Stand up and be counted

by davebarclay1954

I had my son on Saturday and we were talking about school, in my day we started at 9 and finished at 4, there were no “teacher training days” (?) and no half term holidays. We finished Maundy Thursday for our 2 week Easter holidays. We finished 23rd of December (unless it fell at a weekend) for our 2 weeks at Christmas. Summer holidays ran from the first Friday in July for 7 weeks. This got me thinking about other changes I’ve seen in the last 60 years.

Not every home had a TV in 1954, telephones were in red boxes at the end of the street. Cigarette machines were outside shops. Inside you could buy 1 cigarette and a match for 3d (just over a penny today). Almost all the adults I knew smoked, now hardly anyone does. No mobile (or cell) phones. Sci-fi program’s on TV hinted at the wonders we now take for granted. No-one had a computer, only the biggest companies or government departments. All our music was on pirate radio or vinyl. If you wanted to play outside, there were hardly any cars on the roads so it was safe to play in the roads.

You still came across the odd grump who gave you a clip round the ear if he caught you, didn’t dare say anything to your parents as they’d give you another. We respected the police because if they caught anyone under 11 up to mischief they’d give you a stern talking to before giving you a clip and sending you on your way. If you got lost then you could always ask a policeman for directions. However, the last time I asked a bobby for directions he had less idea than I did. Thank goodness for the homeless man who told me the building I wanted was right behind me.

Amazing to think that I was brought up to respect everyone, as the man walking the streets could well be an angel in disguise. I have never judged anyone as less than I due to colour of skin, accent, or religion. As a catholic boy living on the mainland during the troubles in Northern Ireland I was well aware of the reason they started. Although I knew I could not approve of the religious war. Both sides were in the wrong. If the government want to incarcerate IRA members for atrocities then they should also take the same approach to the loyalists who were killing and bombing as much as the Republicans.

Funny how political debates look at the past and see only atrocities perpetrated by one side. In all conflicts the atrocities are committed by both sides. That was shown most clearly in Vietnam, I heard of atrocious acts committed by the VC, but America saw what their troops were doing first hand because the war was televised. If you knew women carried guns and children were tied down on mines, would you have done anything differently at Mai Lai? I don’t think I would have.