Sunday, 15 June 2008

I no longer recognise the land where I was born

My best friend from university days, Nick Morris, came up with this counterblast to my regular "isn't Britain going down the shoot" tirades. The points are valid, comment is welcome!

"Compared to us, [our teenage children and their friends] have so much more to do and experience...

1970s cinema: Pay up, see a great movie, leave. Wait four years for it to appear on telly or to turn up at the NFT in a scratched old print, or at Uni as a mutilated 16mm print.

2000s cinema: See a great movie, make a tribute video on YouTube, discuss it on Facebook, see it again on DVD with surround sound (have your own film festival if you want), watch it on your iPod on the train.

1970s Sundays: Zilch open, nothing to do except watch the Big Match or go to the pub

2000s Sundays: Everything's open, like a bonus day to your weekend

1970s violence: Skinheads outside school, Paki-bashing, football specials, me getting beaten up at Stamford Bridge.

2000s violence: Mainly confined to gangs from estates knifing each other.

1970s music: NME on a Thursday to find out what's going on. Wait for a band you like to get signed, then wait another three months for a "single release", by which time the buzz is over.

2000s music: Pick up the buzz about a band, download the tracks from MySpace, see them play at about a gazillion festivals all over the UK or Europe, chat to them online.

1970s travel: Dream of being able to get a railcard to Europe or save up for years for an extortionate airfare.

2000s travel: Go to Norway, Amsterdam, Serbia, etc. for festivals or weekend trips for tickets that cost pennies (tax excepted).

1970s London: Drab, decaying buildings in need of modernisation. Men in suits and bowler hats having terrible food in old, old restaurants. Wimpy Bar or The Egg and I the "last word" in cafe eating

2000s London: new design and style everywhere, every kind of food available, fresh, unusual, fun, you name it.

1970s dates: You call someone up, you make a date, you get there, they don't show up, the next day they call and apologise - the bus broke down

2000s dates: You get there, you get a call on your mobile, you laugh, you make new plan.

1970s pithy comment: Fanzines once a month.

2000s pithy comment: Blogs.

...and so on. Okay, I might be exaggerating, but my memories of growing up in 1970s Surrey was that it was all so DULL most of the time, and LIMITED in what you could hope to achieve."

I must say, I have the same kind of debate with my mother-in-law, who says she prefers the 1940s to these days. What - with the war and everything? Yes, with the war and everything (bombing of civilians, Nazi occupation, arbitrary arrests and street executions, genocide on your doorstep, death penalty for harbouring Jews, Warsaw Uprising, imprisonment in concentration camp), my mother-in-law still claims that life was better then.

Are we all destined to grow older thinking that everything today is rubbish? I must say though, it's difficult to see modern Poland as worse than it was in the 1970s (unless you're a hardline communist). Am I beginning to see a trend (reading Polish blogs) that the mid-2000s were Poland's Golden Age?

All comments invited.


Anonymous said...


By watching old TV programmes from the 1970s, thus one can esoterically channel oneself back to that glorious decade. Routemasters, fry-ups, Arndale centres, old ladies moaning at bus-stops, wrestling on a Saturday with Les Kellett, waveringly intoned football results being read-out on TV, Wayne in Action on BBC 1 on a Saturday night,Phrases such as 'some people don't want to work!', a plethora of mangey fashions fitted onto easily definable age groups, the big cities being the crucibles of agitational political mainstream and fringe activity, the endless CND marches, the birth of punk and industrial music,COUM at the ICA, Squatterdom, the freedom to walk the streets {clearly deliniated urban threats - skins, bikers, yobs, droogs, blokes with ducks arse haircuts and donkey jackets, yobs in Crombies}- and by that I mean the absence of the new all-pervading and media heightened eternal smog of urban intimidation where right is wrong and wrong is well 'kind of like right', Knife Amnesties? Happy Slapping? The cult of social networking, blogs and bloggery {!!}, Poor teachers recorded on mobile phones being verbally abused? The new and worrying urban and suburban characteristic of mounds of flowers, teddies, sympathy, tributes on social networking sites, the allure of the reflected representation over reality. The cheapness of life finally discovered. It didn't exist! The wimpy bar with its laminated menus and wonderful grills and glaring photos of mixed grills and pineapple slices sleeping soundly atop rubbery gammon bakes, winters that were winters, summers that were summers, the birth of underground movies in the UK, the plethora of rep cinemas - Scala, Minema, Electric, Ritzy etc, civil liberties still civil and liberal, wine? Wine was something you had on special occasions when Mrs Freeman and her husband and single daughter from number 23 came round, jokes about the vicar, Benny Hill, Dick Emery, Questions down the pub such as 'are you a leg man?', Double diamond, Worthington E, Whitbread big head trophy bitter - the pint that thinks its a quart, Arctic light, Watney's Red Barrel, Hemelling, Skol, Colt 45 (my fave}a pint of 'mild' perhaps, the winter of discontent, the 3 day week, reasonable social cohesion even in the tidal wave of unemployment, the glorious crying embers of the Church of England's influence still just present in its teashop civility across the land, Man about the house, Father Dear Father, early autumn fogs, 'right to work' marches, the ANL, gigs, dark descending and punk adornments chosen and put on -if punks existed now they would be the new goth and persecuted like the goths are now, trips to see Derek Jarman films such as Jubilee; Jarman capturing the change of mood and also the immovable and elemental romantick idea of the British mythology, buying ones first punk record {in may case it was singles by The Clash and Sham 69 and The Adverts - I used to make up my own Jamie Reid-style record sleeves, playing them on a mono record player....the anticipation of the descent of the stylus... scrabbling around for stylus cleaner the doors to that decade and you open up the last fecundity of the last century. It was hammer into anvil - the last bufferzone of post-war paen before the alacrity and deep-ploughed grit of Thatcherism cast its permafrost across our once great land. Watch old 70s programmes like 'On the Buses' and 'Queenie's Castle' {surely ripe for a DVD boxed set!} and use them as time machines to channel back. They are veritable occult lenses! Watching Big Brother repeats in years to come will only remind us of what went wrong -the establishment of ennui and shallowness as the norm - as Coil put it 'constant shallowness leads to evil' ! Maybe it's an age thing and clearly it was a decade of huge transitional importance, but I'd much rather be there than here today in the MGLI where only the late 20 or early 30 somethings, ready for 'Glasto' seem to get heard. Now....where did I put my Oxford Bags. I'm off for a pint of bitter-top and a packet of Crusader Nuts in the foyer of the Scala and perhaps a crafty Embassy Regal out the back. 'Rolling Thunder' on a double bill with 'White line Fever' anyone? 'Coum play with me' and let's enjoy the pageant of the past in the decade of the eternal contradiction looked at through the rose-tinted specs of the suburbanite!! I'm off to vent my pearl and dean!

Frater Kitchener Lampwick III

scatts said...

When you come to think of it, Thatcher's "permafrost" certainly did take all the fun out of those times.

I can't agree that the '70s were DULL or LIMITED in any way. They were great times, mine spent in London. I note that the majority of the examples given of how things are better today revolve around the progress in technology - facebook, blogs, mobile phones and so on and it is true that these things have made life easier/more interesting in some ways. Conversely, in the '70s, I was never faced with mates not being able to come out because they were stuck at their computer or deep into the latest Xbox game or something, which must happen quite a lot today I suppose?!

I think the truth behind all this is not what age you live in but what age you are. Strikes me that everyone thinks their world was the best when they were between the ages of say 17 and 28. At this point in life you should be free enough to do what you like, have enough money to do it, be mature enough to make the most of it but not so old that you're a cynical grumpy sod or tied down with too many commitments like houses, kids, wives, hyper-demanding jobs and stuff.

Great days indeed, whatever year it is!

Freebiepaperlifter said...

"The '70s were no mere bridge between the swinging '60s and the grasping '80s; this was the decade when the rules were rewritten. From the iconoclastic A Clockwork Orange to The Sex Pistols to Margaret Thatcher, it was the decade which showed us that anything and anyone was up for grabs"

From today's Metro free paper (London)

Anonymous said...

Age most certainly has a great deal to do with it - that sense of the rite of passage - every part of one's senses absolutely bristling with fire and anticipation! I feel lucky to have had that rite of passage in the 1970s - moving from school to University - the sense of being myself and able to embrace the continuing flux of culture and media and experience within the gemmed setting of the perennial routemaster/arndale/wimpy lifeism! I caught a real sense of purpose in the 70s {not just personal, but something on the breeze of society that I don't catch now- there really was something very magical and transitional in the air}. I have watched all those places I used to love to explore in London become bricked over, regenerated, refurbished, wiped off the map completely so that one has to institute a pyschic cartography to get back into it. It is a pleasure to do it and also to embrace the dynamics that do exist in this new Century, albeit that they are less easy to discern and some so candy-coated it is difficult to see them. Even a trip around Canary wharf and Canada Square and the remnants of Deptford Creek has its merits, but remember how it all was in the 70s! Deptford and new cross and Bermondsey - the film set for Jubilee!! Only by Urban Walking dew we connect with the past and its future and which allows us to exhale and paint markers upon the walls where we denote our joy or our despair at what we find. Orwell's 'Coming up for Air' surely needs its sequel!

Son of Lampwick

grankspoine said...

Nick's right about restaurants and food being better. But modern (Hollywood) films are little more than sensory assaults for nerds and modern (rock/pop) music is impotent rehashed pap.

The world's turning into a vast shout forum full of dull opinions.