I have been thinking about “the good times” that we have lived through since the fifties. Standards of living have risen – I have more now than my mother did. I live in comfort, my experiences have been softer than hers – no wars, no depressions. I did experience hardship. We were very poor when I was a kid. She was divorced which was most unusual in those days. All my friends had fathers - but not me.
We lived with my granny and grandpa on a tiny poultry farm in South Africa, They were poor too. We made things we needed. Our socks were darned, our shoes repaired (sometimes by grandpa) and our toys never came from a shop. The best doll I ever had was one my grandma made for me. It was a corn-cob doll with a mango pip for a head. The mango pip had been scrubbed clean and shaved on one side where Nanna drew a face, The clean white fibres were the doll's hair and were quite long enough to “style” with a brush. I spent hours doing her hair. She had a wardrobe of fine clothes stitched with love.
My friends were little African children - the children of the workers. They had wonderful toys that their Dads made – wire motorcars with wheels that really turned and you steered them with a steering wheel on the end of a long wire. The cars were copies of real cars you could see driving on the roads.
I went to a prefab school based next to hundreds of WW Two prefabricated huts that had been used by Italian prisoners of war. One of my friends lived in one. I often went to her house for lunch. Her mother used to hitch the bread loaf under her armpit and slice the bread that way. Big chunks of dark brown bread (flour was rationed) dipped in steaming soup tasted great – sweat or no sweat. We got bread and soup everyday at school too. And milk with cream on the top in a glass bottle with a cardboard top.
Later, we moved into our own house in the town – a tiny semi and you could hear the neighbours talking clearly through the fireplace in the lounge. It had an outside loo and bathroom with a wood-chip boiler in it. The boiler either showered you with spouts of boiling water that bubbled over if it heated too much, or was luke warm if the fire went out. And I was frightened there were snakes under the bath.
In the town we walked, rode bicycles, went on a bus if we had the fare. I remember our first car. It was a black (what other colour was there?) second hand VW Beetle with the small round window at the back and little semaphore “wings” that shot out if turning left or right. It was my mother's delight.
My grandchildren have had everything they ever wanted – and upgrades to things that have newer vesions. Everybody's kids seem to have that. They go to schools purposely built, with school meals where nothing is rationed except fat. The poorest people in the UK seem to have more than I ever had. Everyone seems to have SO much we can chuck it away if it breaks or we fancy a different one. Its quite extraordinary how we “expect” a good standard of living nowadays.
Most days, I wake up thinking how lucky I am and how good life has become.
Isn't it sad that most people younger than my generation, live in a state of dissatisfaction, planning, longing, hoping for something better than they already have, not knowing how lucky they are?