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And yes, our parents in general had a lot more time to spend with us. Unemployment was lower then but the dreaded long-hours culture was still a way off. People worked to live not the other way round.
In many respects Britain in the mids culturally was more like southern Europe than, say, work-and-money obsessed America or then Germany.
The First Breeze of Summer / 日本未公開 (1976)
But we must be careful about eulogising the past. Part of the reason we think things are bad today is because we know so much more about what is going on. Take crime, for instance — the sort of crime that worries parents.
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that rates of paedophilia or stranger-abduction today are any higher than they were 30 or 40 years ago; indeed there is some evidence that they are lower.
As to violent crime, in there were homicides defined as murder, manslaughter and infanticide recorded in the UK, compared to in - but taking into account the population increase from about 56m to 61m the murder rate per head is unchanged. Indeed, from a peak in the late s-early s in there were more than homicides in Britain , serious crime in the UK, as in most other Western countries, has been dropping quite dramatically.
There was less traffic on British roads in , but far more people were killed on them — more than 6, deaths compared to fewer than 2, annually now. Cars now have better brakes, airbags, side-impact bars and drivers are less likely to be drunk and it is now illegal not to wear seatbelts, even in the back. It was actually far more risky to be a child cycling round s Britain than it is today and greatly more dangerous to be a child passenger in a car.
Travel abroad was still something of a luxury currency restrictions were still in place meaning it was hard even if you had the cash and largely restricted to the middle classes and above, although the era of the cheap package to Spain and elsewhere was beginning. Things that we think of as essentials — televisions, stereos, kitchen white goods and so forth were hugely expensive.
The First Breeze of Summer (eVideo, 1976) [luokai.info]
Package deals to Spain were still a dream back in , when travel was considerably more expensive Clothes, travel and eating out were all significantly dearer back then, but university education free, and you got a maintenance grant as well , public transport and some basic foodstuffs were cheaper. Petrol was cheaper too, although not by as much as we usually think. The major dent in our finances today is not the cost of petrol but the ludicrous price of housing, especially in South-East England.
In even the wealthiest parts of London contained a number of lower-income householders; there were bits of Chelsea and Kensington that were actually quite shabby. But this is a local phenomenon; across much of England, Wales and Scotland housing is still relatively affordable. In most measurable ways things were no better in , and in many ways worse, than they are now. We were poorer, paid more tax and most things cost more.
We died sooner, smoked more and suffered more illness. We were less likely to be burgled, take drugs or have our car broken into but no less likely to be murdered, raped or robbed. This was an era of casual racism and sexism, where women, gays, blacks and Asians could be openly discriminated against, where snobbery was still rife and where police corruption was so serious and widespread that Metropolitan Police officers had to be quietly sacked.
And yet we feel nostalgia for this long-ago era which in many ways seems as foreign as the Middle Ages. And if the survey is repeated in I suspect that the early twenty-teens will come out as some sort of golden time. For what we are REALLY nostalgic for, of course, is not the weather, the clothes or the alleged freedom but our youth.
And that we can never get back. Share or comment on this article.