For goodness sake ‘here we go again’ all our yesterdays, give it a rest, will you? It’s different now, well I suppose it is. The young man twenty something was having a go at an older guy sitting over a pint in the local. Football was the topic, I must admit I can’t stand the game, in another life I saw too much of it, the thugs, the fighting on the stands the streets, the trains and motorway service stations, the drunkenness, mindless behaviour in towns invaded by supporters of one team or another. The older guy, though, was pressing on with his argument that ‘the game’ was rubbish now, with all these overpaid pundits on T.V talking mostly opinion and getting paid handsomely for it. “Yes,” said the young man, “but it’s a better, faster, more enjoyable game now, much more professional – not the kick and run that you lot liked in the seventies and look at the money generated by the game.”
It really is a different game now just ask the Linekers or Beckhams of this world or the millions who pay to watch Sky Sports or who pay quite a lot for a season ticket.
Were things better in that land of yore? Are you a ‘baby boomer’ a real one – not the version that was born in the late 50s and pretend to be, usually at length to any younger people that will listen. A real boomer remembers ration books and running errands to the local corner shop, or down to the pub off licence for dad’s beer, against the law, wow, now there’s a thing!
No 24/4 shopping in boomer land, no 24/7 shops, shops opened at 9.00 am sharp not a minute before, closed for lunch from 1pm to 2pm, closed at 5.30, only opened half a day on Wednesday or Thursday and closed all day Sunday.
Then there was the selection of goods available. Bacon and cold meat cut on the slicer mounted on the counter, cheese cut to weight also on a board on the counter, usually next to a large box of broken biscuits placed next to the sack of potatoes and the paraffin dispenser and – near bonfire night – fireworks.
Today even small shops have hundreds of items on the shelves and are open, as Arkwright would have said ‘all hours’. Better shopping now and mustn’t mention internet shopping availability all from the comfort of home, no trips by bus into town for Mum, in and out of various shops then lug the shopping back home again on the bus three times a week in some cases.
Talking of ‘trips’ there was also the trip to school or work on the bus or train. The buses single or double-deckers, with smoking allowed on the upper deck. Buses that were often cramped, old, smelly and dirty, and on humid and rainy days the nicotine stained roof panels turned into yellow condensation which then ran in rivers down the windows.
Trains were something else. They were often filthy, and who could forget the smell of a thousand bodies having sat on the uncut moquette seats that had never been cleaned (except in first class).
Most stations built during the Victorian era were well past their prime. The whole experience was dirty and depressing. Believe me nothing like the heritage line experience of today.
Car journeys in 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s in family cars were not the cherished polished saloons we see today but often half rotten, badly maintained unreliable machines that most people today couldn’t drive safely down their road let alone a seven-hour journey from say Lichfield to Cornwall. Family crammed inside, boot and roof rack full of gear, “Dad’s foot down to the floorboards and suitcases on top,” as the breakdown men used to say. Noise, smell, long traffic jams, car sickness often the order of the day and no heater in winter or the comfortable climate controlled, satnav, entertainment systems of cars today. Have a collision and it was likely to be the last thing you would have. Better then? Can’t see it myself, but that’s me.
As people got more disposable income many elected to fly on a package holiday ‘abroad’ which mainly meant Spain, usually from some airport miles away from where you lived, none within a nice easy drive from home and then (courtesy boiled sweet included) on a scare-you-witless airways charter flight on a DC3 of D-day fame or a Vickers something or other, and if you were very lucky a Bristol Britannia.
For the less adventurous or not so well off there were and still are escorted coach tours say to Italy which took two days and often continued through the night. No entertainment, coffee machines or on-board facilities, unlike today’s air conditioned luxury coaches with on-board entertainment and facilities, which via Eurotunnel and E roads cut the travel time by a third or even a half.
Air travel today has widened the horizons of millions and at an affordable price too, and I have difficulty seeing how airline travel of yore was better than today.
Entertainment? Imagine the dashing young man of the 1960s with the sports car, or a Mini asking his new girlfriend out. Cinema or ‘flicks’ as they were called, a good film then meant queuing at the cinema and when you finally got in, the place stank, was full of cigarette smoke and people getting up to allow others to either come in or go out. Continuous screening was the order of the day, which gave rise to the expression ‘This is where we came in!’
Better than a 12-screen multiplex air-conditioned complex of today where you can get drinks and eats – an altogether much better experience? Perhaps not.
As for TV, a look at some of the popular TV, shows of the 60s and 70s will soon remind you just how ‘good’ that was, and radio, apart from the pirates (closed down by anti-free broadcasting Harold Wilson’s Labour Party) and Radio 208 Luxembourg was mainly aimed at Darby and Joan, Sing Something Simple anyone? Music to send you to sleep by on a wet Sunday afternoon followed, if you could stand it, by Mantovani’s Serenade.
Do something else then? Everything – and I mean everything – closed on Sunday and even the pubs didn’t open until 7.0pm and closed at 10pm. Theatre? Well that was really a bit posh then and mostly what Moms and Dads went to, best dresses and suits only! A meal out on a Sunday, forget it!
If that’s your idea of ‘better’ then count me out.
Part 2 of Halcyon days will be published here tomorrow.