I visited a family today who had no TV. Can you imagine living without television? Given the response you gave to my Radio Luxembourg question, I guess you can.
I installed a telephone in my parents’ home in the late Seventies but they never owned a fridge or freezer preferring to shop three or four times a week.
They had a local hardware store plus a fishmonger, butcher, grocer, greengrocer and newsagent, eventually replaced by a single convenience store.
My irreverent mother used to call the fishmonger ‘Bright Eyes’ due to the similarity of his eyes to the fish he sold.
Running an errand one day I dropped my coins on the counter asking: "Can my mum have 3lbs of haddock please, Mr Brighteyes?" I was never allowed into that shop again.
Do kids run errands today? I meet one or two in Julie’s shop buying sweets in the morning but I don’t see kids weighed down with bags of groceries and potatoes like I once did.
Today, even the most cash-strapped families have fridges and freezers and probably wouldn’t know what a meat safe was (or a butcher’s bike).
My mum always bought sterilised milk. I assume it was a throwback to wartime? God knows what they sterilised it with. From the day I left home I never bought another bottle.
How long is it since you queued for a bus? Up to the age of 19 my life was shaped by the bus timetable. Ten-past-eight I took the bus to work. Quarter-to-six it took me home. Eight-o’clock Saturday night I got on the bus to Manchester. Quarter-past-eleven I caught the bus home.
My dad wore out the fireside rug walking up and down waiting for me. If my father said be home for 11.30pm, he meant it. He drew the line and I learned not to cross it.
I remember complaining about having to be home at 10 during the week. "It’s a stupid rule," I whined. ‘When I have my own house I’ll stay out until midnight.’
"When you have your own house I’ll stay out with you," he replied. "But in my house it’s 10-o-clock."
My mother used to nag my dad something awful. I remember calling to take him for a pint one Sunday lunchtime long after I’d left home. He was straightening his tie in the mirror when my mother erupted: "Where are you going now? You were at that club last night and you’ll be there again on Wednesday. I don’t know why you just don’t sleep behind the bar.
"Don’t expect me to save your dinner until three o’clock. If you’re not here to eat it I’ll throw it away and you can put that damn bike of yours in the shed before you go…"
"How do you put up with it, Dad?" I asked once we were outside.
"Put up with what?" he asked. "My mother."
"Why, what’s she been saying?" He hadn’t listened to a word she’d said since 1949.
Have you noticed you never work out family relationships until you have kids of your own?
I was in my 30s before I realised my favourite aunt, who I loved to pieces, wasn’t my aunt at all. She was the wife of my mother’s cousin but as I was an only child to parents who had lost their siblings I learned to appreciate affection from any quarter. Aunty Anne was childless and, as I was auntless, we formed a strong bond, which remained firmly intact throughout her life.
She took me to Blackpool when I should have been in school, gave me spends, listened to my problems and invited me for tea with my first ever girlfriend.
When it mattered Aunty Anne was always there.
Throughout her married life she lived with her husband (Uncle Bill) in a small semi together with Bill’s parents and the strangeness of it never struck me.
I was just a kid happy to be in the bosom of a loving family (even if it wasn’t mine). I could not have loved them more or they me. I wasn’t overwhelmed when realisation dawned. Aunt or not Anne was a wonderful lady. I don’t know why she didn’t have children of her own or why she and (Uncle) Bill never had their own home. They were the best family any kid could have and whatever worked for them was fine by me. I feel sorry for children today, I really do.
Technology has replaced freedom and adventure.
Virtual friends have been substituted for real friends and the only exploring going on is via Google.
If Tom Sawyer was alive today he’d spend his time on Facebook or being chauffeured to endless organised activities. There’d be no chance of him having a pocketknife or fishing alone on the riverbank.
God help any grandfather who made him a catapult (as mine did) or showed him how to shoot a bow and arrow (he did that too).
Ah well, at least kids can still play conkers…providing they wear goggles.