Mr B and I have been wallowing in the past. It’s been both poignant and painful, in equal degrees.
We have been reading
together “Littlejohn’s Lost World” by Richard Littlejohn and, not surprisingly given his date of birth, Mr L’s lost world is ours, too.
Today’s offering has had us talking about Saturday morning “pictures”, old-fashioned swimming pools and that Old Faithful of playground games - conkers.
Mr B’s childhood experience of Saturday morning pictures exactly mirrors that of the Young Littlejohn - those with the money to pay for entrance (sixpence - which is 2.5 p in “new” money) rushing to open the emergency exits to allow
dozens of others to enter free of charge. Mine was far more Law-abiding in that I was always accompanied by my elder brothers and I’m as sure as I can be that we didn’t storm the emergency exits to get in. I do wonder now what my brothers - one
ten years older than I, one six years older - made of having to look after a small, probably annoying, younger sister every Saturday morning. Hopefully the programme of films, cartoons and music made up for it.
My main memory of those Saturday mornings is being transfixed with horror, week after week, by a particular serial in which an Alien would throw a green, spiky ball into its victim’s chest thus enabling it, as in the
Alien, to inhabit his or her body. Many years later, reading the third volume of the excellent Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, I came across a similar chilling theme - which made me wonder if the author had watched the same Saturday morning film? Except
that he turns out to be more than twenty years younger than I am so it seems unlikely.
In Littlejohn’s Lost World, Mr B and I read, municipal swimming pools
were long, narrow and totally deficient in flumes, water slides, tidal waves or any of the other equipment which make a trip to the swimming pool so much more exciting these days. Oh, yes, we said, we remember it well. In our youth, in that “Lost
World”, all you could do was swim up and down until you were worn out. Failing that you could cling onto the side of the pool and kick your legs up and down making as much of a splash as possible. Nevertheless, I told Mr B, our trip to Romford Swimming
Baths with our mother and father was a weekly highlight for my Little Sister and I, especially the mug of hot Oxo in the Café afterwards, followed by a visit to the local park on the way home. My sister and I owe the fact that we can both swim (in my
case, only after a fashion) to our Dad - though we do often wish he’d taught us front crawl instead of breaststroke. Mr B didn’t learn to swim until he was thirteen years old and at a Barnardo’s boarding school but he more than made up for
lost time by becoming something of a champion swimmer. He only gave up serious swimming, he told me, when he discovered girls. No, I didn’t ask…
for conkers - is Mr Littlejohn correct when he says that only boys played conkers? Mr B thinks so - he nodded, sagely, at the description of soaking conkers in vinegar to harden them up; like Mr L, he found that a meat skewer was the best implement to use
to drill a hole in the conker through which a string could be threaded and knotted in place. What did the girls do, while the boys were bashing conkers? I guess they were skipping?
I wonder if, in fifty years’ time, somebody will write a book about the “Lost World” of today? If so, what will be the past pleasures that will ring those memory bells? Instead of Saturday morning “pictures”
will folk be mourning the passing of Netflix and box sets? Will they be reminiscing over soft play centres and High Ropes climbing experiences and wistfully remembering the delights of Center Parc holidays in the way a previous generation thought back to the
days of Hi de Hi holiday camps?
Yesterday was once today. Today will soon be yesterday - and as for tomorrow…
It’s all too much for me. I think I shall have to go and lie down in a darkened room until I can fix myself firmly and safely back in the present.
Until tomorrow, that is, when we will read the next chapter of Littlejohn’s Lost World and be transported, once again, Back In Time to the days when we were young and couldn’t begin to imagine what would happen