"When I was young and dreamt of my future as an adult, there was no restriction to my vision. Anything was considered to be possible and the world was within my reach, providing I was prepared to work for what I wanted. I grew up as a teenager and young man in the late 50s and early 60s and given what I've seen during the years since, my years of youth were indeed much happier times than the young person experiences today.
I recall that even the expectation of poor families was that their offspring would have a much richer lifestyle than their parents had. This was a time when 'aspiration' and upward mobility remained realistic.
Whether you worked with your brain or your hands, your skill or your labour, when a young man started courting and made plans to marry, they knew that if they did what was expected of them anything was achievable and they could make their dream come true.
Instead of continuing to knock back the drink with one's friends in the pub nightly and smoke twenty cigs daily, they would knuckle down for a couple of years and do all of the overtime they could get at work and generally save all they could for their bottom drawer. Their parents would help by allowing them to pay their board (a fraction of tipping up one's wage packet weekly), to assist with their future.
Two years later, they'd have enough to put down a deposit on a small terrace house in which they would start married life and a family. Their 'aspiration' wouldn't stop there however. Once wed and parenthood arrived, their added responsibility would be taken on board as a matter of course and plans to seek promotion in one's job and improvement in one's house automatically set in.
Educational advancement would be encouraged in most households and even those children who might not be suited to go to grammar school or university would be strongly encouraged by their parents to seek an apprenticeship in some trade when they left school.
With the start of marriage came the age of 'Do it yourself'. I remember that I hadn't changed an electric plug before marriage, but soon I was decorating my own property, rewiring, laying tiles and doing all manner of tasks my father before me had never done. Before too many years and mistakes had been and gone, a married man had become a 'Jack of all trades and master of none' where home improvements were concerned. Indeed, I can even recall the custom of having friends over in the evenings for drinks and snacks in the 70s; not to play games, but to show off the new wallpaper me and my wife had managed to get and put up ourselves, or some other gadget we'd acquired!
In those days, as one's mum or dad became too old and frail to care for themselves, they automatically came to live with you in the spare room that would have been made by some of the children doubling up. Such a response to parental need seemed to be the natural thing to do, instead of placing them in a nursing home and visiting out of duty occasionally.
As the New Millennium neared, the nuclear family had fragmented. No longer did parents and children sit down at the family table at the end of the day to eat and all conversation between adult and child became rare at best and more usually, non-existent. The world seemed to have turned topsy turvy and greed set in to a level that effectively wrecked family and community values of the previous fifty years or more. As a Probation Officer at the time, I witnessed offenders and victims getting both younger and older as each group at opposite ends of the age spectrum seemed more prepared to do ghastly things which were hithertoo unimaginable in an earlier time.
By 2008, the wold's global economy had spiralled downwards and all manner of financial institutions collapsed like a house of cards; bringing with it the promise of a decade of austerity that was comparable to those years before I was born. Houses stopped being built and those that were built were thrown into negative equity as their owners were thrown out onto the streets when they could no longer meet their monthly mortgage repayments. Mass redundancies became commonplace in the work force, unemployment rapidly increased, and even those fortunate few in work were obliged to work harder for less wages. The only businesses and organizations on the increase were pawn brokers, food banks and credit companies who were prepared to offer loans to the poor for exhorbitant rates of profit which ensured that their loan could never be repaid.
Thanks to the meddling and war mongering of our Government in foreign lands over the past twenty years, the world is more unstable today than it ever was in my lifetime. Instead of making the world a safer place for our children, politicians have made it a more dangerous time to live with the growing tide of extreme radicalism spreading itself across the world.
Oh what I wouldn't give for England to return to the country it was in my days of youth, a time when the whole world was within the grasp of every aspiring citizen. Progress, I hear you say. Well for my part you can keep your progress and leave me with my nostalgia." William Forde: May 9th, 2015.