There are many people who still yearn for a return to the distant past, but when I look at times gone by, I am much happier not to have lived before 1942. I was born in 1942 and I remember all the years between childhood and reaching thirty years of age with fondness. Although the oldest in a family of seven children, I can never recall a day when I was unhappy, bored or depressed.
I have frequently read and often wondered about conventions and customs that prevailed a hundred years before I was born, from the Victorian Age to the start of the 'Second World War.' Many of the old ways now seem so alien in today's 'progressive' world!
That was a time when to have a child outside wedlock would cast a mark of shame upon a maiden's brow that could never be erased; when to steal a loaf of bread for want of starvation could see some poor soul transported across the world, and when debtors who were unable to redeem their loan would find themselves in prison.
My interest in British history informed me of times when there were no drains or proper sewage disposal and when London streets were strewn with straw and the living quarters of the poorest were often ten people to a room. These were the days when men never allowed their women to forget the distinction and purpose between man and woman, husband and wife. These were times when women were no more than chattels and men routinely forbade them to do 'this' or 'that' as they were constantly reminded by court and custom that they were after all 'only women', the property of their husband who they'd been placed on earth to serve. Is it any wonder that the average lifespan of the working man was in his forties, pregnant women frequently died in childbirth and that when both mother and child survived, the child would frequently die before they reached five or six years of age!
These were the days when unhappily married women remained trapped in unhappy marriages. To leave their marriage partner meant penury, the loss of all contact with one's children and a life of destitution as a social outcast.Indeed, the farther back in time one goes, it was highly fashionable for all men to have a lover. This was a time when divorce was unheard of and male hypocrisy ruled supreme; a time when wives were there to breed child after child until either their body gave up the ghost or their husbands gave up the drink or his unreasonable demands on them.
Of all past customs, one I sadly regret the passing of is the practice of 'keeping one's word'. I grew up at a time when to break it meant the instant loss of Office for any politician and the withdrawal of all community respect from the man or woman in the street. Not only was a person's word their bond, but to break it was nothing short of a personal disgrace. To give one's word didn't require a legally binding contract; simply a handshake, or if one was a common man, the crossing of spat-palms. I always remember my parents telling me, ' Billy, I would prefer you to break the law, break a leg or even break your neck before breaking your word. A poor person has nothing in this world that is worth keeping except their good name and if they keep faith with their word, they will never lose that!" William Forde: September 27th, 2017.