Monday, 3 February 2014

Keeping up at the back

Watching Top Gear last night I was brought up short when the year – and Hugh Bonneville’s television show – 2012 was mentioned. In my mind the London Olympics only just happened but no, it was the year before last. Jeremy Clarkson later tried to reason that time travelled slower in the past because, at the age of twenty-five a year was one twenty-fifth of your life, whereas at fifty a year occupies a mere fiftieth. It certainly feels as if the calendar pages are flicking by at an alarming rate, like the old movie gimmick.

And as time appears to pass more quickly, the pace of what is often called progress also picks up and the world goes by in a blur. To a twenty-something a five-year motorway widening project becomes an interminable part of their entire driving life whereas we grey-hairs think, gosh that was quick – I remember when all this was fields. Similarly, for all the new, first-time-eligible voters in 2015 the New Labour project is a backdrop to all the rosy memories of childhood, yet long enough ago that their only political recollections will be the five years of strife that accompanied their GCSEs, A-levels and struggle to enter the job market. (No wonder Labour want callow, spotty youths to be given the vote)

To proper grown-ups, however, the coalition has hardly had a chance to get their feet under the table and sheer common sense says that with the signs of recovery on the way we shouldn’t be changing horses in mid-stream… and other sayings from ‘the olden days’. We have lots of such old saws, we ancients, such as “The proof of the pudding…” and “A stitch in time…” and  something about doing things more quickly by taking the time and hurrying up… or something. Obviously, at our age we can’t be expected to remember all the details but we know they are wise words.

We also know that all the political headline-grabbing on all sides is ephemeral frippery; here today, gone tomorrow. Scandals, lies and sensational claim and counter claim. Fraud, embezzlement, accusations, refutations and the occasional public apology. There is almost nothing that a modern politician can’t overcome simply by waiting for our imperfect memories to file their misdemeanours away under, ‘meh’. While the rest of us may be forever unemployable following a spell ‘inside’ it seems to do public figures no harm at all; if anything the added ‘colour’ can sometimes even be the making of them.

And yet, for all the enormity of electing a parliament, on which the basics have never changed – we want experience, energy, vision, leadership and fiscal prudence – we are distracted by the immediacy of keeping up with modern life. Only when they’ve struggled on  for a few more decades will the new voters realise that all the time they spent on Pinterest and Spotify and Tumblr and Facebook and Angry Birds and FaceSpace and YouHoo and HiYah! and Buzznet and Flickr and Haribo and Yolo and Rolo and Ohoho was mere padding to fill the days when time passed so slowly. The important stuff was all happening in the background – where only the old people could see it.

Stop the EU, I want to get off!

In 1966 Millicent Martin starred in the film version of Anthony Newley's musical ‘Stop the World I want to get off’ encapsulating forever that feeling we all get when time accelerates and you no longer want to keep up and understand what ‘the young people’ are talking about. 2015 may well be the last election that gives the British people a choice in how their country is run and the worrying thing is an increasingly large part of the electorate are so disengaged and distracted they don’t seem to grasp this. Britain is at last open for business again but I just know this year is going to fly by – I only hope we don’t remember it as the year we all got off and shut up shop.


  1. Oooh, Millicent Martin. It takes me back to my teenage years, in the warmest possible way.

  2. That was the week that was! ;o)

  3. The guy who said that TV was the opium of the masses didn't realise that that was only the start.