When a clock battery’s life had finally passed into the great hereafter I took its lifeless carcass to the local library where battery and mobile phones recycling bins accept dangerous corpses.
Turning to go, I noticed that the library had put two trolleys of old books – books that presumably could not keep their shelf space in the library – opposite the battery recycling bins. These were giveaways. This unofficial recycling exchange seemed an opportunity too good to ignore. I picked up three books, one of them a collection of journalism by Will Self.
The articles in the collection first appeared in print about twenty years ago; from about the mid-90s to the new millennium; mostly about a London remembered in various guises. The articles have revived the period and the preoccupations of the time.
Popular culture came to power and got inside no 10. Having changed governments after eighteen years Britain had a 1960s revival complete with band rivalries, ersatz thought it was. The commentary and reviews of those Mancunian recyclers, Oasis, were, and are, still quite true; as too, is the analysis of that consummate maker of homages, Tarantino: a recycler in all but name.
The Internet was expanding but still seen as something which only a small group of compulsive, socially awkward, men would use. A supercilious evaluation of the technology, and its terminology, and of course, its core users then, could not stop its relentless growth, not even on a 33 kbps modem.
Although most of the articles in the anthology are nearly a generation old: just saying generation is chilling, the curious effect from reading these dispatches from the previous millennium was its familiarity. Nowhere was there an observation, a custom, which is not still part of life today.
If a similar collection of journalism from the 1970s had been reread in the mid ‘90s, a greater sense of change and lived experience would be obvious. Fewer choices and availability of choices, such as, dining out, international travel are two examples. In 1975 just 52% of British homes had a home telephone.
The comparison with today, and in relative terms, with the mid ‘90s is quite clear.
Having found that the past is not really another country, they still do things as we know it, I shall return this book to the library and recycle it for another person to read. They may find something in this representation of 1990s Britain which is different, exotic even, and new.
©Copyright Guy Cranswick 2018. All Rights Reserved.