‘Have you seen all the bloody cameras springing up all over the village?’ I was asked this morning. ‘Big Brother is watching you,’ he said.
It was Reg, the fellow who is always telling me old jokes – jokes not heard since the days of valve radio. He wasn’t joking this morning, though; he seemed genuinely concerned that his human rights were being, if not abused, then at least compromised in some way.
‘I shall have a look the next time I’m down by the shops,’ I told him.
He wasn’t wrong, either. Nearly every shop in the market place has, or is in the process of being fitted with, some kind of surveillance equipment.
As I walked towards the Co-op, I counted a dozen different business premises, all twelve with CCTV cameras proudly protecting their shop fronts. This would not be unexpected in a major city or busy urban environment but this is a quiet ex-mining village on the outskirts of the Peak District.
Pennine Bakers, the cosy little cake shop on the market place has an enormous white camera pointing at its door and another inside the entrance, most likely in case some old lady eats too many custard slices and has a fit during which she hurls herself over the counter at Mrs McPhail the assistant manageress and tries to rob the antique cash register of its twenty pound note. Either that or it has been fitted to record the angry faces of the East European immigrants who may turn nasty again when the shop runs out of Polish poppy seed cake.
I noticed too that the florist shop had a state-of-the-art camera that followed me as I passed by. This has probably been installed to protect against the marauding Friday-lunchtime drunkards who have been known to riot occasionally when buying Carnations for their ugly wives or when hiring a Giant Elvis for their weekend barbecues.