Thursday, March 18, 2004

The past is always knocking incessant. Trying to break through into the present. We have to work to keep it out and I won't be the first to shout it's over.

This week we were told that the best of all years was 1976.

I find it hard to disagree. I was five then. I was fed regularly and I got to watch Trumpton. What's not to like?

But my own personal best years were either 1990 or 2001.

In 1990 I was a floppy haired student at Manchester Polytechnic. Having considerably under-achieved at school, I managed to scrape my way onto an HND course that was three times over-subscribed. A year later, with the dawning of Madchester, applicants increased ten fold. I guess I was very lucky.

That year had it all. The best music ever to my ears. To this day, hardly a week goes by without me sticking on a Stone Roses' CD. Then there was the magnificent Hacienda night club, where I would spend every Thursday evening.

For an 18 year old kid from a rural town it was all gobsmacking. Suddenly I was drinking in places that The Face thought were cool. I used to get the bus back to Burnage after college and, on one or two occasions, I saw Shaun Ryder outside Factory Records having a cigarette.

Once I was stood in front of the God-like Ian Brown in the queue in Barclays.

Then there was the World Cup. Italia 90.

I have long since stopped caring about the England football team, the press and fans ruined it for me, but it was still special back then. The squad contained Geordie boys Gazza, Waddle and Beardsley. And when Gazza cried, so did I.

No World Cup has ever caught my imagination like that one. It also had the added bonus of the best ever sound track. World in Motion was cool. Nessum Dorma made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

My best recent year was 2001. I won't bore you too much with the details, as I have gone through it all before, but in short, I quit my job, I traveled the world and it changed me forever.

It is very easy, however, to make nostalgia a negative emotion. It's very easy to say that everything used to be better. It's certainly very easy when you're a thirtysomething.

But what if they genuinely were better?

As I was thinking about topics to blog about, this turned up in the inbox of my email:

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in
the 60's, 70's and early 80's probably shouldn't have survived,because our
baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint, which was
promptly chewed and licked. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or
latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans.

When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just sandshoes and fluorescent
spokey dokeys' on our wheels. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts
or airbags - riding in the passenger seat was a treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle and it tasted the

We ate chips, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy pop with sugar in it,
but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can and no one
actually died from this.

We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then went top speed
down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into
stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and could play all day, as long as we were
back before it got dark. No one was able to reach us and no one minded or
worried we had been abducted.

We did not have Play stations or X-Boxes, no video games at all. No 99
channels on TV, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no
personal computers, and no Internet chat rooms. We had friends we went outside and
found them.

We played elastics, hoola hoops and street rounders, and sometimes that ball
really hurt.

We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones but there were no lawsuits.

We had full on fistfights but no prosecution followed from other parents.

We played knock-and-run and were actually afraid of the owners catching us.

We walked to friend's homes. We also, believe it or not, WALKED to school;
we didn't rely on mummy or daddy to drive us to school, which was just round
the corner.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls.

We rode bikes in packs of 7 and wore our coats by only the hood.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law unheard of. They
actually sided with the law.

If you are the same age as me - doesn't it sound better than kids have today?

Are we building a new generation of weaklings? Pale skinned, wheezy little beggars who never leave their Playstation for a minute?

Maybe it's all down to fear. The media constantly horrifies us with stories of paedophiles, food scares and MMR jabs. To add to this, everyone is scared of being sued. Teachers won't take kids on school trips because they could be fined, or worse, imprisoned if anything untoward happens.

The trouble with fear is that it can be used to sell us anything. It can turn people against asylum seekers, it can ruin and divide communities. There are clever people out there who will use fear to make us buy trainers we don't need and can't afford. Then there is also the hard-sell from politicians, using fear to sell us wars we also don't need and can't afford.

Try this for size:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship ... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." Hermann Goering.

And here's another one:

"It's just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one." Bill Hicks.

I have read so many times over the last few days that the people of Spain have given in to fear. Wrong, they stood up to it. Fear makes you fight. They used their heads. Compassion is what they gave in to. It is always far stronger and braver to not to fight.

So if 1976 was better than 2004, then maybe it's because of modern-day fear. Fear of crime, fear of terrorists, fear for our health, fear of being old, fear of being unfashionable.

Nostalgia is often used alongside terms such as "simpler times" and I guess that is the difference. Life has got far too complicated. There is the pressure to achieve material success. There is also the pressure that is a result of just trying to do your best for the people around you - while all the time the media sends out frightening messages.

So simplify your own life. Downsize, live out of a backpack for a year, make do with less, work shorter hours. Try and make judgements on how you see life rather than what your copy of the Daily Mail says.

Life should be better now. There are the advances in medicine, better communications, a better standard of living. All in all, if we can remove ourselves from fear and don't allow ourselves to be influenced by it , then we will all surely be happier.

This Saturday, more people will take to the streets of London to protest about the war in Iraq. They have not given in to fear. They will not be sold on the lie that the best way to fight killers is by killing.

Like Bill Hicks said - we have two choices - fear or love.

Love, light and peace,


I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.