As I write, we’re going through an unprecedented worldwide experience and, here in the UK, our freedom is being curtailed considerably, for reasons most people accept and appreciate. When there is a war on, citizens also understand that they have to give up personal freedom for the greater good. But there is a line beyond which the bully, jobsworth or, as they used to say, Little Hitler, takes a pleasure in stepping and an experience in the 1940s was one that Jane never forgave.
Some 25 or more years ago, the WI debated, at their AGM, whether it was supportive of the introduction of identity cards. Each WI is entitled to send a voting delegate to the AGM, who will vote in accordance with the wishes of her society and so, the month leading up to the occasion, the motions put up for debate are discussed at the meeting. I murmured to friends that Mummy would have her say on the subject and, in a very few words, said why – and so she did, and this is the story.
It was midsummer and young Jane was driving a flock of sheep along the lanes from one field to another. The weather was hot and she was wearing an open-necked shirt and shorts, her curly brown hair bobbing to her shoulders, enjoying the peace of the day. The village policeman cycled up behind her, stopped her and demanded her identity papers. She hadn’t got them.
He had known her for years. There was no doubt that he knew who she was and he could also see she was at work. But he was a bully and she was technically in the wrong. So he stood her there while he gave her a dressing down and she had to watch the sheep scatter. It took her the rest of the day to round them all up again and take them to the field where they were peacefully heading in the first place. So to her, identity cards gave the less pleasant people in authority free rein to harass the innocent whilst the guilty would have forged documents and go free.
I can’t remember how the WI vote went, though.