Thursday, April 18, 2013

There's a lot of battling over the meaning of the Seventies and the idea that Thatcher rescued a Britain that was in terminal decline. The book that's instrumental in setting up this dispute is of course Andy Beckett's "When The Lights Went Out", essential reading really. 

Of course I was just a kid in the Seventies and a teenager in the Eighties. My mum and dad aren't formally educated, dad left school at fourteen and became a plumber, mum at sixteen and did various bits of extra work before marriage and after my sister and I had reached the age where we didn't need to be looked after so much.

Now my parents were "aspirational" in a sense, they wanted their kids to go to University. This was a slightly ludicrous ambition for a working class family in the Seventies when it was  still the situation that many, many people could leave  school at sixteen with few or no qualifications and expect to make a living. Fewer people went into higher education than they do these days. On the other hand it was actually financially possible, as far as I recall my dad earned under he  national  average  wage all his working life and they were  certainly careful  with  money, no  car, no  foreign  holidays, they don't  drink or  smoke  (not very  working class of them eh?) so no  expenses there, no H.P. for furnishing and  white goods, not much keeping up with the Joneses. Instead they bought a house  with a garden on the outskirts of  town, saved  for their retirement and  educated their kids ( a bit of an uphill struggle in my case).

Now even by the time I got to University it  would have been virtually impossible  for someone who left school at fourteen no matter how thrifty and diligent to buy a house, retire comfortably and send their kids to tertiary education. This would be despite the bounty of North Sea oil, the wonders of myriad supply side reforms and the impending Great Moderation.

In other words I consider that I was in one sense extraordinarily lucky, that for a while a window opened and then got pretty much slammed shut. This opening was the result of several factors, some world-historical, some cultural and local but if as they say, the nation has been saved, the question is still saved from what, saved for whom?


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