Grieving for the “Good Old Days”

It's Sunday evening, and I'm writing this at my new house sit in Woolwich in the Greater London area. Tomorrow morning I'll return to the increasingly familiar routine of job hunting. Tonight I can afford a couple of hours to review photos and write.

On Friday afternoon I took what could well be my last opportunity to walk from Chelmsford to the village of Writtle in Essex. Chelmsford is the county town of Essex, and Writtle, while only a mile or two from it, is a completely separate village, with its own separate history.

Cottages in Writtle

My walk took me along the banks of the River Can and through the rose gold barley fields of the agricultural college. Soon I was amongst ancient cottages and walking up the main street, past the village green (complete with duck pond) to the pub. Food had finished by the time I arrived, so I had a snack at the village tea room instead.

All delightful, then a shorter walk back along the main road to Chelmsford, and once again I was in a twenty first century city.

More delightful cottages in Writtle

On Saturday I accompanied my good friend and host for the past three weeks, Kathy, to two very different social functions. The first was a garden party lunch hosted by the her local writers' group. The second was a family barbeque and first birthday party.

Although I couldn't have found two more different events if I had set out to, they had one significant factor in common. At both places, in the course of normal, party-type conversation, someone remarked to me what a terrible world we live in these days.

Having travelled in two very different parts of the world these last six months and before, I beg to differ.

The main street of Writtle, Essex, on a Friday afternoon.

On Saturday the sun was shining in Essex, the temperature was in the upper twenties with a light, mild breeze. Cotton wool clouds drifted across a brilliant blue sky devoid of the bombers seen in this part of the world 75 years ago. The amount of fresh, beautifully prepared food served at both functions was far in excess of the amount needed to feed the people there, who sat on comfortable chairs, dressed in fashionable clothes and jewellery. I didn't notice any holes in any shoes, nor rags on anyone's backs. The children - and adults - appeared to be largely disease free, and were well-nourished and happy.

No sirens rang out over the gatherings. No armed men marched through to arbitrarily arrest anyone.

Spend some time in Ireland, where the Old Days translates to "The Troubles" - a very mild phrase for a terrible history.

Or go to Sarawak, and see the sad, lost, indigenous people in the graffitied town square of Kapit, usually bare foot (in a country where treading on the ground can be a dangerous act) and dressed in cheap, well worn, Western style garments that are barely holding together.

River Can
The River Can in Essex

If it's not enough to compare our First world lifestyle to that in other countries now - I'm sure many of us were told to eat your dinner, there are people starving in Bangladesh - then think about our own world forty years ago.

A few facts about 1975:

  • The Vietnam War was at last ending. In Australia and America, military conscription had stopped, but the War had already afflicted an entire generation.
  • Nuclear testing was a regular event.
  • Sex discrimination was a normal part of the work place, and to the extent that legislation was introduced to stop it. Good childcare was hard to find, and some companies still automatically dismissed a woman when she married.
  • Homosexuality was punished by a jail term in "civilised" countries.
  • War and/or famine was a normal way of life for the vast majority of people in the world. Mass famines affecting even the Western world as populations grew were predicted for twenty, thirty, forty years ahead.

Yes, our modern world has it's problems, and I have the deepest sympathies for the friends and relatives of the people who died in Tunisia recently. Tasmanians still remember Martin Bryant and Port Arthur.

Incidents such as the one in Tunisia and Port Arthur are the exception. If we are serious about stopping them, I suggest a world-wide ban on media coverage. Would any attention-seeking homicidal maniac blow himself up if he (or she) knew no-one would take any notice?

Overall most people are better fed, better clothed and have better health care than ever before, not only in First World countries, but in places like India and China, and many others. The mass famines of Biafra and Bangladesh, the wars of Central America and other places are now, thank heavens, history.

Our world is not the sensationalist pseudo-drama dished up by advertising-hungry media networks. Our world is a marvellous place.

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The River Can
The River Can, Essex

For more on Chelmsford, click here.

For more on Writtle, click here.



One thought on “Grieving for the “Good Old Days”

  1. John

    I particularly liked "The Pickles" episode which went:
    "Where you alive in the Good Old Days, Granddad?"
    "Yes, but back then we called them These Difficult Times."

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