Sunday, 8 July 2012

For my grandchildren

I will tell them that I am much older than Google, Facebook and all the other things they can’t live without. I'm hoping this blog will be an insight into how little we did have back in Nanny's day, and how we just got on with it, lived with the money we earned. How borrowing was a dirty word - if you wanted it, then you just saved up. Treats were for Christmas and birthdays - there was never the constant whine of 'I want'. We could play out without fear of being molested. Health & Safety didn't really exist. If you did something that caused pain or resulted in bleeding, then you made darn sure you were more careful next time. Life was about learning from your mistakes, especially for the ones that didn't listen to advice, and wrapping in cotton wool was pretty much unheard of.

I do wonder how we survived....

  • First, some of us were born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
  • They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, eggs, tuna from a can and didn’t get tested for diabetes. 
  • C-sections were rare, apart from the unlucky few, who would be knocked out completely. Epidurals and spinal blocks were in the realms of science fiction. Somehow we were expelled into this world the way that nature intended, with little pain relief, just the use of forceps if extra traction was required!!
  • Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies, in cots covered with lead-based paints. No safety mattresses, handknitted matinees jackets and bonnets that had long ribbons to tie under the neck!!
  • There were no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we didn't wear helmets on our heads, just flip-flops and 'clackers' on the wheel spokes made from cardboard and pegs.
  • As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tyres, and even sat in the front seat for a treat.
  • We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.
  • We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from 'germs'.
  • We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon, dripping on toast.  And, we weren’t overweight… WHY? Because we were always outside playing with our FRIENDS… that’s why!
  • We would go out in the morning and play all day, it was fine as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
  • No one was able to reach us all day, we had no mobiles. And, we were OKAY.
  • We did not have Playstations, Nintendos and Xboxes. There were no video games, hundreds of satellite TV channels, no video movies or DVDs, no surround-sound or CDs, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms. There 3 channels BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. Childrens programmes started about 3pm, and stopped when the news started at 6pm. Programmes finished about 10-11pm with the pictures of the testcard, and the playing of the national anthem. Everything was in black and white in the UK until 1967, but we didn't get our first colour TV until1979, which we rented!
The Test Card
  • Children were 'seen and not heard', so if i wanted to stay up late, I would sit in silence and try not to move, in the hope that my grandparents (who looked after me after my mother died from 5-10yrs) would forget I was there.  
  •  There was barely any telly, no mobiles, iPhones or iPlayers, no Internet, computer games, or PlayStations. We had only the simplest of equipment: jacks, marbles, skipping-ropes, bats, balls and bicycles.
  • We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. Just a clip round the ear, and told to be more careful.
  • We would get spankings with wooden spoons,  or just a bare hand and no one would think to call social services to report abuse. If you got told off at school and your parents found out, there would be another telling off for bringing shame to your parents. I can remember teachers using the ruler across the knuckles, but I think by the early 60s the cane had become a thing of the past.
  • We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
  • We were given guns for our birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out very many eyes. 
  • We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in.
  • We would invent our own games up; making perfume from rose petals, holding snail races, picking blackberries, making dens in the woods.
  • The idea of your parent bailing you out if you broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!   
  • Takeaway food was limited to fish and chips. There were no pizza shops, McDonald’s, KFC, Subway or Nando’s.
  • We might not have heard of avocado, but we hadn't heard of obesity either.
  • Meals were home cooked from scratch. There were no ready meals, ready made pastry or packet dumpling and pancake mixes.
  • Even though all the shops closed at 6pm and didn’t open on a Sunday, somehow we didn’t starve to death!
  • Only girls had pierced ears.  
  • You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter.
  •  Our teachers hit us with canes, or a ruler across the knuckles, and would throw a blackboard rubber at us if they thought we weren’t concentrating or chatting in class.
  • Mum didn’t have to go to work to help Dad make ends meet because we didn’t need to keep up with the Joneses!
  • Our mothers were the first recyclers in an age of austerity, darning socks over a wooden mushroom, turning lights off, washing out plastic bags to re-use, removing buttons from out-grown garments, unpicking knitted jumpers, winding and washing the wool to re-knit into something else.
  • At school, we had individual desks with inkwells, none of this group learning at round tables. At the end of the day the chairs were placed upside down on the desk lid so that the cleaners could sweep and mop.
  • For us, the latest technology was a lever fountain pen. Your index finger would be permanently stained blue from resting on the nib. There were no ink cartridges when I first started school. I still think cartridges are wasteful — a few drops of ink wrapped in all that plastic.Writing in biro was forbidden, and we had hand-writing lessons using a special italic nib.
 Our parents seemed to understand the intrinsic need for children to take risks and learn the basic life lesson, that 'actions have consequences'.
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, 
problem solvers and inventors ever.
The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. 
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and learned how to deal with it.