On these cold grey nights of winter, my husband and I go armchair travelling, we switch on the television and see in sparkling clarity and vivid colour the most amazing parts of planet earth, some far away on the other side of the world like China and some only an hours ride from home in the foothills of the Pennines in Teasdale. But in both cases life very different to the urban life which we have lived all our seven decades. Technology in all its mysterious magnificence makes it possible, light weight cameras and recording equipment, teams of people who research obvious and obscure facts, living people who can explain these facts in a personal way. And undoubtedly hundreds of people in the Far East who spend their working lives putting together the television set which brings it all into our living room.
I think you know the one I mean. I have an adult son who has lived away from home for ten or more years. He now lives close by, independently (apart from some financial help). Conversation has become a business fraught with difficulties. So many subjects are off limits; future plans, the availability or not of jobs, hints that we may need help. I was forty-two when I gave birth to this , my second son. So as you can imagine the generation gap is large. Yesterday on a brief visit, he said something which astonished me.
I mentioned a television programme I had particularly enjoyed on the BBC, Michael Portillo’s Railway journeys in the USA. The vision of the incredible Niagara Falls. The stupendous sweep of the amazing geographical formation on the border between Canada and USA,in addition we heard the tremendous sound of the torrent of water. My son tells me for the first time he has seen the Falls with his own eyes. I’m astonished that he has never previously mentioned this fact. Of course I know he has been to the USA on two occasions doing research. His father and I stumped up the money to make these trips possible. He has said almost nothing about what he saw, experienced and felt. His father and I have never been and probably the only way we will see it is in travel programmes like Michael Portillo’s programme on railway journeys. In ten years he has never once mentioned he saw Niagara Falls, I am astounded.
I feel if it had been me, I would have rushed home, with loads of photographs and insisted on telling everyone about my amazing experience. For a number of reasons I won’t bore you with his father and I are not widely travelled people and are unlikely to see this natural wonder with our own eyes. Not a word, not one measly postcard.