As I headed home from Sainsburys today and found myself walking towards a bench that wasn’t there, I was struck by the fact that life seems to have turned largely into an insulting affair. The non-bench brought to mind many other instances of vacuums; the waiting rooms of my youth that seem to have gone west; the simple ability to open the window of a bus or train to let in some fresh air and the courtesy and respect that people used to afford each other.

I looked at the spot where a bench should have been and was able to see four marks where one had once graced the ground with its presence. I then made my way towards the bus stop next to where I felt the bench should have been and perched myself onto one of the red plastic bars that now furnish the bus shelters.

I kept looking at the spot where a bench had once been and every now and then I looked around at people passing by. I saw no looks of disgust however and by the time the bus had arrived I had determined that all those around me were conspiring to make me believe that there had never been a bench. I sat on the bus still thinking about the bench. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I tried to think about the first time I had sat on it. It must have been in 1969 when I was seven years old. As kids, we used to congregate around the bench before going into the Odeon Cinema to see a film together.

This train of thought reminded me that local cinemas used to show what we called a “continuous performance”. There was always a main film and a support film and they would just follow each other a number of times from when the cinema opened until it closed. One ticket was entitlement to stay in the cinema for as long as one wished and many was the time we would be late for a film and stay after it had finished to watch the beginning. With particularly exciting films, and especially on rainy afternoons, we would stay and watch the main feature twice.

As I sat on the bus I thought that life really should improve rather than worsen and I wondered why in so many areas that simply wasn’t the case.

Why, for example, do men find themselves strangled by their own belts in an effort to keep their trousers on? Braces will always do a better job so why don’t we use them? Why was it was possible thirty years ago at Waterloo Station, to see both the giant departures board and the main clock from the comfort of a wooden bank inside a comfortable and warm waiting room, with a cup of tea and an open newspaper, at liberty to remain there for half an hour, if necessary, before hearing the announcement for one’s train?

What happens now? We are all forced to stand in a huddle peering up at twenty small monitors until shortly before our trains depart. Is there a single place to sit down? No. The waiting rooms have long been transformed into franchised burger bars and even they have no place where one may sit down and eat. They’ve been blatantly and unashamedly designed for fast turnover and maximum profit. The companies who own them are no doubt only sorry that they can’t liquidise the burgers and stick a funnel in people’s mouths whilst they turn on a tap.

No, life doesn’t always get better. In many respects it often gets worse.

My basic beliefs are capitalist but the world we all live in today goes much further than free enterprise. We are all subjected to the greed of psychopathic multinationals who espouse capitalism for themselves and socialism under their rule for the rest of us.

I realise there are many like myself who are being portrayed as moaners. The classic media terminology for us is “Grumpy Old Men”. It is an instantly dismissive label, guaranteed to move the focus of the sheeple back to Crumpet and Coca Cola. The sad fact, however, is that there is much for older people to moan about. There is much that can be learned from the “old ways” and if younger people were to realise that new isn’t always better, our world might become that tiny bit better.

So that’s what this blog is mainly about; pointing out what has changed for the worse to those people who might be in a position to change it. The older we get, the less power we all have in saying what constitutes our environment. I’m middle aged now but have an inkling of what it will be like to be older. I see old people being flung about on buses by drivers who take no pride in breaking gently and I shudder to think of what the future will bring.

The picture at the top of this page shows a world with one bench less in it for no good reason. That bench has just been swallowed up by “progress”. It now resides only in people’s memories but it doesn’t have to disappear forever. If you look closely and use your imagination, you can “see” it in front of the cinema with people sitting on it, talking and laughing. It isn’t just a bench. It is a place for people to rest, to wait comfortably for a bus and to be together. What will this world be like when the last of such places disappear?