Remembrance of Things Past

Mostly about growing up the 1950s in Ilford, Essex.

[63] Not so Grumpy


Now, for something completely different … I have done a lot of whingeing about the ‘Good Old Days’, when we were all honest and law-abiding and respected authority, life was simpler, and there were no mobile phones or double yellow lines.

So I want to put the balance right a little bit and make some positive comments about the modern world. There have been some good changes! I will try to find my top twenty good things about life today.

Firstly, let’s look at things in Categories.



In general my rose-coloured glasses lead me to believe that attitudes were better then. But I can pick out some good points.

(*) Equal treatment for women, especially equal pay, makes us fairer and more civilized now. I do have reservations about some over-zealous feminism because I believe that (as a sweeping generalization) men and women are different. See [20] Sex Discrimination

Next, I would say that (*) ending racial discrimination has been a good thing in the same way. Of course, it hasn’t ended but it’s a lot less than it used to be. Some discrimination remains. Some of it may be subconscious and unintentional but for some people it remains part of long-held beliefs.

The same is true of our (*) attitudes to animals. We show more consideration for animal welfare now but this is far from universal. There are still those who like hunting, shooting and fishing; still too many people who abandon or mistreat pets. See [47] Standards

I could go on at length about (*) changes in ‘Green’ issues – re-use and recycling, carbon balance, global warming and population control (and I probably will in a later blog post!) In the long term, I am a pit of a pessimist. I suspect that humanity is already on the way to causing another cataclysmic annihilation of plant and animal diversity but we are beginning to see the need to slow down the inevitable.


I have no interest in fashion and am not too bothered about what clothes look like. I select clothes for comfort. So I have picked out two things here about comfortable clothes.

The availability and acceptability of (*) casual shoes. We all used to wear hard-wearing leather shoes, not only for work. (There were even cobblers who repaired shoes, replacing soles and heels. It was cheaper than buying a new pair.) In the fifties, plain, cheap black plimsolls from China were available but would not have been seen in general use. Now we have all sorts of sneakers, sports shoes and running shoes widely available and worn in non-formal situations.

The next one was more relevant when I used to work. (*) Not wearing ties anymore is so much more comfortable. I had to wait until the late nineties for this trend. I wish it had happened earlier.


There is absolutely nothing good to report in this category. Everything about education was better then. (You have to allow me a few sweeping generalizations!)

Entertainment. See the subcategories: Holidays, Music, Sport and TV/Radio.

Food and Drink.

It’s hard to compare the way we eat and drink to life fifty years ago because it’s so different. The food was good, wholesome food, probably much better for us, but it took so much more time and effort to prepare meals. The differences today go with other differences in our way of life. Here are three more for my list.

(*) Microwave ovens and prepared microwave meals. I eat too many prepared meals but the microwave has other uses. It’s good for defrosting, especially for sliced bread (we didn’t have that) defrosted one or two slices at a time – as an alternative to throwing the slices into a toaster. It’s good for reheating leftover food, softening butter and reviving slightly stale bread. (Sprinkle a few drops of water on yesterday’s roll and give it ten seconds in the microwave.)

Proper (*) Americano coffee and coffee shops everywhere. Almost everywhere I go – from supermarkets to stately homes, nature reserves to cinemas – I stop for coffee and now it’s freshly brewed. (I could say something about cakes and biscuits here but I won’t.) After thirty or forty years of instant coffee I have now upgraded my preferences. I have also to mention my Tassimo machine. It’s now clean, simple, quick and easy to make my own coffee at home. It’s expensive but worth it. (Much cheaper than Motorway coffee!)

Also available almost everywhere we now have (*) pub food. This is a generalization and includes the availability of places to eat out, not just pubs but restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, pizza parlours, motorway services and takeaway chains. I don’t use them a lot but it’s nice not have to plan. I can remember forty years ago driving all day across England and spending much of the day looking for somewhere to stop. See [57] A Pint of Bitter


Well, as an alternative to a week at a boarding house by the seaside of Bournemouth or Clacton, just about anything is an improvement. (I still holiday every year in Bournemouth but I don’t take my bucket and spade!) I can summarize in two points.

(*) Holidays in general, package holidays, ease of booking on the Internet. We go on Bridge holidays where we spend two weeks playing cards every evening. They didn’t have those. (I did learn to play Bridge in about 1960.)

Easy, fast, relatively cheap (*) air flights. In the fifties, air flight was a luxury for businessmen and the rich.


I suppose I have to be honest. Homes are more comfortable. How about (*) central heating and (*) double glazing. And although I love coal fires (*) not having to empty and re-lay coal fires every day.


I have resisted the idea that all the credit we have is good and I am not even putting Internet banking on the list. But I can’t miss out one thing to do with money, (*) decimal money. Pounds, shilling and pence were nice, and I do miss the twelve-side threepenny bit, but calculations are so much easier with decimals. See [56] Spending a Penny


I like a lot of music but some of my favourites are five hundred years old. I like piano music and choral singing including Gregorian chants. When I consider my current listening habits there is only one thing I can include, (*) Classic FM. Most of their music fits my tastes but I could live without the adverts!


There are a lot of good things about modern shopping, closely related to other changes in almost everything. One stands out as significant enough for a mention, (*) shop opening hours. There may be slight problems early on a Sunday morning but basically, if I want to buy anything I can go out and buy it when I want it. Our local Tesco is open round the clock (except Sunday.)


Nothing significant here. I don’t play any sports and I don’t really watch sport on television.


I am not going to include mobile phones, I have one but I hardly ever use it (and that’s only for texts.) I won’t put in computers in general or the Internet but there are a few that are computer related!

(*) Car radios are something we take for granted. Technology for music and entertainment has often come first in cars cassette players, CDs, push-button radio pre-set tuning. Our radio is always on while we drive.

(*) Television picture quality. The large, smooth colour, flat screen makes our little fuzzy, black and white pictures of the fifties look very primitive. The raster lines were very evident and any picture needed continuous adjustments to the controls and aerial. See [27] Television

(*) Word processors. I couldn’t cope now with a typewriter. See [55] Typewriters

(*) Spreadsheets. I love lists, tables, charts and graphs. Spreadsheets do it all neatly, accurately and quickly. I even have a spreadsheet for this blog. It adds up the words from all the posts. (Current total 115000.)

(*) Digital Photography. It’s easier, quicker and cheaper than the old method. See [41] Photography

Easy, cheap (*) printing and photocopying (and scanning.) Computer printing is related to word processing and digital photography. Photocopying, even black and white, is very useful at times. If I have to send anything by post I can copy it and send either the original or the copy. I can even scan it in and send it by email. Every six months I produce a 32-page full colour illustrated A5 magazine. I can print a sample or send it by email for professional printing and binding.

Having worked for most of my life with computers, I am much more computer literate than many friends of my age (but I can’t keep up with my grandchildren!) I don’t want to generalize and include all ‘social media’ but I have used Twitter a lot and (*) Facebook is a regular daily activity, keeping me in touch with family members, sharing photographs. It is now a major aid to me in disseminating this blog.

I have to be honest again and include (*) computer games, which take up much far too much of my time. I won’t tell you my favourites but in the last twenty or more years they have included software on laptops, apps on tablets, and games on Wii and other consoles. (They go back to simple, text based adventure games on a Spectrum!)

Perhaps I could have included WordPress or blogging sites in general. I am not sure. My list is already getting long.


I didn’t drive until the seventies so I can’t say much about car controls. But, with many items on my list to do with comfort, the main change in transport is that cars are more comfortable. I have put car radios in Technology above so I will just add (*) air conditioning in cars here.

TV/ Radio

Nothing general in the programmes. I have included television picture quality in technology, Classic FM in Music, and Car Radios in Transport. I can’t include David Attenborough as he was around fifty years ago!


OK, I know, it came to more than twenty. It surprised me. Perhaps I am not so grumpy.

Now I’m going to put the first five in order and to maintain the suspense I will do them in reverse order. This is tough. I want to keep about eight and I keep changing my mind. But here goes …



((5)) Running Shoes. I have worn them for years (and even sometimes did some running in them.) Comfort in clothes it what matters to me.


((4)) Microwave ovens and microwave meals. Both are essential in my everyday cooking.


((3)) Word processors. I remember typewriters and could not have coped without the software alternative. Much of my working life relied heavily on word processing and I still use it now. I need it to write this blog.


((2)) Americano Coffee. Another frequent part of my life every day.


And the winner is …


((1)) Digital photography. When I retired I took up birdwatching and bird photography and bought a digital camera. I take about twenty thousand pictures every year. I delete some but label and categorize the best ones. Some are cropped and edited. With a camera of the sixties maybe I could have afforded to do 36 a week, with very bad colour representation. Here are a few of my pictures.

06CottageOutside Buzzard1_Cannop_23Aug11 Camel_2Mar15 Comma_Hengistbury_22Sep12 DSCN3386 Egyptian1_Thatcham_31May11 Fox1_Pittville_24Mar15 Gomera_P1650544 Grasses Muscovy3_Pittville_18Apr10 ORCHID Shrike1_Kantaoui_3Mar15 Squirrel1_HollandPark_15Feb15 Swallowtail_StFelixdeVilladeix_17May08 Tweet216 Wall0457

Back to more about the fifties and sixties next time.

Author: Alan

Retired, currently living in Cheltenham.

2 thoughts on “[63] Not so Grumpy

  1. Yes, again I enjoyed your post and think that you made many insightful observations worth reflecting upon. Although I am a male, I think that your most important observation is that the life of women has changed radically for the better in western countries, over the last 50 years. The changes have been gradual but of major significance so that now we can look back and see an enormous shift in the status of women since the 1960s. The other radical shift in society has been the acceptance in some western nations of multiculturalism and all kinds of toleration leading to celebration of social diversity–I think that you touch upon this under “racial discrimination” above. I’m writing from the perspective of a Brit of the same age as you but who has made his home in Western Canada since 1969, but I think that as regards the advancement of women and the celebration of diversity the two places have made similar beneficial progress.
    Lots of the ways that you note life has improved involve the application of technology. Also, and to do with technology, is the increased ease of communication. We would not be having this communication before the 1990s but now it’s getting easier and easier to commute around the globe and communication might save our species from destruction.
    I don’t get you on education. Surely more people are educated and share a common base of knowledge than ever before.


    • I am a bit cynical about education. We have large numbers incurring huge debts to acquire degrees they will never use. The education system doesn’t match the market for jobs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s