SOME THOUGHTS ON VIEWING ENGLAND FROM ABROAD.

This last year I’ve found myself watching a fair bit of TV on Netflix, mostly BBC, which is quite unusual for me. Initially I was drawn to Last Tango in Halifax, primarily because I hadn’t heard adult males begin sentences with ‘Happen’ or actually ‘appen’ as in ‘appen I might go to t’spill for a minute love’, and I hadn’t seen the countryside of my childhood since I’d lived there, it was a real pleasure. Another program was Happy Valley which I enjoyed for similar reasons plus the excellent Sarah Lancashire who was also in Last Tango. Peaky Blinders was definitely different, but even though it was set in Birmingham it absolutely brought back for me so many memories of the slums of Sheffield during WW2, the filth, the smoke, the canals, the depression, it was all there. Plus the stories of the Irish gangs, we had ’em also; I started out on Solly Street in 1936 and Wiki will tell you about the Irish Solly Street gangs of the 30’s. Many industrial northern cities were inundated with Irish immigrants due to the famine and the social conditions there.


Through the magic of Google Earth’s street level views I’ve spent hours cruising around the streets of Sheffield that I knew so well and of course nothing looks the same. Many streets no longer exist, our old houses are gone, there are new trees everywhere that block the views that I remember. My ‘Peaky Blinders’ memories are in total conflict with current reality but 70 odd years have elapsed, no wonder it looks totally different. I wonder what it would have looked like if I’d had the opportunity in 1940 to see how Sheffield looked 70 years earlier, i.e.1860, slap into the tail end of the industrial revolution. It makes you think. One thing I’m conscious of on the telly is how Americanised everything now looks, especially the interiors of houses and how people look and dress and speak, their lifestyles. Somehow it surprises me but then it’s what I’ve been living, but I somehow didn’t anticipate Sheffield following suite.

One thing that I really miss is the dialect, I know I mentioned the Yorkshire accents in ‘Tango’ but it’s just not the same. BBC has bred the real dialects out of folk, I wish I had a recording of how I used to speak as a teenager. Many years ago I took a trip with my stepmother and we visited some of her friends in Sheffield and around Yorks & Lancs. One day as we sat chatting with an old friend who was in her 90’s her hairdresser arrived for the weekly perm, the hairdresser was an old woman that spoke exactly the way I remembered, pure unadulterated Sheffield dialect of the WW2 era, I would love to have a recording of her voice. That’s how I used to talk.

I realize that I’ve evolved in a bubble for the last umpteen years, my ‘image’ of Britain is in part the one I grew up with during and immediately after WW2. I left in 1958 at the age of 24 and my subconscious perspective is sadly based on the memories of my childhood/adolescence. My memory is of the slums, the cramped and dirty row houses, all with outside toilets, very undernourished and sickly grey people. The houses were ‘heated’ with a tiny fireplace in the living room. Central heating was totally unknown. My Granny’s house had only cold water, no gas, an outside toilet about 50 yards from the back door, all cooking was done on that fireplace that was less than 8″ square. There were two tiny bedrooms upstairs.

At the age of 24 my reality changed dramatically, I entered a technicolor fantasy that was Los Angeles; it was as different from Britain as is chalk from cheese. In the post WW2 era Britain was a very different place than it is today, it was financially bankrupt as a result of the war, [If you want a better understanding of it read ‘Blood, Tears & Folly by Len Deighton] Food and clothing were rationed and rationing persisted well into the ’50’s, the news was always bad, as was the weather, nothing worked and there was an air of universal depression. My father was a bricklayer, he worked in all weathers, rain or snow for 2/6d and hour, that worked out to be a pound a day, about 5 quid a week! That’s what he came home from the army to, that’s what he got for winning the war. Postwar England was not a happy place and I suspect that subconsciously influenced my choice to leave.

When I left there were no blacks or browns in England, of course there were but only a relative few in the major cities, living in rural East Anglia I never saw them. Consequently everyday open verbal racism didn’t exist either, but of course it did, it always has. Wog was a common word, it supposedly meant Western Oriental Gentleman but that was us being superior to Indians and Asians and other citizens of the Empire, we had very clearly defined attitudes to anyone darker than we were but we were furtive about it. Nigger was a commonly used word that wasn’t derogative, it was used to be descriptive. I recall going with my grandmother to the fabric shop for a reel of thread for something she was making. She asked the assistant for the thread, Nigger brown, and that’s what was printed on the spool she bought. Robertson’s sold Gollywog jam and Darky was a brand of toothpaste, on every tube it had a grinning caricature in blackface with a top hat.

Probably the most evident visible change in not only England but also the rest of Europe, in other words those countries with 19th century colonial aspirations, is the presence of huge populations of immigrants, black and brown immigrants who’ve brought their cultures and religions with them. And in almost every case they’ve become an underclass, often undereducated and unemployed and the ‘traditional’ underclass are feeling the effects of their own unemployment and the subsidization of their brown counterparts. I think that the days of Downton Abbey etc are long gone living only in a few romanticized memories of the ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. The reality is what’s happening in Paris, Woolwich and in the major industrial cities and the rise of UKIP and it’s equivalents in every country. The US has similar problems but they’re based on an entirely different set of circumstances.

We didn’t have TV, it was too expensive, we had radio. TV has changed dramatically, it started out as tiny B&W screens with hardly any relevant programs and now we have huge flat screens mounted on the wall with unbelievable image quality and some decent programming. During the 70’s BBC were producing epic programs, they were the standard for the world; the US started very low and went down from there, American TV has always been totally irrelevant until the advent of cable TV, that’s what initiated HBO and then The Sopranos, the Wire and other high quality programs shortly followed, and then there were more, Breaking Bad was produced by a commercial channel. This has all evolved into an advantageous situation for all TV viewers worldwide, we now all can share each others best programs.
Pop music in the ’50’s, you wouldn’t believe it and you don’t want to hear it; Perry Como, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine, Frank Sinatra, Cliff Richard, Donald Peers, Johnny Ray; they were all popular as were several female artists; Dinah Shore, Teresa Brewer, Doris Day, Patti Page et. al. plus the odd instrumental, Anton Karas and Les Paul & Mary Ford.
You bought or listened to music based on the name of the singer, never the group, there were generally no groups, only studio musicians.
Obviously there were no CD’s or MP3’s or personal radios, there were LP’s but they were prohibitively expensive, I never owned one but on my second day in LA I bought 3 at the checkout stand in a supermarket, they cost 88 cents each! In England they would have been about 5 quid each. Still got ’em.
Telephones; Usually kept in the hall just inside the front door. You put your name on a list to get one, it usually took over a year, we had one, our phone number was Beyton 338, three digits! Phone calls were very distorted and also very expensive; transatlantic calls were insane, incomprehensible with echoes and several dollars/pounds a minute, definitely not a medium for conversation. We sent telegrams.
Drugs: Never heard of ’em in the 50’s, from the papers I knew that heroin existed but reefer, ganja or coke, never saw ’em even though I was thoroughly involved in the jazz scene where supposedly they flourished. Drugs were definitely not a part of the youth community, I never ever heard about prescription drugs either. Late 60’s I saw hash and ganja happening in rural East Anglia but we’d never even heard of coke.
Football; There was a radio program every Saturday at 5pm, the results of the 4 leagues plus the Scottish league were announced. The leagues were divisions 1 2 3 & 4 plus Scotland, they had some weird names for their clubs, like Hamilton Academicals, Airdrieonians, Partick Thistle and Stenhousemuir, I always wondered where these places were, do they still exist? The results were always read in exactly the same monotone, i.e. Arsenal 2, Liverpool 3, on and on for 30 minutes. One major attraction was that was how you determined whether you’d won on the pools, a new national obsession, the newspapers had blank tables into which you could enter the scores. I believe that most stadiums were basically standing room and that all the teams were all local lads, i.e. all British. The only one I ever went to was Goodison Park, that was like that, I think it cost about 2 shillings to get in and I think we stood at the Stanley Park end adjacent to Stanley Park Road.
One thing I’m aware of when looking at current football photos in the Guardian is that the crowd is very predominantly middle aged white blokes, hardly any women and no blacks, except on the pitch. How much football has changed in 70 years, the Americanisation of football? Well it seems that way, every stadium is half covered and everyone is seated and the majority of the players are foreign, and possibly also the club owners and the salaries are astronomical and TV is the name of the game, all that sounds very American. It happened while I wasn’t looking. Now NBC has a channel that’s devoted to the Premiere League and FA and European games, they’re on almost every day, I’ve read that we get more TV coverage than UK. NBC is trying unsuccessfully to find a way to introduce commercials onto the screen during play, this presence has changed the American sports TV within the last 6 months, since the world cup actually, it’s become a major item. Another thing is the way the game is now played, someone’s put some thought into that, it’s now a very well thought out military exercise and I like the inter team camaraderie. Any team playing in the Premier League today could have easily won the FA Cup in 1950. I just watched the Arsenal vs Man. City game.
Guns, NOBODY had guns! especially cops, being caught with a gun meant an automatic life sentence. Now they seem as common as they are in America, everybody’s got one, or so it seems. The cops with their fully automatic Heckler & Kochs look like a US swat team, it used to be that only specialized cops could withdraw a Webley service revolver for use in very special circumstances and then return it; when and why did all that change?
Cars, Late 50’s I was in my 20’s, I had a good job and I drove a 1937 Austin 7, 7HP and 20 years old, I passed my driving license test in a 1936 Hillman. Within 2 years of arriving in LA where petrol was 29c a gallon I had two cars, a brand new Citroen ID 19 and a year old Jaguar XK 150, that’s part of what I mean by ‘technicolor’, plus I lived in an apartment with a swimming pool and the sun shone everyday year round. Plus I was getting paid 10 times what I earned at ICI in Suffolk. Just to put those cars into perspective, the Citroen cost $2500 and the Jag was $1900, my wife and I had joint salaries of about $1200 a month; the Citroen cost us 2 months wages, the Jag, about 6 weeks!
Those are some of my memories of those years, memories that I find influence my current perception of life in Britain. Ring any bells? Anybody else want to share ’em.

A ps. There’s one other detail and I’m not sure if it’s worth mentioning, but today’s Guardian has a story on British expat’s views of American healthcare. I fit right in there. As a socialist growing up I was always a strong advocate of the NHS, even though I had no personal experience of it. But I continued to read critical articles about it, particularly re. hospital waiting times.
Let me tell you about my American medical experiences; I worked for a university and was covered by a state agency for my whole career, approx. 24 years. I was covered by CALPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
Every month an amount was withdrawn from my salary, I couldn’t tell you how much but I didn’t notice it, it covered my medical plan and my retirement. For 24 years I paid in but I never visited a doctor, I was healthy, still am.
When I retired I moved from LA to northern California and had to choose a new health plan, I chose Kaiser Permanente [Google it]
To keep it simple let me just say that I’ve had surgery, stent replacement, ankle joint replacement and a variety of minor medical procedures, free dental care and free optical care plus annual check ups for 25 + years, all at no cost! My contributions ceased when I retired. The amazing part is that my wife is also totally covered and that she will continue to be covered for the rest of her life. And the other amazing part is that PERS sends me my retirement check [$2000+] every month and after my death they will continue to send it to my wife for the rest of her life and she’s 30 years younger than I am.
Can you argue with any of that?

9 thoughts on “SOME THOUGHTS ON VIEWING ENGLAND FROM ABROAD.

  1. Hi GF, I read your post with interest, because although I am younger than you, being born in 1955 makes me a fair bit older than many other ‘Spillers. In fact, I was born in the year that rationing finally ended, coincidentally, the year that rock ‘n’ roll is said to have arrived in the UK with Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”. So, a pivotal year in British cultural life in many ways.

    I was born and grew up in the East End of London, one of the areas that managed to escape the worst of the Blitz but close enough to the City and the Thames for me to grow up at a time when there were still bomb sites around, open areas waiting for redevelopment that wouldn’t happen until much later on.

    I remember things being pretty grim and grubby, not that many cars on the roads, make do and mend as the order of the day and thick, acrid pea-souper fogs in the winter. These were times before the Clean Air Acts. We lived in a three-storey late 19th century rented house, with a narrow back garden. When my dad dug it up to create flower beds, I can remember him finding literally dozens of broken clay pipes in the soil. They must have dated back to when the house was first built. Clay pipes were disposable in late Victorian times. We also found Victorian pennies and half-pennies. Mind you, there were still Victorian coins in circulation, together with Edward VII and George V ones.

    As a small child before I went to school, I can remember listening to the radio with my mum, the Light Programme, which was dominated by music and acts that harked back to the War. In fact, the War pretty much still overshadowed many people’s lives and memories.

    When I was about four, my father bought a telly, a small black and white one, and I can remember watching “Watch With Mother” on the BBC and also “Pinky and Perky”, which was probably one of my earliest exposures to pop music. I can also remember seeing The Shadows on the telly, as well as The Tornadoes. This was pre-Beatles and I can still remember their impact. They were the first group that somehow was “mine”, music that was a new thing that hadn’t in any way existed before I was aware of it.

    Where I lived was an area that was gradually settled by West Indians in the late 50s and early 60s. They were something exotic to me, people that looked and spoke differently. They also had different music. It was part of the weekend for local West Indian families to hold loud parties, with the music audible from the houses that backed on to ours. My dad hated it. He was pretty racist, but most white people were in those days. Me, I liked the music, it was piano-driven stuff, Blue Beat, I suppose, and early Ska.

    I can remember watching TV programmes like “Six-Five Special”, “Ready, Steady, Go!” and, of course “Top Of The Pops” in black and white on the telly, which by then was a larger model, but still B&W of course. Mostly though, the programmes were dreadful, apart from Morcambe and Wise (who were on ITV when I was little) and the Sylvia and Gerry Anderson programmes like “Supercar”, “Fireball XLS” and “Stingray”. Their earliest was “Four Feather Falls”. My favourite, though, was “Space Patrol”, a far more weird and scary SF programme with puppets.

    Mostly, I didn’t watch the telly, I had to go to bed by 8 o’clock and I’d read until my mum came and turned the light out. I loved “Swallows and Amazons” best, but I’d read anything. I used to go to the local library every week and borrow the maximum four books, which I’d always finish withing seven days.

    As I grew up, I really began to identify with “The Scene”. and music was a massively important thing for me. I really liked the Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks, and as the groups became more “way out” I identified with them more and more, as my parents disapproval of them grew.

    I went to grammar school in 1967 and as I grw up, I became more and more of a hippy. It was flower power, the counter-culture and the Vietnam War that were the defining pillars of the times for me, plus things like Paris 68 and the Oz Schoolkids Trial in 1971. The TV series “Take Three Girls” was a favourite of mine. It showed me that it was possible to live a life that was different to that of my parents and their dull conformity. Also, the theme music was Pentangle’s “Light Flight”.

    Living in East London in the late 60s and early 70s was definitely a real case of Us and Them, best summed up by Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and CSN&Y’s “Ohio”. You instinctively knew that there were lines being drawn, and you knew that you had to choose which side you were on.

  2. I was spawned in 1958 and so don’t remember rationing etc. I do recall the early 60s a being very dull, grey and peaceful ( round my way at least).
    Food was terrible. Bland. Hardly any choice, I remember when yoghurt arrived at our local shop, it was a big deal, choice of 3 flavours too ! A few years later the Kiwi fruit arrived to much consternation. I can still remember my Dad biting into one and having to remove the hairy skin from his false teeth.

    For me the biggest change over the years has been that , somehow, although we have a lot more “stuff” the fundamentals of life have become much more expensive.
    For example, when I was a kid our teachers lived in the nice , detached houses in the village. Those same house are now WAY out of a teachers league ( they go for nearly a million !).
    Not only that but back then a decent house and life could be lived with only one parent working.
    Practically impossible for most young couples these days.

    Having Mum’s ( it was always women in those days) at home all the time allowed us kids to roam in safety, there was always somewhere we could go if we needed help or it was raining ( I’m sure the Mums were totally grateful for the invasions ).

    I think we’ve lost something there. I can fully understand, having been a “househusband” why women wanted to get out of the drudgery of domestic life and into work but there’s been a trade off for the kids, they’ve lost that sense of community , of local “mum police” that kept us safe and out of ( too much) trouble.

    That said I don’t miss some things, bath time was only once a week, underwear and shirts could be made from Nylon ( sparks !) and deodorant wasn’t much used by men.
    Couple that with widespread smoking and you had a pungent atmosphere in confined spaces like Tube trains that lingers in the memory like, well, a bad smell !

    And the telly was rubbish much of the time.

  3. Hi GF. I haven’t seen “Peaky Blinders” but some of it was filmed at Brooke’s Mill in Armitage Bridge, which is about 10 minutes walk from me in good old West Yorkshire. Also the “inn” in the recent “Jamaica Inn” dramatisation was filmed at a derelict barn out on the Sheffield Road at Lower Whiteley – don’t know if you caught any of that.

    I’m not sure that accents are being bred out by the BBC – I’m not a Yorkshire lass but when I first moved here I found the various accents hard to follow. Now I don’t notice them at all but the West Country / Bristol accents sound gentle to me when I go home (yet I never really noticed them as I was growing up). My ex and his dad are from Bradford and when they get together half the conversation is incomprehensible – possibly a good thing? – but they certainly haven’t lost their accents, they just tone it down a bit when not at home. My ex-ex (do keep up) was from Portsmouth, and Bristol friends called us “Bruce and Sheila” because they thought his accent was Australian.

    Sheffield has changed even since I first went there in the mid ‘70s – I used to travel up to Wakefield to visit my brother who was teaching at Bretton College. From the train at night, you could see the fires in the foundries – all that has gone now, there’s just Meadowhall shopping centre which has a green dome, it glows at night like an infernal Royal Pavilion. But the centre of Sheffield is rather fine, the public concourse (Sheaf Square) outside the station has a waterfall down one side; there are beautiful gardens outside the Council offices and an indoor Peace Garden. But like Manchester, Leeds or probably any big city, there are still some very poor areas just out of centre.

    Leeds (and Bath, come to that), used to be soot black. All the buildings were really grim, everything was ridiculously cheap (compared with Bristol) and the shopping centre was a magnet for me when I visited my brother because it had a great open market. The market is still there, and still good, but prices are pretty much the same as anywhere else and there are new glitzy shopping malls and a “Harvey Nicholls” store – much of the individuality has been lost.

    My parents were born in 1913 and 1917, they were thrifty and sensible and brought us up in a fairly old-fashioned, sensible way. My brothers were born in 1940 and 1945, they remember rationing (and I can remember them eating sugar sandwiches as a real treat). Although I didn’t come along until 1959, whenever I went out mum would always ask “Have you got your gas mask?” (To which the answer was always “I’m wearing it!”). Although born in Bristol I grew up in Gloucestershire, in a fairly rural area which Bethnoir will know. That’s changed completely now, the little cottages I remember with the “old” locals have been done-up and are now more or less in the commuter belt. I used to walk miles, the buses were infrequent and although we had a car from the mid ’60s on, dad used it for work and mum didn’t drive. I walked home from school sometimes when I was older, it was about 8 miles and quicker than the bus.

    The first time I ever saw a black person was when I was about 8; we went to town on the bus and there was a gentleman walking along the road in the St Paul’s area, everyone looked out of the bus window to look at him. By the time I was 11 I was traveling to Bristol every day to go to school, and my best friend lived in St Paul’s for a time – when we were a bit older we used to go to the Dockland Settlement for reggae events – my memories of this are a bit hazy! Similarly the St Paul’s festivals which brought together African-Caribbean, Asian and European communities. Bristol too, has changed – the bomb-site I remember from school days is now Castle Park, the docks have been done-up and are now a great recreational area, but a million miles away from Bristol’s industrial past. It still feels like home when I go back but in some ways it all feels like another lifetime.

    We do see Police with guns here – fairly rarely, fortunately, usually around places like Leeds station (supposed to reassure passengers but had the opposite effect on me). We got stopped on the bus a few weeks ago in Huddersfield, and a copper with a gun got on the bus – again, to “reassure” passengers – there seemed to be some sort of stand-off in a house on the bus route. “Soft” drug use doesn’t seem to have the same cachet as it did in the ‘70s or ‘80s, weed is more or less accepted or ignored – round here, anyway. Or maybe that’s just my perception. It was certainly prevalent when I was at school – say 1970-1977.

    I can’t comment on sport, “wouldn’t go the foot of our stairs”, as they say! I did watch “Match of the day” with my dad, back when Kevin Keegan was playing for Liverpool.

    I do remember baths once a week … and Pinky and Perky … and my dad’s horror when he found a bottle of “Old Spice” on my brother’s bedside shelf … and the first time I had a peach … and my mum buying a “special” box of coloured tissues once when I had a cold, never seen the like, they were too pretty to use so I stuck with the hanky! And my dad buying me a transistor radio while mum was in hospital one time – he thought it would stop me whistling (which got on his nerves) but it probably changed my life as now I could listen to MY music, not Sam Costa or classical!

    I can’t comment on sport, “wouldn’t go the foot of our stairs”, as they say!

  4. My first encounter with Sheffield was in 1975, when I was playing a gig at a club there. After the first set the bass player and I went outside for a spliff. The streets seemed quiet, so we wandered around the block. And bumped into a copper. Who was looking to get into something more interesting, like the Vice or Drug Squad.
    His eagle eye spotted me trying to hide the offending article and pounced. Banged, as they say, to rights.
    We had to spend a couple of hours at the station, where they did a low-level good cop/bad cop routine (including a strip-search), and we were charged with possession. Because we said Jon had rolled the joint and passed it to me, they also charged him with supplying.
    They kindly dropped us back at the club, where the rest of the band was waiting, already packed and ready to go. The rest of the band (i.e. guitar, drums and vocals) had managed to put on something of a second set, having no idea what had happened to us. Driving back over the Snake Pass is never that much fun at night; it was less fun that night.
    We had to return to the Magistrates Court a few weeks later to get a stern lecture about the evils of drugs from the beak (in stark contrast with the treatment meted out to the guy who had injured someone whilst pissed) and to be fined £10 on each charge.
    It was quite a while before I went near Sheffield again.

    • My first experience of Sheffield was being stuck there on a train in the snow, first time I ever traveled up to see my brother (late ’70s). In the end, ours was the only train to get out of Sheffield that night; we got to Wakefield at 3.00am and the station was deserted, I had no idea where my brother’s house was in relation to the station and there were no mobile phones (and no working phone at the station). In the end I got a lift in the back of a farmer’s van, lying on a bale of hay (he was going to feed his sheep). I got to Ian’s about 4.00am; he had been driving round local stations all night in a bid to find me and had just gone to bed. He opened the door in his underpants. We had a drink and went to bed; I awoke next day to the smell of bacon, went down to breakfast and discovered it was tea time! I’d slept the whole day.

  5. What a lovely bunch of responses.
    Ubu: thanks for the link but there were only modern accents there. One thing intrigues me, a bloke who says he’s Jamaican talking like a Yorkshireman.
    Something I’ve long been aware of is the difference between US black voices and UK black voices, In the UK they all have English accents, in the US, they all have the same ‘black’ accent. Something that’s surprised me many times is hearing someone speaking on British TV and then the camera cuts to him and he’s black, total surprise, that doesn’t really happen in the US.
    What you say about mums struck a chord, during WW2 we kids had total freedom, the war was only bad when it was bad, otherwise it was wonderful. I’d leave the house in the early morning and return after sunset, running loose around the city or the countryside the whole time, we never bothered about eating we just found things to do and places to go. There were no bogeymen or threats to kids. But look at contemporary society, parents won’t let kids out of their sight, they drive ’em to school, they define all lot their playtime, they even choose their social activities. And it’s obvious why, just look at the news, everyday another child molestation, disappearance, murder, I don’t know what’s happening but something has definitely changed. It never used to be like this.
    Bath time once a week, you were lucky [unlucky] we had to go to communal bath houses, ours was about a mile away, it cost nine pence.

    Carole, glad you chimed in because we almost overlap, your London memories coincide with my Suffolk memories. I vividly remember Bill Haley and the social revolution he created. ‘Make do and Mend’, haven’t heard that phrase in about 60 years!
    And those fogs, London became notorious worldwide because of ’em. I’ve got a collection of Victorian coins; pennies used to be about an inch and a quarter in dia, imagine a pocketful of those, weighed a ton. I’ve also got a Victorian ‘King’s shilling’, it possibly passed through the hands of some poor sod who found himself in India or Bulawayo.
    We were hippies together, I even started out as an old hippy, I was about 35 when flower power struck, it was definitely ‘counter culture’ and the war that influenced us all. Plus Paris and the Watts riots. Us and Them indeed!

    Ali; I didn’t know about a new Jamaica Inn but I do remember Whiteley woods, a place where we’d often go to play. I remember it being full of Beech trees.
    Back to accents, or dialects, the ones I’m talking about were so strong, so heavy, the only thing I can compare it to is one of those old Glasgow accents where you don’t understand a single word. It was like that. What you hear these days has been diluted to about 30%.
    The centre of Sheffield and the station has changed beyond recognition, everything was black from soot, it looks very nice now but very different. I remember a blacksmiths shop in the center of Sheffield where everyday you could see horses being shod. Have you ever had a whiff of burning horses hoof, you’d never forget it if you had. I remember it clearly. There were many horse drawn carts in the city back then, some lorries but no cars – no petrol.
    Whenever I was hungry and I asked my granny for something she’d always say ‘Cut yourself a slice of bread and jam’, That was almost my staple diet and to this day I still have that every day. Given all the fruit trees that we have I make lots of jam, one time when I checked the pantry there were 40 qts of jam of many different flavors, I have to eat it every day!
    Weed’s still not quite legal here though you can grow it for personal use, something I used to do a lot. In Long Beach I lived in a lovely 2nd floor apartment with a totally private deck off the living room, that’s where I grew my ganja. One time I had 8- 8ft plants in 25 gal tubs flourishing like mad. One day at the university I was in a meeting, I needed to take a leak and on my way out the secretary saw me and said ‘You’r landlady just called to say that someone was coming to check the solar panels on the roof’. Oh god, the only access to the roof was via my deck, I stuck my head back into the meeting and said ‘Personal emergency just come up, gotta leave’. I flew home and was able to struggle all those tubs into the bedroom and hose down the deck just before the bloke arrived!

    Chris’ That’ll teach you to mess around with ‘controlled substances’. Bloody hell if there’s one euphemism I hate it’s ‘controlled substances’. Call a bloody spade a bleedin’ shovel! You reminds me of my mate Jim who suffered a similar ignominy, his cost him a weekend in jail and $300 for a similar ‘offense’.

  6. Great post GF with some amazing memories.

    It’s weird, I’m more than half your age at a sprightly 38, but things have changed immeasurably since even when I was a kid in the 80s. Maybe it’s the ubiquity of mass media and the digitilisation of everyday life that has just accelerated everything since the mid-90s.

    I too was free to roam on my bike and would spend the summer holidays out of the house from dawn until dusk (that’s if I wasn’t looking after my little brother. He’s five years younger than me and I would look after him for the whole day from the age of when I was 9 or 10). It’s well documented that crime rates in developed countries are now at their lowest since the 1950s, but people seem more fearful of their own and their kids safety than ever – it’s easy to blame the mass media and their endless pursuit of Folk Devils and Moral Panics, but it seems there might be more to it than that.

    For me, music came on cassettes right up until I got a CD player for my 18th birthday in 1994 (I soon learnt the error of my ways and got a record player for my 21st!) and subcultures/tribes were everything.

    I’ve been out of England for coming up to 13 years now and although it hasn’t changed physically, psychologically and culturally it seems very different. The monopoly of reality TV, the way that the pettiest. most meaningless things get magnified and sensationalised and turned into THE. MOST. IMORTANT.THING.EVER!! It doesn’t bother me because I’m sufficiently distanced from it to be able to look on with a wry smile, but it is definitely different in just that short time frame.

    • I am sure that a conspiracy theorist would have a field day with the dumbing down of mass culture in the UK today. As you say, reality TV has made a huge inroad into the way people view celebrity and the tiniest things become sensationalised. One might suggest that this is exactly what our political overlords want; a passive, trivia-obsessed populace who are completely divorced from the political process but who can be easily manipulated by the media. One could suggest this, but George Orwell got there first, in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

      I’d suggest that we are actually living in an Orwellian world, but without the most obvious manifestations of his Airstrip One society.

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