My Dad’s father died a month before I was born but I have been brought up with stories about him and really feel I did know him even though I never met him; I remember my dad’s mum but I was only six when she died. On my Mum’s side, my grandma died when I was eight, and I was a bit older when my grandpa died, I was eleven.
I often think of them, for all sorts of reasons, but I often think of how amazed they would be at the world now. Televisions were beginning to be bought by ordinary families, modern appliances were in kitchens, central heating as a norm, and more and more people owned cars.
However there are some things which we take for granted which I am sure they would find extraordinary:
- cash points – the fact you can stick a piece of plastic in a machine and money comes out…
- … and paying by card, and contactless payments
- mobile phones – and what is more all the ‘accessories’ phones have, cameras, music, navigation systems…
- cleaning products, safe, simple, cheap
- other cleaning systems – for washing – and washing crockery and cutlery as well as clothes, vacuum cleaners, etc
- the school-leaving age is now sixteen – my dad’s mum left school at twelve – if she had been born the year before she would have left school at eleven
- that ordinary children from ordinary homes can go to University; my dad’s brother won a scholarship to Cambridge but it was a struggle for all the family to keep him there financially. I know it is still a struggle for many families, and many young people for various reasons can’t fulfil their educational potential, but it a world of difference now from then.
- the ease of travel to far off places – my mum’s dad did travel, to Brazil and the Cape Verde islands, but he would have gone by ship. My dad’s brother went to America and that was by ship. My dad did travel a great deal, France, Italy, Greece, North Africa… but he had no choice, he was serving his country.
- the smoking ban; my dad’s parents had a pub – just about every man in the pub would have smoked – or chewed tobacco; there were spittoons on the floor along the bar… unbelievably disgusting and my dad was convinced his dad caught TB from it – the disease which killed him prematurely
- the cheapness of some things, the price of others
I’m sure now that I’ve been thinking about this specifically a whole load of other surprising things to my time-travelling grandparents will occur to me…
… women in pubs… motorways… sport for all…