Thursday, 13 October 2011

The things that are better now than they were 40 years ago

Watching my son go through the university selection process right now got me reflecting on the differences between the world he’s facing and the one I was about to enter 40 years ago. I stopped after about a minute, because it was too depressing. So I began compiling a list of what has actually improved since them. Here it is:

 Cars: Underpowered, unreliable, homicidal rust-buckets have been replaced with safe, reliable, mid-range family run-arounds which would have beaten the pants off an E-Type Jaguar.

Music: While modern music is undoubtedly execrable, acquiring great old stuff has become ridiculously easy, and, thanks to technology, making music could hardly become any simpler or more pleasurable (which may be why it’s all so execrable).

Books: Impossible to say whether novels are better or worse than they used to be, but Amazon has made buying them a simple, pleasurable process - and the available range of titles is wonderful.

Food: Incomparably better than it used to be, thanks to supermarkets and mid-range restaurants - and far less likely to kill you early than the (admittedly) phenomenally tasty Scando-Glaswegian diet I grew up on.

Teeth: How many of you are reading this while wearing dentures? Despite not looking after my teeth, I’ve only managed to lose one so far, and that was entirely my own fault. 

Builders and Decorators: Thank God for Poles!

The Unions: They used to kick sand in our face – now we just tell them to grow up or we’ll have to smack their little botties for them.

Rivers: We grew up with what Larkin described as “floatings of industrial froth” – and I haven’t seen any of that for a while.

Photography: I never could be bothered with old-style cameras, but the digital ones are superb.

Architecture: Modern buildings are far less offensive than the brutal Stalinist horrors of the late Sixties and early Seventies.

Old Buildings: We tend to preserve them these days. Canonise John Betjeman, I say.

Banks: Thanks to online banking, you don’t have to visit them unless you actually enjoy the experience (i.e. you're mentally ill).

Dogshit: I railed against all that namby-pamby, plastic-bags and heavy fines folderol when it was first introduced – but not having to scrub reeking ordure off the soles of one’s shoes on a regular basis is a relief.

Parks: Better cared for and regulated than they used to be. As a Londoner, this matters hugely.

Motorways: I know, I know! But the M4 and M5 get me to Cornwall in just over four hours.

Showers: My son is a power-shower addict, as I am. Remember those piddling, tepid little sprinkly affairs we used to have to endure? 

Clothes: No flares, tie-dyed shirts or loon pants.

The Internet: Just think of the fun you’re having reading this!

There’s more, but that’s enough to be getting on with.

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