It may seem a little strange, but I am thankful to have been born in 1948.
WW2 had been over, almost 3 years when I was born.
But we lived in London till I was 8 and the wreckage was still very evident when I was a child.
So many conversations included the phrase “before the War” or “during the War”.
Children played in the bombsites. I don’t know if the little ghouls expected to find ghastly things, or quite what the appeal was. My brother was always in trouble!
Why, I don’t know, but I was never tempted to explore the sites. But I was awed by them. As we walked through the streets, I’d look up at the exposed inside wall of a block of flats, which bore evidence of what would have been a bathroom or kitchen. My already over-active mind would picture the people who had lived there and I would wonder what had happened to them.
Even then, I realized how lucky I was, not to have been born before the war, as my cousins were. They were old enough to have witnessed the whole dreadful event.
Often, I have thought that I would have been terrified.
Many children were sent out of the cities, away from their families, to live with strangers in the “safer” countryside.
Many of them became damaged in other ways.
Not all. I knew a couple that had been evacuated and were well cared for.
It wasn’t a bad thing, to grow up aware of the possibility of war, I think. One should never take for granted the conditions of one’s life.
Being born back then had quite a lot of other advantages.
For one thing, when my father took employment “abroad”, as they used to say,
we travelled to parts of the world that were still pristine.
At Kep we enjoyed the sea and sand in perfect solitude.
It was heaven.
When we viewed the Bayon at Angkor, there was not a tourist in sight. What a privilege that was.
My father’s employment occasionally took him into the hinterland of Cambodia. Sometimes Mum and I went along.
Kids had no ugly t-shirts or shorts.
The village was devoid of plastic waste or empty tin cans, Western-style garbage.
Mum, Dad, Grandma and the children.
A much nicer form of transport than a gas guzzling, air-polluting, smelly car.
In those days, the villagers were not corrupted by the intrusion of the West. Looking at these old pictures, I can’t help thinking that those people were so much better off.
It leads me to yet another advantage of having been born so long ago. Life was simpler, for all of us.
We had no intrusive technology. In Cambodia, we didn’t even have a telephone in the house.
News, if we could hear it, came from London on my father’s short wave transistor radio.
Television existed, of course, back in the “First World”* , but we never had access to it. As kids, we learned to entertain ourselves. We invented games. I used to make clothes for my teddy bear. Or build a house out of shoe boxes. We read many books. I was fascinated by my general knowledge book. It was not a bad time to be a child.
Cambodia was the first place I interacted with cats.
Kliang was brought to the airport to see us off when we left.
Amazingly, he made no attempt to run off.
He was the first of many cats I had to say goodbye to.
Something I have never been good at!
Life wasn’t all happiness and roses. I’ve talked about it on my blog, but for all the bumps in the road I travelled, I always knew that I was so lucky, by comparison.
It may be hard for younger people to grasp, but in the 1950’s and 60’s, when I was growing up, the world was so much less populated. Existing in that kind of environment was so much easier, so much less stressful.
Our world had not yet been invaded by plastic! It existed, but had not yet overtaken everything.
By plastic, I mean the substance, but we also had not yet become dependent on credit.
When you travelled, you got traveller’s cheques.
Always the possibility they could be stolen, yes, but not if you were careful and I think there was a lot less risk than a person is subjected to through credit card fraud.
We were not yet dependent on technology. My mother did not acquire a “mixer” until some time in the 80’s. She beat eggs and blended flour by hand. She did have a sewing machine and practically worshiped it. So many things were done by hand. I thought it was tremendously advanced when I acquired a typewriter, in the 60’s.
Perhaps it sounds as if I am lost in nostalgia for my youth. I do that sometimes, but at the moment, looking to what I am grateful for, it is that I experienced that very different time. Had I been born 20 years later, I would not have known it and it is really a blessing to remember it.
*So, does anyone know where the “Second World” got to? Where was it, exactly?