It didn’t happen overnight, but the realisation that I am a dinosaur has crept up on me over the past few years. I was brought up in what now seem like prehistoric times. My mother wasn’t around very much and we were in the charge of Nanny and our territory was the nursery and anywhere outside in the garden or on the farm. We were scrubbed up and put into our best clothes to be presented to our parents only at tea time. If there were guests there I had to curstey! For the rest of the time we lived feral lives where we ran wild with never a thought to health and safety. We played in the dirt, rode bicylcles with dodgy brakes at breakneck speed, climbed up trees and all over farm machinery. The only things that my father concerned himself with were that we turned up for meals on time and that we spoke nicely. Education came quite a long way down the list for me – I was a girl and was destined to marry a rich husband! I do understand that it was a bit of an anachronism even in those days! By the time I had escaped from the home counties and was living in Chelsea it was the beginning of the Swinging Sixties. Being an intrinsically frivolous person I was more drawn towards being a flower child than a feminist. I didn’t worry about burning my bra – why bother to wear one in the first place. Make love not war – that was our motto. I was more interested in Mary Quant and Biba than Greenham Common. We were a pretty hedonistic generation – it wasn’t long after the war and the world had changed radically. There were restaurants serving exotic (i.e. foreign) food and teenagers appeared as we listened to music that our parents considered a hideous noise and probably a corrupting influence. In those dim and distant days we wore (mostly) pretty dreary clothes until the advent of the mini skirt when the rule seemed to be that the girls with the worst legs wore the shortest skirts. Men on building sites whistled at us and for the most part we were quite flattered. How disappointing was the day that you walked past some builders thinking that you are looking pretty hot but got no response.
But today – looking at photos of celebrities and film stars at red carpet events and in magazines exposing acres of flesh with no possibilty of any underwear. This seems to be sending out very mixed messages – is it to attract men – you can look but you can’t touch – there won’t be many surprises on the wedding night – but then again who wants a surprise on their wedding night? But if it is for women it must make most feel inadequate until you get to my age when my immediate thought is that that they’re going to catch their death of cold as they’re not wearing a vest!!! But it is a depressing thought that so many girls today would rather be a ‘celebrity’ than get a university degree!
Part of being a dinosaur means that I am an uber-pedant. I like regional accents, but can’t bear so much of today’s lazy speech. ‘Very unique’ sets my teeth on edge. The glottal stop – ‘Men’al Health’ – one of today’s biggest ‘issues’. When did ‘issues’ arrive? They certainly weren’t there in my childhood. We were just told to pull oursleves together and if that failed take an aspirin. After any news story reporters swarm like locusts to ask anyone in the vicinity ‘how they feel’? Not surprisingly people who have just witnessed an horrific accident are in a state of shock and tend to say things like ‘I’ll never forget this’. As if! I’m perfectly sure that our revered monarch did not say that Prince Philips’s death would leave a ‘huge void’ in her life. That’s a bit like saying ‘when I wake up, the first thing I do is open my eyes’. A friend of mine said that losing his wife was like walking around with a limb missing – as a widow myself that seems more apt.
As a dinosaur I am shocked to read that ‘dogging’ has become even more popular since lockdown – for those of you lucky enough not to know what dogging is I’m going to spoil that by telling you that it is the practice of having sex in cars and encouraging other people to watch you. As so often I ask myself why? The very idea of having sex in the back of a Ford Fiesta, let alone anyone having the misfortune to see me doing this is the stuff of nightmares. New Forest ponies are not that skittish but there are limits.
Appropos of gyms, I couldn’t resist this cartoon!
When I was young gyms used to be for athletes not people like me! We were forced to use them at school. The hated wall bars where we had to practice climbing up them and then vaulting over a wooden horse. Rushing about getting incredibly sweaty with our smelly teenage hormones all over the place and then after that we just had to change – there were no showers. Being a school for nice young ladies I presume they believed that we didn’t sweat but merely glowed gently. Not true – we ponged like polecats. My memory may be inaccurate on this but I have a feeling that we weren’t encouraged to use deodorant.
Food is another area that has changed out of all recognition– vegans, vegetarians, lactose intolerant, gluten free -we’d never heard of any of those things. If you really couldn’t eat something you could be a ‘non’ at school. I managed to persuade my father that I could be a ‘non’ for fish which was boiled within an inch of it’s life and the smell permeated the whole school making me gag. Other than that we ate what we were given and we were given pretty basic stuff. I don’t think broad beans were considered edible until they were so old and tough that the skin was like old leather and the beans themselves were cooked until they were grey.
Communication too has changed out of all recognition. In my youth my father turned on the wireless twice a day for the News. And he read a newspaper in the morning. We didn’t get a television until I was nine and then it was only turned on at specific times after careful perusal of the Radio Times. Today we are bombarded by a plethora of ‘news’ twenty four hours a day. With so many outlets and the need to fill so much screen, air and print space the tiniest piece of tittle tattle becomes ‘news’. Hold the front page – Beyonce broke a nail – nail technician is flown in to avert an emergency.
LP Hartley famously said ‘The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there’. In sixty years my children will be dinosaurs too and like them we have opposable thumbs, but our brains are bigger – so I suppose the trick is to stop them shrinking too much with time.
How true. I remember asking my family if we could have a television when I was around 9. It took another year before they relented. How times have changed! Sending hugs. Rose
Please note my new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent from my iPad Rose Kendall +44 (0) 7305 465781
Stella, this is probably among your very best. Looking back is definitely a Foreign Place, trouble is it still has more appeal than looking forward.
Thank you so much – It is so nice to get encouraging comments.
Wonderful picture of your childhood – while your mother was probably happily introducing spouse-seekers in her Marriage Bureau. But all the dirt we played in (my mother had 4 children between 1939 and 1945, so no time for bothering with much hygiene!) was in fact a blessing, as it gave us terrific immunity. Dinosaurs have stronger immune systems than today’s heavily protected, faddy-eating children. I’m entirely with you on linguistic sloppiness: mitigate used instead of militate, alternate and alternative hopelessly confused!
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