If anything positive has come out of Covid, it is appreciation for the ordinary lives we led until last year. Nostalgia extends no further back than 2019, there is no longing for an imagined golden age of decades past
In the 1960s and 1970s, nostalgia was big. People would talk about how little they had when they were young and how well they had coped and how happy they all were in the 1930s and the 1940s. To have suggested that the times seemed anything other than miserable would have invited accusations of knowing nothing about it.
It took a parody song by the radio presenter Tony Capstick to provide a card with which to trump those who were nostalgic for the years of the Great Depression and the worst war in human history, his Capstick Comes Home concludes:
We’d lots o’ things in them days they ‘aven’t got today: rickets, diphtheria, Hitler and, my, we did look well goin’ to school wi’ no backside in us trousers an’ all us little ‘eads painted purple because we ‘ad ringworm. They don’t know they’re born today.
Perhaps every generation indulged in such exercises, imagining the days of their youth as some halcyon era, because in recent years there have been people who have recalled the 1970s as a time to be remembered with affection. Does their recall extend further than flared trousers, big hairstyles, chopper bikes and disco music?
Look at what the decade was really like: look at the strikes and the power cuts and the three day weeks; look at the television pictures of the war in Vietnam and the fall of Saigon; look at the news reports of the violence in Northern Ireland; look at the fear on the streets of English cities and the dole queues growing ever longer. And if none of that stuff affected one’s own life, then look at the personal realities.
Certainly, stuff was cheaper in the Seventies, but with double digit inflation, the money we had to spend never kept up with the cost of things. Long distance travel was a luxury and the thought of taking a scheduled flight was no more than a dream for most of us. Telephone calls were short and to the point, if you had a telephone, that is. Most of us had to go to a call box armed with 2p and 10p pieces.
Communication was chiefly with those around you, and if you lived in an isolated village, life could be very lonely. Life lived with empty pockets, with nowhere to go, and with no-one to see, was not the stuff of happy memories; people who decry the age of computers and smart phones obviously never experienced such things.
The world now is infinitely better than that of five decades ago. Ordinary people can aspire to experiences, to travel, to lives that were beyond our dreams in the 1970s, and the isolation of those years is gone forever with the click of a keyboard
Strangely enough, those who regard the days before the era of information technology as a golden age often express such an opinion via social media, behaviour as contradictory as those who lived in an era of unparalleled peace expressing an affection for the years of the war.