Wednesday, 16 April 2014

days of future past

Many years have passed me by, it’s true
Many dreams have vanished from my view
I've chased them all
But there has been no answer
Though I recall
My innocence and laughter
I'm feeling older now
But what comes after this is through

Time had traced its maps across my face
Signs and lines for you to navigate
And in the end
There will be no returning
Let’s not pretend
No regrets and no yearnings
Could keep and fill your heart
If all you've got is what you do

I've spent much of the past few years bemoaning the fact that we've been let down. I have written elsewhere about the non-appearance of jetpacks - Dan Dare was promising them when I was a kid. James Bond used one in Thunderball in 1965.  The idea has been around for nearly a hundred years, possibly longer. And here we are in 2014 and those dreams of personal powered flight are in the news again. The future is here and now - Oh brave new world . . . and all that. At last.

Alongside that, as of today, our house is now connected to the internet by fibre optics. Er, well, in Britain, evidently, that means we are connected about 80% via fibre optics. It's still copper wire into our homes. Still, it's all very exciting and much quicker. A bit like life generally, then.

I spent last week in France up a mountain somewhere near Switzerland often listening to lots of well-informed ski aficionados discussing technical gear. They are all very knowledgeable and up-
to-date with the way the modern world has made skiing such a popular sport. I'm informed that it is a sport despite my genteel approach. I'm sure I didn't glaze over too often. What was interesting though was that although we couldn't always get decent connections to the internet, we could mostly keep in contact with the rest of the world: emails, the BBC and Twitter were still available to us via free (slow) wifi. Holidays no longer seem to be a time to get away from the everyday world that we, presumably are trying to get away from by having a holiday in the first place.  Still, the French continue to manage to avoid reality through their, er, sophisticated take on the everyday. Here are some urinals that children have to use as well as adults as they are the only loos on that part of the mountain. Charming.

One thing about travelling is that whilst we can now carry phones, whole music collections, iPads et al around with us to stay connected and wired for sound, we also have to carry the means to charge the damned things! The amount of chargers needed now takes up a big section of our baggage.

I had bought - for the first time in many, many years - for the journey, a copy of New Statesman (due to a lack of interesting magazines about guitars or walking) which was a special issue about technology and the future. There was an article by Bryan Appleyard that made a few good points and says that, like the need for nostalgia, we also have a hankering for the future:

At another level, futurology implies that we are unhappy in the present. Perhaps this is because the constant, enervating downpour of gadgets and the devices of the marketeers tell us that something better lies just around the next corner and, in our weakness, we believe. Or perhaps it was ever thus. In 1752, Dr Johnson mused that our obsession with the future may be an inevitable adjunct of the human mind. Like our attachment to the past, it is an expression of our inborn inability to live in – and be grateful for – the present.

I must admit that I have longed for the day when jetpacks would be available. Now those days seem to be here along with hand-held computers and - it would appear - cars that drive themselves imminent, perhaps there is a longing for those days when things didn't seem to change so much. I recently acquired a lovely old-fashioned acoustic autoharp. Don't get me started on the appalling waste and throwaway culture that has developed over recent years. The Academy I currently work at has just moved two schools onto one site ( a new build) where there is no room or the past. I've gained this product of the past - one that has been ignored for probably 30 years or so. And I really do mean "gained." This will need some TLC definitely: a project for those quieter, slower days of retirement ahead, I suppose. 

Still, whether there are better gadgets around the corner or not, some of these older ones are still worth using. At least I don't have to charge it.