"Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future."
I've seen seven new decades. Makes me a bit grown-up. The point is that, unless something happens to draw my attention to my glorious bank of years, I think I'm young. I still feel as though I have such a lot to learn - and I do. I started three years into the fifties when the second war to end all wars was fading into memory. Many families were struggling to get their lives back together but there was a general sense of optimism. After all, we needed to know that the sacrifices of the forties would enable a world future. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki terrified thinking folk. People were quite anxious during the Industrial Revolution. They thought the machines would put them out of work. Now, in this Technological Revolution, we are nervous again. Robot technology has brought us androids. We're told that androids will soon be available to perform all manner of duties normally performed by men and women. R2-D2 and Bicentennial Man are fictional but give an insight to this area of technology. This is a period of unprecedented change.
My first new decade began on 1st January 1960 - when I was six. My family then lived in a Lincolnshire cottage on an unmetalled lane. It was dusty in summer and muddy in winter with interludes of rock hard tractor ruts when the earth was frozen solid. 1960 was, as is 2020, a leap year. The Swinging Sixties was a period of change in music, in fashion, in architecture, in literature, in gender roles, in . . . . . . . At its beginning John F. Kennedy became America's president. Later that decade, he, his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were all assassinated. Civil rights were an important issue on both sides of the Atlantic - and still are. At the end of the decade, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles had a hit with Abraham, Martin and John, an emotional song written as a tribute to famous Americans who worked towards social change but had their lives brutally and prematurely ended. I say "emotional" but what I really mean is it still draws a tear from this child of the sixties.
In my village, the sixties was a time for architectural change. Old cottages were knocked down and new build was everywhere. The cottage we lived in, Studcross Cottage, is, thankfully, still standing but many other familiar houses have gone. By the end of the sixties, I was living in the next village - no longer in a Lincolnshire cottage but in a new bungalow. My parents had it built to their specifications - and they loved it. By the mid-sixties, I was aware of social and architectural history and I liked old properties. In 1970 Joni Mitchell recorded Big Yellow Taxi. Made us all think. You don't know what you've got till it's gone. BYT is as relevant today as ever it was. More generally though, the seventies was the time of disco music. We were able to dance free-style or learn special disco steps - but just about anything was acceptable. The bass-heavy sound hit you like a breath of fresh air and then you needed no encouragement to get up and dance. The music ran through you like an electric current.
By the time 1980 arrived, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and we had to cope with her zealous reforms and stony battle with the unions. The enthusiasm of those of us in the English education system was waning. By Spring 1986, we were heading for Orkney. The children loved the adventures and the freedom. We loved that they had such an opportunity to enjoy their early years. And the view from our Scottish hillside was to-die-for. One of the most significant news items in 1980 was the declaration by the World Health Organization that the entire globe was smallpox free. When we think of all the negativity in the news, it is good to remember news like that. At the end of the decade the Berlin Wall had fallen.
Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister when the new decade began. At the end of 1990, however, she was no longer in place. But capitalism was on the up worldwide.
The Euro Tunnel was opened in 1994 and everyone wanted to be close to Europe. In the nineties Doc Marten's boots were very popular but WE DONE IT FIRST. Our daughter destroyed one pair of shoes after another. When she was in the infant class a decision was made to buy a pair of Doc Marten's - expensive but not as expensive as buying multiple pairs of shoes per term. That was in the late eighties. By the late nineties, she knew what she wanted on her feet!
The new millennium began for us when her younger sister read the story of the Good Samaritan, close to midnight, in our local church. Our daughter between these two daughters, had led the procession up the main street, carrying the cross, and the ministry team and congregation had followed her. There were some happy and hopeful people in our village that night. We were back in Lincolnshire then. Our family spent that decade in Hope Cottage which was half of an old farmhouse and a part of an old barn. You couldn't tell. It was just a section of a terrace of cottages by that time. We had a terrific garden - not manicured at all but so full of living things and with little pathways and hidey holes.
By the time that decade ended, we were back in Scotland and living in this house. What a decade this has been! Remarkable progress has been made in research on Parkinson's Disease. The amazing rescue of thirty three Chilean miners, after they were trapped underground for sixty nine days, had people, the world over, glued to their televisions and radios. Recent worldwide reforestation schemes are good news for the environment. You don't want to dwell on the political chaos or the other negative news. Seek out the good. Look for the positive.
As I write, I am remembering those deliciously happy family and friendship times over Christmas and looking forward to the new decade. This new decade I have a little granddaughter. Her smile is pure magic. By the end of this decade, she will be close to completing her primary education. I hope for a kind world. Internationalism is the only way forward for her planet. The big picture is so much more important than squabbles over present differences. If we can't unite across countries, cultures and class, then what are the chances we will be able to care properly for this wonderful world? What is in the past is kept and factored into the future. We do know a lot - but we don't know everything yet.
Later in January, here in Scotland, we will be celebrating the life of that talented socialist and liberal, Robert Burns. He annoyed the establishment because of his radical views. His folk-hero status should not cloud the fact that here was a man of intellect who embraced internationalism as he knew it, "that man to man, the world o'er, shall brothers be for a' that."
I'll toast you with a measure of Old Pulteney - maybe a double. We are embarking on a brand new decade when all's said and done. We live so close to the distillery that we regularly get that fabulous aroma in our square. Old Pulteney is THE maritime whisky. You can taste the sea. And, somewhere over the sea, . . . . . is my brother, my sister, my friend.
"And there's a hand, my trusty fere! And gie' s a hand o' thine! And we'll tak a right gud-willie waught, For auld lang syne."