a short article commissioned by the Oxford Mail on a topic of local interest :
Gazing out of his study window across Southampton Water, the great 18th century hymnwriter Isaac Watts dreamed he was looking across the River Jordan to the Promised Land beyond, and wrote a hymn with these words :
Timorous mortals start and shrink
to cross this narrow sea
and linger shivering on the brink
and fear to launch away
(The Jordan River is often used as a metaphor for death — he’s writing about dying).
Gazing out of my church window across the A40 to the ‘promised land’ of Barton beyond, I watch elderly people and schoolchildren timing their run across the dual carriageway and admire their courage.
When the Israelites eventually came to cross the River Jordan, the priests carrying the ‘ark of the covenant’ (containing Moses’s famous law tablets) went ahead, and as soon as they dipped their feet in the water, the flooding river stopped flowing and the water piled up giving them all a safe crossing.
Call me a heretic, but I reckon a set of traffic lights to enable pedestrians to cross in safety would do the job more reliably than a church minister with a Bible in his hand marching across.
Unfortunately, it seems that in order to get the crossing we need, we’ll need some much ‘better’ casualty statistics to raise it up the County's priority list. A few deaths and serious injuries should do the job. Calling all kamikaze pedestrians (I’m a cyclist — I know you’re out there) — don’t be ‘timorous’!