WEEKEND WEB: Is this what they call ‘progress’?

John Ward
John Ward
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JOHN WARD takes his weekly sideways look at the world.

Casting a recent eye over assorted, or alleged, ‘sale’ items or bargains even associated with the Black Friday flogging campaign, with anything left over going into the ongoing Cyber Monday sale, with possibly Wanton Wednesday (remember you read it here first, folks) for absolutely anything still left unsold from the past but recent sales, this will be the kiddie to go for before yet another ‘sale’ campaign sets forth.

Don’t get me wrong as I like a bargain as well as anyone else but one supposed sale closely followed by another is getting a bit on the silly side to say the least and smacks slightly of desperation.

It’s not so much the lower prices that catch my eye but it’s the item itself, as in some cases, just what is it and what does it do and how did you or I manage before without it, or perhaps were I or we that bothered anyway?

One comment I overheard recently was ‘any idea if there are any cheap electric cars on offer?’ and disregarding the radio-controlled model variety, nope on that one but, based on the current hype words being electric cars, just what else can you expect?.

The latest ‘in yer face’ buzzwords hot off the press to coin a phrase are ‘driverless cars’ and to be honest, I can’t see what the fuss is about, as years ago I used to travel to work where I was not at the controls. I was hands-free or reading that morning’s newspaper plus had a few passengers with me as well and I think.. let me see… yes, it was called – yes, a train – and on a smaller level, you could get the same sort of thrill that was called a taxi cab.

Quite what you would be doing while the car is supposedly ‘driving’ itself is not explained but imagine, due to somebody/life force hacking in to the software of said driverless mote-mote and you knock Miss Phipps the church organist off her cycle, plus your defence is ‘I was doing the Times crossword at the time, officer’ might not go down too well.

One of the latest fads is getting an app for your mobile device/phone/electronic paving slab that enables you to switch on your central heating/sauna from anywhere in the world so that you arrive home to a snug house – altogether now – ‘arrrrrrrrrr’.

While this sounds wonderful, it may not take into account the fact you are caught up in a traffic jam for a few days as the road repair crew used the ‘wrong sort’ of asphalt or road covering, is causing delays and your mobile device has lost its battery charge or even worse, your battery-powered electric car has run out of that voltage stuff and the spare can of petrol in the boot is only there to do the decent thing once you have finished pulling your hair out, but then you realise you have no matches before proceeding to Stage Three – giving it to a petrol-driven car owner and ask the driver, once he/she stops laughing, to tow you back to civilisation.

For those who feel their world consists of how long the battery will indeed last in their mobile device/phone/electronic paving slab in order to ‘be in touch’ with faceless others of a similar disposition, things were slightly different not so long ago in the PD age (Pre-Digital) as we once again go into our ever-popular segment and ask:

‘Is nostalgia just a thing of the past or a new breed of low calorie, take-away meals on offer at the local supermarket or trading post?’

When I was growing up, and this is always a debatable point, I will say in some people’s minds, there were assorted activities that were commonplace that looking back now seem quite pre-historic by today’s standards, although I am of the opinion we have advanced too fast for our own good.

In an age when digital soup spoons that tell you the temperature of what you are about to scold yourself with, then on the other hand, a few thousand miles away, clean running water is but a dream akin to us here winning the lottery, this is supposedly ‘progress’ in case you were wondering.

Late Fifties going on early Sixties and a not-too-close friend of my mum (of the people for the people), was moving with her family from the shambles that was their ‘home’ to a modest semi that boasted four walls, all situated on the outside, plus a roof that did not leak and the sheer joy of a bathroom, as their present one did not have one

They still had gas lighting in all the rooms and an outside toilet, but this was how things were in some cases due to various constraints, with money being the major one – but they were proud, honest and lived within their meagre means and got by as many did and sadly perhaps still do today relating to their circumstances.

A few weeks went by before Mum bumped into said friend in town and asked how she was getting on now, having moved into their new family abode and things in general.

It seems the marvel of the age – to them at least – was the fact they had electric lighting and spoke very proudly of the fact plus other things that were taken as quite normal but to this family it was viewed as a form of luxury.

One part of the conversation that had Mum stunned in a sense as it was explained about their new wonder of the age as in the bathroom as you could perform other functions in it, apart from using the bath, of course, brushing teeth being one.

Of their children, son Melvin – who had left school a few months previously and had started gainful employment – was the ‘test pilot’ in a manner of speaking as it was explained that every teatime he arrived home, he would go to the bathroom and sit in the bath for about half- an-hour and got out when ‘tea is ready and on the table’ was shouted up the stairs for his benefit.

So far so good, but it was when she added that ‘he’s going to try it with water at some point’ that really grabbed Mum, as it was explained that since being a child and outgrowing the ‘old tin bath’ which was quite small and used to bath the kids in, he had not experienced a full-size bath with controllable water, so Melvin was slightly untrusting about it all, plus as far as he remembered, there were no taps on the tin bath those years ago.

It might seem laughable now, but it happened as in those days. This was a way of life as in the growing-up stage and quite what Melvin’s mum would have thought about electric cars is anybody’s guess, as she was thrilled to press a switch on the wall and the darkness became light without looking round for a box of matches to light the gas mantle in the ceiling light fitting while standing on a chair. In darkness, of course.