The locals loved to walk along the path above the shore and rest on the row of benches, leaning back against the memorial plaques of those who had enjoyed the same sea view and breathed the same fresh air many years before. For early morning walkers, evening strollers and everyone in between the seats were in regular use all day long.

That was until the planners at the Department of Transport chose that area to build a new motorway.

Straight away, logistics companies decided they could now transport their foodstuffs over longer distances. Soon, the view in one direction from the benches was of queues of lorries, off to an early start and belching out diesel fumes. The parents of the school pupils decided it was no longer safe to walk or cycle with the children, and took to using the new road to drop off and pick up in their gas guzzling people-carriers and 4 x 4s. By evening, youths congregated to socialise in the parking areas, leaving the engines of their old bangers running and the exhausts belching out black fumes. With music blaring, they then took turns to use the road as a race track to see what speeds they could achieve.

All the commuters decided that having to follow timetabled schedules on buses and trains was more inconvenient than each taking their own car down the new fast road. Once that became the norm, though, the motorway got congested in the rush hours. The planning committee called an emergency meeting and decided there was no other choice than to build two extra lanes in each direction.

In time, it was noticeable that the occupants of the nearby houses rarely opened their windows, and indeed hardly ever emerged. Eventually, they got bored, and drove off to the airport for a long haul holiday flight. Rumours started to circulate that the local hospitals were seeing more new cases of asthmatic conditions than usual, and so sale boards started to proliferate outside houses.

Now, each evening, the row of benches sits empty in the setting sun.

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1 year ago

A story of the step by step loss of nature in everyday life. Deftly done, so that we see every decision makes the next and the next more probable, leading to a bitter end. A sad but accurate commentary on “progress”.


Alan Kemister
Alan Kemister(@alan-kemister)
1 year ago

Methinks you are arguing against progress, but arguing against misguided environment-destroying progress is what we must do. I’m reminded of a British Columbia cabinet minister from years ago when I was growing up. Forestry was the biggest industry in BC in those days, and he called the smog and sulphury… Read more »

Paul Lewthwaite
Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
1 year ago

I enjoyed the dark humour of your story, where every action led to something else even worse happening. Definitely like dominoes falling. The final, wistful line was a great ending.

Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
1 year ago

This story made me cry, Susan. Years ago, the day I graduated from university, I bought a 100-year old farmhouse surrounded by seven acres of wild cherry trees, blueberry bushes, an ancient cemetery, and the best black soil I’ve ever seen. I could toss a seed in any direction and… Read more »

Julie Harris
Julie Harris(@julie-harris)
Reply to  Susan Dawson
1 year ago

Very unusual indeed. One day two very old ladies visited me. They were 95 and 98 years old, and sisters. “Our daddy built this house!” they told me, excited as kids at Christmas. “Can we look around?” I took them through the house, which had six rooms: entry room (which… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago

I was suddenly sad as I read the content of your story, Susan. I gasped. I asked myself, is there no other way? Yes, we know that the construction of extra two lanes is for development but if that development is detrimental to human health, that is another problem. I… Read more »

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Susan Dawson
1 year ago

I found it very engaging. Good job.

Dipayan Chakrabarti
Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
1 year ago

Your story nicely portrays the simple need for a good clean environment.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
1 year ago

What a beautiful picture of the benches in the setting sun with the the majestic nature in the background! And how sad that the benches are all empty. You paint a clear picture of the dilemma which is prevalent almost everywhere today: the struggle between modern society’s craving for profit… Read more »

Marianna Pieterse
Marianna Pieterse(@marianna-pieterse)
1 year ago

Susan, I agree with Paul, it was interesting to see how one decision led to the next and the next. I can understand that progress is needed, but where does one draw the line when it comes to destroying nature and the very things we need to survive? Great story.

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