OPINION: Let's hope we emerge from lockdown as more honest people

Suffolk glossy magCountryside fruit and veg stall with an "honesty box".Picture by Jerry Turner.

The great countryside honesty box - surely we'll be even kinder after lockdown, won't we? - Credit: Archant

There once was a time when during a drive in the country you could see lots of signs selling flowers or fruit and veg with honesty boxes to put your money in.

Admittedly it’s been a while since any of us have ventured out much into the countryside but I’d still like to think there are places where there are local goods for sale in front gardens with thank you boxes to leave your money in.

The subject came up last week during a Covid-muffled conversation at the local hairdressers.

We were prompted by a newspaper story about an artist who had hung four of his works worth about £1,000 each on the walls of his open air Honest Gallery in London’s Soho.

Beside them was a sign inviting visitors to pay what they felt was a reasonable price for each work. The proceeds were intended for underprivileged families.

Within a few hours not only were the art works taken with no money left but the gallery’s signs were stolen as well. The artist, Doctor Troller aka Andrew Brown, took a philosophical view saying: “It was an experiment in human nature, to see if we could expect people to do the right thing.”

Then he had to admit that “it was a dismal failure.”

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I’m hopeful that there are still decent folk who will do the right thing, but am I alone in being saddened by the thought that this kind of meanness is on the increase

We are lucky enough to live in a pleasant road with great neighbours and it’s lovely to see the small gardens at the front at this time of year with hanging baskets and window boxes, that’s if we get anything in the way of decent weather. They cheer up the whole road.

Several years ago we had a heavy terracotta pot that sat on the front doorstep. It was filled with a beautiful azalea, a gift when I’d opened a fete.

It really was delightful, delivered to the doorstep by a couple of strapping chaps. It was much admired. Given the weight of the thing it never occurred to me that it could be stolen yet one day I came home to find a great space where it stood.

It must have been a planned theft needing two to lift the thing and a truck to take it away.

In the scheme of things I suppose it wasn’t the worst thing that could ever have happened but I was really hacked off about it, and still am. It brought pleasure to so many people, a pleasure we were pleased to share. Now if we have anything lovely that can be nicked it goes into the back garden. If we have a hanging basket we chain it to the hook. It’s such a shame.

There’s a front garden nearby which once had a strange sculpture adorned with little trinkets and bits of fake jewellery. It stood there for ages, a charming curiosity, literally a figure of fun. Then it was broken, and next to it was a sad sign asking why somebody felt the need to destroy it and steal the worthless trinkets.

It hadn’t been doing anybody any harm, so why not leave it alone? The remains have been cleared away now and the garden is bare, another shred of faith in human nature swept away.

As life starts slowly to open up again it should be interesting to see if we’ve learned anything from the lockdown.

It would be nice to think we’ve emerged from it as better people, improved by the experience though I’m not taking any chances, leaving nothing at the front of the house unless I do actually want it taken away.

Meanwhile I do hope that artist finds his faith in human nature restored. I suppose he could take a shred of comfort from the thought that somebody might actually like his art.

My mum always said that if ever she and dad were to be robbed the thieves might at least take one of her own paintings.

Fortunately, it was never actually put to the test.