaper to run an internet company than a chain of shops and well, its progress isn’t it?

It is progress; they are correct.

It is also cheaper, I can’t argue with them.

I think it’s the same people in pin stripe shirts that decided that rural post offices should close, which yes, financially, on a spread sheet makes sense, but does it stack up on all spreadsheets?

A recent headline stated that in the UK, 9 million people are lonely.

Nine million is a huge number.

Loneliness causes depression.

Which leads to ill health.

Which leads to new needs and new costs which will be inputted into another spreadsheet that a bean counter in a stripy suit will need to create.

Post Offices used to be a place to do important things like buy a TV Licence, Dog Licence (I’m showing my age), Tax your car, draw out your pension and well, more importantly meet people.

Interact.

Make friends.

Discover your neighbours. Feel a part of something.

But.

No one needs a Post Office anymore. Or maybe we do. Maybe we just forgot the reason why.

And yes, the internet has created the ‘Global Village’ but, in the global village, you never meet anyone.

Except for Lisa the automated assistant.

She’s not real by the way, just a basic artificial intelligence who doesn’t appreciate your quick wit or subtle flirting.

Progress is confusing.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy, when he was asked about the state of the US Nations finances commented with;

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.

“It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

“It measures neither our wit or our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

He was assassinated in the same year.

I agree with everything he says.

I hope I’m not assassinated.

I don’t own a High Street Shop.  I don’t own a Post Office.

I do though, in partnership with others, own a Veterinary Practice. More specifically, I own a reception area in a Veterinary Practice.

It is the heart of our business and I hope, a part of our community.

We laugh in our reception area.

Chat to each other about weather, TV, our children, each other.

We meet friends and make friends.

We hug each other.

We banter. ‘Banter’ is a modern day word used by youngsters which is equivalent to “pulling your leg”.  When I told my children this, they muttered something about calling ChildLine if I pulled their leg.  I am not sure I like modern day children.

We stage parties in our reception area. We drink tea. We eat cake.

We have had pumpkin competitions and hand bell ringers on Christmas morning.

We welcome guests.

We smile at delivery drivers and ask them to drive safe. We meet authors, gardeners, bankers, farmers, expectant mothers, new born babies, doctors, pilots, military personnel. We meet people from around the world and John, who has never let the County. In our community the human tapestry is rich, diverse and wonderful.

We sit quietly at times and contemplate.

In the middle of the night, when I sit alone with my feet on the desk the entire area is swathed in a green glow from the emergency lighting and I imagine I am in a spaceship.  My space ship always returns though, because, this is home and this is my reception area in my community.

A part of me has been thinking maybe we should open a few more reception areas and build vets practices around them.

Actually, that is a lie.  I am indeed planning on opening a few more reception areas, probably one in each true compass direction.

No rush.

Will happen when I find buildings with a soul.