Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Look Back to the Bleak Days of Rationing to Find Sense of Optimism We're Sadly Lacking

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Look Back to the Bleak Days of Rationing to Find Sense of Optimism We're Sadly Lacking

Article excerpt


IRELAXED in last week's glorious weather, mostly in the garden, feet up and teacup in hand. I deserved a rest after working 18-hour days to finish my new novel.

But while I lus xuriated I did some thinking. The novel, set in the 40s and 50s to please my publisher who says the past sells, is set in immediate post-war Britain, As I researched I was amazed at how bleak those years were.

Rationing became even more severe, extending at one time to bread. The characters celebrate the end of tea rationing as late as 1952... seven years after the war's end! And that left butter, sugar and sweets still on coupons.

There were power cuts and winters so severe they used flame throwers to clear drifts. Jobs were scarce as servicemen and women flooded back, to find their old jobs occupied by women unwilling to surrender their new independence.

Wages were low and Britain was burdened by massive debt incurred in its efforts to defeat Nazism.

And yet... and yet... as you read, you sense the huge spirit of optimism that prevailed. People really believed that right had triumphed and the world, and their country, would become a better place.

What a contrast to today. Most families enjoy a standard of living undreamed of in the 40s, illnesses like tuberculosis have been defeated, the Welfare State cushions want, The National Health Service treats our ills and yet I have never known a nation so disillusioned. We seem to have lost faith in the ability of anyone to sort things out.

The established church is riven by dissent, the Catholic Church dealing with a shameful legacy, MPs have been revealed as far from perfect, the media as unscrupulous and the police as sometimes dodgy.

And while we all worry about surviving the recession the Prime Minister fibs about eating a pasty, the leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Chancellor hotfoot it to a pie shop for a photo opportunity and Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, runs about like Corporal Jones shouting 'Don't panic! Don't panic!'.

Is it any wonder we seek escape in Downton Abbey and novels about the past!

WHEN footballer Fabrice Muamba's heart stopped and he fell to the ground during a match I scanned the faces of the crowd but there was no sign of grumbling.

No "I paid good money to see this match, why don't they get on with it."

When it was called off, everyone turned quietly away, united in a common wish that the young footballer should live. Everyone was on Fabrice's side.

Except for Liam Stacey, at 21 almost the same age as the footballer. Sitting at home and fuelled by drink, he tweeted: "LOL, F*** Muamba. He's dead!!! haha," then posted eight further offensive racist messages. For this disgusting behaviour he was hunted down and has been jailed for 56 days after admitting racially aggravated harassment and disorder. …

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