Back to the future

The 1970s! What a time to be alive! If you were a grown-up back then you might equate the Decade That Style Forgot™ with the three day week, Women’s Lib and the Common Market. Even now, some West Wighters probably still rue the day when the country converted to the decimal currency system, and pounds, shillings and pence gave way to new pennies.

But for me, the seventies was a magical time. As well as those shiny new pocket money coins, the TV was full of shiny pop stars; quite literally Glitter on our screens. Even if we watched in black and white, our imaginations were in technicolour. Tomorrow’s World gave us a weekly peek into a future of home computer terminals, electronic cash and pocket calculators. Just a few years after that small step for a man, we were all poised for mankind’s giant leap.

To a soundtrack of Showaddywaddy and The Wurzels I remember excitedly working on a school project speculating about life in the year 2000. That date seemed impossibly far away; I would have to live two more of my current lifetimes to get there – a dizzying concept for my young brain to compute.

What might it be like? As I looked around the family home, a small Victorian villa, I imagined a place equipped with space-age appliances – but no car, as we’d all travel by hoverbus. We could eat powdered protein, like astronauts. I would have silver hair. Concerts would be performed by tiny holographic pop stars; playing in the palms of our hands – replicas of the real thing, performing just for you. As I used my best felt-tipped pens to illustrate my project I wondered what job I would have. Dr Who‘s assistant? Pan’s People dancer? Stylophone player? The possibilities were boundless.

The millennium came and went. Nearly two more decades have passed – over forty years since I worked on that project. My 1970s version of this post-millennial fantasy future came flooding back to me last weekend, prompted by the discovery that Showaddywaddy was still going strong – live on stage at Shanklin Theatre. The next day I found myself back in Shankers at a private shindig, where I broke from the buffet for a moment to whip out my smartphone and film the party’s entertainment – a Beatles tribute act. Playing it back, I watched the facsimile Fab Four – tiny light-rendered figures in my outstretched hand. Just call me Nostradamus!

I still live in a Victorian villa – no automated pod home for me. My hair is silver, but that is more to do with the ravages of time than any ultramodern style statement. There’s a hoverbus, but it’s not quite as futuristic as its name suggests. My felt-tips may be virtual, but I continue to spend my days colouring-in (although now I do it for money!)

Uncannily, at last Sunday’s Garlic Festival, I stood in a blustery field with hundreds of other people singing along to The Wurzels – and it was 1976 all over again.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 24 August 2018.

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