The Yesterday People
There’s a lot of talk about being taken ‘Back to the 70s’ also called the Dark Ages because of all the powercuts. Brexit of course, ha, that’s the future isn’t it? That’s not a shift back to the 70s is it? Towards Empire and a class and social chasm that will prove unbridgeable? No, what sort of xenophobic idiot would vote for that?
I won’t get into the politics, clears throat. Pause for glass of Vimto, 70s beverage par excellence.
I remember the 70s. I grew up in them, flared pants, skinny ribs and all. People are always very derogatory about the decade but I had fun. All of my family were alive for a start and my childhood consisted of a network of relatives, of Sunday dinners and picnics in our Renault 12, christened the Pink Panther because it was a very pale shade of pink. The handbook said ‘French Beige’ but the family myth maintained that some poor Monsieur had clearly slipped off a gantry into the vat of paint. We did over 100,000 miles in that car.
When you could get petrol? I hear you shriek. Strangely there was petrol enough to go round because families tended to only have one car, unless they were a former racing driver.
I recall the powercuts and I remember them with glee and fondness. For us they were glittering candlelight and spooky darkness and the explosive fun of a hotpot cooking in a pressure cooker over the Camping Gaz.
I recall Road Safety and being handed out a mini cosmonaut outfit of reflective clothing when someone in 1971 decided to adjust the clocks one winter and we had to go to school in the dark. I remember hot porridge sprinkled with a crust of sugar and a pyjama bag shaped like a poodle.
You could eat sugar then, it was green vegetables you had to shy away from. All the pesticides and fungicides and herbicides made vegetarianism into a game of Russian Roulette.
Ah yes, the Russians. They all peeked out from behind their Iron Curtain and did ballet and gymnastics.
Mushrooms reminded us all of the Nuclear Threat and the necessity to hide the government under a table in the event of the four minute warning. This was something like the four minute mile only without Roger Bannister. I once developed a tv series set in a nuclear bunker (it was cheery, I promise) and as I researched Kelvedon Hatch and all the other subterranean metropolises that had been dug out and dry lined, I did wonder why we were only saving the government bods and who they thought they would be governing over? Zombies were not so much in vogue back then. Even they couldn’t survive the appocalypse.
Terrorism has altered only slightly, the terrorists were rather more Christian based in those ancient days. I recall the IRA and their fight, they seemed quite polite by comparison, ringing up beforehand to say ‘You might like to check under the train, there’s a bit of an old bomb under there.’ Plus ça change for terrorism and wars on any fronts. We are always at war somewhere and one man’s terrorist is, of course, another man’s freedom fighter. Back in the 70s we also had the Welsh Nationalists who were good at gaining their firestarting badge in the Scwts.
What we also had was reality, a more solid reality than now. No one spent their time gazing at a tablet unless they had a headache and were looking at a fistful of chalky Anadin. If you wanted to watch a film you had to go to a cinema where you would watch several shorter films and possibly a cartoon before the main ‘feature’ and on occasion there was a ‘double feature’ which meant an entire afternoon in the cinema for about 20p. We usually went to the cinema with my paternal grandmother who made up a picnic of Blue Riband biscuits and orange squash decanted into reusable Five Pints bottles. Five Pints was the branded powdered milk she used. She reused and recycled as did my maternal grandmother who always had a shopping bag in her handbag. These ladies had lived through an actual war, not a Cold one but a red hot on your doorstep one.
Clothes were made in Britain and lasted a long time and no one had to be thin, they had to eat eggs and butter and Cadbury’s Flake. The sun scorched Britain in 1976 and dried up some of the rain that had poured down from 1970-75.
My mother made my clothes on a third hand sewing machine. We were measured for shoes at Clarks and Mr Simon was our NHS dentist.
We didn’t have Netflix but we had three channels and they were peopled by London Weekend and Anglia and Granada and HTV and Yorkshire, each region had its own tv flavour. As tv big cheese Bill Cotton once said to me, “We made programmes because we wanted to tell the story, we liked the idea, not because of the demographic.’ The only daytime tv was for schools.
This is not a diatribe about how great the 70s was. It wasn’t, in the same way that any decade isn’t. There were swings and there were roundabouts and we played on them whereas now Health and Safety measures have taken away the slides and playing out has to be ordered exercise regulated by fitbits and swimtags.
I’m reining it in, I promise. My point is that I grew up during the 70s, it is my early backdrop and there was nothing much wrong with it because then some fools voted Margaret Thatcher into power and everything that was strong and stable was torn down. In the 70s you could catch a bus, they were run for infrastructure and transport reasons not for bus company shareholder profits.
The robots are coming of course, as promised in the 70s, so we should all be in safe hands. Shouldn’t we, Hal?