Speed isn’t ev­ery­thing as life all too quickly passes us all by

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver

LET’S face it, we’re ob­sessed with speed. We’re fas­ci­nated with Usain Bolt’s re­cent world 100 me­tres record of 9.58 sec­onds. We are im­pressed by the lat­est fi­bre op­tic ca­ble broad­band that can down­load the aver­age length film in less than 20 sec­onds or all the episodes of Friends in un­der 15 min­utes.

We are be­wil­dered by speed dat­ing and con­fused by su­per­mar­ket “fast lanes” that seem to dis­crim­i­nate against those with most shop­ping.

We mar­velled at the first Ja­panese high speed “bul­let” train trav­el­ling from Tokyo to Osaka at 130mph. We were proud when Bri­tish Rail in­tro­duced the “125” trains in 1967, even though th­ese trains trav­elled slightly slower than the fa­mous Mal­lard, which set the speed record for the fastest steam train in the world of 126 mph back in 1938, a record that still stands. We are now in shock over the claim that HS2 will cut the time of a jour­ney from Leeds to Lon­don from two hours and 12 min­utes to only 82 min­utes. Of course, it will be 20 years be­fore this hap­pens by which time we may not want to go to Lon­don any­way and, more wor­ry­ingly, ev­ery­one in Lon­don might want to come to York­shire.

This love of speed is not new. In 1866, The Great Tea Race saw clip­pers sail­ing from China to Bri­tain in just over three months. Af­ter The Suez Canal was opened in 1872, The Cutty Sark sailed from Aus­tralia to Bri­tain in only 67 days. In the 20th cen­tury, at­ten­tion turned to the At­lantic cross­ings. In 1935, Harold Hales for­malised rules for the cross­ing, com­mis­sioned a tro­phy that was made in Sh­effield but still did not usurp the rights to The Blue Riband. In 1952, The Queen Mary lost the record held since 1938 to the SS United States and cut the cross­ing time to three and a half days.

In the air, it has only taken 100 years for air­craft to have in­creased their speed from the Wright Broth­ers fly­ing Kitty Hawk at 6.8mph to the un­manned Nasa hy­per­sonic jet at 7546 mph. On land, the record in­creased from a gen­tle 39mph to a far more ex­hil­a­rat­ing 763mph.

The phrase “fast food” was only coined in 1951 and yet one of its ma­jor ex­po­nents, McDon­alds, now has more than 31,000 restau­rants around the world and has set the stan­dard for speed of ser­vice. The first TV frozen din­ner was a Thanks­giv­ing turkey spe­cial that ap­peared two years later, man­u­fac­tured by CA Swan­son & Sons. They sur­prised them­selves by ex­ceed­ing their ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tion of sell­ing 5000 meals and sold 10 mil­lion in the first year. The at­trac­tion was clearly speed (it took only 25 min­utes to heat up) and con­ve­nience. Ready meals can now be heated up even more quickly in mi­crowaves.

But not ev­ery­thing needs to be so fast. The Slow Food Move­ment was es­tab­lished in Italy in 1986 and now has 100,000 mem­bers world­wide. Their aim is to pro­mote lo­cal food pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion us­ing tra­di­tional cook­ing meth­ods and recipes. This in­evitably leads to more lan­guid and re­flec­tive meals, which can be en­joyed leisurely and with fam­ily and friends. In to­day’s hurly-burly life, such time for re­flec­tion and fun is be­com­ing all too rare and all the more nec­es­sary. We may strug­gle to keep abreast of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances but we also need time to ab­sorb them and adapt them to our own lives. If we move too fast and don’t al­low time to pon­der, then we run the risk of mak­ing more mis­takes be­cause de­ci­sions have been taken un­nec­es­sar­ily rashly. Speed sim­ply doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean qual­ity. We should be proud of the speed records that have been bro­ken and there are clearly times when we must act ur­gently but we must also recog­nise that too much speed, for ex­am­ple on the roads, is un­de­sir­able. Ae­sop’s The Tor­toise and The Hare tells us this most poignantly. If that race was ever to be run again, the hare may well have learned his les­son and win but the tor­toise will un­doubt­edly have a far bet­ter din­ner.

Robin and Pa­tri­cia Sil­ver own The Home at Salts Mill, Sal­taire, www.the­home­on­line.co.uk

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