Listening to my old Grandma
My Grandma is long dead but she lived to the fine old age of ninety six. She was born in 1890s and so saw the most amazing changes.
I remember sitting down with her while she reminisced. It was extremely salutary. I was entranced.
As a young girl she had played in the streets. They were untarmaced mud and compacted dirt with ruts made by carts. The transport was horse-drawn or steam train. There were no cars. There was no electricity or running water and only outdoor toilets. The house was heated with a single coal fire in an open grate.
She had watched the first planes, made of string and paper (as she put it), crawl across the skies. She saw the first cars bump along the rutted streets. She lived through two world wars and saw her husband and sons go off to fight for God and Country.
Back then the class system was firmly in place. The poor were poor, the middle class were a little better off and the bosses and aristocracy lived in the mansions. Down her street there was great poverty with families not having money to buy food for the children. Kids were sewn into their clothes for the winter to prevent them developing chills. Some could not afford shoes. Infant mortality was high. Every family lost children to disease induced by poor sanitation, malnutrition, cold and damp and disease. She’d lost a child.
She’s seen a different world come into being. Following the wars the Labour Trade Union movement achieved better standards of pay and conditions, the standard of living for ordinary families rose. Cars, televisions, telephones and computers became standard fare for working families. There was welfare for those on hard times. People could take holidays and travel.
The roads were tarmaced, there were millions of cars, and the pace of life was faster.
The churches emptied and people were openly critical of those in power. They no longer ‘knew their place’. They spoke their mind and were not content to be kept down. The class system was weakened. It was no longer ‘God, King and Country’. They questioned the policies and wisdom.
Technology brought electricity, machines, refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, hoovers and hot water that transformed the drudgery of life. However my Grandma still had her weekly wash and boiled her linen (and sometimes curtains and other items) in a huge copper on the stove. Heaven knows how she managed to do that into her old age.
Women became more educated and entered the professions. They weren’t content to be mere housewives.
My Grandma was incredulous that in her lifetime there had been a change from bi-planes made of wood, paste and lacquered paper to space-stations and space-craft that could go to the Moon.
The social changes were even more dramatic.
I doubt that we will ever see such spectacular changes again.
It is hard to believe that for centuries very little altered. People went along in much the same way their parents and grandparents had done. They wore similar clothes, had similar jobs requiring similar skills and led a life that was much the same as those of generations before. In the 20th Century that changed. The speed of change has been continuous. Our children live in a totally different world. The world of 2015 would have seemed like science fiction to my 1950s self. I could not have imagined it. Computers, mobile phones and the internet would have seemed far-fetched.
My Grandma used to remark that she did not think all this ‘progress’ made anyone happier.
Now the divide is between the ways the West lives and the impoverished lives of many in the third world. Perhaps that is the next revolution?
What world, or should I say solar system, will our grandchildren think of as normal?