Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Philip Larkin was right

I used to say that I would have ‘Philip Larkin was right’ on my gravestone, as a tribute to his best known poem. Well, I’m grown-up now and I’ve got over it, but I still think he was right about other things. For example, saying the 1960s began in 1963. OK, he didn’t actually say ‘the 1960s’ in Annus Mirabilis (that would not have grabbed attention in the same way). But the principle is the same: it’s not the years with noughts at the end that are necessarily the milestones. The 1960s didn’t begin in 1960. They didn’t actually begin in 1963 either. As far as I can remember it was much later than that. I’ve been reading a book based on a 1950s childhood and in some ways Shena Mackay could be describing my own childhood in the 60s. When I got to the description of the first day at school, the thing that jumped out at me was: ‘some game such as In and Out the Dusty Bluebells’. It’s strange when you thought you had forgotten something and it suddenly comes back. I remember the infant school hall, bare feet, that song - not a playground game but something to dance to in PE lessons. One of my earliest memories, except until I read that page I hadn’t realised that I still remembered it. The 1960s began around the time I went to junior school, with only a few years to go before 1970. Before that, there was ‘Listen with Mother’, free orange juice, and wallcharts stating ‘Thirty pennies make half-a-crown’. Afterwards, there was ‘modern maths’ and Concorde and getting ready for New Money... It’s been downhill all the way since then.

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