Home truths

The Secret Engineer

The ordered, sensible world of the Secret Engineer’s youth has been turned on its head. He, or she, asks why we have changed the rules?

When my kids ask me difficult questions I’m always very careful to give the most accurate answers that I can. That’s because I remember how some of the answers that my Dad gave me have shaped my thinking over the years.

I remember getting quite excited when I saw a continental police force using Porsches. I asked my Dad if our police might start driving Porsches. He immediately dismissed that idea and informed me that they would always drive British made cars. He went on to explain that it would be wrong to spend British taxpayers’ money supporting foreign workers and silly to boost another country’s economy rather than our own.

It’d never happen here

Over the years he explained several other things that also seemed to make perfect sense. He explained that our farmers are very efficient and that we are able to be almost self sufficient for a lot of foodstuffs. He explained that some industries like gas, electricity, water and even railways were natural monopolies and so it didn’t make sense to have different companies in competition. He asked me to imagine what it would be like if each house had a number of gas pipes, electricity lines and phone lines running to it. How silly and wasteful would it be to have multiple train lines connecting the same cities he asked me?  Later in life I came across other things that seemed perfectly logical, like a large coal fired power station built adjacent to a big colliery with many years of coal left.

All these things seemed so sensible; I wonder why we have changed the rules now. The coal mine was shut because of a power struggle, despite there being plenty of coal still underground, and when I visited the power station some years ago they told me the coal now comes all the way from South America. Farmers’ fields are left empty or used for cash crops because of EU directives. I read recently that most police cars are now foreign made and Merseyside police have recently caused some upset by choosing to replace locally built Vauxhall Astras with Korean made Hyundais. During my own career I’ve been made redundant as a result of a government decision to buy products from overseas. Then, when I was short of money after being made redundant, I don’t believe the choice of utility companies on offer allowed me to save money or get better service. 

So I’m always very careful with the answers I give to my children, because I’m never sure how the world might change. There’s one other thing I remember my Dad telling me, and that was that the Prince of Wales would never be allowed to get divorced, let alone re-marry.