As an older man I have seen many changes in the world and most have been for the better. But when I made my entrance on December 6th 1940, things were so vastly different.
A certain person by the name of Adolf Hitler was sending aircraft to drop bombs on the city of Southampton where I have always lived. So my first few years were spent dodging these, rushing from our home in Belgrave Road to the shelter outside, and then waiting for the all clear to sound. It was only when it all came to an end in 1945 that my proper life as a young boy could begin. The difference between that world and the one we all know today was huge. Needless to say none of us had even heard of the word ‘computer’. A hard fought war had just been won but there were many shortages to contend with. Food and clothing were in such short supply that rationing was necessary to ensure each family got enough to scrape by. The clothing problem was solved by the concept of hand-me-downs. In the first ten to twelve years of my life almost every item I wore had been grown out of by older and bigger boys.
It was only when it all came to an end in 1945 that my proper life as a young boy could begin. The difference between that world and the one we all know today was huge. Needless to say none of us had even heard of the word computer. A hard fought war had just been won but there were many shortages to contend with. Food and clothing were in such short supply that rationing was necessary to ensure each family got enough to scrape by. The clothing problem was solved by the concept of hand-me-downs. In the first ten to twelve years of my life almost every item I wore had been grown out of by older and bigger boys. But it was in the technology side that things were so vastly different. I started school at age four and a half at Portswood infants and juniors. For this occasion I did have a nearly new suit of clothes, grey short trousers and matching jacket, grey shirt and black shoes. These were a little too big and came off once or twice as I walked. I was then dumped in this strange place by my mother and my Edwardian education began.
I can’t emphasise enough the difference in education from those days to this. We had no biros or any sort of aid to help us learn. We used pens consisting of a short stem of wood with a nib stuck on the end. These were dipped in the inkwells at the right hand corner of our desks. This was alright except they were always being stuffed with either chalk or blotting paper, making it hard to get any use out of them at all. When dipped into the ink the pen tended to drip. We had blotting paper to mop this up, but it left an unsightly mark on the paper. The cane was used to punish anyone who turned in work with these blots over it, which was most unfair because it was virtually impossible to avoid. Working out what you would write and the answers to questions came from the only computers available to us, our own brains. How much easier it would have been to work out things like the date of the Roman occupation of Britain if we could have googled it. Instead we had to spend hours swatting inside massive encyclopaedias. These came in sets of at least twelve volumes, and while all the information you needed was there, it took a lot of searching out. Still you could always get a job when leaving school, going from door to door selling these cumbersome things. The man selling encyclopaedias was the equivalent of the later double glazing salesman.
Arithmetic was learned in two different ways, written and oral. What a word that is, we had never even heard of it. I looked it up on, guess what, my computer and came up with one definition, words issued through the mouth. We knew this form of arithmetic simply as mental, which meant you worked the problem out in your head then told the teacher and the rest of the class the answer. None of us even had a phone in our home. There was one phone box outside the local post office that served a whole district.
So here am I a seventy year old man, who should be past it, but I have my computer that I couldn’t possibly do without, as well as two mobile phones. I can and do send both texts and emails and I happily surf the net to gain the information I need as I write my books. I got a text as well as an email recently from a friend of mine that was sent to me via Blackberry. Well I know all about those, we used to pick them for our mothers aunties and grandparents when we were kids. They were made into pies and jam that lasted for ages. It supplemented the rationing and kept us all very happy indeed. So you see I am with it, and there are certainly no flies on me.