Tuesday, 22 November 2011

After the war.

Its not clinging to the past to remember things as they once were.  To keep something the same as its always been is to try to freeze time. We have to change...our genes need us to adapt, to evolve and so we do but we put the past to one side at our peril.
Thinking about yesterdays blog about my granddads brought into focus just how much things have changed. There was radio.....my welsh granddad used to spend hours with his crystal set trying to get words out of it...  There was no TV, newspapers were full of  war reports..and books were very scarce.
In the absence of what to day we call the media we had words....people talked and sometimes the talk was intense, political usually but sometimes religious.
I listened to what the grown ups were saying as a small child and the most common phrase was
"After the war."  Everything good would happen after the war.....that was what we were waiting for . A brave new world was possible and it would start after the war.
My granddads who had been part of the first world war and spectators to the second envisaged this wonderful new world......after we'd won the war.  Everything else was put on one side to wait for better times.
All the injustices, all wasted opportunities were to be put right after the war.......that was what we were all waiting for.
When my dad came home from the war a stranger who seemed to think he could boss me about, I was 7.
Life settled into a sort of routine as he looked for work and talked.
Everyone who came to the house was invited in for a chat.... they were all waiting for the brave new world....and then there was the general election of 1945. I still remember it well...
We lived close to the town hall in Rochdale and I was carried down there by my father to hear the results read out. The cheering was amazing...it was all going to happen...it really was...Labour had got in!
This determination for change resulted in the setting up of the Beveridge plan. Much has been written since of the welfare state with sneers and laughter about free specs for all.  At the time it was quite simply marvellous.
And every bit of it was discussed in my house and I listened to it all. For a long time they did not think I was listening or understanding until one day I interrupted the conversation to ask a question.
"What does rape mean? " Stunned silence until my dad tried to fob me off. A man stopped him.
"If she's old enough to ask the question, she's old enough to listen to the answer." I think it was the man from the Pru.
After that if I wanted to ask questions I could...and did.
I was privileged to witness the birth of the welfare state...
.Please don't let it be dismantled!


  1. Hear, hear! I'm a little younger than you and I hadn't quite got here by 1945, but my grandads, too, fought for a better world in that dreadful conflict. My Nan used to scrimp and save coppers (coins, children, not policemen) to be able to pay the doctor in case her daughter, a sickly child, became ill. If she hadn't, or hadn't been able to, that sickly child would have succumbed to the pneumonia or the scarlet fever or whatever else plagued 1920s Lancashire.

    In a civilised world, people should not have to live like that. We have already all but lost the optical and dental services as they were originally conceived. Now we are victim to people who would have us believe that you can remove 20% of the staff of a hospital and still improve patient care.

    Safe in our hands?

  2. Hi Jean, Another great post, and one that sends echoes along my memory's corridors.
    One of my Uncle's who had been a flying officer in the war, stood for and gained a seat in Atlee's Labour Government.
    He rose through the 'ranks' over the years, through Chief Whip, Leader of the House, Commonwealth Secretary until finally after Wilson's Government was defeated, he became a life peer.
    From day one, he was utterly committed to the Welfare State, now a dirty word, and mocked as the Nanny State.
    We needed that state and it served us well until its last remnants were shredded by Margaret Thatcher.
    Today's poor are nothing like their 1940's equivalent, but sadly, the distinction between the 'haves and have nots' is becoming daily more apparent.
    Of course not everything was good but we ought to try not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  3. The problem is Ray and Doorkeeper....only those of us rich in years actually remember just how bad it was...If you lived in a poor family before the war you had to think twice about sending for the doctor for your sick children, and then you couldn't afford the drugs prescribed,,,,
    An unequal society led to some extremes as the wrongs were addressed...but the setting up of the welfare state plus the truly wonderful 1944 Education act has given us a fairer and less divisive society which is still not perfect. But its better than it could be!