Saturday, 7 January 2012

is this all there is?

I really don't understand how people can become moist of eye and feel nostalgic for such an awful time as the sixties. I mean just think of all those long hot summer days when we had to sit around with nothing to do because nobody had bothered to invent mobile phones yet. All we had to do was go out and play with our friends.  Blimey, I even had to walk round to my friend Graeme's house to see if he was in and wanted to come out to play. All that energy expended when I should have been able to just text him instead.  Then we needn't have bothered going anywhere, we could have then gone onto Facebook and written messages to each other in our pidgin English and not actually have spoken at all.  That's if someone had bothered to invent computers, an internet system and a social networking site.

I used to have to sit around my bedroom just looking at all those boxes of Hornby railways, Minic road system (I didn't have Scalextric), Airfix soldiers and models, Action Men and clothes, books, original Marvel and DC first edition comics, Corgi cars, Britain's farm and zoo animals and (more) soldiers and knights on horseback. If Graeme or someone else came round we had to get all that stuff out and play with it.  If he didn't I would, out of sheer boredom, set up a whole made up warzone of railway, cars, models scenery and plan and fight huge battles on the scale of Ragnorak.  Sometimes these battles would last for days.  That's how bored I was.

Sometimes I would get so bored I would cycle off around the villages surrounding Stevenage for hours. And, of course, because nobody had invented iPhones yet I couldn't be contacted by my parents.  They had no idea where I was.  Obviously I am the product of a dysfunctional family.  Social Services never came round once to check on me and see how little I was cared for.  I had to look after myself for hours - right up until teatime, of course.  My parents were unaware that I was off re-fighting the First World War in the trenches that now lie under Grace Way, or building tree houses in the Bluebell Woods, setting fire to ants with my magnifying glass.  Or just birdwatching with only an I-Spy book and a jam sandwich for company.  Or even that I was regularly being beaten up by the bully boys that lived around Whitesmead Road. Oh for Asbos to be invented!

Just myself for company sometimes! I could wander far and wide and barely see a soul - certainly hardly ever a car - and just enjoy my own company.  Much as I still do today, actually.  I'm more than happy to go off on long walks alone.  My lousy childhood did that to me.  Because of the times we lived in, we weren't allowed iPhones, MP3s et al, so we had to make do with humming to ourselves - remembering words to songs to keep ourselves cheerful.  Which brings me to another thing, music.  I didn't really get into music until 1969 by which time I had to listen to Progressive Music as it was called then.  That means that I was thirteen before I had any choice over what I listened to - on vinyl of course. 

Another thing that was denied to us in those days was decent television.  We only had two channels until BBC2 came along.  And, what is more, we could only really watch anything that we might be interested in from about 4:30 pm until about 6:00pm.  No all day tv stations, no satellites, no nuffing.  What on Earth did we do? I was fourteen before I got a guitar.  Okay, it was impossible to tune and had strings like cheesewire but it looked good propped up in the corner of my room.  It was a few years before I could afford to get one that didn't make me cry when I tried to push a string down onto the fretboard. Not for us the immediate gratification of a beautiful Yamaha or Squire electric guitar for barely a hundred quid and devices that make you sound instantly like your guitar hero for mere pocket money.

What sort of a world were we entering? One where people only ever dreamt of owning a computer that you could carry around in your pocket, communicate with anyone anywhere in the world, sit and watch films all day and all night, type endlessly to our (virtual) friends, play games with people we'll never meet.  Even pornography was just a few photos found in a tatty old copy of Parade magazine.  Unusually, always found in a hedge.  Not sure why.  No wonder we responded in droves to such adverts as this one found in an old copy of Eagle comic.  What an exciting world that offered us.  A golden future definitely.

Unfortunately we were sold down the river and now we find ourselves living in a science fiction world.  The sort of world we were promised by those cheery souls at Eagle.  And now we can, at last, sit around doing all of those things denied to us all those years ago.

Yes, when I mentioned the other day in a class of twelve year olds that we didn't have these things one of them blurted out, "Omigod! I'd die!"  I agree because I wasted so much of my youth sitting around waiting for someone to invent all these wonderful devices because I just had nothing to do.  "What on earth did you do?" they cry.  I just think back to those times and realise how unfortunate we were.


Andy Wright said...

Excellent post Dave. As you say whatever did we do with ourselves? I just remember 15 years of simply staring at my bedroom wall. (By the way I think the Parade magazine you mention was mine). Happy New Year.

Dave Leeke said...

And a Happy New Year to you, good to hear from you. Sorry, but I haven't got that Parade anymore - I think it got passed on through the hedge system.

It's unbelievable how we managed to get so far without all this junk, isn't it?

Brendini said...

So, in essence Dave, what you're saying is "in my day we had to make our own entertainment".
Plus ca change...etc.

Dave Leeke said...

Er, yeah.

Dave Leeke said...

However, Brendan, I guess that I'm saying that now kids have so much mind-numbing stuff and many don't seem to be able to socialise properly. Sweeping generalisation, I know.

I was going to reply by saying "yes, and a better fist we made of it" but taste won the day. D'oh!

Mike C. said...

The next stage in the Parade metamorphosis was for a copy to be found torn into pieces (near a hedge, obviously). If so inclined, you could pass the time doing some very uninstructive jigsaws. God, even the top-shelf porn was tame in those days!

I had a similar conversation with my own kids recently, pointing out that there was just ONE payphone outside the bar in our entire college for student use. I don't think they really believed me. It was a bit like my mum telling me about her three mile walk to and from school every day. Yeah, right!