Part 1 was published here yesterday.
All this though, shows the changing nature of our communities and I suppose the whole country, which these days often feels almost alien. I wonder what, for example, people born just prior to the First World War would make of it. ‘It’s a whole new world now,’ as mother used to say. Maybe it’s the routine that has gone. As much as we decry routine its part of the glue that holds us together, part of what make home feel like home.
Forty years ago, there was a rhythm, a routine that gave some order to your daily life, things that we took for granted and really didn’t notice until they were gone. The milkman for instance, as regular as an alarm clock where we used to live, the clanking of the milk bottles and the faint noise of the milk float’s electric motor as the milkman made his way from door to door, one of the sounds that were, well, just home. By seven o’clock the paperboy would have delivered the daily paper closely followed by the postman; most people had some sort of breakfast before leaving for school or work – often by bus after a walk to the bus stop and a call at the local corner shop for a packet of cigarettes, or for the kids a packet of sweets or a comic or, as you got older, a copy of the New Musical Express to be read on the top deck or rear seats of the bus.
What did all that routine provide? Well, social interaction and conversations with others of your own age or other adults, ‘good morning’, ‘nice day’, chat about this and that, the British obsession with the weather, a shared joke or a bit of gossip, all things which were part of the daily routine and not much missed until you found yourself years later driving alone in your car, having got up late, gulped a cup of coffee and joined the daily formula one race along roads five days a week, while listening to some radio station or, God forbid, the Today programme, the only interface with other drivers obtained when letting somebody out of a side road, or furiously shouted obscenities at some idiot who gets too close or cuts in at the next exit on the motorway.
Not much chance for conversation of anything really and for children being carted to school in mum or dad’s car even less. We’ve all seen Dyson and Hannah strapped in their booster seats in the back of a car, speaker buds in ears, transfixed by I-phones, I-pads, or the latest PlayStation gizmo. Lucky are the kids who travel by the school bus, but have you noticed bus and train passengers these days, few smiles and fewer conversations, except of course those already mentioned and the same fixation with either laptops or mostly inane loud conversations on mobile phones.
There was much more to this routine lark of course, boring as it sometimes felt, readers of a certain age may well remember T.V advertising on Boxing Day (never before) when SunSpot Holidays advertising began along with New Year Sales at major stores. People camping out for days before New Year’s Day to secure a three piece suit for £5 or something at a well-known major store and reported on T.V and in local papers, part of the New Year routine with both things eagerly awaited and reminded you that spring and Easter were on the way.
No Easter eggs before Valentine’s Day though and so the routine went on, The Boat Race, the Grand National, Whitsuntide when the holiday was, in fact, at Whitsun. Summer holidays mostly taken after the end of the summer term with no need for special permission from the school head teacher, Last Night of the Proms, Harvest Festival collections followed by Bonfire Night, Halloween? not really heard of then, never mind celebrated, if that’s the correct word, Poppy Day and finally Christmas, which started in most shops (when did they all become stores?) the last week in November and finished on Twelfth Night, when as part of the routine, all the decorations private and public came down.
The routine of country and a time long since gone, never to return, as illustrated by the scene this week in a local store of a Christmas Tree decorated with orange and black Halloween bric-a-brac which, I’d lay good odds on, was produced and imported from China.
Photo by David Guyler