Tuesday, 7 August 2012

DIAMOND GEEZERS

As you all may know, this is the year of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  All the main events happen around the date of the actual anniversary (2 June).  In fact the entire weekend is a holiday (some events are taking place on the Friday and I think the Monday and Tuesday are holidays too), so it should be a bit of fun.  I’ll try to report my involvement as it happens (I am doing something Jubilistic every day of the holiday I think). 
The High Street and main road into Haslemere (and indeed Petersfield and most towns I have visited recently) are decked from end to end with bunting and everyone's flags have been dug out of garages and lofts and erected everywhere you look.  I was a bit taken aback the other day to discover the flags of Zambia and Malaysia at the end of my road and have been trying to work out what the significance is.  But I see that all the Commonwealth flags are flying somewhere along the road, so perhaps it's just chance.
All of this (‘a party 60 years in the making’ is the strapline) has led to reviews of the life of HM and a look back over the last 6 decades.  I was amused, listening to the radio the other morning, when one of the presenters invited listeners to telephone in with thoughts on how lives had changed since the 50s.  One woman of 83 rang in and said, ‘well, for a start, in the 1950s you wouldn’t have got any 83 year olds ringing in because nobody lived that long’.  Good point!
But it did make me reflect too.  Yes, I can remember the Coronation, so I do have some sense of how things have changed.  I think my earliest relevant memory was of sweet rationing ending in 1953.  I only had a couple of pence pocket money in those days, but suddenly all those delights (long since disappeared, except in specialist confectionery shops), at 4 for a penny, became available.  Actually, it must have been a delight for my parents too now I come to think about it, because, after that, my father always came home on Fridays (pay day) with a bag of sweets for my mother.  It didn’t seem strange at the time, but I guess now it would be a bit odd to give your loved one a paper bag of sherbet lemons.
But what else happened then?  What strikes me is how momentous a time it was.  In the first 5 years of the 50s, the first credit card was produced (remember - there were no computers or Wi-Fi in those days, so this was pretty momentous for us to have an alternative money), the first organ transplant was undertaken, Mount Everest was climbed for the first time (I listened to a news programme on the radio the other day in which a mountaineer explained that climbers had recently lost their lives on Everest because there was now a queue at the summit and the last ones up were too late for the ‘climbing window’), colour TV was invented (most people were then of course buying their first B/W TV just to watch the Coronation; ours was a 12”!), World War II officially ended (one forgets that the Japanese didn’t surrender until 1951), seat belts were introduced for cars, the polio vaccine was developed (I had friends at school then still afflicted with polio), the King died (that of course hasn’t happened since), DNA was discovered, the first atomic submarine was launched, cigarettes were found to cause cancer (it seems amazing, doesn’t it, that no one knew that before 1954), segregation was ruled illegal in the US, and the MacDonalds company was founded.  This is a subjective list of course, but what extraordinary times we lived in!  And I was duly excited with each development.
I looked through a list of the main events of 2010 and 2011 to compare. 
2010 - earthquakes, volcanoes, plane crashes, oil leak, eurozone problems, iPad launched.
2011 - Arab spring, first artificial organ transplant, royal wedding, more earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, iPad 2 launched.
I don’t know, maybe there are more momentous events that I have missed, it is again a subjective list, but (apart perhaps from the Arab Spring) these don’t strike me as events that I will remember in 60 years time as being especially earth-shattering (and there’s a good chance I won’t remember anything in 60 years time anyway).
If you read a potted history of the 50s, apart from anything else, it is the politics of the time that are so significant, it is filled with references to Churchill, Stalin, Eisenhower, Chiang Kai-shek, Che Guevara, and a host of other famous names.  I wonder whether the famous persons of today will have the same stature in 60 years time. 
The BBC has attempted to answer this question by drawing up a list of the 60 British ‘New Elizabethans’.  Of course, they have to cover every aspect of Elizabeth’s reign, so there has to be a musician, a celebrity, a footballer, etc on the list, but you can imagine the problems the committee had whittling the list down to 60.  If Lennon and McCartney are on the list (as one person), should Bowie also be there?  And what about MIck Jagger?  Which politicians should be there?  How many painters or sculptors or playwrights are appropriate?  And so on.  I listened to one of the committee explaining this morning how they had negotiated between them to produce an agreed list.  Horrendously difficult, especially with a committee of persons each with subjective views. 
Anyway, the list is here, if you want to see it.  There are certainly some oddities there and I suspect many of them will be forgotten in 60 years time.  In fact I had to look up about a dozen of them now.  Interestingly, Richard Doll is on the list (he was the one who established the link between smoking and cancer) and Edmund Hillary is there too (he led the first successful Everest expedition), but Francis Crick (who discovered DNA) has fallen off.  Bowie got on in the end, and so did Goldie (bizarrely I think), at the expense of Massive Attack and Johnny Rotten who were both excised finally (I don't think Jagger was ever on the list).  There are of course quite a few politicians, some of whose importance I am unsure about, yet Edward Heath (who took us into the EU) fell off.  Is he less important than David Trimble?  There are also, in the end, only 2 sportsmen, George Best (no one would argue probably with his inclusion, but I suspect he is there because he was Irish) and Basil D’Oliveira (presumably because he was coloured, even though he was born in South Africa), but no other cricketers or footballers warranted inclusion (Beckham eventually fell off, even though he was on the original list more as a metrosexual than a footballer, and so did Bobbie Charlton), and there are now no athletes (Steve Redgrave and Kelly Holmes, the only female sportsperson, fell off) and all the rugby players, snooker players and boxers similarly fell at the last hurdle.  And I don't think any beach volleybal players were even on the first list.  Finally, in this personal review of the list, I am surprised that Tony Hancock is the only comedian or satirist on the list, unless you include Graham Greene and Barbara Windsor, (Morecombe and Wise, John Cleese, David Frost, and Ian Hislop were all dismissed eventually.  And what about Kenny Everett?); it makes Britain look a very serious country.  Perhaps this reflects the serious natures of the committee members.  Although it makes the inclusion of Goldie even more bizarre in that case.  There were at first also some 'trivial' celebrities; only right I think as a reflection of the times, if not their innate importance.  Don't you think there should be a 'celeb' who's famous for being famous, or a model, or a soap star?  There were examples of each initially.  And I saw immediately that Julia Bradbury is absent.
And, hang on a minute, I’m not there either.  Surely there should be a white, bridge playing, nomadic, blogger on the list?!

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