Anglican Newsletter -January
My father’s father died when my father was ten years old. He had three sisters and three brothers, but his mother was pregnant with her fourth daughter, when she was widowed. Three of the older siblings went into care – whatever exactly that meant at that time – I don’t think it was the Workhouse, but it was that sort of thing. Eventually all the children were re-united in their mother’s home, all went onto good apprenticeships and all did very well as adults. But my grandmother had a pittance of an army pension and made ends meet by working as a cook at the local Police Station. The younger children were looked after by the older ones.
These thoughts have been triggered off by thinking of the pocket money children get nowadays (more likely to be credit cards than actual cash!?). When I was ten, my father used to tell me and my closest brother (we were less than 2 years apart) that he received pocket money of a penny-haporth a week (1½d = 0.625p in modern money) and that with that he could go to the Saturday Morning Cinema, buy a comic and some sweets and why were we complaining when we got 5/- (ie 25p) a month, which rose to £1 a month when I was about 13 and never got any higher after that. This was in the late 40s, early 50s. Originally we believed him, but scepticism came increasingly to bear.
In more recent years I have beguiled my children with how much 5 shillings could buy at that time – exaggerating enormously, of course, and they have come to believe my maunderings to be as big a pack of lies as those of my father to me. There seems to be a very strong tendency (more with fathers than mothers, I suspect) to try to demean the modern society in which their children grow up, extolling the virtues of the past. It probably does no harm to try to convince children and adolescents that they have no excuse for complaint about what is available to them. But by the same token, it behoves us oldies not to be jealous of how much more is available to the modern generation than was available to us. It was ever thus and we need to keep a sense of proportion. The only excuse we have is that the pace of change has accelerated unbelievably and it is difficult to keep up. However, that is one of the challenges we face – and it is our generation that created the ‘good times’ for the next, so we should be proud not mealy-mouthed about it.
This gentle discussion is too easy. I am actually in the position of Scrooge, if I am truly honest. Dickens was writing about a time when, in England, there was considerable wealth and comfort for the few and abject poverty for the many. Those of us who can remember the fairy stories and folk tales, which are not told to youngsters now, will remember the story of The Little Match Girl, who looked through the windows at the warm well fed Christmases going on inside, while she froze and hungered (literally) to death outside.
I am afraid that we live in a world where we in Britain and other ‘developed’ countries celebrate our excessive, warm, well-fed, well-presented (ie presents, not presentation) Christmases, while an enormous proportion of the world’s population looks on and starves. It is difficult for us, like Scrooge, to realise the truth and to find a way of bringing some of the poor into our rich Christmas. But we do have the ways and means nowadays to reach out, if only through the many, many charities that operate worldwide. And just as the Victorians could, if they chose, see what was going on outside their windows, so can we, through TV and documentaries and news reports and Internet searches, see what is going on throughout the world.
Coming back to pocket money, my main concern is, not that kids get too much, but that they have too much choice in spending it and not enough education/discipline in doing so. Again this is the old f—t speaking, but my own observation of grandchildren at work is that they really expect to get what they ask for; they don’t expect surprises at Christmas, because they get what they asked for (often shopping for their own presents with their parents and receiving them immediately). Very little ones (up to 5 or 6) really do get exciting Christmases, but when I was 14 or 15 I was till excited, not knowing what presents I would get and being thrilled to get something I did not already have - one might ask what can we get for Uncle Tom because he had everything already, but I don’t recall that being a problem for my parents or even for us with our own children. But I can see my children having problems with getting any surprises for their children, who seem to have everything already at very early ages. At my age I could perhaps be excused for being a little jaded, but to see 14 year olds for whom Christmas is a bit of a bore, depending solely on something exciting to happen on the TV, is such a shame.
It is, of course, the middle of January as you read this and Christmas is a distant, but hopefully, fond memory, but time seem to be getting later, if that makes any sense. I am writing this less than 2 weeks before Christmas and the oak trees have not shed their leaves yet! Autumn flowering plants in the garden are blooming! Some of the apples have not blown down yet! It’s difficult to think that you may be reading this in 4 weeks time in deep snow while the wintry blasts scream around you.
Keep warm, get generous, be blessed, be a blessing!
Happy New Year Keith MacLeod