Friday, January 2, 2015

The Good Old Days?

Someone said the other day, that they thought most people were envious of their parents or rather of the people of their parents' generation. She thought that life was much better fifty or so years ago than it is today. I can't agree. I suppose it is true that there is still much poverty and misery in the world. There may well be more poor and miserable people now than there were a hundred years ago, but then there are far more people altogether and for very many of them life is good. Personally I believe the twenty-first century is a wonderful time to be alive even for an old woman like me. I think of all the present-day technology that makes our lives easier. Every few months brings a new innovation to marvel at. When you are eighty years old it is bewildering, sometimes overwhelmingly so, but very exciting too. You don't have to buy every new gadget, you don't have to understand what apps are or what they do (what are grandchildren for, after all) but you can still take advantage of all the inventions that save you time and trouble and bring you information and entertainment. In the town where I lived when I was a child, there were no minibus taxis, workers trudged to work on foot. There was no waterborne sewerage system. (This was only instituted in the late forties) A "nagwa" came to collect buckets once a week from the outdoor latrines. We had to boil our drinking water. Tap water was unsafe. There were outbreaks of typhoid every year and as antibiotics had not yet become available, many people died of it. Nowadays we all complain about Eskom, but I remember several outages, when the local power station broke down. One lasted more than a week and nobody mounted a service delivery protest! Then who would really want to go back to the days of leaky fountain pens. (Does anybody remember what blotting paper was or what it was used for) And think of the hours spent washing and ironing. I suppose washing machines of a sort did exist then, but nobody I knew had one. Washing was all done by hand in a tub with a scrubbing board. Babies' nappies were made of towelling and were definitely not disposable. These days I very occasionally do a bit of ironing, but then no clothes were crease-resistant. There were no fitted sheets and sheets were all ironed too. E-mails and cell phones - how did I live without them? Post would take a long time and I wrote very few letters and received even fewer. Now my 'mailbox' has dozens of messages every day. Not all of them welcome of course, but most of them making for enjoyable reading. Without the ability to send text messages, the members of my family were always failing to meet one another and we were always missing phone calls on land-lines. There is another thing that my contemporaries forget when they grumble about this modern age. In previous times before the medical miracles of "multiple by-passes, arterial stents and laser surgery, most people of their age would not still be alive.

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