Thursday, 21 June 2012

Things you see.

If you walk through the centre of Manchester you quite often see people walking along drinking coffee from one of those half-pint paper cups with a plastic top on. I’ve always harrumphed and said that you wouldn’t see that in Spain. People here know how to drink coffee. They all have more sense, And so on and so on. Well, the other day, for the first time ever, I saw someone walking down the street drinking coffee from one of those half-pint paper cups with a plastic top on. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. 

Not only that, however, I noticed in the local supermarket, alongside the yoghurts in the fridge, a row of chilled cappuccino to take away, the sort my daughter picks up all the time and has in her car to give her a boost as she drives to and from university. More changes in coffee habits which I’m not sure I approve of. It’s all a bit too American for my liking. 

What you do see here and not in the UK are quite a lot of old-fashioned baby carriages, as opposed to the little trolleys you fasten the new-born car seat onto. Possible it’s because people do more walking around pushing prams here. Babies and toddlers all look a bit more old-fashioned too, a bit like 1950s babies almost. Different traditions in different places. 

They sell quite a lot of those olde-worldy toddler dresses in a shop round the corner from our flat. It’s a shop that advertises “Arreglos”, in other words, alterations and mending, another thing you rarely see advertised in the UK. I know of a stall in Oldham market that does things like replace zips and shorten trousers but that’s the only one I know of in the town. You don’t see such shops on the average high street. However, in the shop round the corner from us you can see two ladies busily working away at their sewing machines. That itself is getting to be a lost art in the UK. Recently I saw part of a programme on TV about a company trying to see if it would be worth their while moving their cushion factory from China to the north of England. I don’t know what their conclusions were but they had difficulty recruiting machinists, because girls don’t have the skills any longer. And of those they recruited, one gave up before the training was completed. It was easier to go back to working in a call centre. 

Isabel Allende, whose book I have now finished reading, also commented on the loss of the old traditional skills. In her case she was talking about ladies knitting on the bus. You used to see it all the time but now that cheap clothes are imported into Chile, she said, no-one wants to knit any more. I recently saw someone knitting on a train in Greater Manchester but I can’t say it’s a common sight. In general it’s disappeared, partly because it’s actually more expensive to buy the yarn and make the garment than it is to buy one ready-made. I also read some time ago about someone who used to knit on long-haul flights, but can’t do so any longer, as knitting needles are potential weapons and therefore are a terrorist threat. 

That’s the modern world for you.

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