The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

County Press articles

The past has not passed its sell-by date

Cat James

There was a time when being pitched against one another simply meant Elvis vs Cliff. But perhaps humans were adversarial long before teenybopper tribalism.

Divisions accelerated with dehumanising fingerpointing done from the comfort of our living rooms. The cult of ‘othering’ reaching a crescendo with chat-show colosseums, in which dysfunctional family members were pitted against each other for the entertainment of armchair Caesars.

The Us vs Them divisions became national with the EU Referendum in 2016. Leavers and Remainers taking to antisocial media – and also the actual streets – to crow or cry, depending on which camp they aligned with.

And, of course, the pandemic has created further societal schisms. In the far corner (as far away as they can humanly get) are the fearful shielders; in the near corner – no, nearer, right up in your face in fact, are the COVID-19 deniers; with our own government trying everything within that spectrum on for size.

Another (generation) gap which the media has cynically tried to widen, is that of young environmental campaigners vs profligate boomers. But, for me, that ain’t gonna wash.

As a Baby Boomer myself, the make-do-and-mend mantra was very much part of my upbringing, long before the entertainment fix provided by The Repair Shop.

In our house we rented a telly and, once it could no longer be tuned by being banged on the side, a repairman would come out and bang on the side of it for us before upgrading it to the next model, taking away the old one for salvage (hopefully).

Most children’s first job was a paper round; supplementing their pocket money by distributing the news. In fact, kids on bikes were used to transport almost anything, from messages to sausages. A revived version of this sustainable method of transportation is being trialled here, as Island company People Powered champions the return of the delivery bicycle – whistling optional.

Reusable bags have seen a welcome resurgence, yet the tartan trolley was de rigueur when towed behind your mum on her weekly shop.

The greengrocer sold local seasonal fruit and vegetables in compostable paper bags, twirling them by the top corners till the open edges creased shut. As a child, I recall watching root veg decanted straight from the scales into our sturdy vinyl shopping bag with its metal-reinforced corners; potatoes tumbling in with a puff of residual dust.

Milk and other liquids were sold in returnable glass containers; fizzy drinks bottles had a bounty on them, a refundable deposit included in the price.

Even a pen was a desirable and lasting item; refillable with ink, and its steel nib replaced once worn to illegibility.

Instead of single-use paper towels, we had laundered cloth rollers. Far more functional than those deafening dryers in modern toilets, which are the hand-drying equivalent of Nigel Farage; generating a cacophonous drone of ineffective hot air.

A return to war in Europe is not the past I was hoping we would be emulating. However, not all old ideas have passed their sell-by date.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 11 March 2022 and also online.

Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.