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Last weekend, Gill and I took a birthday trip (Gill's birthday) to Mount Usher Gardens at Ashford, Co Wicklow. This has become a favourite spot of ours despite having not as yet visited the gardens themselves, confining our attention to the retail outlets at the entrance. 
Avoca Cafe at Mount Usher Gardens
A beautiful light lunch at the Avoca Cafe was followed by a browse around the shops. Very pleasant.
On our trip home across the misty Wicklow Hills, my thoughts idled on the subject of motor vehicles, and motor cars in particular. For nearly 20 years, I was employed by General Accident Insurance (now part of Aviva), working for most of that time in the Motor Department. I had always liked cars; used to buy Motor and Autocar magazines; carried a battered copy of The Observer's Book of Automobiles with me as a boy, and could instantly recognise almost any British or European car on sight, (American cars were as rare as hen's teeth, and Japanese vehicles ... did they exist?)
I loved the individuality of features on any vehicle - badges; radiator grilles; hubcaps - which readily identified the marque. The Humber Hawk; Jowett Javelin, Austin A40 to randomly pick out three - each  was designed with what I can only describe as character, personality even.
Colossus computer at Bletchley Park
Now, even with badges to help, I would be pushed to tell a Ford from a Fiat; a Volkswagen from a Vauxhall; a Peugeot from a, a ... what is that exactly? I dare say computer design is to blame, if indeed 'blame' is something one can impose on computers; rather it is the computer men who input the stuff, and accept what it churns out; or am I over-simplifying. You fill all the relevant info into a computer, press 'start' and it will give you the perfect aerodynamic configuration, which will be similar to everyone elses, because all the research will tend towards the same solution.
I lament this move towards a form of universalism - the loss of diversity. Of course there are differences in all things. Each human being is still marvellously unique, but there is tremendous pressure from those that we have voted in to shepherd us, to make us think and act like sheep, presumably so that one rogue ewe doesn't lead us all over a cliff, so to speak. Government is so much easier if everyone thinks uniformly.
Laws are being passed with alarming frequency nowadays - at least in the UK and Ireland in my experience - designed to make us conform to a set of standards that some of us find immoral and wrong because in allowing 'a democratic freedom of choice' to some, it restricts that same freedom for the many. Personal, and in particular, religious viewpoints that were the norm only a few years ago can land you in court today. I do not know about Ireland, but in the UK I feel that I am best keeping my moderate opinions to myself in case the 'shifting sand' of contemporary mores catches me unawares
I used to believe that I lived in a land where freedom of expression was enshrined in the very fabric of society, but it seems that George Orwell was right when he wrote that "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Some of us have to mind our P's and Q's.
Bit of a risk writing all this in a blog really.


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