My generation of 60-somethings certainly don’t feel old.
Once a year the Glastonbury festival which is just past, reminds us of those hedonistic days five decades ago when we were young and determined to improve the world and bring in a new order.
Our parents in those days were shocked by the sights thrown up by young festival-goers high on enthusiasm and mood-enhancing drugs which today would be considered far too tame. I remember trying to explain to my mother what a hippie was. Flower power to her was making sure the lupins bloomed each year in her garden.
Not that many Ulster people went to the iconic concert venue – I suspect that was something to do with lack of money - but that will of the young to change the world at a time when America was fighting the Vietnam war swept over us virtually overnight.
London soon became the centre of change. Rock stars fell in and out of limousines, exotic girlfriends in tow. Living together became the norm. It was a lot for the older generation to take in so quickly via their new television sets. When top model Jean Shrimpton appeared at Ascot in a mini skirt our mothers were aghast. The very next day their daughters were getting out the scissors and chopping hemlines.
Those of us who lived through those heady days of the Sixties are now in our 60s wondering where all the years have gone. If we led public opinion in the Sixties, forcing change politically and economically, our opinions hardly matter these days.
The government sees us as something to be paid for by way of state pensions, the current young generation being told we’re the reason they can’t get on the housing ladder. I even saw a report this week which dealt with ‘grey areas’ of population where more than four in 10 households will contain people aged over 65 in six years’ time. The national average is three in 10.
The report from the National Housing Federation (NHF) suggests ‘‘swaths of the countryside will be ‘pensioner pockets’ in less than a decade with young families finding themselves priced out of areas they grew up in’’. The inference is that the elderly are preventing rural areas from becoming thriving, working communities.
Sometimes I think the people who write such reports don’t look at history. Even in my childhood I remember rural communities where small shops were never further than a few yards down the road.
Blacksmiths worked to keep horses working on farms, potato gathering kept men, women and children in work and money for up to three weeks a year. Tinkers (today we call them travelling people) went round doors selling their wares, breadmen and grocers came round in vans two and three times a week and at least once a week a butcher also did the rounds.
Every country area had a bus service and sometimes a train route. When cars became more popular it created a new source of rural employment for people who could fix engines. People could be as self-sufficient as they wanted to be then.
By the 1970s that began to change rapidly and traditional rural employment slowly died.
I have lived in the country for most of my life and today if I want a pound of butter I have to get into the car and drive five miles to get it. As a child we bought the butter off my Aunt Mabel who made it herself. Women were able to earn a small living without leaving home all those years ago.
Yet employment is coming back to rural areas. Technology has helped create a new generation of home workers – as a writer I am one. So perhaps those ‘grey areas’ NHF talks about are not so unproductive as they appear to think. We’re coming full circle and yes,
I hope to finally get to Glastonbury 2016, my 70th year. After all I never lost my will to be inspired.