Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Historical Lessons

I am a proud Welshman. I have lived in Wales for most of my life (apart from a brief spell in London when I got a first job). I love Wales. It has friendly people (for the most part), astonishing scenery and an abundance of beaches that attract people from everywhere during the summer months. Unfortunately, it is also governed by overly-paternalistic fuckwits at both Government and Local level who have a strong desire to micro-manage every minutiae of our personal lives that they can get away with. The latest wheeze on the part of these fuckwits is to give the vote to 16 & 17 year olds. This because the fuckwits in question are Labour politicians and they seem to be of the belief that the young will vote for them in their droves. I think that will backfire badly on them.

In my experience, young people cannot be arsed to cast a vote even way past their 18th birthday as politics do not register as being important in their lives. Besides, what world experience does a 16/17 year old actually have. They can only marry prior to 18 with their parents consent. They can join the armed forces at 16 (with parental consent) but cannot be sent to the frontline to fight. They are banned from buying knives, glue, alcohol, cigarettes and even over-the-counter drugs because they are not considered responsible enough. Despite this, the Labour Government think they are responsible enough to vote, even though those same politicians want to deny them the right of buying or doing any of the items I just mentioned above, and more.

If these people are constantly trying introduce ever more restrictions on adults (and they are), then just think about what they have already banned kids from doing. 

I did exactly that. The whole announcement of giving the vote to 16/17 year olds has led me think back to when I was a kid growing up during the 1960’s/70’s. What I could do as a kid that is denied to today's youth.

What was different ?

We were much freer. I can remember as a kid owning several air-rifles and pistols (it was not illegal). I also owned two (sport) longbows and arrows and 3 javelins (I was a very keen athlete). As I enjoyed angling, I was also the owner of several different types of knives. In fact, it was common for me to be carrying at least one knife even when I wasn’t fishing. A knife was useful for all kinds of things such as cutting/whittling wood for whatever I was making for myself to play with. Of course, as with all kids, I was regularly involved in dust-ups as disagreements with friends/foes broke out. They carried knives too, but none of us would ever have dreamed of using a knife in a fight. Nope, for us, the way to settle a disagreement was with our fists. If you resorted to threats with a knife then you were considered a complete wimp and shunned.

Another thing I regularly did was to go down the shop to buy cigarettes. Not for myself or my parents (both my parents were life-long non-smokers), but for my grandfather or grandmother. The shop assistant, whether at a small corner-shop or a fledgling supermarket (supermarkets in those days were tiny premises) would not bat an eyelid. Most enclosed public spaces (like pubs. clubs, cinemas, snooker halls etc) were fug-filled places that was like walking into a fog-bank. But it never harmed me.

There were enormous mountains of spoil heaps at one end of the village and we regularly 'sledged' down those spoil heaps on old pieces of rusty, corrugated iron sheets. We would inevitably have a few mishaps along the way, resulting in a few cuts and bruises, but no real harm came to us (though a few of the more unfortunate did sometimes end up in the river at the foot of the spoil-heaps).

In the school holidays (and most weekends) I would be off out of the house before 9am on my push-bike, never to be seen again until the sun was setting. We would often be many miles from home by midday. Something else we often did was to cycle (or push) to the top of the nearby mountain, spend a few hours up there, then race back down on the mountain road, often reaching speeds of 50-60mph on the steep slope, overtaking cars, vans and even lorries on the way down.

We bought sugar-laden sweets in bags that were a mixture of the contents of massive jars behind the counter at the sweet shop. Some of those sweets were sugar laden cigarette look-alikes, replete with similar cigarette style box packaging. We’d have great fun with those in the winter months putting them in our lips and blowing huge plumes of steam in the cold air pretending we were smoking. But despite this, I never once was tempted to smoke an actual cigarette throughout my childhood. Granted, some kids did, but most of us did not.

I still recall going with my father to watch him playing rugby, entering the smoke-filled rugby club before the match. Sitting down with him the same smoke-filled rooms after the match while he enjoyed a pint and I had my glass of (full fat) coca-cola. Hell, I can even remember watching some of the players having a smoke on the rugby field at half-time.

Most days, the Corona Pop lorry would come through the village where we lived, selling the pop in bottles from the back of the lorry. I would always go around the village later in the day with my mates collecting the empty bottles to return to the Corona lorry the next day because we used to get money for returning the bottles.

.... and Yes. I still have all my own teeth !!

I could walk into any ironmonger and buy sharp tools like screwdrivers or wood-chisels, even knives and scissors. Hell, my father often used to send me up across to the ironmonger with a 1 gallon can to buy paraffin for the paraffin heater we used during the winter months.
I can even remember, along with several of my mates, going to a petrol station and filling a 1 gallon can with some 4-star (leaded) petrol, then heading off up the mountain to some ruins with a load of (glass) milk bottles and rags and we made petrol bombs with them. We did not cause any problems with these explosive devices, just chucked them against some old stone walls and watched them burn. Health & safety would have a fit at such a sight today.
Speaking of which, we could also purchase fireworks. Proper fireworks, not the watered down two-sparks-and-a-meek-bang ones you get these days. I could not imagine Health & Safety ever allowing such a device as a Jumping-Jack firework (which did exactly what you would expect from the name) to be sold these days. On November 5th, we’d have a massive (usually at least 20ft tall) bonfire on the common and let off fireworks. Not an adult to be seen. None of us ever came to any harm.

As I reached my latter teenage years, I became interested in cars and motorbikes - the majority of which (in the 1970's) were veritable deathtraps. Seat-belts were not law in those days. Most cars did have seat-belts, at least in the front, but plenty were on the roads that had no seat-belts whatsoever. I learnt to drive without ever wearing a selt-belt. I even took my driving test without wearing a seat belt. It was several years after I had passed my driving test that wearing seat-belts became law. By that time, most cars also had rear seat-belts and a few years later it became law to wear those too. The first time I ever rode a motorbike, crash helmets were not required, though those did become law before I took my motorbike-driving test.

But even with all that life experience and freedom, which kids these days do not have, we would not have known or cared who to vote for. I was in my early twenties before I first voted, by which time I was working and had a more realistic view of the world.

We thought we had no world experience upon which to choose to vote in those days, that fact has not suddenly changed. But if Labour think giving the vote to 16/17 year olds will give them a sudden leap in support, they are sadly mistaken. Besides, Labour have already lied to the young once when they pledged to annul all student debt, only to then admit after the last election they couldn’t do it. Most will not forget that lie. But then again, there are still plenty of terminally thick people even amongst the young.

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