Tuesday 31 March 2009

The sound of the suburbs

I heard the cheerfully innocent tune from an ice cream van today – the first of the year. And it hit me with a juggernaut of memories: of summer in the suburbs when avenues were leafy, when people had front gardens instead of concrete parking bays and we could still play tennis up and down the road because there were hardly any cars. I was Sue Barker, my best friend was Chris Evert. What can I say? She was the sporty one. We’d spend all day up the park making dens in the bushes or flying so hard and high on the French swing that our skulls would creak. There was hopscotch on the tarmac and jacks on the pavement, and I’d ride pillion on the back of my best friend’s bike, both of us clad head to toe in denim. The parky would tell us when it was time to go home for tea.
Nowadays, there is no parky, and any man who watches children play from the doorway of his hut under the trees would most certainly be arrested.
So am I bemoaning the loss of childhood halcyon days? Of course I am, but I also feel that my generation is to blame for all this. We’re responsible for a fast and furious trajectory into a modern age so mind boggingly alien to those balmy days back in the seventies/eighties that it beggars belief. I’m talkin ’bout those of us in our early 40s.
We never had it so good, but then, we wanted it even better. Along the way, granted, we had a lot to put up with. We were the ones who had a computer plonked on the desk at work, circa 1988, and told to get on with it. (RSI was poo-pooed and thrown out of court). We were the ones who had to replace our entire vinyl LP collection with CDs, and throw away our cassette players, only to have to upload it all, within a mere decade it seems, onto a laptop. {I bet you there many of us who still have those back-breakingly heavy LP boxes in the attic stuffed with the first Madonna album, some Big Country and a complete set of Police singles in blue vinyl.}
But we all wanted the new stuff, we all wanted a car -although how I was able to run my Fiat Panda on £4,175 per annum is anyone’s guess. We became three-car families. It was the late 80s and we wanted the latest thing cos MTV drummed it into us. And so the front lawns were cemented over, ready meals were invented and it all went wrong from there.
Oh well, never mind. I think the ice cream van’s just come back round the block and I want a ninety nine.

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