Out With The Old, In With The New

The end of one year and the beginning of another; a time to which we humans ascribe great importance. Which is strange when you bear in mind that the whole business of time is a human creation. However, it does seem to be a time for looking back and looking forward. With advancing years you tend to look back further, and so it is that I have been pondering on the changes that I have seen. I recall, for instance, that in my early teens with my life before me, I thought that I would consider myself to be very fortunate if I were to live to see the year 2000. Taken in the context of general life expectancy in the 1950s, that was not being unduly pessimistic. Nor was I unduly lacking in ambition when I thought that the prospect of one day being able to earn £1,000 a year was ample justification for becoming a teacher. I never did become a theacher (well, not a qualified one) but that is another story. In my earlier adult life I was struck by the amount of change which my grandparents had had to accommodate to during their lifetimes, not least of which was surviving two world wars, in the first of which my paternal grandfather was wounded and decorated at Gallipoli, and then invalided out of the army. Nevertheless, he lived into his eighties, as did my grandmother. I think now that the things I would have considered the major changes - television, widespread private car ownership, air travel - only really impinged on the end of their lives and were not anyway of any great interest to either of them. Looking back now on my own life, my generation has experienced much greater and much more rapid change. This was brought home to me in fact when my youngest brother died nearly five years ago. The call to go to his hospital bedside came through on a Saturday afternoon. Within 24 hours, I had driven up to Beziers from Spain, his two sons had flown in from the UK, followed later the same day by my other brother. This was possible because of innovations during my lifetime - we all had telephones, fixed and mobile, and so could be contacted easily; we all had computers with internet access, and so were about to shop online for flights, which were paid for by credit card. Sat nav guided my wife and me to the hospital car park. The existence of the EU meant that frontiers were simply crossed without being aware of them. And all of this at the weekend, when in previous times everywhere would have been closed. Not even my parents, let alone my grandparents, could have made sense of all that. So when I look forward through 2014 and beyond I am mainly conscious of two things; change will continue in ways that I can’t predict, and it will apparently change at an ever-increasing pace. What will my own grandchildren one day hold up as examples of what Grandma and Grandad could never have imagined?

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