What will youth of today be nostalgic about in 50 years?
PUBLISHED: 18:20 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:20 22 March 2019
There's so much going on in the world in 2019 that Keith Skipper wonders what the grandparents of tomorrow will make of it all in 50 years
There’s an old saying I might have made up well before the past became so fashionable: “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be – and probably never was!”
I suspect we’re all highly selective in sizing up yesterdays, especially when there are plenty to pick from and it seems eminently sensible to go for memories without the pain.
An old saw I wish I had nudged into circulation on first watching village blacksmiths at full thwack may provide one of the most pertinent summaries on offer: “Nostalgia is a file that removes rough edges from the good old days”.
I sat down the other evening away from all distractions (including any meaningful votes from Westminster) and tried to recall what passed for nostalgia and current affairs in the 1950s, my golden era as Norfolk families and communities set about rebuilding after the war.
Our grandparents and their contemporaries were children of the Victorian Age and might have regaled us with stories of Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, the Relief of Mafeking and Bleriot flying the Channel in 43 minutes.
They might have done … but I can’t get far beyond the decline of rural horsepower on our farms, Home Guard escapades, the value of council houses in rural areas and the long, hard winter of 1947.
They might have soaked Sunday teatimes in horror stories from two world wars, the Wall Street Crash, mass unemployment and a crippling agricultural depression.
They might have done … but I can’t get far past the rector who took a cold bath every morning, the postman who could whistle in rhythm with his pedalling and the widow whose bottled fruit melted the heart of a confirmed bachelor.
Instant nostalgia to help close the generation gap as we shared samphire in vinegar, tinned pineapple and peaches smothered in evaporated milk, Down Your Way on the wireless and Picture Post on the chiffonier.
They might have whisked us back to this time of year in 1919 when Mussolini formed the Fascist Party, Lenin was out to spread revolution across Europe, passengers flew for the first time between London and Paris, Oxford University dropped Greek as a compulsory subject for entrance exams and Chelsea beat Fulham 3-0 at Highbury to lift the London Victory Cup.
They might have done … but I can’t get far beyond ration books, the Nit Nurse inspecting little shocks of hair and nocturnal carol-singing with a Tilley-lamp swinging up front. My little cuttings from a village scrapbook remain far more potent than any hand-me-down sagas from our elders and betters.
That habit has stayed with me deep into an age of global interest and instant information. I like to keep an eye on the smaller things that help give Norfolk its colour and individuality.
I hope the grandparents of 2069 will find time to tick some of them off along with climate change, celebrity culture, Donald Trump, political cynicism, shamelessly bad television and rum ole weather. I bet there’ll be more about our recent record February heatwave than the Brexit shenanigans in “Do You Remember?” features 50 years from now.
It was about a decade ago I felt compelled to make comparisons with my rural upbringing in the 1950s on being told more police officers were to be “stationed” in Norfolk schools in a bid to cut classroom crime.
I was further shocked to learn that one in every five Norfolk children got drunk at least once by the time they reached the age of 14. And at least one under-age drinker a week consumed so much alcohol they had to be admitted to hospital.
Only the other day I noted a headline worthy of a place in any “age of austerity” dossier. It read: “Schools step in to cut hair and clean clothes”. How many people scanning the past half-a-century from now will place that sentence alongside our Norfolk of today rather than the age of Dickens?
Nostalgia should prompt variable feasts to make any sense of where we’ve been, where we’ve arrived and where we might be heading. Discuss – and keep a sense of humour to find a bit of perspective.
I will take a firm stand, however, against accusations that folk like me watch so many old films our memories are all in monochrome. Curling up with The Third Man, Went The Day Well? and Great Expectations on a wet afternoon is reel-to reel heaven.