While I was out walking the other day, a light aircraft flew overhead.
Nothing unusual about that; with its single engine, whirring away gently like they do, it milled across the sky like it could have been any time during the past 70 years.
Then I walked past somebody who was wearing tweed; which, again, is not uncommon round my way – the peculiarly, slightly disconcertingly old-fashioned bit of Middle England where trousers of colour outnumber people of colour by an alarming ratio.
Anyway, there’s a reason for tweed: it’s late summer, after all, so it's starting to get a bit cooler. Perhaps, I thought, when I get home, I’ll warm the house up by setting fire to a lump of wood.
Odd, isn’t it? All of these pieces of – for want of a better word – technology have been surpassed. Or could have been, if we’d wanted to surpass them. Perhaps I’m stretching the point a little with the light aircraft, but there are far more ‘technical’ fabrics than tweed, far more efficient and less time-consuming ways to heat one corner of one room of a house by seasoning wood for three years and then burning it. But, here we are, yearning for the inefficient: owning a range cooker, mowing lawns ourselves when a robotic mower would do it better, buying vinyl or, indeed, using a classic car.
‘Eschew’ is a banned word in the Autocar style guide for the good reason that it makes you sound like a div, but when it comes to modernising elements of our lives, it fits. There is a great deal of eschewery of the latest things going on. I could control the temperature of my home via an app, on a phone. Apparently some people even do. But somehow it is nicer to watch flames flicker and burn. And then go out. And then flicker. And fade again and… I don’t know, I think it would have been easier if I’d just put the heating on.
I don’t think this is nostalgia. At least, not in the accepted sense. I just think there comes a point in the development of things when we accept that technological advancement has served us well enough. Neither the plate, nor the fork, say, has needed any further tinkering for quite some years. It’s possible to buy an electric, even digital, salt dispenser. But why would you? Things are not just fine. They are good. They are enough.
Which leaves the car where exactly? When it comes to motor racing, it is, I suspect, done. The spectacle probably peaked when cars were at their noisiest and wildest and drivers at their most visible, which is why classic car racing is so popular, regardless of how tech-laden some racing series, contested by companies with cars to flog, have become.
In the road car market, though, we’re not done. We can’t be. It’s an odd time. Too many people die, we sit in queues for too long and air quality is too bad. It has been for decades, yet only now do we seem to have noticed.