Just in case,

As I survey myself getting ready to go down to the beach I wonder at what moment in my life did there creep up on me, slowly, silently, like the moon, the pessimistic idea that I might suddenly want something I hadn't got.

In my youth I would run down to the sea carrying nothing but a towel. Now I walk down carrying my purse, a bag containing my bathing things, a bag holding my book and writing things, a bag with my sewing, a jersey in case it gets cold, a hat in case it gets hot, a camera, binoculars, a beach coat, a scarf, suntan oil, and a couple of bars of chocolate. It is pathetic.

I remember so well my mother, when helping me to pack for the tropics, insisting upon my taking a woolly vest. "Just in case," she said -- and I laughed her to scorn. Now, even when heading for the equator itself, I pack not only a woolly vest, but also bed socks and a little pillow.

It is sad, this. What has happened to all my perfect confidence in the laws of supply and demand; in my assurance that the Lord will provide; in my complete lack of worry about the future? It is true that Lord Baden-Powell, inventor of the Boy Scouts, urged youth to "Be Prepared," but I now can't remember what for. Certainly not for a cold spell in a hot climate, or an unexpected invitation to dinner from the President of the United States. Free from any climatic or sartorial forebodings, I sped round the world, and although I must have found myself short of something somewhere I do not recall any major drama.

In a way it pleases me to see today's young travelling the globe on roller skates, wearing jeans and tennis shoes and carrying one modest hand grip and a cassette player. And yet in another way I am always waiting for one of them to come pleading to me for a safety pin or a scarf. In a recent visit to Prague the only young girl in our group had come without a coat of any kind, not even a sweater, and in a cotton dress, with bare arms, she turned a pale shade of blue in the sharp spring breezes blowing. Offered an outer covering by an oldm girl, she accepted with alacrity, and you could see the smugness spreading out over our tour, every member of which, save one, was swathed in woollies.

"How foolish the young are," we said, nodding sagely as we slung our heavy raincoats from one arm to the other. But of course we were envious.

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