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23 August 2009


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We certainly had an easier financial passage through education with grammar schools offering a really good education to all, based on ability to learn and not ability to pay. We also had free places at university plus grants and allowances for all but the very wealthy. But we grew up in the years of the Cold War and my memory of that is that the threat of nuclear annihilation was real and terrifying. No wonder our generation turned to rock and roll, drugs and crazy fashion and then, of course, invented sex.

I'm not undervaluing the efforts of the current generation of young people but I don't think life was really any easier for ours.

Dear 60/16
Bravo for a brilliant post. Your middle example is so poignant - and not untypical. This tendency of families to act as though they own the body and soul of their offspring is not confined to class or family type. To add to your thought, it's a strange throwback to a nineteenth century stereotype before universal education and the (still ongoing0 evolution of women's rights.
Am still reading back among your other posts and enjoying them -
Consequently I have passed onto you a little award that was passed to me. I have left it for you on my blog.

Me again.
Just read the Mamma Mia post. So very lovely and loving - and it somehow echoes one theme in the present post - childhood ambitions thwarted by parental caution and 'care'. But that was in another time of course. wx

Consider yourself redeemed, name reinstated and all.

I think every generation has a unique set of challenges to overcome, and in so doing strengthens its ability to strengthen the next generation for its trials, and so it goes. Our children deal with things that even science fiction writers of our day could not imagine, and their children will probably look at the '60s much as we view the days of Boadicea.

I think inner strength is the best thing we can pass on, as we cannot possibly foresee the specific things that today's youngsters will have to face.

PS So sorry to hear you were deprived of the broken biscuit experience. Could you not have eaten them behind the net curtains?

Yes, M, you're absolutely right, the nuclear threat did strike fear into our hearts (and drove some of us to join CND) although it is interesting to read, say, Gore Vidal on the extent to which that fear was driven - and inflated - by those with a vested interest in perpetuating the arms trade after WWII had ended. (Whether or not one agrees with Vidal, he does have a powerfully persuasive pen.)

I was thinking more of the areas of certainty that no longer exist, for example, the demonstrable value and affordability of higher education and the promise of full employment. But all this, if you'll forgive the pun, became fairly academic for me as, like the 'bright student', I was prevented from going to university. However, I became a very happy and proud mother at 18, which was not unusual in those baby-boom years, and subsequently did my degree (very conscientiously) as a mature student in my thirties.

Wendy, the bright student story almost reduced me to tears when I heard it (from the teacher concerned, a family friend) last week. Very sad our friend too; she had invested so much effort into giving this young woman a vision of what she could achieve and what she could become.

Thank you very much for the award, by the way. Now I'm all of a dither wondering what I can say (about myself) and who to nominate out of all the great blogs that I visit.

Sleepyjohn- I'm sure you're right about each generation having to face up to a new set of challenges. But I do sense a sea change in adult attitudes towards young people. For generations, many adults have been pretty dismissive of, and sometimes downright contemptuous towards, teenagers. But many of my adult contemporaries say that they feel very sorry for this generation of young people and that they would hate to be young at the present time. By contrast, everyone I know who grew up in the 1960s says that they wouldn't have missed it for anything. But then, perhaps this generation of young people feels just the same way . . .

I feel so sad for Jonathan and his family. Such a tragic waste.

As to the university thing. Well, nothing ever has been a sure thing. OH didn't go to uni, neither did I, and yet we've both done just fine. One of my sons went to uni and is now in a very cushy job and owns his own house and car, the other got good qualifications and is now working for absolute peanuts with not very much else on the horizon right now.

Life isn't certain. Not on any front. And meanwhile, 'A' level results just seem to get better and better each year. Something is not right bout that.

As teachers, my husband and I see many examples of parents trying to redirect their children, particularly away from the arts. One of the most talented young dancers we had ever seen, was forbidden by her father to take any more directives in this area. A teacher from the state's Centre for the Performing Arts helped her in her final year high school choreography free of charge and said it was a pleasure to do so...and your young soldier with his life taken, so sad.


Forgive me, but I cannot resist the old saw: "If you remember the '60s, you obviously weren't there". I remember most of them because I was at Naval College or at sea for much of the time; what's your excuse?

Seriously though, I have to disagree with the pessimism you describe. I am third time married with two children aged 11 and 14, and the world I see unfolding for them simply takes my breath away. What would we have thought then if we could have sat at a screen and conversed with millions of others, of every creed and colour imaginable, all over the world? How would we have viewed the thought of repressive governments losing control because the peasants can communicate the truth with billions of others everywhere? What would we have thought of cyber-defence that could turn a bomb around in mid-air and send it back where it came from; or better, stop it leaving at all? How would we have liked to have nearly everyone in the world as our next-door-neighbours? My daughter builds fascinating, mutually helpful friendships with others in countries she never knew existed. And she has no idea of their colour, creed or social status - they are just her friends. Her village has 6 billion people in it. And it feels so normal that she doesn't give it a second thought.

You may think me fanciful but I feel the world is growing a brain, connecting everyone together, building bridges and firing synapses furiously, and we are in at the explosion of its birth. These teenagers will be an integral part of its childhood. I think the youngsters of today are truly 'On the Threshold of a Dream', riding the crest of a digital wave that will break down all the barriers that we struggled with. I hope we have prepared them well for the wild and bumpy, but incredibly exciting ride it will take them on. This is The Digital Revolution, and its effects will eclipse, by unimaginable orders of magnitude and wonderment, the Agricultural and Industrial ones. I am quite convinced it will enable future generations to rise above material desires into a more spiritual realm of being. What could be closer to the original '60s hippy dream?

That's what I think anyway.

Well, thank you for that Sleepyjohn. Must admit, I'd never seen myself a as pessimist so must weigh my words more carefully in future! I agree about the potential of the digital revolution; let's hope that one day, everyone will have access to computers and the internet and other means of global communication so that they can enjoy and take advantage of the revolution as much as those of us who already have access already.

What's my excuse for remembering the sixties? I became a mummy and parenthood does tend to concentrate the mind rather . . .

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Thought for life

  • The House of Breath, William Goyen
    We are the carriers of lives and legends - who knows the unseen frescoes on the private walls of the skull?

Thinking about . . .

  • Daniel Klein, Travels with Epicurus
    I too listen to music more and more. Throughout my life, music has stirred me more than any other art form, and now, in old age, I find myself listening to it almost every evening, usually alone, for hours at a time.
  • Julia Blackburn, Thin Paths
    I began writing because I liked to write things down. I learnt foreign languages because they seemed to enter my head by a process of osmosis.
  • Joan Bakewell, Stop the Clocks
    I live contentedly alone. It's better that way and I am often thoughtful about what has been and what might have been. There are many like me.
  • Patti Smith, M Train
    Oh to be reborn within the pages of a book.
  • Patti Smith, M Train
    Why is it that we lose the things we love, and things cavalier cling to us and will be the measure of our worth after we’re gone?
  • Judith Kerr, Observer Magazine, 22 November 2015
    I don't believe in God. I find it much easier to believe in ancestors. I like to imagine they are pointing us in the right direction.

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