Time lies

(Thanks to Lee Woodard for the title!)

This kind of attitude is only possible if you either didn’t live through “the good old days” or now have lost your marbles. I was born and grew up in a council house. It wasn’t a bad area when I was growing up, it was definitely rough round the edges. When I did my CSE social studies and went on a court trip, it wasn’t that surprising that one of our neighbours was up for soliciting. But it was classic working class – as in, most people were working, because jobs existed. Thatcher changed that, but I digress.

When the houses were built, they were new and shiny and everyone wanted to be in them. They were replacements, further out of town, for the slums in the west end of Derby. And those were proper slums: back to back terraces in awful conditions built in the 18th/19th century where disease was rife, plumbing was non-existent, and there was a pub on every corner. When Marx and Engels wrote about the condition of the English working class, they could have been writing about Derby’s west end.

The estate I was born on though was new, and offered a huge upgrade in living standards. There was running water in every house. Actual plumbing. A bath! Three separate bedrooms, a living room and kitchen. A front garden for roses, and a back garden to grow your vegetables. Compared to where my father had grown up, this was luxury. But: there was no central heating. No double glazing, and no insulation to speak of. There was a coal fire in the living room, and the family spent all their time there. There was a toilet – but it was outside, built into the house in a weird arrangement which meant you had to leave the house by the back door and go back in to the toilet. For the first ten years of my life, the toilet was outside, and you get used to checking if the water is frozen before you do a poo. The cold is still something I can feel. All I have to do is close my eyes and that cold comes back.

It was better than working class people had before. But compared to today? It was shit. Anyone who reminisces about then as “the good old days” is deluding themselves. Today I sit in a nice house with double glazing and if I want a pee, I can do it in comfort and warmth. I’m not huddled around a fire on freezing mornings trying desperately to get warm, because the blankets – no duvets – never kept you warm enough at night.

People like “Buy British” and others who harp on about the good old days would last about five minutes if you took away all their creature comforts. As of course would I – and that’s a good thing!

There is this weird attitude amongst idiots like him (and we all know it is a him) that somehow increased prosperity and better living conditions is a bad thing, that people “don’t know they’re born”. It’s nonsense of course. Their parents will have said the same thing of them.

And of course it’s all rosey-tinted bullshit. I grew up with the National Front marching on the streets, gay bashing being run of the mill, black people suffering terrible racism. Women being raped and assaulted and it never being reported. Paedophilia being so unremarkable that “he got a 14 year old pregnant and ran off” was a common topic of conversation (literally everyone knew a bloke who had done something like that). Families all had secrets. The food was shit too, and I could write a hole essay on how food in he old days was crap.

There are no good old days. We have been lucky enough to live in a period where the standard of living has consistently improved, where the basic necessities of life of have been met in ever-better ways. And people like Buy British, with their Rosie-tinted bullshit, conspire in excusing the Tories (for it is them) who are actually now taking us backwards, in every respect. Back to an era when “men were men and women were grateful”. Back to shit housing, poverty food (or no food). Back to when being gay was something you kept silent, or you’d suffer the consequences. Back to black people and women knowing their place and being grateful to white middles aged blokes. Well, Buy British and his chums can all just do one. I don’t want that world back, because I’m old enough to remember it with clearer eyes than theirs.

One more thing. I’ve reminded by posts like these of the wonderful scene in Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman episode “Men of good fortune”, where an old man in 1489 is complaining about how chimneys and handkerchiefs are making people soft. Plus ça change…


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