Ipple-Pen Diary. No Choice Is a Bonus

(2 December 2018)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the church in our little village is 700 years old and it follows that the village is even older.

For centuries people have been travelling through the village initially on foot, and then by horse and cart and in the modern day motor vehicles.

The one thing that has never stopped is George Stephenson’s railway mainly due to the fact that there isn’t and has never been a station here.

And please don’t run away with the idea that because Ipplepen lies in the rural South West that the locals are country bumpkins who stand in awe and point at aeroplanes as if they are mystical magical alien craft.

Though to be fair there may be some in the region who do.

I also think it is fair to say that the south west is so remote from the rest of England and ignored by the powers to be in London that going on a train journey is a source of great excitement and something of an adventure.

Things have changed markedly however since de-nationalisation when British Rail was broken up and sold off to privatised companies.

In the years of old, (in the 1950’s and 60’s so not so long ago) rail travel was exciting with the very distinctive smell of coal fired steam engines firing the sense of anticipation at the journey to come.

It was the days where in every carriage and corridor there was a sign below the Emergency Chain which said something to the effect that “pulling the Chain without good reason will result in a £25 penalty” or even worse.

I suppose in todays world of privatised profit orientated and Government subsidised (that’s the taxpayer to you and me) railways (bloody Branson and bloody Virgin) the sign will now scream “Go on Pull me and add £200 to your fare”.

The thing is that even though the rail service is poor and extortionately expensive if it is possible it’s an infinitely better way to travel than by car on the UK roads the condition of which are nothing short of disgraceful.

In the Caribbean a taxi driver once told me that in order to pass the driving test you had to prove you had the ability to be a PHD driver meaning Pot Hole Dodger. 

If it was the case in the UK the number of drivers would be reduced by at least 100%.

It has not gone unnoticed by those who live in these islands that the hallmark of the now privatised utilities is a total lack of communication which is shown by their uncanny knack of digging a hole in the identical spot to where one was dug and filled in by one of the other providers.

Ipplepen residents in this respect are no different to those who live up and down the country and with who they share the frustrations of having to sit in queues of cars going precisely nowhere.

Or at least nowhere very quickly and it is even worse when it happens during the summer holiday season here in the South West.

I know of couples who share the same kind of relationship as that between the utility companies who appear even though they live and conduct their business in the same locality never seem to meet.

Is it any wonder that the electricity people don’t know what the gas people don’t know what the television don’t know what the telephone company are planning and which road is FOI g to be dug up next?

It was all so simple in the past when the village first got electricity and gas when the electric company sold us electric, gas company sold us gas, water board sold us water and British Telecom provided telephones and television came via an aerial attached to the chimney.

Now it is all about what the advertisers (Government driven) call ‘consumer choice’ which when it comes to utilities is an expression that I find absolutely baffling.

Gas! electricity! water! – where is the choice?

Whatever the company it all flows through the same pipes or cables into the house.

And choice…… What choice?

I don’t know of anyone who lives in our little corner of paradise who has the option to opt out of the basic staples of gas, electricity or water.

Ipplepen people are not idiots or the unintelligent half-witted country bumpkins portrayed in the old black and white films of the 1930’s and 40’s.

They are bright enough to ask what the hell are we doing handing over control of essential utilities to marketing advertisers and bloody accountants.

Choice is what you have if you live in a town such as Newton Abbot or Totnes where you can choose between McDonalds, Burger King or KFC what nutritionists would call the choice between horse-s*** and bull-s***.

Which brings me back to one of the pleasures of living in Ipplepen.

I think we are very fortunate that the village isn’t yet (and I hope it never will be) large enough to be of any interest to the purveyors of fast food outlets which makes not having an ‘on your doorstep’ choice a real bonus.

If you want a choice there is always the Wellington.