So here we are on an estate, a new one, full of young families. Almost all of us work. I know people who work 12 hour shifts, who work nights. I know a mum who delivers parcels in and around caring for a baby, several older kids, her own cat and two that she took in. Finances for so many, are on a knife edge and are often tipped over the edge of what it's possible to live on. There are no second chances. My Nan knew about this kind of living. She was the only daughter of John Pemberton, whose family lived and worked in Dallam Forge in Warrington. The girls in the family were cotton mill workers. Nan's dad was black-listed because he was a trade union representative. For two years, he could not work and her mum took in sewing. She passed on her skills to her daughter, who taught me, her grand-daughter, so I was able to make blinds for our house and can mend things almost invisibly. She always encouraged me in music too, setting the example of learning the guitar with arthritic fingers when she was in her 70's and going on to teach it, with a Diploma to match her longstanding teaching qualifications in piano. I still have sheet music that she gave me - Beethoven, Chopin, Spanish composers, carefully covered in brown paper to make it last, with her beautiful handwriting. But how was she able to do that? I can only imagine that John Pemberton and his wife had a vision of how life could be for their beloved daughter and put money aside out of the little they earned for piano lessons so that in three generations, his family would eventually go to university. She and my other grandparents always encouraged but never pushed. We knew how much they loved us over and above anything we could do to make them proud of us. Today, my son picked out his favourite worship song on the piano by ear for the very first time on his own and was overcome with the depth of feeling he experienced at suddenly 'getting' music.
What if I'd never met her? What if her three children had been orphaned in the Birmingham Pub Bombings? What if I drive out of my estate tomorrow and one of the many near misses we have with drivers flying down the A48 too fast to give way takes my life?
What difference does it make?
We might get a lower speed limit. We might even get a speed camera. I won't know though and my son will be too little and too distressed to care. So, why not get those things now? Because until someone is killed, me or somebody else, there is no incentive for that to happen. Why? Because the total cost, in terms of family, community, hospitals, ambulances, loss of earnings, cumulative effect on children as they grow up, taxes that won't be paid, volunteering that won't get done, the total cost is simply incalculable. And until someone looks at the whole picture and does the sums, nothing will change for us or any other community.
A right to life? A right to a safe place to live? At least, I can assert my right to freedom of speech, even if it does, as it did for my great-grandfather, come at a cost. He knew it was worth it.