Leaving the money pit that is my car at the garage, I left a note with the key, “there is a knocking noise in the offside rear shock absorber.”
A call came from the garage. “Mr Poulton, we have replaced the front offside broken coil spring, which made the car unsafe to drive, and carried out the service. You’re right, there is a slight knocking noise in the rear shock absorber but neither on the ramp nor on a test drive could we work out its source, if it gets worse, bring it back.”
Collecting the car, I realised that I could no longer hear any knocking, the noise had been from the front of the car, not the back. If there was a noise in the rear shock absorber, there was none discernible.
The car has cost me as much in repairs as it cost me to buy. Perhaps I should have been more suspicious at the lack of a service record when I bought it at what seemed a bargain price.
Driving the M5 motorway on a chill morning, I noticed that the trees in Gloucestershire had changed in the past week, blossom and leaves had appeared in abundance. I realised that there was not a single tree that I could have named with any certainty that the name I had suggested was correct. It was not just the trees I could not name, in a Somerset field of Friesian heifers there were brown-grey cattle I did not recognize. Nor could I name the streaky cloud formation above High Ham.
It seems odd to have reached the age of sixty and to be so illiterate in the things of everyday life. Why had there been no lessons at school about the things that surrounded us? Why did the thought not occur years ago that there had been little or no education in things that might be useful?
Were I to design a school curriculum, it would include a topic called “practical living,” or something similar. I would ensure no-one left school without knowing something about how a motor car worked, how domestic appliances worked. There would be a health and medicine element, so that people might have some idea what it was the doctor was saying. There would definitely be a unit on awareness of the environment in which one lived, trees, flowers, wildlife, agriculture.
It is unlikely such a topic would ever find a place on the timetable, who would there be that might teach it? In sixty years’ time, there will probably still be people as ignorant as I am.