Memories shouldn't be left on roadside

MAKESHIFT roadside memorials to crash victims are symbols of modern times.They're emblems of the current fanaticism for public mourning, communal grief and crowd mentality.

MAKESHIFT roadside memorials to crash victims are symbols of modern times.

They're emblems of the current fanaticism for public mourning, communal grief and crowd mentality.

When once mourners would retreat behind closed doors, drawing the curtains and grieve in private, now floral tribute-festooned shrines mark the spot of death and provide a meeting place for outpourings of grief.

Mawkish, inappropriate eyesores or fitting way to grieve? Everyone has an opinion on these memorials and whether they should be allowed.

Some say bouquets, paintings, notices and poems tied to posts and railings distract drivers risking even more accidents.

Others view them as a sombre reminder to people to watch their speed.

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Personally, I think they're tacky, sentimental and have no place on the public highway.

But then I've never lost anyone in a road crash, although people I know who have driven miles out of their way to avoid the death scene. They never want to see it again let alone have it turned into viewing spot.

We have got carried away with the idea of public mourning and our need to show, in grand displays of emotion and statement, what people meant to us.

Because we make a big noise, colourful spectacle and bigger and better makeshift shrine doesn't make our hurt greater.

But, hey, everyone has a right to grieve as they want.

Now councils across the country - including Suffolk and Norfolk - are taking a hard line and considering slapping a12-week time limit on these memorials and clearing the sites after three weeks.

Families are outraged at the 'insensitivity' and 'callousness'.

But, hang on, these are public highways not people's gardens to decorate and adorn as they choose.

Are posies on posts really helping them come to terms with their loss?

Wouldn't those they'd lost prefer to be remembered somewhere they loved to be - a bench overlooking the sea or on the golf course or a woodland walk. Or even just at home sitting on the sofa.

Is revisiting the side of a road, breathing in exhaust fumes and, on busy carriageways, risking being knocked down themselves a fitting memorial?

Memories don't have to be visible and paraded in public to be meaningful.

No one wants to offend and hurt those already in pain but clearing sites after three weeks might be what they need to help them move on, to create something constructive, like a garden or plant a tree and mark it as the next phase of learning to lok to the future, that person always in their mind.

As hard as it might seem, the councils are doing these families a favour.

And when they take that next step, they might just see it.

Claire Robertson is just the sort of woman this country needs right now.

A 34-year-old with enough get up and go to breathe new life into her old Woolies.

Claire had worked her way up to manager of her local Woolworths when it closed but she refused to be beaten.

Instead of signing on, she went to the bank, sought business advice and ploughed every minute of every day and every penny into reopening the Dorchester branch as Wellworth's giving jobs to nearly all her former colleagues.

It might not work out - times are tough on the high street - but she's shown the gumption and spirit so often lacking to have a go. She's providing a much-missed service to her local community - long live her pick 'n' mix - and, from early takings, it looks like her community will reward her with their custom and loyalty.

True entrepreneurship laced with a hefty helping of community spirit. Something, as we await the next line-up of self-serving young upstarts in next week's new series of BBC's Apprentice, wannabe entrepreneurs could learn from.

I can't look at photos of the parents of the two boys killed by drink-drive soccer star Luke McCormick without feeling enveloping sadness.

Amanda Peak and her husband Phil are empty and lost without 10-year-old Arron and Ben, eight, killed when Plymouth goalkeeper McCormick dozed off and ploughed into their car at 97mph last June.

The couple, who lived for their children, can never become parents again because Amanda underwent a hysterectomy for cancer.

So they tried to adopt but have been told they can't because they're still grieving.

They're understandably distraught, feeling they have so much to give children in care.

But as much as they'll make lovely parents again one day, now is too soon.

It's not yet a year since their children died and their grief is still raw.

Yet when 33-year-old Amanda says: 'When I think of all those poor children in homes who have nothing, I think, 'Please let me be a mother to one of them'. It almost feels like we're being punished for our children dying in that car accident' it seems callous to deprive them of offering their love.

But they're still in those dark days.

One day, when they can see light and hope again in their lives, they will be allowed to give a happy home and inspirational care to children who've come from misery.

I hope they're granted their wish and from their tragedy can come love and nurturing.

My nine-year-old asked the other day how to get a job.

'I know I've got to work hard at school and get qualifications but how do you get a job? What do you do, who decides?'

Seconds into my spiel about applications, work experience, interviews and tests, he'd heard enough.

'It sounds far too complicated. I don't think I'll bother.'

I hadn't the heart to tell him that by the time his turn comes there probably won't be any jobs anyway.

With cars becoming the new offices and soaring repossessions, hey presto, a canny manufacturer has spotted an opportunity - domestic appliances for the car.

A microwave that plugs into the cigarette lighter of the car is being marketed for �130.

Next move a mini chemi-loo. The future's not that great.

A letter dropped through my door this morning reminding me to book a cervical smear test.

Normally I'd prevaricate, slip it to the bottom of the pile, add it to a long to-do list and make excuse after excuse to put it off, as irresponsible and foolhardy I know it is.

But today I picked the phone up to book an appointment straight away.

It's Jade Goody's legacy to generations of women lucky enough to have the choice.

Today the spring sunshine pushed temperatures up to 16 degrees and I walked the dog across deserted marshland and by the river by our village.

The effect was like a natural Prozac. Clear skies, rolling landscapes, peace and nature.

As the recession bites, leaving families 17 per cent worse off this year, all this is on our doorstep for free.

We all like something for free and, with finances tight, what a better time to get a natural high from exploring our countryside?

And on the way home pop into an endangered species, the village pub - mine was enjoying a brisk early evening trade - to give your support as 39 pubs close every week as tax rises hit trade.

Every year before Mothering Sunday a new survey is released with a load of old tosh about how much a mother's services are worth in real money.

This year, a stay-at-home mother does enough work at home to qualify for a �32,000 salary.

The words mother and salary are uneasy partners. The whole point is that mothers do it all - and more - for free, with love. It's just what we do. Unconditional care and love.

We don't expect anything back.

Apart perhaps from a little rest, fuss and pampering on Sunday - just to make us feel every other day of the year is worth it.

Happy Mothering Sunday.

In my day, Women's Group at university meant Revolutionary Socialists, crew cuts and Doctor Marten Boots.

Today it's embracing more traditional themes.

Our make-do-and-mend times is helping one traditional women's organisation break into new territory.

The first university campus WI group has just started at Goldsmiths College in London where knitting, crafts and recipe swapping will be on the agenda.

To perk things up a bit for the students, Jerusalem will be replaced with rock music and sushi rather than scones will be served at meetings.

The group's founder, India Volkers, 18, an English literature student and member of a hard-core indie band, said that she aimed to continue the 'great traditions' of the WI by making it relevant and useful to younger women.

Bravo to the WI - which celebrates its centenary in six years - for not being afraid to move with the times and embrace the modern world.

Getting their kit off for charity has a lot to answer for - and it all sounds much more fun and useful than the male-bashing grim-faced 'wimmin's' groups 25 years ago.