Monday, 14 December 2015

Then and Now - Maybe

Thirty years ago my car was a second hand VW Polo with four-speed gears with carburettors, manual windows and manual steering. Now I have a second-hand Punto with fuel injection, power steering, five gears, power windows and central locking.

Twenty years ago, I had a 100Hz 22” Panasonic TV which was a monster, and a video recorder with slo-mo. Now I have a 28” Bravia LCD screen and Blu-ray player which give a picture vastly superior to the TV.

Twenty years ago I didn't even have a computer, and 64kps ISDN was considered pretty much the top end of data transmission. Now I have 8Mbps download broadband connecting a netbook, a desktop replacement Wintel, a Mac Air and an iPad Air. Apple, Google, Amazon, Dropbox and others are offering me more online storage for free than possibly existed in the whole world in 1980. I get free e-mail and calendering, and photo-editing apps for £1.49 that do things that would have been considered black magic twenty years ago.

Online banking? Amazing. Amazon? Fantastic.

Don't even get me started on how much better the coffee is than it was thirty years ago. There's simply no comparison between the food in restaurants either.

But...

Thirty years ago, I parked my car at 08:00 in an abandoned car park fifty yards from the station, and got a seat on the 08:15 train. Twenty years ago, I could use the station car park for £3 a day at 07:30, and still get a seat on the next train. Now, I park my car on the road half a mile from the station at 06:30. Parking anywhere near the high street is £10 a day. I can get a seat on the 06:41 or 06:45 trains, if I go any later, or take the fast trains, I will be squashed or standing.

The abandoned car park is now a block of partial-owner flats. The Blockbuster I could rent videos from is now a bathroom salesroom. Sure there’s a Tesco and a bunch of other shops where the old IBM offices and a bleak 1970’s concrete plaza used to be, but the Library doesn’t have books in it and I don’t use the shops.

Thirty years ago I shared an office and had a high-backed swivel chair. Now I pack my crayons and exercise books away at the end of the day and put them in a locker. There aren't enough desks for everyone who works in the building, deliberately, so people like me who need to be in every day have to get there early to make sure we get 'our' desk.

Thirty years ago I was about to hit the worst patch of my drinking, but at least I was getting laid now and again. Twenty years ago, I was two years sober. Now I'm an old-timer and I'm not sure I could actually let my guard down even if I was offered sex by an attractive woman. Attractive women are much more attractive than they were even twenty years ago, but there are way fewer of them, and the others are heavier, fatter, harder-faced and less feminine. There are a lot of those.

Now half of English women between 24 and 35 are overweight or worse, and the men aren't much better. By contrast, I'm in better physical shape than I was even thirty years ago, which is a tribute to the way the human body responds to resistance training. Hell, I'm in better shape than most of the kids in my office.

If you have a job that pays above third quartile wage; if you have your own lodgings; if the only debt you have is a mortgage; if you have positive cash flow over a year; if you aren't divorced and making child and spousal support payments; if you have your health and aren't chewing foul modern medicines; if you are able to exercise; if you can avoid junk culture; if you have friends who really are friends... then this is a better world than it was twenty years ago.

I’m not so sure how it is if you’re depending on Uber to pay your way, or a piece-work Amazon delivery courier, or a graduate looking for their first decent job; or if you’re thirty and still flat-sharing; or if you’re still paying off your student loan; or if you couldn’t replace the cooker or the TV if it broke without taking a payday loan… then I’m not so sure.

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