Life becomes more and more of a mystery to me as the years go by – some days I can waste hours looking for the pen that I was writing with a minute ago and that has now, inexplicably, vanished or the loaf of bread that I bought yesterday is nowhere to be found! And then on top of that I am left in a permanent state of confusion by practically every aspect of modern life. I’m not a luddite – I can use a computer and I have apps to park my car and download train tickets – in fact I think I’m quite good on all of that but still there is scarcely a day goes past when I don’t read something that makes me think that, as PG Wodehouse would have said, it’s time I handed in my dinner pail. There is just so much I don’t understand. Take the Harry and Meghan – we can hardly avoid doing so at the moment – Rachel Johnson wrote that Meghan had a more exotic background than Harry. I think that sounds glamorous and rather to be envied but apparently it is racist and she has now apologised for writing this and says she would never do such a thing again! As for the speculation about the colour of their baby I obviously don’t know the context but I can’t see why Harry and Meghan should be so offended by this. Given the choice I imagine that most people would choose Meghan’s colouring over Harry’s! It is only too easy to take offence – one of my favourite sayings is ‘He who takes offence when no offence is intended is a fool’.
When I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth there were three classes of Englishman (and yes, if we’re going to be woke about it, this meant mankind and that was all encompassing and included women). We had Upper Class, Middle Class and Working Class. Social conversation was quite proscribed – you couldn’t discuss Politics, Religion, Money or Sex. Men, presumably talked about cars, sport, travel, farming, or hunting, shooting and fishing (although maybe that was only in my life as a farmer’s daughter). Women talked about children, fashion, cooking and gardening – known by my misogynistic family as ‘ribbon talk’. I’m sure all the other subjects were discussed but behind closed doors and in those carefree days before the advent of social media most people kept their views to themselves and their nearest and dearest. Today someone only has to have a passing thought before they post it somewhere and immediately someone else disagrees with them. Many things are far better – we live in a much more fluid society. All those years ago you were probably Protestant, although we did know a few Roman Catholics. Today you can be anything from Pagan to Jedi Knight. Living on a farm outside small market town I don’t remember there being any Jews in the neighbourhood as for anything more exotic we didn’t even have a Chinese or Indian restaurant. As for black people – there weren’t any in rural England – the first time I actually spoke to someone with a black skin was when I was in my twenties. I can’t believe that this would happen today.
Food was pretty limited as well – If you had asked for an avocado in the local town you would have been eyed with deep suspicion and no one would have known what you were talking about. If you gave a party everyone just ate what was on offer or went hungry – there were no vegans, no lactose intolerant, gluten free, pescatarians. It has to be said that we lived off a pretty boring diet. Presumably people did have food allergies but I never knew about them. We didn’t have takeaways – Wimpey bars were the first to sell hamburgers in the UK and they opened in London in 1954 and I’m pretty sure they didn’t reach my neck of the woods for years. Hamburgers were an exciting, foreign food.
Our world was smaller with limited choices, but it was simpler. There were men and there were women and not much in-between. There were one or two famous cases of people changing sex, but this was headline news. Today there is a mind numbing array of terms for sex and gender none of which I understand. You were heterosexual or you kept quiet. There were plenty same sex couples living together but it never occurred (to me at any rate) that they were anything other than friends. This was just after the war and many women lost their chance to marry and most of us had a maiden aunt and if she decided to live with a same sex companion we took that at face value. Today not only is everyone out and proud but they insist on telling you about their sexuality – they even ask on forms. What possible interest can it be to anybody unless they want to have sex with you?
Everybody on the BBC spoke with the same clipped and quite boring accent – but regional accents are very much the norm today. Then it was the BBC way or the highway particularly as regards to pronunciation. Who of my generation could forget Angela Ripon talking about Zimbawe. I love regional accents – particularly northern ones and local dialect – round these parts a bumblebee is known as a dumbledore and at one point there was a fear of these dying out. However, the pedant in me still finds ‘innit’, ‘like’ and ‘you know’ very irritating.
Fashion was quite prescribed too – women followed magazines that told them if skirts were up or down this season or if pink was the new navy. Today anything goes. My teenage granddaughter dresses really imaginatively and I am envious when I remember that I was forced into tweed skirts and scratchy Shetland wool jumpers. I was only allowed to wear trousers for playing outside at home or jodhpurs for riding. The freedom is lovely but it was difficult enough knowing what to wear then but somehow even more difficult when anything goes.
However I’m an optimist and I still believe that there are many things that are better today and unless we want to curl up and die we had better learn to live with them but I still found this headline confusing on so many levels – Trans Comedian Plays the Piano With Her Penis.