Let’s Back It Up!

Yep that’s what I’d do, I’d back it all up – back to the days of my youth!  The world has changed so much during my lifetime that it is difficult to know what the latest fashion is now.  They come they go, and by the time I begin to catch on everything has changed again.  I took my watch in to get a new wrist strap.  It’s one I picked up recently for $45 in Nassau; it was the spring of 1988 actually.  It’s quite the latest thing – good to 100 metres underwater.  (Well, you never know when you might fall out of the boat, do you?)  The fellow behind the counter at Sears stared at it, then looked up at me.  “That’s a real vintage watch you have there!”  It is??? I thought it was quite modern.  As it was he had no strap long enough for my wrist, so the watch went back into the drawer.  After that incident, I started to pay attention to other people’s watches.  Most of them, especially girls’ watches, had faces twice the size of mine.  Strange, eh, the watches that are limited in what they can do get doubled in size while computers that can do everything get cut down to a minimum.  Another fashion had changed, and I hadn’t even noticed!

Hmm!  It took me back to my first encounter with fashion.  That would be when I was 16.  I had just started to work at the old Great Western Railway Co in the Chief Accountant’s Office at Paddington Station, London – at a very low level.  The war had been over about three years, so you no longer needed ration coupons to buy clothes.  I decided to buy a new pair of pants.  Well no matter where I looked the stores had nothing my size, so I had to have a pair of worsted flannel pants made to measure!  The tailor asked me if I “dress to the left or to the right”, but that went right over the top of my young head.  I told him that when I put my “trousers” on I face the front, and he just smiled. Funny, I never did understand why he asked me that!  The cost almost did me in. I only earned one pound a week then, and that pair of pants cost me a week’s pay.  After that, I stopped looking in store windows at the latest fashions.  From that day forth, what I wore was always a question of, “Do you have anything in my size?” and then waiting for the inevitable, “Sorry, sir!”  You could say I have a limited wardrobe.

Then there were the changes in hemlines; not that I wear skirts myself, mind you!  First, there were long skirts down to the ankles which did nothing for my imagination, and then there were miniskirts which I secretly hoped were here to stay – but they weren’t!  Men started wearing shorts down over their knees or dungaree pants loaded with bulging pockets down to their ankles.  I was feeling more out of place, year after year.  They all laughed at my short shorts, but Tilly restored my dignity by recently selling me short, short ones, albeit at a high price.  There’s much less material in my new shorts, but for some reason they cost more.

And then there were hairstyles! I spent the first fifteen years of my life completely unaware of any hairstyle other than “short back and sides”, which my mother taught me.  “Don’t forget to tell the barber, short back and sides!”  Haircuts cost sixpence then, but that was a lot of money in those days.  One day in 1949, at Paddington Station during my lunch hour, I found a “hairdresser” salon on the platform. Although you had to go down a few steps to get into it, it was obviously a step up from the barber shop of old!  At age seventeen I decided to try it.  I came out thirty shillings later, my gross pay for the next week and a half gone – along with most of my hair! That was my last visit to a fashionable hairdresser.  I went back to short back and sides, which was okay because two years later I was drafted into the Armed Forces and they cut it ALL off for nothing.  Three barbers: one ran the clippers up the back and sides, one did the top, and the third tidied up what was left.  I didn’t need a brush or comb all the way through basic training. In the ’60s, a civilian again, I adopted sideburns, but unfortunately it was just as they were going out of style.  More changes came in the seventies and eighties when barbers started to ask me if I wanted my hair layered or tapered, hair over the ears or under, or my eyebrows trimmed.  I gave up! I’d just say, “Same as last time, and hold all that powder and perfume too, if you don’t mind; it makes me sneeze!”

And then there were the changes in music.  Just when I was getting comfortable with the modern music of Joe Loss etc. things changed.  I immigrated to Canada just ahead of the Beatles.  Elvis was on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Rock and Roll Revolution was on.  Again, my world was turned upside down as I tried to stay loyal to the fifties music, but the new Rock rolled right over me, and my kids spoke a language “that the strangers do not know”.  Short hair and Joe Loss were out; long hair, the Beatles and Elvis were in.  These were topsy-turvy years, with me in one camp and my kids in the other.

All of this turmoil was further complicated by my British background.  As one Canadian said, talking to another Canadian at my side, “Gerry’s from England.  You can always tell an Englishman, but you can’t tell ‘em much!”  Well the truth hurts, as they say, and once again I longed for the old days of my youth when there wasn’t so much diversity and someone else did all the worrying for me.

The changes in what people eat was another major upset.  I went from the simple wartime diet of minimum choices to what eventually became a smorgasbord of international foods.  For years, I tried to adapt.  First, it was to military food in Aldershot, and then to German food because I was stationed in Hamburg.  Then in Quebec it was French food, and Italian food when I visited my sister in Brooklyn.  Later came the health food craze, and eating eggs and bacon for breakfast was suddenly “out”!  Next came the exotic foods from the Far East.  My old favourites became more and more difficult to find. Hard-iced Christmas cake with marzipan disappeared altogether, and mince pies were now an anachronism.  Oh, to be young again!

So, what to do?  How should we old-timers cope with a world that just doesn’t turn steadily on its axis anymore, but spins around at a dizzying rate taking us along with it?  How do we get our feet back on solid terra firma? I’m actually thinking of calling in Rehab Results myself for a personal assessment! Rehabilitation, that’s what I need!  I copied the following (out of context I have to admit) from a Wiki article on the subject, which sums up my needs:

“…rehabilitation to restore functional ability and improve quality of life and independence in individuals who have (lost it).

Well, you could say I’ve lost it! I’m not sure if the word rehabilitation means putting things back the way they used to be, which is what I really want, or whether it means reprogramming me to fit into a world that’s passing (or has already passed) me by.  I sort of hope it’s the former because I find it hard to keep up with the new world.  Anyway, come to think of it, the new world doesn’t look much better to me than the old one did, despite all its changes and improvements.  I need rehabilitating back into the world of my youth.  If they can do that, I’m ready!  If they can fix this pain in my back, get the level of men’s shorts back above the knee and let me wear my hair, my glasses and my old “policeman’s sweater” without worrying about them being out of fashion, then I want to rehabilitated.  I’ve given up on the Joe Loss music, but maybe they could do something about the disappearing Christmas cake and minced pies while they’re at it.

Rehab Results say they handle skill building and home safety!  Do you think they could help me turn the clock back?  Now, there’s a skill to end all skills; they’d be an overnight hit!  And safety? Well, roaming around the way I do with my old male-chauvinistic ideas (and comments!), my preference for English spelling over the US spelling and my plugging for the British Empire, all of this doesn’t seem to go over too well these days.  The whole situation cries out for some sort of personal safety support and protection.  Sometimes I think I’m out of step, but deep down I know it’s not me – it’s “them”!  Still, I have to admit I’m certainly swimming upstream these days.  And that reminds me … I still need to get a new strap for my underwater watch!

Gerry Wood, May 30, 2015

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