But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot drawing near. (Andrew Marvell: To His Coy Mistress)
By the time you read this, I shall have celebrated another birthday – I’m not prepared to say exactly which, but suffice it to say that it’s one of those depressing ones which end with a nought, and which always make me wonder quite where the last decade has actually gone.
Pondering upon this, I started to contemplate exactly how much the world has changed during my life-time. I was born into a world where many of the things we now take for granted were unknown – colour television; more than two television stations; fitted carpets; the internet; mobile phones; Skype; takeaway food (other than fish and chips)… my world was a small, comforting one of coal fires, Children’s Hour on the radio, steam trains, trolley buses, free school milk, liberty bodices, cod liver oil and the occasional chip supper and glass of Vimto as a treat. Heck, when I was born, rationing was still in force. And I’m hardly in my dotage. According to a recent survey, I’m not that far into middle age.
Which is one reason why I get somewhat depressed in Museums Of Modern Life, when I look at the objects on display and realise I’m thinking “I’ve still got one of those and I use it every day.”
Still as good as new, still used regularly…
Now, this post isn’t intended to be a self-indulgent, self-pitying whine: far from it. I have every intention of being immortal, and so far, so good. But there have been so many changes…
And – to quote from “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” – we are simply passing through history. Us. You and I. My grandmother, who was born in the penultimate year of Queen Victoria’s reign and lived until she was over 100, was only three when the Wright Brothers made their first flight, and in her later years flew abroad on holiday – she passed through a lot of history. And I did ask her a lot of questions about the changes she’d seen, and what life was like. I asked my parents, too, and wrote it all down and added it to their life stories in my family tree. But I have never written down my own life story –what life was like growing up during the Cold War era, what I remember about the first moon landing or the assassination of Kennedy, the frightening economic inflation of the 1970s (for the record, my first full time job paid £2,600 a year, and this was a very good wage indeed) – and how we viewed these events, how they affected the lives of ordinary little people like me and my family. And this is history – our little lives are just as important as the big national and international events, because it is our lives that reflect just what affect these major events have. There is little point in knowing, for example, that the 1970s brought in radical legal reforms which outlawed racial and sexual discrimination and provided for equal pay for equal work, if we have no idea what life was actually like before and after the reforms.
Which is why I’m just about to sit down, finish off the birthday cake, pour myself a glass of something comforting and start on my memoirs. And Time’s wingèd chariot can just clear off.
Not quite this many candles..