As I’m older than most posters, my memory threads stretch back further. My earliest clear recollections are from being about 5 or 6, though I have been told a lot of anecdotes about my babyhood and have many photographs. It was the early 1930s, around the time that Hitler came to power in
The 1940s – my teenage years – were wartime ones. Inevitable anxieties and shortages were sustained by a degree of social cohesion and national determination which had only been equalled during the Napoleonic Wars, 130 years earlier. Even after
We emerged from the war exhausted and bankrupt, which did not deter the post-war Labour government from embarking on an ambitious programme of social reform. But
The 1950s were a time of hope, and also some frustration. People felt they deserved a better deal after all their strenuous efforts and wartime sacrifices. There was also the growing shadow of the Bomb and the escalating Cold War of words between the
The 1960s were a peak time of achievement for me. As I came up to 40, I succeeded in helping to pilot a minor, though highly important, social reform onto the Statute Book. It was an intensely busy time, and broadened my interests, contacts, and activities considerably. At the beginning of that decade, too, I formed my life-partnership which still endures steadfastly, though not as happily as of yore because of advancing age and failing health. Another aspect of the Sixties is that they were a time of gentleness, hope, and social experimentation for a new generation of young people. The era of
The ‘Seventies became an uphill struggle, as demands for social and counselling help mushroomed and funding dwindled. The charity I ran kept going by the skin of its teeth, but for a number of reasons I retired in the late 1970s and concentrated more on freelance writing work and training as a counsellor. The decade ended with the triumphal advent of Margaret Thatcher, and support for “fringe” causes and caring for the marginalised members of society shrivelled. Some of the achievements of the Iron Lady may have been nationally beneficial, like a bracing cold bath, but she made kindness and concern for others unfashionable with her infamous pronouncement that there was “no such thing” as society – only individuals and families. This mechanistic outlook became increasingly stale, and poisoned the attitudes of the rising generations. The “New Labour” landslide of 1997 was greeted with near-universal euphoria – how mistakenly we are only now coming to realise.
The next great watershed in all our lives was, of course, what the Americans miscall ”9/11”. I can remember my next-door neighbour calling out over the fence “There’s something peculiar going on at the World Trade Centre”. We turned on the television and gaped. It was indeed peculiar, and the world has been getting more and more peculiar ever since. Much food for future blogs there!
Now it’s almost 2007. A century ago, in 1906, there was a national euphoric moment when the social-reforming Liberal government swept into power with Labour support. I wonder if there will be another such euphoric moment during my lifetime? One can only wait, and hope.