Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Sibling rivalry

Apparently sibling rivalry isn't just one of those dubious cliches, it's real. There are plenty of siblings who really do compete frantically with each other and can't bear it when their brother or sister seems to be doing much better than them.

A quarter of people polled on the subject admitted to sibling rivalry. They confessed to competing over just about everything - their careers, their homes, their cars, their holidays, their education, their cooking skills and, naturally, who their parents like best.

Well, I'm relieved to say my sister and I have never been prone to sibling rivalry. Our relationship has always been amicable, reasonable and non-competitive. We've both lived our lives as we wanted and we haven't spent a second comparing our different "score cards". We've never been jealous of the other's achievements, or gloating at their failures.

We were never bothered about who our parents liked best. Clearly my father, and possibly my mother, preferred my sister, but so what? It didn't stop me getting on with my life.

What motivates siblings to compete with each other anyway? Why are they desperate to be top dog and always one step ahead of the other? I really don't know, but I suppose if parents are the competitive type, that can get passed on to their children. Luckily our parents weren't in the least competitive.

But if your relationship with your sibling is the longest relationship you'll ever have, then constantly competing with each other will spoil your life in a big way.

And there's no easy fix, because siblings are bound to each other for life. You can't divorce them, you can't simply dump them. Somehow you have to find a modus operandi.

Just try to stop quibbling with your sibling.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Call my bluff

At the age of 74 I still don't feel like an adult, only an overgrown child. There are so many things I can barely cope with, and only with a lot of effort.    There are so many things I stealthily keep away from, quite sure I'd instantly mess them up.

I may have all the physical trappings of adulthood. I've had three mortgages, I own a house, I've owned several cars, I was the executor of my mum's will, I've had paid jobs on and off for 53 years, I've travelled all over the world.

Yet I still don't feel like an adult. When people treat me like an adult and expect me to behave like an adult, I'm straight into impostor syndrome. I do my best to live up to what's required, but it's mostly a feverish pretence, a frantic pursuit of this ever-elusive quality known as adulthood.

People expect me to make intelligent, informed decisions on a whole range of subjects, when I'm all too aware that actually on most subjects I have a hazy, anecdotal knowledge at best. I rack my brain for relevant wisdom, find the cupboard is bare and cobble together some supposedly authoritative opinion that might get me convincingly through the next five minutes.

I'm looking around desperately for a real adult, someone who actually has adult-like capabilities and can rescue me from this scary demand for responsibility and guidance. I want to be like the newsreaders who just pass on the stream of information fed into their earpieces.

I might look like a mature adult, but it's all an illusion. In reality I'm still a confused child hoping I'm doing and saying the right thing but always suspecting I'm totally goofing up. Sooner or later someone's going to call my bluff.

PS: A post on Facebook - "My personality is basically a mix between a needy five year old child who can't control her emotions, a teenage rebel who makes poor life decisions, and an eighty year old woman who's tired and needs a nap."

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Tactical error

One of the big debates among political protesters is what sort of protest to engage in - what is most likely to get the result they want and what is most likely to get the public on their side. Choose the wrong thing and you simply alienate everyone.

The recently formed campaign "Insulate Britain", which is seeking a much bigger government programme to remedy badly insulated homes, is attracting a lot of opposition over its recent activities.

Day after day they've been blocking major roads in southern England, causing huge disruption, and those people who have been stuck in the resulting traffic jams have been angry and upset.

Carers, nurses and other key workers have been unable to get to work. People have been unable to get to hospital appointments or get to dying relatives. Furious motorists have been physically dragging protesters off the roads.

I don't see how this bloody-minded obstruction of people's daily lives can possibly be justified, or how it's going to have any more influence on the government than some other sort of protest that is dramatic without being so disruptive.

The police have arrested dozens of protesters, and the government has threatened them with jail sentences, but the protests continue regardless.

I would also be furious if protesters had stopped me from getting to work or getting to a medical appointment. Luckily I'm retired and luckily also there's no offshoot of Insulate Britain in Northern Ireland (as yet).

So far the government is unmoved, and the protesters are just pissing off the general public.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

I'll sleep on it

A long time ago I made a list of all my sleep-related quirks and habits. I thought my more recent followers might like to see it.

  1. I seldom sleep in, I seldom nap.
  2. I'm invariably asleep within ten minutes
  3. I'm usually up and about by 7 30 am
  4. I almost always have bad dreams
  5. I sleep on my left side or my right side, hardly ever on my back or front
  6. I find it easy to get out of bed in the morning
  7. I prefer a nightshirt to pyjamas
  8. I sleep naked if it's warm enough
  9. I read books in bed but never newspapers
  10. My bedside cabinet contains my watch, my alarm clock, my glasses, a box of tissues and a book
  11. I find it hard to sleep on planes
  12. I slept for 13 hours straight after arriving in Vancouver Island, Canada
  13. I never take sleeping pills - they don't work and just make me feel weird
  14. There are no teddy bears in our bed
  15. Our hotel room in San Francisco had the creakiest bed of all time
  16. We slept on a futon for several years
  17. We have single duvets, which avoids duvet hogging
  18. We have breakfast in bed every Sunday morning - toast and marmalade and a cup of tea
  19. We change the bed linen often
  20. I can have a completely coherent conversation while I'm asleep, and not remember a word of it the next day
  21. My sex none of your business

Friday, 1 October 2021

In a nutshell

Slang is always contro-versial. Is it a valid part of the language or is it something to be avoided? Does it add colour and vividness or is it just sloppy?

Lucy Frame, the principal at a London secondary school, has decided slang should be avoided, though only in lessons and not in the playground. She has declared that if pupils are using slang they aren't expressing themselves clearly and accurately.

I think she's being ridiculous. Everybody uses slang, and why not? Unless it's a term that's offensive or mystifying, what's the problem?

One academic who was asked to comment pointed out that Shakespeare is full of slang and teachers don't see any difficulty with that. He accused the school of "cultural and linguistic snobbery".

All slang really refers to is unfamiliar words that haven't yet become commonplace. But if the unfamiliar word conveys something useful, isn't that what language is all about?

And who decides if a word is slang or just an ordinary, routine word? Who decides for example whether "getting hitched" or "tying the knot" are slang terms or unremarkable bits of English?

If slang just means an unusual and ingenious way of expressing something, I'm all for it. It livens up the language and gets people's attention.

So that's my opinion "in a nutshell". Which might or might not be slang.

PS: The full list of slang banned by the school is:

  • He cut his eyes at me (shot me a withering glance)
  • Oh my days (my goodness)
  • Oh my god
  • That's a neck (you need a slap for that)
  • Wow
  • That's long (boring, tough or tedious)
  • Bare (very, extremely)
  • Cuss (swear or abuse)

Monday, 27 September 2021

Missing tips

When Jenny and I are in a restaurant, we're always aware that tips added to a credit card payment may never reach the server but be stealthily extracted by the management. Which is why we always leave a cash tip on the table instead.

Restaurant staff have been fuming about these missing tips for years, but it's only now that the British government is acting to stop what is effectively theft and ensure any tip or service charge goes to the server it's intended for.

It will become illegal for restaurant, bar and café owners to siphon off the tips, a move benefitting up to two million workers. Members of staff will also be able to see tipping records, and if necessary take employers to a tribunal*.

But this won't be any help to those servers who encounter the no-tips brigade, those mean-minded diners who either never give a tip or only give a tip if the food and service are impeccable. Which is unlikely.

We always give a tip unless the meal was a genuinely disastrous experience. We're not going to quibble about a dirty knife or insufficient smiling or bland coffee. And we know how much the probably underpaid servers rely on tips to top up their pay.

Of course tipping is an absurdly antiquated practice that should have been abolished years ago and replaced by decent and reliable salaries. Nevertheless there's a certain satisfaction in seeing a server's face light up when they get an unexpectedly generous tip.

I imagine the new law can't come in fast enough for all those servers who're systematically fleeced by their employers.

*But will the new law be properly enforced?

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Still bewildered

Back in 2013 I listed some of the modern-day trends that I simply don't understand. Things that leave me scratching my head in bewilderment. Things that seem daft or unnecessary or absurd or risky. The list stays much the same, except for Gangnam, which nobody even mentions any more. So here's the slightly amended version:

  1. The obsession with celebs
  2. Tattoos
  3. Tongue-piercing
  4. Stag and hen weekends*
  5. The prejudice against public services
  6. Posting naked selfies on Facebook
  7. Wearing a face veil
  8. Having private quarrels in public
  9. Personalised car number plates
  10. Going berserk on a plane
  11. Nouvelle cuisine
  12. Barbecues
  13. Thongs**
  14. Cosmetic surgery***
  15. Weddings on the other side of the world
  16. High heels
  17. Letting kids run wild
  18. Teeth whitening
  19. Designer labels
  20. Lads' mags
I went to a barbecue quite recently, but I still don't see the attraction. Eating indoors is more comfortable, and you don't get rained on. Of course the climate here doesn't encourage outdoor eating - it's more likely to be cold and wet than warm and dry. Big kitchen diners are more popular than barbecue grills. I imagine barbecues are more common in the States and Australia with their long hot summers.

* bachelor and bachelorette parties in the States
** the underwear not the footwear
*** other than reconstructive surgery

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Sheer anarchy

I lost my faith in politicians a long time ago, and this sort of thing is why - the ongoing anarchy in the Holylands area of Belfast, an area of concentrated student housing close to Queen's University.

Literally for years now, since 2005, students have been running riot in the area, having wild all-night parties, vandalising cars and property, throwing rubbish onto the streets, and intimidating longstanding local residents.

The besieged residents complain continuously to Queen's University, Ulster University, Belfast Council, Stormont, and the Police Service, but nothing effective is ever done.

Statements are issued condemning the students' behaviour and threatening them with various sanctions, a few students get arrested, but the anarchy continues regardless and the beleaguered residents despair over the politicians' apparent utter indifference to their plight.

Predictably the buck is continually passed from one authority to another, each one offering trumped-up excuses for their hopeless inability to end the disorder. Meanwhile families lie awake at night, trying to ignore the sounds of breaking glass, vomiting and ear-splitting music.

No doubt the university top brass have nice quiet homes to retreat to in respectable areas of the city, so there's no danger of their own comfortable existence being jeopardised. They can sit back and watch it all on the telly like the rest of us.

And they can sleep soundly at night without shrieking mayhem outside their bedroom window.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Why fame?

For the life of me I don't understand why so many people want to be famous. I can understand wanting to be rich and never having any more money worries, but wanting to be famous? What's the point? Do they realise the massive downside of fame?

Probably not. Celebrities tend not to mention the downside because it would spoil their image and because it would make them look like spoilt brats. They prefer to maintain the illusion that fame is wonderful and they can't get enough of it.

All the public usually see is celebrities swanning around in fabulous designer clothes, being presented with prestigious awards, being applauded and fawned over, getting preferential treatment wherever they go.

What they usually don't see is the endless invasion of privacy, the hordes of paparazzi, the social-media abuse, the phoney "friends", the obsessive fans, the fabricated media stories.

It seems to me that being famous just makes your life more difficult, more treacherous, more overwhelming. Why would you want to live in a goldfish bowl day in and day out, with people watching your every movement?

There are regular stories about people who've been unexpectedly thrust into the limelight and been badly damaged by it. Like Steve Dymond, who died seven days after taking part in the Jeremy Kyle chat-show.

A lot of musicians have had psychological crises after a sudden rise to fame - like Katie Melua, who had a mental breakdown in 2010 and was in hospital for six weeks.

Fame ? You can keep it.

Friday, 10 September 2021

But is it true?

I tend to assume that everything in a biography/ autobiography/ memoir must be true because they're based on real lives and real people. And because they all sound so convincing, so credible. Surely they haven't made anything up?

But actually quite a few biographies and memoirs have been either partly or totally fabricated. Wikipedia lists 12 such examples since 2001, some of them completely fake. Like Michael Gambino's The Honored Society, in which he claimed to be the grandson of a notorious Mafioso. He was exposed by Carlo Gambino's real son, Thomas Gambino.

I've read a lot of autobiographies, including those by Michelle Obama and Keith Richards, and I've assumed that everything they say is true, but that's not necessarily the case.

Even if they seem more or less truthful, there are always things that by their very nature must arouse suspicion. Like long verbatim conversations. Whoever remembers conversations in such detail? For that matter, whoever remembers the entirety of their life in such detail? Isn't some of it what they think happened or would like to have happened rather than what really occurred? And might a few things have been tweaked a little to look more flattering, or less shameful?

Family members and friends often dispute what someone says in a biography or autobiography. They claim there was no such family feud, or estrangement, or disinheritance, or child abuse. Of course they would, wouldn't they? They don't want their good reputation dragged through the mud.

People who fabricate whole memoirs are so likely to be exposed by someone who knows the truth, you have to wonder why they do it. I suppose they calculate that by the time they're exposed they'll already have made a tidy sum from their sensational lies so it hardly matters.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Not so lucky

Winning a fortune may seem like a wonderful idea, but the reality may not be so enjoyable. All sorts of unforeseen conse-quences could make you wish you'd never had the money at all.

Margaret Loughrey, from Strabane in Northern Ireland, who won £27 million in the national lottery, killed herself a few days ago. Some months after her huge win, she said "If there is a hell, I have been in it. It has been that bad. I was a happy person before. All it has done is destroy my life."

She bought a historic old mill that was plagued by fires and vandalism. She was found guilty of assaulting a taxi driver while drunk. She was ordered to pay £30,000 for discriminating against a Catholic employee. And other unspecified mishaps.

She only bought a lottery ticket on the spur of the moment. She was living on welfare benefits of £58 ($80.50) a week and was returning home from the Job Centre when she decided to buy the ticket.

I wouldn't want to win such a vast sum. I wouldn't know what to do with it. I'd hate all the attention I'd get, especially from people wanting handouts or people who hated me for getting such a windfall. Everyone would be gossiping about me behind my back.

Whoever I gave money to, other people would be saying I should have given the money to them or someone else more deserving. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet would give me unsolicited advice on how to spend the money. I'd suspect every friendly approach of hiding an appeal for cash.

There's the option of receiving the money anonymously, but I doubt that would last very long. Once I was seen to be spending on a lavish scale, questions would be asked and my win would surely become known.

No fortune for me, thanks. I'm very happy just as I am.

Pic: Margaret Loughrey

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

What might have been

When I think of my parents (both now dead), I have a strong sense of loss. But it's not the loss of what was, or what they meant to me. It's the loss of what might have been, what I never had.

It's not the loss of what was, because I was never close to either of them. They were so different from me and never understood the sort of person I was, or what I wanted to do with my life. And they were both very cagey about anything personal.

Some people are lucky enough to have a close relationship with one or both of their parents, one that's enriching and inspiring and supportive. When those parents die, there's a deep sense of an important part of one's life being taken away. All at once there's a big hole that needs somehow to be filled.

In my case that particular sense of loss is absent. What I feel is more the loss of what might have been - exactly that sort of intimate bond with a parent that might have greatly enriched my life.

Above all, the lack of that close relationship means I know next to nothing about my parents' personal lives and they remain shadowy, blurry figures. Just about everything that happened to them before I was born is a mystery. Likewise much of what they thought and felt. Did they ever get anxious or depressed or frustrated or despairing? What went through their minds? Mostly, I have no idea.

They must surely have wanted close bonds with their children (otherwise why have children at all?), so why did they do so little to foster that closeness? Why were they always so reticent, so guarded? Why couldn't they open up? It leaves another sort of big hole - but one that can never be filled.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Imperfect bodies

Apparently a majority of men (53%) have negative feelings about their body image, which isn't far off the figure for women (62%). They don't like being fat, or bald, or paunchy, or not tall enough, or too hairy, or not very muscular. Or a dozen other things.

I'm always baffled by this, as I have no problems with my own body image. In fact it almost feels there's something wrong with me for finding my body so acceptable. Am I just not critical enough? Is my nose a funny shape? Are my eyes too close together? Surely there's something I absolutely loathe? Nope, I just can't work up any negativity about my physical self.

Yes, I'm an oldie and I look it, but that doesn't bother me. Yes, I've got a bit of a tummy bulge, but so what? Yes, I've got a small bald patch, but it's only other people who can see it. Yes, I've got some crooked teeth, but to my mind they look more natural than rows of perfectly straight, shining white choppers. I'm not going to spend hours of my time regretting what I look like.

I'm certainly not going to shovel cash into the bank accounts of the purveyors of botox, cosmetic surgery, hair restorer, tummy control shapewear and all the other products exploiting people's self-loathing. I'd rather spend my money on exotic holidays, brilliant novels and wonderful paintings than on desperate attempts to turn the physical clock back.

Because that's mainly what this negativity is all about, isn't it? The desire to recapture one's youth and reverse the ageing process. Well, I hate to disillusion anyone but ageing will have its way, whatever your efforts to halt it.

There are only two things certain in life - death and taxes.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Flight of folly

I'm endlessly amazed at the dotty projects local councils get up to, quite often ignoring widespread advice that the project is dotty and should be scrapped.

Westminster Council in London thought it would be a super wheeze to build an artificial 25 metre (82 feet) hill next to Marble Arch. For £4.50 you could climb up to the top and see supposedly splendid views across the city.

Unfortunately the hill (the Marble Arch Mound) has been panned and ridiculed by just about everyone, including most of the visitors, local residents and 23 local amenity groups. Not only are the views far from splendid, they include rubble, building works and scaffolding. And unfortunately the hill (hillock would be more accurate) cost a staggering £6 million.

The £4.50 charge has been temporarily dropped and hundreds of people have flocked to the hill just to see how bad it is.

I'd like to think Belfast Council wouldn't dream up anything so monumentally daft, but you never know.

I wonder how long it will be before the Mound is discreetly removed at dead of night (or dead of several nights) and the council pretends it was never there in the first place. "Mound? What Mound? Where did you get that idea?"

Pic: the infamous Mound

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Distasteful legacies

It's the custom to pass on your inheritance (if you're lucky enough to have one) to your offspring or other family members. Eyebrows are raised if you hand it all to the local cat shelter or the Teddy Bear Society (yes, there is one).

But not everyone approves of this practice. Actor Daniel Craig, who has a three year old daughter, a stepson and an adult daughter, says he won't leave his children a large inheritance because he finds the practice "distasteful".

He thinks it's better to "get rid of it or give it away before you go". He adds "Isn't there an old adage that if you die a rich person, you've failed?"

His estimated net worth is currently over $180 million, and he's due to pick up another $100 million from future film deals. That's quite a hefty sum to not inherit.

He may be one of those who think handing your children a huge windfall just makes them lazy and self-centred and they should have to make their own way in life, presumably just as their own parents did.

But what if your children are already grown-up and doing very nicely? Should you then deny them an inheritance because they don't need it?

And if your children are grown-up but not doing very well, should you still deny them an inheritance because you think they squander money left right and centre and should just get a grip on their life?

Or what if you just can't stand one of your children and think they're a right pain in the arse? Do they also get nothing? (as happened with my father, who left me precisely zilch)

Whatever the reason for disinheriting family members, I imagine resentment and bitterness are almost sure to follow.

Friday, 13 August 2021

Hard to imagine

I have a problem with novels that other people don't seem to have. I find it very hard to conjure up a vivid mental picture of the characters. Even if I read a description of someone several times, they remain words on the page and I get no clear image of them. I can summon up a stereotype of an old man or a young woman or a gurgling baby, but nothing more specific.

Most people seem to conjure up characters in their head quite easily. They have a very haunting image of the person, almost as vivid as someone in real life. They know exactly what Elizabeth Bennet or Jay Gatsby or Jane Eyre look like, while I have no such image.

If I have a vivid picture of someone, it's only because I've seen them in drawings or films - like Miss Marple, Frankenstein's Monster, Oliver Twist or Winnie the Pooh. I may know what they look like even if I haven't read the book - like Harry Potter.

It's frustrating because I feel I'm not really enjoying a book fully, I'm not totally immersed in it, if I can't picture the characters in my head. I can follow the plot and know what's going on, but there's something missing. It's like being in a very bare room with only a few sticks of furniture.

I guess I just have an inability to translate words into a visual image. They remain words and for some reason don't fire up my imagination as they should.

I'd love to see novels that have illustrations of all the main characters. I seem to remember that being a common practice when I was young (in Dickens for instance), but somewhere along the line they got dropped.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Speech! Speech!

Social phobias of one kind or another are very common, and one of them is fear of public speaking. That's certainly one of my own fears, and fortunately an ordeal I've managed mainly to avoid.

I can talk easily enough in small groups, when I know all the people present very well. I was a trade union rep for several years and I had no problem chairing meetings, bringing up topics and getting people to make decisions. With only a handful of people scrutinising me, it wasn't too scary.

But large groups are a different matter. I've never had the nerve to make a speech at a marriage, a birthday party, a farewell do or a funeral. All those dozens of eyes in my direction would paralyse me. Not to mention the stress of writing the speech - wondering what would be appropriate, or flattering, or amusing, or what on the other hand might go down like a lead balloon and insult half the assembled company.

Even the need to make a short speech at work thanking people for a leaving present was enough to cause deep embarrassment as I tried frantically to cobble together a few pertinent comments without looking like a total halfwit.

In public meetings, I see plenty of people sounding off, clearly confident they have something very valid to say, while I'm sitting there in silence, not at all convinced it's worth opening my mouth in the face of much more informed and original opinions than my own.

Those meetings where a circle of attendees are asked to introduce themselves are also quite excruciating because I'm sure whatever I say is bound to seem trivial and pointless rather than interesting or heart-warming.

A witty speech is called for? Don't look at me....

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Punch bag

I know I've got a slight bee in my bonnet, but I can't help noticing that a lot of people are getting more aggressive and abusive, and I wonder why that is. Why are they unable to behave in a civilised manner?

The latest victim of all this aggression is the humble Punch and Judy Show. Two Punch and Judy performers on Dorset beaches are having to contend with spectators who don't want to pay, who swear and shout, who dodge the donation box, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

This never used to be the case, but nowadays it seems that if spectators aren't 100 per cent satisfied, they feel entitled to disrupt the show and make a huge disturbance.

One performer, Mark Poulton, had to post on his Facebook page calling for the abuse to stop. He said "We love making people happy, seeing everyone smile, and enjoying themselves. If you don't wish to pay for the show, please politely decline and move along, please don't hurl abuse at people simply for trying to make a living."

Of course some people would like to end Punch and Judy Shows, which they see as glorifying male violence, and I tend to agree. Or maybe you could write a modernised version with a more assertive July telling Punch to pull his weight or pack his bags.

As a kid I went to quite a few Punch and Judy Shows, and really at that age the political message entirely escaped me. I just thought it was funny in the same way as children's violent cartoons are funny. But I guess that message can seep in unconsciously.

Punch and Judy Shows have always been a traditional part of seaside holidays and it would be sad if they disappeared simply because of the loud-mouthed abuse from a few uncouth (possibly tipsy) bystanders.

Pic: Take that, Punch, you nasty little man

Sunday, 1 August 2021


It's easy to take for granted in a relationship that your partner can be trusted - that they'll do what they say, behave the way you expect them to, and in general not present you with any nasty surprises.

I feel sorry for those women who can't trust their men an inch - who're never sure where they are or what they're doing, and always suspect they're up to something disturbing or illegal or shameful. They're forever on tenterhooks, wondering what fresh embarrassments are on the way (I guess there are also men who can't trust their women but far fewer of them).

Jenny and I have complete trust in each other. We don't dread finding out something shocking about the other person.

Jenny knows I'm not going to raid our savings and disappear into the night, or develop some insatiable addiction to gambling or alcohol or drugs or porn, or burn the house down, or wreck the car, or run off with a buxom blonde twenty years younger, or live in a cave seeking spiritual enlightenment, or smash windows in Whitehall, or join the British National Front.

She knows I value her company and won't be down the pub every evening with my mates, discussing football, making misogynist jokes, ranting about immigrants, getting blind drunk, and then heaving a sigh and saying "Oh well, I suppose I'd better be getting back to the old ball and chain."

I guess there are women who've lost all trust in their men but stick with them anyhow, rather than start afresh with a new partner who might turn out to be equally untrustworthy. After all, could they ever trust a man again?

It's very easy to destroy trust and very hard to rebuild it.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The glorious past

There are two types of nostalgia, and I don't subscribe to either of them.

There's nostalgia meaning a belief in some sort of golden period in the past, when everything was better than nowadays - people were kinder, more reliable, more efficient, more honest etc etc. You would actively like to go back to that period and leave all the deficiencies of the present day behind.

Then there's nostalgia meaning the belief that standards used to be higher, people took more of a pride in what they did, whereas now the bare minimum will do and sloppiness and mediocrity are rampant. Journalism has degenerated into tittle-tattle, bad grammar goes uncorrected, letters from businesses make no sense, and so on.

Well, I've never believed in a golden period. Whatever years you look at, there are plenty of failings along with the benefits. In the 1960s for example, often seen as a glorious decade, yes, you had high salaries, cheap housing and free university tuition, but you also had homophobia, much more racism, and until 1967 abortion was illegal.

But the problems of previous eras tend to be conveniently forgotten while the problems of the present are all too evident and emphasised day after day by the media, often blown up out of all proportion.

As for slipping standards, well, they are and they aren't. Yes, standards of some things like letter-writing, journalism and degree courses may have declined, but what about the coronavirus vaccines, or complex medical treatment, or computer software, or the increasing reliability of cars? No diminishing standards there.

Personally I've no desire to turn the clock back. I think I'll stay right here with the internet and all its little miracles. So thanks but no thanks.