Monday, 28 April 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 3

I am aware, trust me, of how ridiculous all this looks. Other people's impotent rage is a comedy staple. Think of Basil Fawlty thrashing his Mini, Oliver Hardy doing his nut... And now here's me fuming at, of all things, my shorts! Then there's the hose at the nursery, somehow independently wrapping itself around things that were no where near it, and my bike, neatly propped up, then somehow, as I walk away from it, falling over. Almost none of the technology I use works properly. As I mentioned before my VAIO laptop has self-destructed, my portable Roberts DAB radio won't work on its batteries (this is the second one. I sent the original back but it's happened again. On both occasions the fault followed a fall off the shelf onto he floor. 'Ah well...' you say, but a portable radio should be able to suffer the odd knock without packing up). My car's electronics, as I think I mentioned before, are behaving randomly. It's over ten years old now but the main problem is the stereo which is designed to revert to a preset volume when you switch it off. The ventilation likewise goes to a preset when you start the car - not the level you had it at last time you used the car. The result is that when you start the car the vents drown out the music. Brilliant. Now this seems just one of those things until you think that somebody somewhere was paid to set the car up this way. It's not an inescapable consequence of the physics. Somebody has actively thought 'Wow! What a cool new feature!' As a result I have to conform to someone else's idiotic idea of what is 'cool' when I start my car, each time resetting it to what I, the customer, wants. Whatever happened to customer choice? Because of this no doubt totally cool bit of tech - with the volume being able to turn itself down without the knob turning - now when it becomes faulty (because of its age) adjusting the volume becomes a precision procedure. If you turn it up too quickly it goes down to inaudible so you have to really concentrate, turning it up tiny notch by tiny notch, which means you either have to stop the car or not concentrate on the road.
Of course you can argue that it was my choice to buy this car, and further that if I'd worked harder, longer hours and done more research I could have afforded a better car. Of course it's my fault. It's always my fault. And yet it's not. A simple old-fashioned dial volume control would do the job perfectly, and when the car starts to deteriorate (as it inevitably will) it will still work, because it's nice simple bit of tech. But the tekkies don't want that - it has to be new and sophisticated, and the possibility that it might not work doesn't occur to them. Modern designers seem to work on the assumption that their creations will be operating under optimum conditions all the time and not need repairing. Either that or, shock horror, they like to make them so they fail quite quickly so the consumer goes out and buys more of them and they make more money. The number of kettles, toasters and DVD players we've got through in this house... the waste...

I'm aware that most people don't get so outraged about such things, or if they do they don't make their outrage so public and most of them don't seek to justify their anger rationally. Why do I feel I have to explain? Most people seem to feel quite entitled to complain, or else they just let it go, put it down to experience. Shit happens. Life's not fair. I on the other hand don't feel entitled to complain but I can't just let it go. I'm not allowed to complain because after all, it is at some level my fault (I bought it. Better products exist. If I'd read up, worked harder etc etc) I only have myself to blame. At the same time I also know there are people producing crap goods. This is not a paranoid fiction. Modern capitalism, as I have argued at some length elsewhere encourages manufacturers to cut corners and generally make goods as shoddy as they can get away with. The world is set up for novelty and waste because that's how profits are maximised. Conscientious responsible manufacturers will sooner or later be bought out or forced out of business by larger corporations because they are less profitable. We've been though all this. Stupid design is everywhere. Products are clearly not properly tested. My dad hated bad design too. I remember him one day with me in Woolworths, pulling the bristles out of some kids' paint brushes. I was mortified at the time but like me he simply couldn't see why anybody should get away with selling things that were going to fall apart almost immediately. It infuriated him, and it infuriates me. He didn't want kids to get them home and be disappointed so he did it to show people how crap the products were. He didn't want Woolworths to get away with it, and I feel the same way. I can't bring myself to say 'Oh well - it was only cheap. Shit happens. Life's not fair' because why should I? Why should they get away with it? The car stereo and the paint brushes are trivial examples but part of a larger economy that is filling the world with crap and making a few people incredibly rich. I can't think of a less trivial thing to get riled about.

And yet. There's the bike and the hose. They're not badly designed (some sort of hand brake on the front wheel of a bike would be a good thing though - to stop the wheel swivelling around, making it easier to prop up and also as a security measure - patent anyone?) but I still am furious with them, and at my body which overheats easily and the amount I sweat when I am trying to get things done and how it makes me itch, and at the flies that come and hover in front of my eyes, and at the rain that means I end up as wet in a waterproof as I would be without one. And at the branch that whips back and smartly smacks me in the face. And at the slugs and the caterpillars - I hate their moronic single mindedness - destroying my things. All these things are beyond anyone's control and yet a bad day will see me raving at them as if they were malicious beings intent on making me look stupid and making my life as hard as possible. I can feel them enjoying my useless fury, cackling as they wind me up or else looking at me in moronic disbelief ('What's he so upset about?') as I tread piles of the little snot-beings into the gravel or, like the other day, flush as many as I can find into the septic tank accompanied by a generous dose of toilet cleaner. (Nya-ha-har!) I can see exactly where the old animistic beliefs came from - I can see exactly. I don't believe it of course, not really, and yet... I sort of do.

I guess everybody has a few of these things that really piss them off but I feel like I have too many. Somehow it seems personal. My life is easy by most people's standards, certainly by the standards of many other parts of the world. (I saw the recent film Captain Phillips over the weekend. Watching the Somali pirates in their little motor boat trying to get their ladder hooked onto a seven storey, speeding, swerving container ship it occurred to me how incredibly desperate, how completely and utterly without choice, a person would have to be to try to do that. But anyway... I digress.) And yet when these moments come when things don't go according to plan, and especially if I am tired and/or hungry, it feels like everything is against me. Sometimes it is partly true - like in the case of the technology and the politics above but sometimes, as in the case of the bike and the humidity and the slugs it is not. It really is just how things are. Nothing's perfect. Things go wrong, and some tekkies are no doubt doing their best despite the overwhelming pressures of business. In some ways it doesn't matter though - whether there is a grain of truth in my complaint or not. The feeling is there anyway. They're trying to make me look stupid - trying to prevent me doing things - arbitrarily stopping me, because... why? because it's fun, because they're stupid and narrow minded, because they want to put me in my place, and because they can. Because I'm on my own and they are together and they can do what they like. They do things the normal way and I'm the one with all the weird ideas. There is no excuse. I can't justify my complaints, because I didn't get up as early as I could have, I didn't prepare for every eventuality, I didn't work every single hour God sends. It is therefore always, somehow, my fault. I should just stop whinging and get on with it. That's life.

No doubt my family were trying to teach me that you can't just blame other people when things don't go your way. You have to take some responsibility. I'm sure that's what they'd say, and quite right too. And yet somehow I seem to have taken from this lesson that it's always somehow my fault and I can't blame anyone or anything else at all, ever. 'A bad workman always blames his tools' said dad, ergo, there is no such thing as a bad tool. You just follow the instructions, do as you're told, and there is no excuse for getting it wrong. 'Everyone else can do it - what's wrong with you?' I have a very clear memory of going with my dad to buy a 90cc Honda off one of his workmates. I wasn't keen but I needed a vehicle to get to work. It was outside some lock-ups somewhere. They showed me how to start it then he and his work mate chatted while I got the hang of it. I'd put it in first and turn the handle but each time it roared off and fell over leaving me standing. I remember so well those looks of disdain and exasperation as they tried to ignore me, and me with my frustration and shame. We bought the thing anyway and I discovered that in fact you really only use first for hill starts because it's far too fierce. Normally you start in second.

I'm not saying that sort of thing happened all the time but it seems sort of typical - a good illustration. No doubt that lesson - 'you can't just blame other people when things don't go your way' would have been a good one for some other kids I knew to learn but I wasn't really like that. My parents made very sure I wasn't 'spoilt'. Somehow though, it felt like things were against me and that somehow it was because of something I'd done, and that they were all looking on, infuriated, contemptuous or amused as I struggled. There was furthermore no point trying to work it out. It was too complicated. That's why I kept my own company, because at least then, with only my imagination and a few simple materials, I knew I could do stuff. Somehow though I'm still carrying them around, even when I'm alone. It's as if they're still there, watching, judging, not helping. I know what they'd say as I'm late again, struggling with the hose, trying to get the nursery watered, and I am furious with myself and with them equally, and I take it out on the hose, which is no doubt very funny to watch. I can't think properly and I bang my head or my elbows and trip over things and I want to cry and I want to destroy everything. Bastard shits. I hate them all so much. It's not funny.

Where did all this crap come from? What's the reason for it?
Because one thing I do believe is that these things always come from somewhere. People like to talk about souls and spirits or they say 'I don't know where he gets it. He's just like that' but that's a cop-out. Essentialism I think it's called. These things come from somewhere. I'm not interested in just blaming someone but I do want to know how I came to be like this, and then maybe somehow, try to change it.

to be continued...

Monday, 21 April 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 2

So take this morning...

By the way, I know this is almost certainly of no interest to anyone else. It's more for my benefit really, having come to this point, after, what is it? (51-18 = 33 years) of thinking I think it's time to get it all down, as much as possible, in one place.
Why put it somewhere where anyone can read it? Because I don't want to just ramble on self-indulgently. I want it to be readable. I am however under no illusions about how many people read this blog... If you do come across these entries - seriously - I can't recommend them.

So this morning - Easter Monday. I have two things I could do. I could go down the nursery - yesterday was mostly rained off and I got very little done. Lots of things need repotting. Alternatively, since I seem to be on a bit of a roll , I could do some writing, which I really want to do.
Guess which one I've gone for.

Nevertheless I'm giving myself a hard time, even as I write this. How can I describe it? Tearful is one thing. I have that feeling you get just before you burst into tears, although I doubt I'll cry. If anything goes at all wrong I'll feel the fury welling up. Silly things - the flap covering fly of my shorts caught on the knob of a drawer in the kitchen while I was trying to make breakfast. These shorts are the sort of canvas military style shorts and seem to be made of nothing but pleats and flaps and loops and they to catch on everything, especially when I'm in a hurry, and especially at the nursery. They really piss me off. What would happen, I think, if soldiers were forever hooking their shorts on obstacles while in the middle of a battle? They'd be outlawed immediately. But presumably they don't, so what is wrong with these shorts? Obviously there's something wrong with the design. Someone, no doubt better paid than I am, has gone to the trouble of designing these shorts without thinking about how they might work in real life, or, worse, he's considered only that they might be worn whilst posing about in the street. The idea that someone might actually try to do some actual manual work in them won't have occurred to him because all he does all day is sit at his desk and sip skinni lattes. I hate him.

But of course I don't really, because I know really that it is all my fault. It's me I hate. I bought the bloody shorts. If I'd worked harder, longer, I could have afforded better shorts. If I'd thought about it more I'd have got a more practical design. And if I'd got up earlier I wouldn't be rushing around and I wouldn't be so clumsy. If I was better organised none of this would happen. I blame him - this hypothetical 'designer' because the alternative is to blame myself - for everything. It's him or me and I can't bear for everything to be all my fault.

I keep hitting the wrong keys here. Why do they make keyboards with such tiny keys so close together? Do the designers imagine that all people have tiny mincing fingers? Again - it hasn't occurred to them that some people - men for example, who do manual labour have broad finger tips. I especially hate the caps lock key which I often hit when I go for the A and becaUSE i CAN'T TOUCH TYPE THERE'S OFTEN A WHOLE LINE IN CAPITALS BEFORE i NOTICE. Wouldn't it be good if you could highlight the offending line, and click 'de-capitalise' instead of having to delete and rewrite. It would be one small concession to us broad (not 'fat'!) fingered folk.
But I'm rushing this - trying to get it over with because I really haven't made a decision. I still think, if I get this done quickly enough I can still go down the nursery and do some potting-on. I'm rushing it and making mistakes. Can't other people get things done quickly and efficiently? More speed, less haste? It's my fault again. It always is - somehow.

A sensible person would look at this and say, well why not do both? Set aside some time this morning for writing and go down the nursery this afternoon (it's 12:08 as i write this) for a few hours. I could stop now and finish it later. Why can't I think like that?
I was thinking about this yesterday. The first thing is that it just feels like a muddle. I can see the tasks - nursery, writing, plus a little job I have promised Emma I'll do sticking a bathroom tile back, washing up and breakfast. Washing up I always do. I don't mind it. I find it very 'grounding' as the hippies say, in the morning. Breakfast - I need a proper cooked breakfast or I get hungry mid morning - not fried (usually) but boiled or scrambled eggs do the job. Porridge goes nowhere. I had chilli beans and scambled eggs on toast this morning. I'd recommend it but it's not exactly instant. I fired up the old PC (my new laptop has let me down - you can imagine my response to that!) to check my emails and decided (is that the word? I did it anyway) to update my free AVG. That was reasonably straightforward, thankfully. But I still haven't decided which to do - the nursery or the writing. I woke up at about eight as usual. I began thinking it would be good to go to the nursery as the weather is fine today, and how much I enjoyed the writing yesterday. I could do either. I could do both. I can't decide.

I don't know how normal this is but thinking back to being a kid I don't really think I actively, consciously decided anything. I just don't remember having the mental wherewithal to do that. It wouldn't have occurred to me to try. Mum said 'I wish you'd be more responsible but I honestly had no idea what that meant in practice. I knew, broadly, what 'responsible' meant, but in terms of how my day-to-day life worked - I wouldn't have known where to start. Talking to children now - I have two step kids - both now teenagers and much better company, but thinking back, trying to talk to little children, I honestly have no idea how much they really understand of what we tell them - especially the more abstract notions like 'careful', 'tidy', 'sensible', 'considerate', 'organised' or 'responsible'. I was actually a very well behaved child - never rowdy or aggressive or rude (or not deliberately) but I really had no idea how to modify my behaviour if someone told me I should, and they did. Some kids are said to be very conscientious from an early age - very clear about how their life will go and about how to get things done. They seem to have a very adult way of working things out but I wonder... Maybe they're just well-trained, or maybe their training just isn't at odds with what they want to do. I think that's the big problem. My training - what my parents thought I should do and tried over and over to get me to do was completely at odds with how I wanted to be.
And today, I want to write and I should go down the nursery (and fix the bathroom tile) and I honestly don't know what to do. I try to think it through rationally and it's a blank. I can't think how long they will take, or anything else about organising it. It's just a pale grey blur in my line of vision, so I do what's in front of me and feel guilty about not doing the other thing, still thinking I might do it if I get this finished in time, but then time moves on and it's getting to be too late. Not yet it's not, but I want to finish this now so it might be too late quite soon, and my adrenaline levels will climb and I'll be more and more tearful/furious and God help us if something goes wrong.

Two voices then - what I said yesterday about my child, wanting to just do what it wants to do (this) and my parents, trying to get me to do what has to be done. Just that phrase - 'doing what has to be done' is enough to bring up all the drudgery, the bustling about, the tutting and the rolled eyes, the no-nonsense business-like male and the frantic control-freak female, the dreary money-worried, over-worked, self-sacrificing parent that I never wanted to be and which I still will have nothing to do with. I hear Emma enter the kitchen and sigh and it all comes back to me. I've not done what I should, or not soon enough. My chest tightens and I feel the tears between my eyes. My child is not prepared to even take one step toward that way of being for fear of getting sucked in, because once you start thinking that way, there is always more to think about, and never enough time or money and you can never get out. You might think (for instance) that getting a car will solve a problem about finding work but then the car will become a problem and you'll have to work longer hours to afford it. Better to keep life small and uncomplicated - spontaneous, serendipitous, self-contained, free.

I've still not really worked out how to mediate between them - the parents and the child. I'm aware that there is this 'adult' here - looking on, as they battle it out. In my good times, as I described before, I am more able to think ahead, but also more confident to let things happen. I love those times but they are always passing.

to be continued...

Sunday, 20 April 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 1

I've been wanting to write this for a very long time. I always seem to get bogged down somehow - in disclaimers and excuses. 

I've really struggled with my life. I know it's not been the sort of terrible ordeal many go through, but it's been, I think, unnecessarily hard. (I can already here people muttering 'stop whingeing. Just get on with it' but I shall ignore them, for now.) As I heard someone say recently on the telly when asked if he was ok - 'I have no good reason to feel bad.' The asker was reassured, taking this to mean that he didn't feel bad, but of course he did. He just didn't feel he had any good reason to feel that way and therefore shouldn't complain. It's what I've come to call 'giving myself a hard time for having a hard time.' I guess it's what other people call 'depression'.

This morning I planned to deliver a plant to someone in Brighton. It's not something I normally do but a customer rang up wanting to send someone a present for Easter and I thought why not? I told them I'd be there for 11am on the Sunday, before going to the nursery. 
Anyway, I did what I usually do and got side-tracked looking through a seed catalogue, which is, yes, for the nursery, but could have been done some other time. It's a huge list and I started at about 8.30 I guess and time was getting on and I knew I should be getting ready to go but somehow I just didn't seem to be able to stop. Then I discovered that I'd left my bag (with my card in it) at the nursery so I couldn't pay for my seed order. I was completely furious with myself - called myself all sorts of stupid - crashing about, looking for this sodding bag. Anyway I found I could order without giving my card details (I'm not sure yet how that's going to work) and I actually closed the PC down at about ten to eleven and got dressed (I was still in my PJs) I had to wash up (there wasn't that much) and needed something to eat. I didn't get to Brighton until 11.30 or so and the recipient was overjoyed and hadn't been expecting it. I made a fuss of her little dog (a really sweet wire-haired terrier) and went home and made myself some 'breakfast'. 

The point here is the way I beat myself up (almost literally) for being late. Today was a middling sort of example. Other times, most mornings, things go reasonably smoothly and I get out the door just feeling stressed. Some times though something goes really wrong and I can end up hurting myself or breaking something. At such times I simply hate myself and/or the world so much that I just want to destroy something. I should say that to date I've not damaged anything important, or anyone, and that it usually happens when no one else is around, but my wife has seen enough of it for it to have upset our marriage. As a result I've done a lot of work on it this last 18 months or so - getting some CBT and taking anti-depressants and it now happens a lot less often and generally less violently than it used to. 
At one point I was having a bad day about one morning a week - usually a Friday - my day off. Oddly, if I have an important appointment I can generally get there on time as much as anyone else. It's when I know the arrangement is somewhat flexible that I have trouble, or even when it is just me that has set the date and nobody else gives a toss whether I turn up or not - such as with getting down the nursery at weekends (which is when I do most of my work there) Even when I have nobody to please but myself I have this nagging in my head that I should be getting on. I should get down there earlier. That nagging is laced with so much irritation, such impatience, such contempt - it's why I come to hate myself so much at these times, and why I feel like hurting myself - as a punishment. 
So - why can't I just get organised and get up earlier and get moving and be down there at a reasonable hour? Surely I'd be happier. This is the problem. I don't want to give in to it. When I was very young I remember very clearly not wanting to be like my parents, always bustling about, tutting, worrying about the time, the money, what the boss would say. My mum trying to think through everything in advance - everything that might go wrong, so she could be prepared, trying to get me to get myself ready for school in the morning, and my dad, after a long week at work down the power station, trying to fill every unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, forever telling me 'jaldi-jaldi', 'tout suite', and 'whistle and ride, whistle and ride' because I was a preoccupied and dreamy boy always with something more interesting going on in my head. Later on they and other relatives tried to get me to take life more seriously - to be more disciplined, to think of the money, to do as I was told and to put up with it. I was nagged over my homework and my revision and then over my job-hunting and always at every opportunity I would escape into my thoughts and imagination. I just couldn't face the alternative. 
If they'd been happy and fulfilled with the life they advocated perhaps they might have got through to me but they weren't. They just weren't a very encouraging example. I remember thinking from a very early age that if that was what life was about then I couldn't see how it was worth living. I knew that I had to do something different. I had no idea what - there were no other role models available - no mentors of any kind. I couldn't imagine what it would take to be different. I only knew what not to do.

So I've got this split in my thinking. When something needs doing I have my parents going on and on at me, and my child somehow just blocking it out, carrying on with what he's doing, even though he's feeling more and more nagged and getting more and more stressed. He's not consciously refusing. I was never actually naughty - in my family there would have been no point. My 'resistance' was passive, distracted, absent. I'm sure I drove them nuts. The more they went on at me the more I just sort of zoned out. I was upset, certainly, but it did not occur to me to change it. It didn't occur to me that it could be changed. I just wanted to go back to being on my own and getting on with what I was doing. And this is how I still am. Every morning, to a lesser or greater degree. I do it to myself now.

Psychology gets short shrift, I know, from many right-minded people. The two great ideologies (arguably) of the 20th Century - Marxism and Freudianism tell us on the one hand that we can blame society for our woes, and on the other that we can blame our parents. Modern science tells us we can blame our genes. Christianity, Existentialism and Capitalism tell us we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have free will. There is no excuse. 
But it's not about blame. It's about explaining. Whatever problems I've had, for some reason (and I've no idea where I get this) I have always tried to think it out - 'Why am I like this?' 'Where do I get that?' 'How does it work?' But the point of course is not just to describe the world, but to change it. Many seem to presume that it is futile but that doesn't seem likely to me. To use the kind of metaphor my dad would have liked - if there are smoke and grinding noises coming from under the bonnet it makes sense to stop and have a look - not just drive on and hope it goes away. But it's a devious contraption - the mind. 
I've tried asking other people - because they seem to get on with life better somehow - maybe they know something I don't, but most people seem very wary of the idea of talking about these things - as if that might make it worse - as if it's the thinking about it that causes the trouble in the first place, but trust me - it's the feeling that comes first. The thoughts are an attempt to deal with the feeling, and the feeling is there whether I think about it or not. 
Some might accuse me of 'dwelling' - thinking that perhaps deep down I like being this way but I can tell you here and now that when I do have good spells - and I do - I love them so much. I get so much done. My mind is clear and creative. I am confident and positive and when it passes and I can feel myself going back, it's the most miserable thing. No - I really don't 'dwell' on my misery for pleasure. 
I think the people who say these things (that I should just stop complaining and pull myself together, that thinking about it will only make matters worse, and that, in fact I actually really like being unhappy) really don't know what it's like. Of course it's subjective but it seems to me that if you can solve your problems simply by pulling yourself together then you really haven't had much of a problem. Real physical problems, that you can do something practical about are a different sort of problem anyway, and I'm actually quite good in a crisis because there's usually only so many things you can do. A genuine and well defined trauma is different too. I don't wish bereavement, crime, sickness or war on anyone, but I suspect the resulting trauma is a different thing to this depression/anxiety I'm talking about, not least because people can relate and they take it seriously. In this part of the world at least, the kinds of oppression and shame suffered by homosexuals and other minorities at least have support from other members of their group although that is a relatively new thing. 
But no. This is different. It's this 'no good reason to feel bad' that is the thing and so perplexing. And no, it's not just a First World problem - not just a matter of us having too much time on our hands - the 'worried well'. Certainly if I was starving I'd not have much time to think about my mind but it's also true that if I'd just had my legs blown off my allergies might seem like a low priority. That doesn't mean we shouldn't treat people for allergies.

Blame is an issue of course. I don't think we should necessarily not blame parents or society (or even the genes) if they are genuinely at fault. There's a weird paradox. I hear pundits say we live in a society that blames the parents for everything, taking no responsibility for ourselves, but then I hear mothers in particular say 'well of course you can't just blame the parents'. 
Parenting is hard - I'm well aware. It's why I chose not to be one. Among the many things my parents and their friends worried about were their kids. They all had them but none of them seemed to be getting anything much out of it. The kids screamed and sulked and the parents were exasperated and impatient and seemed to want to get away from them as early in the evening as possible. Again I asked myself 'what's the point?' On top of everything it was to support them that all these adults had to hold down the dreary jobs and do those long hours - that and the mortgage and the marriage that went with it. I didn't want any of it and I can remember arguing this - to everybody's irritation, when I was 12. It just seemed obvious. Of course now I know this was the late 60s and early 70s and dropping-out of the rat-race was in the air. I suppose I picked up on it, but it seems to have stuck with me in a way it didn't with most of my peers who kowtowed pretty well when it came down to it and they got a wife and a mortgage and some sproggs of their own. I just couldn't bear to go along with it. I couldn't bear to be so weak, so submissive, so mediocre. I guess I must have held my dad in some regard because I was so disgusted by the way he scurried about and did as he was told. I just sort of wouldn't. Without making a deliberate, overt, or even conscious stand, I just wouldn't, or couldn't. I'm not sure which. Probably both. They seem inextricable. 
Somehow all that bustling about - worrying about time and money and sticking to a routine and doing things in a set way, seemed degrading, like I was being colonised by a foreign power. I know now also that that was the end of an era, as well as the beginning of one, and my parents were of the previous generation. I can't blame them for that, obviously. It's hard to put ourselves back there now but I was right on the cusp and I wonder if any generation since has felt the power of Parental Disappointment the way we did. The rift is quite unimaginable now. Adults I meet now are much more like their kids than like their parents. They just don't have that deference - that sense of their place in the world. Perhaps that's a shame. I wish some people were better at putting up with things now - instead of this waste and impatience we see today. In the face of environmental cataclysm, it would be good if we learned some humility and self-control. But I wouldn't want to go back to the 50s. 
So much judgement and disapproval, and not just imposed from on high - we did it to ourselves, we working class - sneering and tutting at anything that indicated that a person might not be pulling their weight or be getting above themselves. Simply doing something differently was taken to mean they thought they knew better than everyone else and needed to be taken down a peg or two. The fact that I spent my childhood, for preference, in my room, drawing and reading and writing and collecting things was a cause for suspicion where now I suspect a parent would tell everyone I was 'gifted' and going to be an artist or a writer, or an ecologist. Back then the options were far fewer and our place was to fit into the opportunities available - factory or shop, office if you were lucky, manual labour if you were not. Policeman, fireman or nurse. The forces. That was about it. I didn't want to do any of those things but I had no idea what else a person might do. Artists and writers and ecologists might as well have been mythical beings for all I knew. 
But they were scared - of course they were, my parents and their generation. I've written about this before. (Sorry if I repeat myself.) They'd lived through the war and the aftermath and life was all about security and safety and you couldn't afford to take chances. I know that and I don't blame them - of course I don't.

to be continued...