We talked the other day, Ned and I, about how much more simpler life used to be for the generation that immediately preceded us, especially those without ambition beyond raising a family and having a holiday once a year.
Imagine living in a small terraced house in a street where every house is the same as yours, in a district where every house is the same as yours, there is no envy, no aspiration to own a bigger house because in this district there are none and this is the district that you were born into, this is where you work, its where your children go to school, its where you shop, it has everything you need right here within walking distance or at most a short bus ride, why on earth would you want to move elsewhere, why would you aspire to something that is just going to cost you more money and offer you less in the way of amenities ?
So your routine is the same, you get the same bus to work every morning, you work at your job in a factory for eight or nine hours a day, you take your sandwiches at the same bench in the canteen with the same workmates every day, and you get paid at the end of the week and you know exactly what you are going to earn and exactly how the money is going to be spent.
Your entertainment is in the same pub which is within walking distance of your house and once a week you take the wife out to the Working Mans Club three streets away to be entertained by a “turn” and you sit at the same table and you know everyone in the place and everyone knows you, the cost of your night out is easily affordable from what is left in your wage packet after all the bills have been paid and you put a bit aside in a tin every week for your summer holiday.
You get paid in cash and the cash is kept in the house, you have no use for a bank and so none of your wage goes to paying for a facility that you don’t need or in excess charges that you didn’t know you had incurred, in short no-one takes money from you unless you give them it, you are in total control of your budget.
The only form of banking that you use is the savings account in your local building society and thats where you save a few bob every week to pay for the summer holiday or maybe buy the kids some new clothes once a year before they go back to school and that building society does not levy any charges upon you because its just a savings account, you’ve never borrowed money in your life.
Your diet is simple but made from fresh food sourced from small shops at the end of each of the streets around you and your wife does the rounds most days gathering the produce to have your tea on the table when you walk in the door at the same time every night.
You have a TV set but its a novelty to you and you begrudge the rental to the TV company, your idea of a good night in is to sit by a coal fire and read the evening newspaper which is delivered to your door every night, there is no alcohol in the house because thats what the pub at the end of the street is for.
You don’t own a car because they are an expense that you don’t need in your life, everything you need is within walking distance or there is a regular and reliable bus service to take you anywhere else you want to go and on rare occasions a train service that will take you to any town or village anywhere in the country, public transport is good, reliable, frequent, its coverage is total and its paid for via taxation as a public service and isn’t designed to milk you for as much as they think you’ll stand in order to satisfy shareholders.
Your health care is provided to you free of charge by the National Health Service, as is your dental care and your eye care, all of this is paid for by the deduction of just a few shillings from your wage every week and its so small an amount that you don’t begrudge it.
There is no desire for new technology, no need to buy “the latest thing”, a cooker is a cooker, a fridge is a fridge, you don’t need fripperies or unnecessary objects of desire, your settee and chairs were bought when you married and will last for most of your lifetime, you don’t feel the need to change them every three years because someone on TV tells you that you should and if someone on TV told you that you should then you’d reply “Bloody rubbish this TV” and switch it off.
A utopian Orwellian dream ?
Not really, this was life in the 1950s and 60s, the time before consumerism got a grip, the time when Prime Minister McMillian told the population “You’ve never had it so good” and with hindsight, he was probably right.