Wednesday, 16 June 2010

These Times They Are A-Changing

Two things have prompted me to write this latest blog, both of them emails. The first asked me about the availability of my books as eBooks, and I felt like a real Luddite because it's not something I've looked too deeply into, and prompted me to Google myself (now there's something that could send you blind if you do it too often) and found that my books are available for download. Here's links if anyone's interested. These take you through to Waterstone's site. My US editions are available through

Dead Men's Dust

Judgement and Wrath

Slash and Burn

To be honest, I'm one of those authors who is still holding out on the paper edition of books. As a reader I love the feel, the smell, the intimacy of a good 'real' book in my hands, but I haven't been googling so often that I'm blind to the fact new technologies keep coming at us day after day, and if Ebooks are here, then they're here and I really should get a handle on them.

Anyway, that's enough of that. The next email actually reminded me as to why I'm such a Luddite, and it's possibly true of many of my readers here (not that we haven't discovered technology or we wouldn't be here having this chat). I don't claim the following words to be my own. They were on a generic circular sent to me, and I was 'told' to share it with others. So, if you want to swamp yourself in nostalgia and have a chuckle at the good old days, read on:


"And we never had a whole Mars bar until 1993"!!! CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 1940's, 50's, 60's and even early 70's.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, Subway or Nandos.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gob stoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.

We ate biscuits, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY ,

no video/dvd films,

no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms...........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time....

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays,

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet! RUGBY and FOOTBALL had try outs and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on

MERIT . Our teachers used to hit us with belts and gym . shoes.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.

They actually sided with the law!

Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade' and 'Ridge' and 'Vanilla'

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO


And YOU are one of them!


You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were. PS -The big type is because your eyes are not too good at your age after all that Googling.


Glaznost said...

And look how maladjusted you all turned out! As a mid seventies baby, i only got the tail end of most of those in my childhood, but god i miss the days when you could go out of the front door and no one could get hold of you until you wanted them to!
I tried to explain to my little girl today that when i was 8, the internet didn't exist, and video games were limited to tennis (with a 4 pixel bat that only slid up and down), and a tank game that was two blobs shooting a blob at each other.

She thought i was kidding!

Sue H said...

Kids! They don't know they're born!

Mind you, being born in the fifties, I suppose it's not surprising I turned out the way I did (nervous tics aside..) - but we were never bored ( a phrase i hear all the time now, despite the plethora of entertainments available to today's youngsters.

If we said we had nothing to do, my Dad would jokingly say: "Go and play with your slack tooth, and if you haven't got one I'll loosen one for you!" :-o

David Barber said...

I did a post recently about reading in the bath and being able to actually drop a book in the water and read it when it had dried out as opposed to an e-reader. Yes they are here but we don't all have to have them. Imagine, Joe Hunter and Rink are in a predicament and their only way out is all guns blazing. They take a breath, eyebal each other, raise their guns....and the battery dies on your e-reader. I know what I'd prefer to have in my hand, and it wouldn't need re-charging.

I had the same e-mail a while ago and it put everything into perspective about how different (and easy) kids have it today. How old do I sound, grumpy old sod I am. It gave a chuckle again though.

Great post, Matt.

Mike Wilkerson said...

Dude, I didn't know you listened to country music! What a great song by Bucky Covington- A Different World.

Yep, born in the early 70's. Made a ramp of cinder blocks and an old piece of plywood. Half the time on those old sand streets, the cinder block would slip out and you'd bust your ass, but it was the best of times.

Matt Hilton said...

God I love wallowing in nostalgia. It makes me want to take out my chopper, (oops, sorry, Sue - I'm talking about my bicycle here)sticking playing cards in the spokes and taking off from one of Mike's cinder-block ramps. I actually did that once, trying to jump a stream in our local park and still have the indentation of the cross-bar in my chin (you just can't see it for all the padding I've accrued since).
The old Chopper bike, superceded by the Grifter and then the BMX after that. Joyful memories. Mind you, I think mine was about fifteen hands passed down before I got it. Bikes before that were salvaged from bits found on dumps and stuff. Those that hadn't already been swiped to build go-karts.
I remember the day when my parents got me and my four brothers together and announced we were getting a colour television. We didn't believe them. Only rich people had them. Ours came from Tellybank and you had to put a fifty pence in a slot at the back to get a few hours TV. Pity all they seemed to show in those days was old black and white movies, but the sentiment was right. Plus, if you were agile enough with a butter knife you could make the same fifty pence coin do the same work over and over. I remember there was a lock on our phone, and only my Mam had the key. We soon figured out though, as long as the number didn't contain a zero you could still make a sneaky call. Albeit, you didn't call your friends, but crank calls for a laugh ala Bart Simpson.
Hunk Chews,Super Moose chocolate bars, Superman candy cigarettes, Scotties (in a sporan sized pack), Kung Fu's, Cresta (It's frothy man)and Texan bars (Take it easy Bald Eagle), aaah they're all coming back.
Hai Karate, was the aftershave any self-respecting male wore, or Blue Stratos if you were worth a bob or two. Being healthy meant eating Slimcea bread, or Cracker Wheats, and Black Forest Gateaux still had an 'x' at the end. Quiche? What the hell was that? Spaghetti Bolognese was actually beef mince and a tin of Heinz best chopped through it.
Talking of Heinz, how come there were 57 varieties, but we only got three of them in the UK?
Computers only existed in sci-fi movies and were as big as a house.
Anyone with an apple tree in their garden was free game.
Halloween was about carving a turnip and sticking a candle in it; what the heck was a pumpkin? And going round the doors asking for loose change. None of this trick or treat stuff we've adopted from our American cousins.
Carol Singing was something you were forced to do at the local old people's home - but secretly you loved to do it even though you wouldn't admit it to your mates.
Billy Stampers were wore with pride (lick and stick ink tattoos), even though they only ever turned out looking like a bruise.
Only the big lads had trainers (or green flash Dunlops) while the little uns had black galoshes, sand shoes or gym shoes, depending on where you lived. If your mate had a football they called the shots, otherwise they took it home in a huff.
You couldn't afford fish and chips. So you bought chips with scrapings (the burnt bits of batter from the bottom of the fryer), or tuppence tattie scones (a slice of potato in batter).
You had a phono record player, and the needle was so worn that you had to stack some penny bits on the arm to hold the needle in place. The scratches were the best bits.
Tops and whips, clackers, stilts, tin can and string mobile phones, Etchasketch, Mousetrap, matchbox cars and plastic guns: those were the toys of my day.
Maladjusted? Me? Damn right. It's what gives me the imagination to be a writer.

David Barber said...

Ahhhh! Great days Matt. I had a mate who was something else on a push bike. We were all out and about one day and he borrowed another mates "Chopper" and pulled a wheelie. We fell about laughing as the small front wheel flew off and shot down the road. He was that good on a bike though, that he carried on the wheelie all the way back into the estate where we lived and almost to a complete standstill. (It was quite a long road near where we lived. Col would know the place.) :-)

And how often did you get home after a long summers day out and about covered in tar after popping all the bubbles on the roads and streets. The summer holidays seemed to be sunny everyday.

You mentioned go-karts. We called them bogies and they were made from old pieces of. A cross section at the front with a rope attached to steer and usually the wheels were from an old pram off of the local "tip" or council dump.

Fantstic days and not a computer or mobile phone in sight. And as Sue mentioned about the kids today...we never got bored!

Sue H said...

That last post has left me dewy-eyed, Matt! Ahh, the sound of the cards stuck in the bike spokes!

Casting my mind back has brought back all sorts of nostalgic memories. My brother had the original bottle 'bank'! We used to get 3d back on Burton's pop bottles and 1d on R.White's - he stood them up in serried ranks in the potting shed, then come the holidays he'd load them into an old wheelbarrow and tout them round all the corner shops (they limited him to 10 bottles a time!)

And tattie scones! My mouth's watering even now.....

I also remember 'playing' with a Mamod steam engine - just the boiler bit - waiting for the water to boil and flipping the flywheel, hoping it would catch and then watch the piston rattling back and forth.....

And making lead soldiers - my bro' used to make me hold the mould pieces together (no gloves!!!!) while he poured in molten lead (melted in a pot over the coalfire).

And making fireworks out of sugar and saltpetre (6d/oz at the local chemist - wouldn't be allowed these days!)

.....simple times.

David Barber said...

Sorry...the "bogies" bit should have said old pieces of wood. My mind is working overtime now Matt. I'm well and truly back to my childhood days. :-)

Col Bury said...

Ah, you take me back to the good old days, Matt.
Do you remember The Banana Splits n Grange Hill? Never missed an episode, but, like you say, the choice was easy back then.
In Manchester, during the summer hols, we used to have neverending games of footy on the park - twenty a-side! Jumpers for goalposts n all that. I always used to feel sorry for the last few picked, especially when it was my big brother. Whenever I was the 'picker' I used to pick him early to boost him a bit (shit, hope he dunt read this). Of course, I was invariably selected first being the golden boy (he said modestly). :) I used to go home with a beetroot face, scoff me tea n rush back ont park.
Happy Days.
Technology has cheated the new generation of kids of this simple, yet naturally sociable, upbringing.
But there is still hope, as my lad is following in my footsteps by starting this footy craze on our local park - obviously I'm usually int thick of it, but, alas, these days am often picked last! :)
Ps. I lied then so I dint seem a big head - you never lose it, eh?

David said...

I grew up in a river town, so I remember summer days down by the river – nobody wanted to pay the 10 cents to use the local pool when you swim in the muddy water for free. On the river banks we’d play beach cricket, which consisted of jamming a stick or two into the sand, then using a heftier branch as a bat. Often we had a tennis ball, but it was not unusual to roll up and tie a wet t-shirt to use as a ball.

Of course, nobody knew the risks of skin cancer, so we’d all get sunburnt like lobsters.

I also recall playing cricket in the midst of locust plagues, where every step on the turf would send swarms (literally thousands) of the critters flying into the air. It was impossible to judge, let alone take a catch.

In winter it was AFL football, and we’d go off early in the mornings. On numerous occasions, I recall there not being enough parents to drive us to the games, so half the team would pile into the back of an old ute, and then head off – ducking down if police were about. Once out of town (sometimes it was a commute of about forty minutes to the next town where the game was), we sit up and stick our heads up above the cab, the icy wind smacking us straight in the face. By the time we reached the ground, our faces were numb from the cold.

I make it sound terrible, but they were great days.