Nostalgia Ain’t What it Used to Be

Ask anyone of a certain age what has changed since their childhood.  Most will say that you just don’t see white dog pooh any more.  This is probably a good thing.  Maybe it’s because dogs are eating different food, or perhaps it’s because something else has changed.  Back in the twentieth century, you didn’t tend to see owners following dogs around with polythene bags, ready to scoop the poop while still hot from the bot.  Today, although the situation is not perfect, there is probably less chance of stepping in a steaming turd while walking in the park or going to the local off licence.

Now, there’s a thing – the local off licence.  There used to be a little cubby hole in the boozer from where we could buy crisps and Mars Bars, or beer to take home.  We were that hard-up, one Mars Bar had to be shared between four of us back then, and the cutter of the bar was last to choose a slice, while the ends were quickly bagsed by those desiring a greater chocolate to caramel and nougat ratio, but I digress.  I remember trawling through the hedgerows and ditches to gather discarded glass bottles which we could take back to said cubby hole in return for a penny or two at a time.  Deposits on glass bottles seemed such a great idea.  It funded my Blackjack and Sherbet Fountain habit for several years.

Car seatbelts.  It’s not that long ago that seatbelts were seen as some kind of optional extra.  Seatbelts for passengers in the back seats were unheard of and babies and toddlers simply found themselves on mum’s lap or rolling around in the load area, if fortunate enough to be travelling in an estate car.  One day, along came Jimmy Savile telling us that we should belt up or die a hideous death; later, some bloke came along and told us that we could be killed by an elephant (or was it a rhino?) coming from the back seat and through the back of our heads.  Today, for those of us using motor vehicles, seatbelts are part of our daily lives.  We clip-up with nary a thought, while our children are strapped into their personal pseudo Recaro bucket seats like some kind of dribbling, puking rally driver.  Rest assured they will not be metamorphosing into Dumbo any time soon.

A more recent change in our lives was the banning of smoking in pubs.  Imagine suggesting to some leather-faced, yellow-fingered puffer back in 1975 that smokers should assuage their nicotine cravings outside the bar.  Unthinkable.  Surely, smoking in bars was a good thing?  I recall not recalling coming home after a heavy night out, but the following morning the primary evidence of beer-fuelled shenanigans was a festering pile of clothes simply oozing with the scent of countless Woodbines.  You know how smells are brilliant reminders of particular times and places?  Well, the stench of stale smoke on my favourite merino polar neck jumper was reminder enough to keep me out of the Red Lion for days, if not weeks to come.  Today, the only evidence of a heavy night in The Jolly Sophisticate, or some other equally pretentious watering hole, is the massive hole in the finances or the faint whiff of Chanel No.5 picked up from the back of the sofa in the snug, (darling).

The Labour Party used to be Socialist.  Now they are centre-left.  For some reason, Mars changed the name of the Marathon to Snickers.  That’s just nuts.  The Royal Mail used to deliver twice in a day.  How on earth do we manage now?  Homosexuality used to be illegal.  Mobile phones had batteries big enough to start a Mercedes.  Berlin had that wall.

*Bland statement warning*. Things change and we soon forget what it used to be like in the good old days.

Most things change for the better, although I could do without the shift towards so much American English tripping off the tongues of the great unwashed.  Can I get a coffee to numb the pain?  I am so totally not able to ignore such bolleaux.  Awesome.

I don’t really understand how things suddenly change and achieve an air of acceptability, credibility or popularity.  There are so many avenues allowing even the most quiet and unassuming members of society to communicate with the wider world, how is it possible to achieve a level of interest that becomes self-perpetuating in a genuinely good way?  Late last year, I remember seeing a Twitter campaign in which a man made a bet that he could reach 1 million followers by Christmas.  The bookmaker stood to lose £10,000, I think. The winnings had been pledged to charity, so it was not a simple get-rich-quick scheme devised by some chancer in a Soho basement.  In spite of several months of hounding and cajoling, begging and pleading, the campaign failed.  The #twager Tweeter failed even to reach 10,000 followers.  Now, I’m no mathematician, but I can see that if there were a successful retweet phenomenon in which everyone followed an instruction, the numbers could become huge in a matter of minutes.  That charity could have made ten grand in an instant.  Meanwhile, vacuous so-called celebrities such as Bieber, Gaga, Price and the rest have millions of simpering followers hanging on their every word.

Back to the nostalgia.  In 1962, Tom Simpson was the first British rider to don the maillot jaune of the Tour de France.  He never won the race.  Today, the jersey sits on the shoulders of the British rider, Bradley Wiggins.  With five stages remaining, there’s a good chance that Wiggins will achieve what no other British rider has done.  Those in the know are asserting that the race is now his to lose.  Cyclists from the black and white era of film and television will be beside themselves with excitement, remembering how Simpson was pictured as a British gentleman (bowler hat et al) and how Wiggins is now being labelled as a gentleman for his recent action in neutralising a stage to allow his rivals to recover after tack-driven puncture sabotage.

Wiggins didn’t become a great rider by sitting on his arse.  He covers thousands of miles on public roads, throughout the year, often fighting for space on strips of asphalt shared with countless fast-moving metal boxes.  If he does win the Tour, I hope this will mark the start of something new and we will be looking back in ten years, wondering why we ever viewed grown men and women in lycra as some kind of hindrance, or as fair game for our ignorant, selfish ranting and dangerous, unthinking behaviour.

Vive le Tour!  May 2012 mark the watershed in the populace of the UK becoming lovers of cycling as a sport as well as a pastime.

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