THE GOOD OLD DAYS

11 Jul

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

playing in the rain photo: playing in the rain cr43-1.jpg

It is (and probably has always been) a favourite past-time of those who have long left their childhoods behind to shake their heads sympathetically and bemoan the fact that the kids of today, in the generation they’re observing, don’t have it anywhere near as good as they did when they themselves were kids.

I should imagine that a black-toothed wrinkled old granny of 37 sometime in the middle of the eighteenth century might have shaken her head sadly and mumbled that the poor little wretches of today don’t know what it’s like to enjoy a good witch-burning of an autumn evening. And they wouldn’t have. All good things come to an end.

Of course they did! She’d have been right. They no longer burned witches at the stake by the time she’d lost her teeth, which she thought was a crying shame, denying the young the pleasure of the rare fragrance of burning human flesh as Satan reclaims his own.

We live in more enlightened times and so there’s less of a draconian nature for wrinkled old grannies in their 80s, with pre-white porcelain gnashers to regret modern kids can’t enjoy. But they do remember their own childhoods, chasing across fields, fishing for sticklebacks in crystal streams, trying with a wild happiness to make a newspaper-tailed kite actually fly, everything tinged with the halcyon pastel shades brushed on by memory – and a tendency to forget all the rest.

It never rained back then, did it? You never got chased off by irate farmers with shot-guns, did you? You weren’t allowed to do anything but pray on Sundays, were you?

You didn’t have access to anything that might excite your imagination outside the children’s library, did you? None of these fancy computer games? The ruination of childhood, they are, when you could be out scrumping bright red apples from the orchard down the road…

Childhood. Do you call what they have today childhood?

Then there’s the cruel way supermarkets caused the demise of the corner shop – you know, the one run by Mrs Jones, the custodian of all gossip and rancid cheese? Sugar came in blue bags, remember? Button cut just for you off a slab and wrapped I grease-proof paper, the aforementioned cheese (one variety, the one people wanted) and the cheese-wire that ate into it as Mrs Jones flexed her muscles…

She even sliced her own bacon!

Weren’t those corner shops idyllic.

Weren’t they so much better? You were an individual, the good woman knew you, could pass on snippets of gossip, especially the teasing, suggestive sort when her at number 43 changes her washing powder for the other brand and what might be the colour of her smalls to make her do such a thing…

Ah … the corner shop…

Nonsense!

Mrs Jones had to make a living and she didn’t have too many customers so the prices had to be loaded a bit or she’d starve. And what if some of the fresh things were slightly unfresh? They must be sold, mustn’t they? And what if there were a few stones in the potatoes, included in the weight … that proved they were real from a real field, didn’t it?

You want a vegan diet? Mrs Jones won’t be able to help you there … not even with a healthy vegetarian diet, what with no lists of ingredients on the pre-packaged food and no, absolutely no, guarantee of freshness. Sell-by dates? What are they? There’s no such thing!

Chips cooked in dripping taste a damned sight better than modern chips cooked in veggy oil. Ask Tom Percival down the road, loves his chips he does, though it’ll be some time before he’s properly over that heart attack he had last autumn…

And if you want, say a meal for one, Italian, say, or Indian, with cheese and prawns, Mrs Jones won’t help. Though she might sell you a dehydrated Vesta meal that tastes a bit like curry and used to make your parents feel cosmopolitan…

The truth is the supermarket has made things so much better. Variety, freshness when it’s supposed to be fresh, affordability, goods from everywhere, Spain, Turkey, everywhere.

Yes, I can remember the good old days okay. Corporal punishment in schools, administered by sadists for the joy of it, wet Saturdays with nothing to do, only two books a week from the children’s library, boring music on the radio, so boring, in fact, that even mum turned it off and gave us silence, predictable meals with fish on Fridays and stew on Saturdays, frog-spawn for school puddings…

And the highlight: Tom Percival being carted off to the funeral parlour with a greasy chip still held between his fag-stained teeth…

And scrape the green off the cheese, mother, Mrs Jones left it there as a marker for where the taste might be a bit rich…

And keep away from the bomb crater … there still might be something unexploded in there, left over from the glorious war…

© Peter Rogerson 11.07.15

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