Editor’s comment: November 2020

PUBLISHED: 12:05 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:05 02 November 2020

'Salvage enough scrap metal from around the house and the Steptoe of his time would give you a goldfish in a plastic bag' (photo: BBC Pictures)

'Salvage enough scrap metal from around the house and the Steptoe of his time would give you a goldfish in a plastic bag' (photo: BBC Pictures)

BBC Pictures

Welcome to our annual Nostalgia issue – a wonderful world of white dog poo, Spangles and the pop van

Welcome to our annual Nostalgia issue – a wonderful world of white dog poo, Spangles and the pop van.

Remembering things we never knew we’d forgotten is big business in the digital world, with endless Facebook pages dedicated to the subject. Who remembers Raleigh Choppers (now available for a grand or more on eBay)? Who remembers telephone boxes where you had to press button B? Who remembers the rag-and-bone man on his cart? (Now this one always puzzled me. Salvage enough scrap metal from around the house and the Steptoe of his time would give you a goldfish in a plastic bag. Why a goldfish? Had a special deal been struck between the National Association of Totters and the British Goldfish Breeders’ Society? Who came up with the idea that if you promised a kid a goldfish he’d strip the lead off the church roof for you? Bizarre).

Peter Kay made a career out of it: “Who remembers school milk, eh?” Well, it was enough to sustain the biggest selling comedy tour of all time.

With the above, I’ve clearly identified myself as a child of the late 60s, early 70s. Now I’m not going to argue that things were better back then, but they were… simpler. Less complicated, less self-obsessed. We even had our own version of the ‘Gig Economy’.

On a Friday I’d queue up for a night shift at the local bakery; on Saturday morning I’d do the same outside the pie factory. Summer jobs were at the jam factory down the road or a much-prized position at the Vimto bottling plant, packing triple-strength cordial for the African market.

Bigger and bolder, we’d queue up at a well-known traffic junction waiting for vans of contractors looking for casual labourers, £14 a day, cash in hand. After that, and with a bit more front, it was driving forklift trucks in various warehouses in Trafford Park. You could easily make enough in four days to fund a three-day weekend of football, beer and soul music. (One such place – a washing machine manufacturer – had a policy of rejecting any appliance with even slightly damaged packaging. These were then stockpiled conveniently adjacent to a perimeter fence. Within a month, every house in our street had a spanking new washing machine. I’m surprised the overpowering smell of Daz didn’t attract the attention of the authorities.) And then I got respectable and signed up as a member of Her Majesty’s Press.

The point I’m making is that there was always work out there for people prepared to graft. Sadly, I’m not sure that is the case today. When you have 7,000 people applying for a single minimum-pay bar job, the prospects look bleak for those made surplus to requirements by the pandemic.

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Whenever the subject of nostalgia is rolled out in a magazine planning meeting (“It’s very popular with our readers, you know”) out come the old black and white pictures of Stroud in 1904 and the debate moves on. But what is nostalgia to you, Mr or Ms Reader?

Is it Watch With Mother (“Are you sitting comfortably?”) or is it Tiswas (Sally James in a wet T-shirt – every teenage boy’s delight). When Doctor Who is 57 years old and John Lennon would have turned 80, it’s probably time to update our ideas. Black and white pictures are now local history; our six pages of pictures of scooters and their old mod riders – Pages 128-133 – are the new nostalgia.

(I once had a Lambretta SX200. I’d buy another one tomorrow, but the School Run Mums would wipe me out on the back lanes around here.)

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One lasting legacy of Covid is the absence of anything approaching decent customer service. No-one answers the phones (after 90 minutes of queuing); no-one replies to emails, even though we’re assured that “our call is important”. Yes, we know people are working from home, but that shouldn’t deprive them of the use of their voice, fingers or brain. Dare to complain, though, and you’re treated like some kind of dangerous lunatic: “Don’t you know there’s a pandemic?” The all-consuming guilt is immediate.

Follow Mike Lowe on Twitter or email at mike.lowe@archant.co.uk

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