I know this is a dull subject, but the incredible change in such a small time, globally speaking, must have had a tremendous effect on the development of our young people. Call me an old fuddy-duddy if you like, but in retrospect I can’t believe the straitjacket in which our youngsters now grow up. Progress has given them access to unbelievable toys and tools, and until recently, prosperity has showered vast quantities of generous presents of toys into their store cupboards. Fortunately, they are totally unaware of what they have been missing over the last 60 years.
Way back in the 20s and early 30s there were so few cars that the streets were totally unencumbered by parked vehicles, and in consequence the children of the lower and middle classes were able to play simple games on the streets, sometimes in pairs, more often in groups, but these groups were having fun not mayhem. On the high street there were toyshops, with windows packed with toys of every sort and occasionally with automata, railway trains running on a track, toys well beyond the pocket of most children, but it was lovely to stands, gaze and dream. Today, if there are any toyshops at all, they’re in the form of an ugly warehouse in a shopping precinct on the edge of town, with no chance to see the toys at their best, or narrow, but deep emporia, with a narrow window filled with stuffed toys, while the shop itself and its stock disappears in the distance in this narrow space in a supermarket. There is no time to stop and stare and wish. In fact shopping for children has become a tedious procession round the same old shelves of the supermarket on Saturday mornings, not having to be dragged away from these wonderlands.
If one wants to find a shop devoted to sweets and chocolate of every variety, one has to go down some narrow little street off the main thoroughfare to find it, it’s not as it was in the old days standing like a jewel in the High Street for the kids to drool over. Today the sweet shop is either some uppercrust, pretentious oasis, devoted to expensive, rich chocolate, that the kids couldn’t afford, or toffee and sweets produced by only one maker, without brandy ball or a gobstopper insight.
Mechanisation has also done away with the simple pleasures of the harvests of corn and fruit in the countryside, by those kids having a cheap holiday in the farming environment. I suspect I have written this before, but the difference in the way my great-grandchildren are growing up in so much sophistication, compared with my own childhood, makes me feel sad, because the memories that I have are so pleasurable. These children are well brought up, within the confines of our society, it is just that progress has made everything more regimented, and consequently not simple and basic. No doubt my great grandchildren will be a lot more sophisticated and clever than my generation was, but I wonder if they will be as relaxed and carefree as we were, and there lives ultimately as gentle and unworried as ours were before 1939.