Blog no. 4

There are many adverts on television just now from Plan International which, again, highlight the lack of progress in so many areas of the female world.  During the last 30 years or so, it seems I have evolved into a sceptical, grumpy old woman.  Following a magazine article in 1985, I was inspired to take out a sponsorship for a young girl in the Sudan.  Her story still haunts me to this day.  I wrote and received letters and photos written on her behalf in return.  It felt good to be taking some action.  Then, suddenly, it all stopped.  The Sudanese government refused the support of Plan as it wanted money not actual help…  A similar story emerged in other countries.  I left the organisation when I felt the issues were too big for aid organisations and needed the wielding of some sort of incentive/economic-based argument brought to bear by other governments.  An aid worker shot in Pakistan summed up the situation poignantly.  In this current climate of individualism and nationalism, I feel that globalisation could be used as a good unifying force around the world.  Already, there is united action over climate change by young people.  Surely, this is the way forward for all the major issues facing the human race?  People are rallying round to raise money to help those affected by the fires in Australia.  Hopefully to help people as well as cute koalas.  After over 80 years of action, I find it astounding that Plan’s aid is still required.  And specifically for girls.  It is a sad indictment of our uneven global development that more is not being done at a governmental level for people. 

     ‘Staycation’.  Back in the days of my youth, we ‘went on holiday’ to Cornwall.  Living in the south east, this was an adventure and often involved overnight car journeys, with Dad driving through the night in a bid to outwit the traffic jams.  Before the transformative M5 and road improvements, the nose to tail cars would crawl through Taunton, Honiton, Okehampton, Bodmin…And with what delight did we enjoy the wide sandy beaches and gloriously colourful lanes of Cornwall.  Cornwall.  The name redolent of early daffodils, cream and mystery, of smugglers and shipwrecks, of fun and childhood.  By its very name, ‘Staycation’ implies staying at home although it is, it seems, taken to mean holidays taken in Britain.  I think people have forgotten that foreign holidays used to be luxuries affordable by only the very rich.  They were exotic and to be treasured.  I feel that cheap air travel has devalued the experience of travelling abroad, diminishing the experience to sun and sea.  Relaxation is important but so to is the experience of seeing how other people live, what other places are like.  I am reminded of my OU course, ‘Explorations of human geography’, in which we studied the effects of global travel upon developing countries.  The higher standards demanded by many visitors result in hotels importing most of the consumables needed thus resulting in financial leakage to the detriment of the country being visited.  It is reassuring to note that over the years there has been an increase in sustainable tourism and efforts made to reduce the impact of too many visitors to significant sites.

      Retirement.  Oh dear.  We all know the retirement age has been raised across the board with particular effects for those of us of a certain gender and age yet the BBC News website has a statement on there stating there are more people over the age of 50 in work ‘a record high’.  Why the tone of surprise or why is it even noteworthy?  How many people can actually retire without a state pension at the age of 50.  I struggle with the notion that longevity must equal fitness to work in the first instance and why are we all programmed to work until retirement.  Surely, the best way forward is to aim to have a better work/life balance?  Will Hutton put forward a convincing argument in the 1990s about the lack of necessity for a 5-day working week.  He advocated that, with increased technology, we should be working fewer hours while producing the same, or more than, as before. 

     So, with more free time on the horizon, will I have staycations or exotic adventures…?  Or exotic adventures amidst the diverse counties of the United Kingdom? 

Karen Hedges

February 2020

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