Aug 02

Life on Mars

Time and the passage of time are to some extent illusionary. We can at one moment feel that we have had the longest week in history but at the same time feel in August as though Christmas was only yesterday.

A TV programme called Life on Mars has shown me a UK in the 70’s that had long remained repressed in my mind, yet looking at the cars, clothes and attitudes it becomes incredibly real and very recent. It is actually the attitudes that are so brilliantly recreated and which shock you so much. The sets, products and styles are easily portrayed, but to capture the essence and attitude of an era is brilliant.

Today we bemoan the politically correct (PC) world we live in, but Life on Mars shows us just how incredibly harsh, cruel, sexist, racist and immune to the sensitivities of others the world was only 35 years ago. It simply strips the rose tint from your eyes and shows a boy like me, from the Manchester and Liverpool region what we know but choose to forget.  I think our inbuilt and hard sarcasm in the North West of England, to which you are immune by the age of 7, is actually an essential defence mechanism.

Scrumping apples and conkers, nettle stings and dock leaves were indeed part of life but so was the drab and dull industrial landscape as well as “Dandelion and Burdock” and that had to be the most disgusting kids drink ever invented!

I was having one of those melancholy moments the other day and it was all catapults, grass whistles, football and cricket matches lasting ten hours at the park. You know that sad those were the days moment. Dens in the wood, scabs on the knees that were battle scars as well as a snack. When girls knickers were always white and as rare a sight as two gay leopards!

But the reality, the real truth, was different in our everyday life as it was in the lives of our parents and peers. I was luckily the first generation to enter stock broking without having to have a father who could pay for me to be there for the first two years. Can you imagine a more exclusionary and class protective career barrier to entry than that, back in the 70’s my granddad was a bus driver that would never have done, old boy.

There was no advice on money and basically 99% of people worked for one company or the local government for life and were made to feel thankful for a pension of basically a third of what they finished work on. Banks took your money and paid you nothing, so no change there then, but the most sophisticated thing available to the vast majority was probably some building society savings account or premium bonds.

Fundamentally the Naughties, the first decade of the 21st Century, are packed with choices, product and I believe ever improving protection, regulation and training. The customer is generally better informed and serviced by the area in which they wish to invest, be it stocks and bonds, cash or property, but we should stay ever vigilant!

At times I yearn for those days of bronze ford Cortina’s with black vinyl roofs and GLX badges, but only momentarily. There was huge economic change and unemployment looming in Europe, apartheid was rampant in SA and the Americans, who we all depend on for our prosperity and I believe our ultimate protection, were still recovering from the humiliation of defeat in Vietnam.

No, the 21st Century is testament to the survival ability as our species and I know we are better off in our present reality looking ahead, than we were back in the drab 70’s. Anyway Dandelion and Burdock is now banned under the cruelty to children act, or should have been, and lucozade no longer has yellow cellophane on the bottle and is not only drunk when you feel sick as a dog!
Life is, for those of us reading this article, better and we should continue to strive to improve it. That way when people look back 35 years from now in 2043, they will laugh at our 2008 innocence and our ignorance, and if they do that we will know, All is well with the world!

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