Up here in the Yorkshire Dales the population is getting older and older. 'Incomers' (of whom I am one) have retired and bought houses and cottages. This has meant that house prices have risen dramatically and are not affordable to local young people, who are having to either rent or move out of the Dales altogether.
Also, many of the young people around us would have worked on the farms at one time, but as farm machinery has got more and more expensive, so farmers have begun to sub-contract much of the heavy work (harvesting, silaging, hedge-cutting and laying, stone-walling and the like), so there are fewer jobs available.
So, there are more and more elderly people. When I was at our local Medical Centre a week ago I was struck by the fact that the waiting room was full and I doubt there was one person on the right side of sixty.
When I go into our little town every week for classes, meeting friends, collecting my pension etc. I tend to see the same people each week. I don't know them but I have met them often enough to perhaps pass the time of day, or at least smile. But of their lives I know nothing. Does this matter?
What set me thinking was an Obituary in The Times yesterday for an inventor and Television presenter called Bob Symes, who died on the 19th January. Bob was actually born Robert Alexander Baron Schutzmann von Schutzmansdorff into an aristocratic family who lived in a palace on the Ringstrasse in Vienna. His father was shot by the Nazis and his mother took the family to Britain. He became a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy and had an illustrious career, being mentioned in despatches. But of course, very few people knew this until he died last month at the ripe old age of 90.
I wonder how many people I see every week have stories from their past which would be fascinating. And does it matter that we know nothing of this? Probably not. Up here the locals are much more interested in what you are now that what you did in the past. Dare I say I think they are pretty quick to judge and rather slow to change that opinion. Things such as a miserable face, no smile on greeting, no helpful attitude - these are the kind of things which our local population values - and I agree they are very important. The farmers around us are always helpful to one another - as far as I know this applies to us all. If one of them drives a tractor into a ditch then another one is there quickly to tow them out - no need to ask. But wouldn't it be interesting sometimes to find out what some of the 'incomers' did in a previous life? Or maybe it is all better left unsaid.