Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

This morning my mum was going on the local church's day out for seniors to Hampshire, so I tagged-along as a volunteer.

In practical terms this meant that I got to go on a free coach trip, and spend the day pushing a lady who was not my mum around in a wheelchair, because she had a broken arm.

Milestones is a nine-year-old historical town, constructed using similar design and materials to buildings within the past century-ish. Spookily, it never rains at Milestones, because the entire village is contained inside an even larger building in Basingstoke. I guess that must be the way every neighbourhood was built back in the increasingly ubiquitous "the day".

Me outside the Milestones Odeon
For me, these family day-out museums always conjure-up thoughts of cordoned-off waxworks, enhanced by film of a costumed actor's face enthusiastically chatting about how life used to be in olden times.

I wasn't disappointed.

The very first section featured just such a digital-projection of a costumed actor, who even managed to actually use the phrase "in my day". Priceless. (literally – I'd got in for free remember)

Ever on the cutting-edge of technology, the museum also issued everyone who wanted one with a sort of long mobile-phone handset which, when a number from the map was punched-in, would play a recording of information about the corresponding section. Juggling this, the map, my rucksack and the wheelchair, I quickly gave-up using it, but others thought it was fabulous.

After I'd learnt how to wrangle the chair around cobbled-streets, our group decided to head back upstairs for lunch. Temporarily returning her handset, my mum spotted a couple of low-speed electric buggies sitting idle. Enquiring further, we learnt that they were complimentary buggies, but had been prebooked for the day. However, if the patrons in question didn't return from lunch, then my mum was welcome to take one out for a spin!

One tasty meal later, and we found three of the things still sitting unused downstairs, so after a quick lesson, off my mum set with the rest of us walking, or trundling, in the tracks of her tyres! The irony of such a modern vehicle making its way down such ancient-looking streets was not lost on me.

Not remotely conspicuous
We made it through the town to an in-character talk about saving money during the war, which concluded with us all singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, We'll Meet Again and The Lambeth Way. Given how well-suited these tunes were to the retired audience, I had to slightly wonder why they even bothered with the lyric-sheets. (the "OI!"s and the thumbs to the last track were not written-down, but everyone - including me - inserted them anyway)

Then it was into several other areas including, as one of our party put it, the "modern" era section. This contained, among other loudly-coloured items, a record-player (sadly not working today so we couldn't play the Jimmy Young 78), an early home-computer with a cassette-machine built-in, and a toy Dalek!

Just off one of the cobbled streets was also a camera shop, and I was intrigued to spot in a display-case a fully-spent, but undeveloped, cartridge of Agfa Super 8 ciné film. I had to wonder just what footage had actually been shot on this to leave it in this condition, and sadly accepted that, unless it had been specially run-through for the museum, those priceless pictures would almost certainly never now be processed and seen. Agfa Super 8 - I think there's only one lab left in the world that will develop that now. ( I have some stuff of my own to send there shortly.

Finally it was to the costume tent, where one could dress-up in garments from yesteryear, and photograph each other in the olde wolde streets outside. Alas, as I scanned the items on offer, I had to concede out loud that "These clothes don't look much different to what's in my wardrobe anyway." So I sat that one out.

Piling back into the coach, it had all been a good day.

Back home outside the church, I was faffing about in the milling crowd of goodbyers, trying to swap email addresses and return one of the group's four wheelchairs to inside the building. Suddenly a lady in a sling made her way up to me and determinedly said "Thank you very much."

I was completely taken by surprise. Maybe this is the wrong thing to say, but despite having spent the day wheeling her around, intently observing her face to gauge when she wanted to move on, and generally chatting and passing things, I don't think I'd really noticed.

More about Milestones Museum here.


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