Feb 15, 2021 9:57 am Stephen Day 1724


THESE days, finding something to smile about is as likely as looking in your bathroom mirror and seeing the handsome brute you used to be smiling back at you, especially in the morning. For example, my last column spoke about keeping Scotland British. What happened? The Scots gave the England Rugby Union team a damned good thrashing! Worse still it was at Twickenham, the first Scottish win there since 1983! My reader was fuming. He’s cancelled his “online” haggis order.

Ah, if only it was still “the good old days”. You remember, don’t you? Your early childhood shopping expeditions carried out with mother, firmly clutching her ration book, her home perm hairdo kept in place by a fashionable head scarf (in those days, you didn’t have to go to Istanbul, or Coventry, for that matter, to see such sights). You being dragged along by a reins and harness that would have done justice to Black Beauty (am I allowed to say that? Oh well – too late). Nowadays, the shops are closed, whilst back then, they were open. The only problem was their stocks were a bit sparse. The butcher’s shop looked, to my youthful eyes, as though the only things they sold were meat hooks and marble slabs!

Then came the prepubescent years, chipping the ice off your free school milk and hoping to avoid your mum being embarrassed by the visiting school nurse finding some “nits” in your hair. 

Then being kept in at playtime, for not yet knowing your times tables. Remember them? 1 x 1 to 10 x 10? Stern “Miss” Booth was in charge, looking like a cross between Les Dawson in drag and the back end of a bus that had just been hit by a Centurion tank. “Repeat after me. . .” etc. God! Did she go on! She was actually married to some poor sod. It later turned out to have been the headmaster. Serves him right. One thing though, I never forgot my times tables. I can still work out my shopping bill before the technologically consumed youngster before me has pressed a single button or scanned a single item. Battleaxe Booth apparently served me well.

All this went on, to the accompaniment of an aristocratic Harold McMillan telling the rest of us we’d “never had it so good”.  No wonder we thought things couldn’t get much better and blow me, they didn’t! That particular accurate reflection was inspired by the writer of the BBC’s “Grumpy Old Men”, Stuart Prebble, (remember that?) which is what we older blokes have now all become. We started life as wrinkly, frustrated, screaming things and, with the passage of time, have come full circle (if you don’t believe me, watch my reader’s reaction by the time he gets to paragraph two of this column). 

Then came the summer holidays. The sun always seemed to shine, didn’t it? Out into the field at the back of the house. Climbing trees and getting stuck. Building dens, lighting fires, burning fingers, swinging on ropes suspended from trees. Fighting imaginary Indians at the Little Big Horn, shooting hordes of Germans and other unseemly indulgencies. A health and safety, clipboard Charlie’s nightmare.

Great days, except for Angela Hardy. There I was, defending Rorke’s Drift, when strapping lass, “nurse” Angela, dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the garage to “nurse my wounds”. My pleas that I was “a new man” fell on deaf ears. Her nursing manner had a lot in common with the “Carry On” school of nursing. Slightly on the rough side. A few years later, I might have approached the situation a little differently, if you know what I mean.

Then, of course, came the teens. Ah joy! Lusting after Jackie Daniels and Sandra Hannush at secondary school, dreaming of getting them both in my clutches. No chance. Only the Head Prefect was successful (well, according to him). I once briefly got my arms around Sandra, during a school Xmas barn dance. No sooner had I got hold of her, than the teacher loudly announced “Day, the dance is progressive, move on” and off she went to the next excited, spotty-faced, no-hoper. Those were the days.

Years later, I did date Sandra. Nothing much changed in the clutching department. We spent the whole evening relating the sad events surrounding our then mutually recent divorces.  

The present younger generation think THEY invented sex. They are wrong. My generation did. After all we had the balcony at the Friday night hop in the Kings Hall, Ilkley (bar’t hat). They don’t. Happy memories, eh? Decadence incarnate. I’ve still got my grade “C” fumbling certificate! But enough of these outdated, sexist, historically accurate, unprintable, great truths. It’ll be more than some “modern” folk can take.

The next few years saw us singing Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance, waving CND placards (not me), buying Che Guevara T-shirts (not me again) and going to San Francisco with flowers in our hair. It didn’t work, next thing you knew, we were happily toppling Saddam, overthrowing Gaddafi, fighting the Taliban, bombing Bosnia, and beating up the Argies, whilst dodging IRA and Al-Qaeda bombs back at home. 

All this experienced by the very same, post-war, idealistic generation who later enthusiastically put Margaret Thatcher in power, three times! Which just goes to show idealism is fine, provided it’s tempered with a bit of reality. That was our world. On the other hand, Dad’s Army’s Corporal Jones beat up the (wait for the howls of anguish) “fuzzy wuzzies” who “didn’t like it up ‘em” (not surprised). That was his world. There’s nothing new, is there? Except, perhaps, a rash of modern day inability to understand the world as it was, not as some folk would have liked it to be. 

It will come as no surprise, especially to my reader, that there are no statues of me, which is perhaps best, because after reading this, he would be leading the enraged mob, determined to pull it down. Perhaps we could create a “virtual statue”, then he could “delete” it. At least somebody would be happy. Keep smiling and keep safe!


  • Deirdre Chase
    Deirdre Chase
    Brilliant! your article cheered me up this morning as I look out of my bedroom window to a grey start to the day.
    3 years ago