The first coach party of Bucks WI members set off on a rainy day to travel to London to walk in the footsteps of the Suffragettes. Another group will do the same next week. We disembarked in Pall Mall to find a quick lunch before meeting our guide. Several of the party ate in the National Gallery and had found time to look at the Rokeby Venus which had been slashed by Mary Richardson and the portraits of the members of the Pankhurst family. We gathered below the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square to meet our two Blue Badge guides dressed in the purple and green used by those women. Many of us had looked out clothes in the same colours. It was interesting to hear passers-by recognise what we were representing. From Trafalgar Square we walked 2 miles around Westminster to cover the places where significant events of the campaign had occurred and where the pioneering women had lived. The guide also tied in the historical events with the recent filming. We didn’t get as far as visiting Holloway Prison. The guides were full of information and answered all the questions fired at them. We walked past the Home Office, saw the window from which Margaret Thatcher had acknowledged the crowd, admired the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst and the recent monument to the Women’s suffrage. It is an inspiring story although some of their deeds not words were very anti-social towards the beginning of the first world war. On the way home we glimpsed the Christmas decorations in Kensington High Street which were already lit up and saw the huge angels suspended above Regent and Oxford Streets which were to be switched on later this week. The journey there and back worked to time and everyone was delighted with her day and we really felt a deep admiration for what the suffragettes had achieved for us.
The topic for the Discussion Group tonight was “Automation versus Control”. I think it had been suggested following the work going on in Milton Keynes with driverless cars which is an alarming idea to most of us. However, there is so much in our daily lives which is automated that we cannot contemplate doing without: in fact, we would not be able to lead the lives that we do without the help of these computerised machines. The thought of robots wandering around our houses being helpful is unsettling. What happens when they go wrong? When they start to be master rather than slave?