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I don’t want my grandchildren to grow up in my world, I want them to grow up in their own, but I would like them to remember that my world did exist: that it is (on my timescale) a bare few seconds since if your car broke down in the middle of nowhere (which still existed back then) you might well have to wait hours, if not days, before being found; that if you were running very late for an appointment you would have no opportunity to explain until you arrived in time to find that everybody else had gone home.  That if you wanted to talk to anybody at all that was not within touching distance, you would have to stand in the freezing cold hallway where the one phone in the house was tethered to the wall, counting the pennies off in your head as the conversation meandered on.

The mobile phone – now the ‘smart phone’, unless you have to rely on it – has made the biggest difference to my life, but it is, of course, nothing new to my grandchildren.  It is just as it has always been.  They do not remember once-upon-a-yesterday that if you wanted to speak to a person in the next room you actually had to get up and walk there, or at least raise your voice a bit.  They do not remember that if you took a photograph you had to wait days before you discovered that it was of your thumb.  They do not understand that if you wanted to win a quiz, you had to know the answers.

There is nothing new to this: we are all afforded a present that would have been unimaginable to our forbears; it has always been the same.  I recall buying a pair of roller skates for my eldest daughter and suddenly being struck by the fact that at her age I had only ever been in possession of a single skate which I scooted around on to the detriment of whichever foot my other shoe was on at the time.  My parents had food that they did not have to grow themselves, clothes that they did not have to make, lives that they did not have to lay down.  We move on.

But it is at our own peril that we forget what came before.  We live in an age where it is acceptable not to know something because it ‘was before my time’, as if history only extends as far backwards as our birth.  It could not be more wrong: we forget slavery, war, apartheid, The Beatles, famine, starvation, Van Gogh, disease at our peril.  If we forget Hitler, we leave the door open for his successor.  If we forget Mandela, we close the door on his.  Everything that came before us is part of us, everything that we take for granted is because of yesterday.

Somebody once said that ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to relive it.’  Who?  I’m not sure.  I’ll just have to look it up on my phone…

I’m sorry this is late. I will let you decide whether the glitch is mine or WordPress (Hint: it’s mine!)


16 thoughts on “Yesterday

  1. So many truths in your post. There will soon be fewer left who can remember standing in a queue, in all weathers, waiting to use a pay phone. The stench of fag smoke and urine, and the page that you want, torn out of the book, if in fact there was a phone book available! Plus the added aggravation of the person following you opening the door to ask if you are going to be much longer. I think some things are best relegated to history.

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    1. And the handle- receiver?- of the phone, a tactile smorgasbord of fish and chip grease, ReadyRub and God knows what else; the twisted kinked and frayed cord that allowed you three short inches of play for you to try to cock your head to hear and speak into the fetid mouthpiece, redolent with a bitter stench of Watney’s curry and rank Rothmans stale malingering smoke. Standing in the dark booth, looking through the cracked pane out at the rain fair tipping down while trying to chat up some disinterested girl? Mmmm, perhaps some things are best left in the past; not all was roses and champagne, sadly.

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  2. I remember our home telephone numbers being upgraded with an extra preceding digit, as there weren’t enough combinations of four numbers for the fast growing town… my Dad said he’d struggle to remember that many numbers in a row. True to his word, he often still answers the phone with the old four digits and adds the ‘new’ (about the year 1974) number on the end. Even on his mobile.
    Ah well, the kids will laugh at me in future, I’m sure.
    Actually, they’ve already started.

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  3. I used to have to call my wife “Long Distance” at a payphone and when my quarters were gone our conversation was over. Waiting for pictures to be developed could be a nail-biter depending on the event. As Mr. Underfelt said, there are many truths in your post today.

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  4. The phone in my first home was just like that one. It made a frightful racket. My current iPhone does the same, in fact, but in a much milder tone. Just since the turn of the century, so many things have changed. I try to imagine what my father would have thought about digital photography. Or the availability of any sort of music at the touch of a keyboard. I try to imagine what will come next but my imagination is deficient. What more could we want? I agree, we must remember the past.

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