It’s an odd feeling when you realise you are the last of a generation, and those who have followed on behind you, will never quite understand the world you lived in. I was reminded of this recently whilst out shopping with my son who is 8 years old, when I spotted a large clear bag on the shop shelf that contained the very familiar green plastic moulded soldiers, that played such a dominant role in my own childhood.
I cannot tell you of the twinge of joy that surged through me when I saw them on the shelf, and just for a moment, I was transported back to those days lying on my bedroom floor, my soldiers lined up in rank, and ready to commit to the battle that would send my green clad army of heroes against those devilishly bad grey clad baddies. I think for a moment my son thought I had gone quite insane, and he looked at me with somewhat of a very odd expression, and it was then that I realised.
I am the last of my generation, my brother who was four years my junior was the first of a new breed of children, who did not lie around with soldiers and cowboys or action men, he was the first of a generation that was introduced to the technical age, and he probably feels the same about his beloved Sinclair Spectrum, the first of a long line of computer aided games.
I still have all my cowboys… its mad really to think about it, but I have no will at all to part with them, I have the fort, the train, the wagons and stage coaches, all the Indians and a mass of cowboys, as well as a whole host of other western related accessories all packed neatly away and stored in my loft. They mean the world to me, even now at the grand old age of 49 they are one of my most precious possessions. Its not because they have value as most would think, I don’t care that I could put them on Ebay and make a fortune selling them, I care and love them simply because when I was just four years old, my Grandfather took me to the shop and bought me my very first one. He did it because I had helped out in the garden and been very well behaved that week, and he bought me Sitting Bull an Native American chief, and in my eyes at that time the coolest one in the entire glass case. I got one each week after that, and over the years my collection grew until it was huge and I reached my teenage years. Today as I write I smile at the memory of those times alone with them and the happiness they brought me, and In many ways it just adds to the feeling that when I leave this world, all my experiences of my time here will leave with me, just as those who have gone before me have.
I grew up surrounded by cowboys and warfare; most of the films I watched were of World War Two, and the epic adventurous of the Wild West, I suppose they were the two most influential aspects of several generations before me, simply due to the fact that the war was an experience most people I knew had lived through. Times have changed and things have moved on, and like those who came after me, for them their experience is somewhat different.
World War Two had a massive impact on the world, and it influenced a great many aspects of the lives of everyone for over three decades after it had happened, my parents grew up listening to the air raid sirens and hearing the hum of planes in the darkened skies at night, they lived through a time of poverty that we can never really understand in these affluent times of today, the centre of their households was not a television, it was a radio, a simple voice informing them of what was happening in the world around them, and life for them was a daily struggle to survive. Its easy to bitch and whine these days about how tough things are for us all with our Flat screen TVs and laptops, whilst stuffing a burger down our throats, but we will never understand the struggle and hardships they suffered on a day to day basis, and in a way I think it is sad that my son does not have that chance to talk and communicate with people who lived through such a traumatic time, for I believe there was a great deal I learned for the older generations in my youth, and sadly most of them have passed on, and that advice and information on that particular way of life is gone forever.
I once had the privilege of being a part of a very wonderful old mans life. Doug was the father of my ex partner, and when I knew him he was in his eighties, he was a very special person and I must admit I was deeply fond of him. I visited him every day, and over time we became very close, he was a member of the British Expeditionary Force that landed in France during the war, and he was more importantly, a survivor of Dunkirk. He spoke very little during his life of his experience of that beach and the horrors he saw, but over my time with him, he began to share more and more of what it was like. His daughter was very surprised, as in all her life she had never heard him talk so openly of Dunkirk, I am not sure why he chose me, but I felt a deep privilege that he did.
I am so lucky, because he opened up a window on a piece of pure history from this nation, unlike my history books, not only did I have the chance to hear a first hand account of that time, I also had the golden opportunity to ask questions. I talked a great deal with Doug towards the end of his life, I saw the horror in his eyes as he described in very graphic detail what he saw as he sat on the sand whilst the enemy forces cut down his friends as they crossed the beaches in their aircraft, I shared his tears and felt his pain.
I had thought of filming or taping it, but such was the sense of honour that he bestowed upon me, I thought I would have been wrong to include a device into what was a very private and personal moment, as he told me things he had never shared with his own son and daughters.
Doug was without doubt a person I admired and deeply respected, the sadness I felt when he passed away was deep and painful, and I do miss him and often my thoughts are with him. The sad thing is that with his passing a very unique chanced left us forever, the chance to look back and see through the eyes of one who witnessed everything, it is something I feel today’s younger generations are being deprived of. I used to laugh and tell him he belonged in a school, but it was no joke, he had an account of pure truth that would have greatly enhanced any classroom, and sadly we have a country filled with such special opportunities that is passing us by, as we have countless generations of memories and experiences leaving us every year.
My Own grandfather once told me, we must learn from the past, to ignore what has been before us is at our peril, I think in the later part of my life I really am starting to understand him better, and it has become a theme I often visit in my own fictional writing, for there is great wisdom in those words.
Here in the UK we dismiss our elderly, we push them out of the family and place them in sheltered accommodation or nursing homes. I feel there is an attitude of lets get them out of the way, as we do not have time to fuss, and we need to get on with more important things like working overtime or going into our online lives. We are one culture who ignores the wisdom of the past, I think looking at current events it is very obvious those important insights shared by people like Doug are ignored and labelled irrelevant, but if I had honestly recorded him as he wept and spoke of those times that filled him with horror, and brought out such desperation in him as he wanted to live and not die there in the sand, I think anyone who heard them, would have a very different view of whether or not we should use armed troops to handle every problem. Doug was a lover of life, even after being involved in combat, and taking away the life of another in defence of his country, his experience had taught him that combat was not and never going to be the answer, I can only wonder at this time how many other soldiers returning in today’s conflict situations feel the same way.
Doug is just one example of one kind of event, and I do wonder how many other important aspects of life we are missing out on? Everyday discoveries are made that inform us of yet another fraction of Celtic or Anglo Saxon life, because there are very few recorded moments from that time to teach us from the past, I look at the internet and the endless streams of garbage it holds, do we really care or need to record the sex lives of celebrities, is it really very relevant to the future of our race how many drugs they take or how many women they sleep with in one night? Who really has the time to honestly say it has interrupted their day, I know I don’t. I honestly do not give a hoot what a famous celebrity does, if that is what they feel they need, bugger em and let them get on with it, I care about people like Doug, or my Father who again has so much to offer from the life he has lived.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could record people like Doug, actually get their own words down on paper, or even better get it up on the Internet and put something worth reading online, surely that should be an important goal, to actually start logging our history as we make it. I know there are a lot of people out there who do; blogging for one thing has grown huge over the last ten years, I know as I read a huge amount of it. I think it is the best thing any of us can do, take what we have experienced and find a way of putting it online, I am trying at the moment to convince my father to share what he has done and learned during his busy and active life, he has so much to offer and I think he should speak out for his generation and share it with those who will never have the chance to witness what he has survived.
My Grandfather was right, we do need to start paying more attention to the past, I think now more than ever before we need to look back and learn from the mistakes we have made. As a race we do need to share what we know and pool it for the good of everyone, because there may come a day when we need it. I have shared my life and the conversations and experiences I have witnessed within my writing. My stories albeit the fantasy stories of Heirs to the Kingdom, have a very solid platform of truth and experience hidden beneath them, but the wisdom of that firm foundation comes through, in some small way, it is the way I express myself and contribute to the voice of my generation, and maybe we should all think a little about how we can best speak out for our own.
The true celebrities of our culture must surely be those who have survived extraordinary events and witnessed the history of our race, and so instead of brushing them aside as none entities, let’s get them online and sharing real truths about real lives.
Let me know what you think in the comments box.
(In Memory of Sapper Douglas Pixton. A Dearly missed friend)