Another humourous offering from my writing archive:
There’s a lot of talk nowadays about the battle of the sexes, much of it nonsense and hogwash, but what is often overlooked is another battle. Much older, and much more real. The battle of the generations! It seems to me every generation suffered from the one before and every generation is determined to wreak its revenge on the next. And its main weapon in this war? Tales! Tales beginning with the words “When I were a lad…”.
I wish I could say that I’m patiently waiting for the day when I can use this weapon myself, but I’m an impatient youth. So let me transport you, transport you to the year 2035A.D., to the year when I’ll be 75 years old, sitting in my rocking chair and telling tales beginning with the words “When I were a lad…”.
I can see it now, it’s another lovely day, I’m rocking away on my back porch, my gran’son at my feet, I’m puffing away on an empty pipe (because I don’t smoke) and suddenly, without any warning, I start my tale and watch the little mite squirm:
You know, son, when I were a lad, life was a real adventure. Take the weather. You never knew from one moment to the next exactly what it was going to do. One minute the sky could be near clear of any sign of a cloud and the next blacker than the road to Hell. And that’s black, I can tell you. Then within seconds there could be droplets of water, large enough to fill egg cups, pounding at you skin! And it hurt, boy, I can tell you. But it was natural see? God’s own water. Though it didn’t always come down as water. No, lad, sometimes it came down as balls of solid ice, big as ping-pong balls they were, and dangerous. One of them hit yer, and you’d be out cold for a month. Lose of memory too, probably. Ah, but it all toughened you up. Made a man of you. There are no real men nowadays; all soft, the lot of ’em!
Weather control. Hah!!! In my day we thought ourselves lucky if we could even guess what the weather would do the next hour, let alone day. Now, first sighting of a cloud and it’s zap! with a laser beam and guaranteed sunshine for the rest of the day. Only place it rains now, that’s what we used the call the droplets of water, by the way — don’t suppose you’ve heard that word have you? — well, only place it rains now is the wilds: jungles, moors, fells, far away mountains, Manchester. Have to pay a small fortune if you want to get wet the natural way nowadays — we, we got it for nowt, like it or not. In my day, go out of doors and you didn’t know whether to take suntan lotion or an umbrella. Don’t suppose you’ve heard of them either, have you lad? Umbrellas, eh they bring a lot of memories back.
Devices they were. Mechanical devices to direct the rain away from your face and down the back of your neck, or so it seemed to me. And so was our sense of adventure in them days that we used to buy them with metal spikes sticking out the top to attact the lightning. I remember going fishing once, in a boat on Rudyard Lake, with a dear friend, Arnold Watts. Well, we was out there in the middle of the lake when this here storm started. Arnold whipped out his umbrella, stuck it up, and zap! A bolt of lightning — that’s a massive electrical charge jumping from the sky to the ground, or in this case, the lake — struck Arnie’s umbrella and fried him to a crisp. I remember his wife cried something rotten at the funeral. But I comforted her — and six months later we were married. Umbrellas, I love ’em!
But we didn’t always rely on the weather for our dangers, no! We made our own. Take our pavements. In my day they were proper pavements, real concrete slabs, and not laid out nice and evenly like they are at these so call shopping centres — nah! Stuck up they did. At the corners. Sometimes by as much as three inches! I tell yer, go round the shops in my day and you didn’t know whether you were going to get back in one piece or with a broken neck! That was true adventure. And what’s more, in my day you had to go round the shops. They weren’t mere tourist curiosities. We had none of this press three buttons on yer home computer and it’d be sent round to yer. You had to go and get it yourself. That meant catching a bus and fighting yer way through hordes of other shoppers in cramped shopping centres and markets. You don’t know you’re born nowadays! You just don’t know you’re born.
In my day, life was full of danger. Illness, for example. There were more ways to die from illness than there were to stay alive! Take cancer. By the 1990s, they had found a cancer for every part of the body you could mention. From cancer of the left big toe to cancer of the right eyebrow. And if you didn’t think your chances of getting one from the nuclear industry and all the E for additives was high enough, you could always increase your risk by smoking burning leaves wrapped in paper — cigarettes they called ’em. Or, if you were really rich, you could sunbathe — not in Britain, mind you. Our last summer before this weather control nonsense was back in 1976, and even I can barely remember that!
Mind you, cancer wasn’t the only fatal illness. Jogging was a good way to die early. Heart disease they called it, but personally I think most of them just died from embarassment because of the damn silly costume they had to wear to do it. Ah, but they were the good old days. Now, thanks to wonderful medical science they’ve got cures for diseases that don’t even exist! Ah well, I suppose things change. Except for our beloved leader, of course.
Ah, Marvellous Maggie! Been in power for nigh on sixty years now you know. The Iron Lady they used to call her, and still not a trace of rust! of course, there are those who say she was replaced by a robot in the early ’20s, but I don’t believe a word of it. Just because she never goes anywhere without her handbag is no reason to suggest that it’s a container for her batteries. And the fact she hasn’t aged, well, look at Cliff Richard: been dead forty years now and still looks 24!
Course, the Opposition have been replaced by robots, but then all they ever did was boo, and give the occasional cry of “Hah, shucks!” and “Rubbish!”. In fact, nobody noticed the difference until on of the robot’s logic circuits rebelled and asked the Prime Minister a sensible quest — and that took ten years!
Ah, buy Maggie still marches on. And you know, given another twenty years or so and I think her policies will really begin to work.
But I’ve been talking long enough; be teatime soon. Give me your hand, lad, and I’ll walk you indoors. Of course, the tea we drink today’s nothing like the tea I used to have. That was real tea, came in proper tissue teabags, with two thousand perforations to let the flavour flood out — aye, we had none of this plastic ball rubbish you have today!
©John Steele 2011
If memory serves, I wrote this back in the late 1980s in response to the nostalgia articles I was subjected to during the weekly writer’s workshop, down in the local WEA. It may have been published in their annual Writer’s Anthology but I can’t remember where I’ve put my old copies to verify this at the moment.