Helen Martin: Why I believe in yesterdays

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PREDICTIONS made in movies and TV shows about how the world will look in decades to come are always fascinating. Back to the Future II, with its glimpse ahead to October 2015, did quite well – but then it was made as recently as 1989 which to many of us, alas, feels like yesterday.

The older you get, the more you realise how completely unpredictable the world is and how wrong most of our long-term expectations turn out to be, based as they are on naive optimism and faith that things will get better – not worse.

In the 50s and 60s we expected machines and robots of the future would save us time and effort and do the hard labour, whether that was working down a mine or scrubbing sheets on a washboard. And we imagined that would lead to all people having a far more luxurious life, more recreation and less hardship. God knows why but we assumed that any remaining necessary jobs would be shared equally with everyone doing a one-day week, and that money would become meaningless and irrelevant in an egalitarian world.

Post-war, the idea of future Britain drifting back towards Victorian inequality and food charity seemed ludicrous. Surely mankind would have learned from experience?

Talking of food, we embraced, with some enthusiasm, dehydrated and convenience meals, if only because women had faced decades of making their own pastry or sweating over simmering pots for hours. Yes, it tasted revolting, but a Vesta beef curry (without any beef) or chicken chow mein (without chicken), seemed to cook by magic and opening a pie in a can to find the pastry already in there was a game-changer. So who would have thought all that and space age instant mashed potato would be a mere flash (or Smash) in the pan?

Sixties fashion was legendary, but we didn’t need the talent of Mary Quant to see the practical, space-suit direction it was moving in . . . boots, trousers, pant suits, little tunics, helmet style caps, shoulder capes – all that was missing was the oxygen tank. Think Star Trek. The future was split between unisex and futuristic, or the hippie dream of sharing communes, loon pants, dope and flowers. No-one foresaw factory girls buying handbags that cost a month’s salary.

The space race dominated predictions. The first human Moon landing in 1969 crushed any dreams we had of meeting Moonlings, but hopes were still high that the universe awaited and we, or at least our children, would be holidaying on Mars.

It’s rather disconcerting to think the last manned Moon landing was only three years later in 1972 and since then we haven’t actually been anywhere further, let alone a Pontins holiday on Venus taking on triple-eyed Mercurian and four-legged Aquarian teams at an intergalactic quiz night.

Air travel might have speeded up but not when the hours we spend being processed in the airport and boarding now take longer than the flight itself.

The 60s held a genuine belief in future world peace, Earthlings united and pooling resources using our developed superior intelligence for mutual benefit. We couldn’t have been more wrong. . . except for the famous Smash advert featuring giggling metallic aliens laughing at human backwardness. That, at least, had a grain of truth in it.

Woman’s work is never done

DESPITE living longer, women are more likely to suffer poor health from 65-on, says a Newcastle professor, adding many will not be able to work up to or beyond that. Wonder if the Government considered looking into that before they raised the pension age?

The ‘operation’ that nobody dares mention

THE problem with the debate over the possibility of tightening up the rules on abortion is that no-one mentions the elephant in the room . . . what actually happens during a termination up to the 24th week, bearing in mind that babies have survived being born at 22 weeks

The process is so violent and upsetting it would not only put many women off, but could also come as an unbearable shock to those who have already had a termination without realising what was involved while they were under anaesthetic. The pro lobby feel such revelations would damage their case. Indeed most of us, regardless of our opinion, would rather not face the grim reality.

That leaves the “political” argument revolving around women’s rights versus the religious and spiritual objections in principle – and all of us ignoring the “operation” itself. No wonder we can’t reach a permanent consensus.

Police must get back to basics

NO-ONE could have foreseen the day when we’d be asked to report crimes to the post office rather than the police. It’s all part of this distracting, and useless wave of new policing ideas such as substituting the actual police work we expect, for officers holding namby-pamby “advice surgeries” as if they were Beechgrove gardeners or Avon ladies.

We need police patrolling streets, catching criminals, locking up burglars, coming to the rescue of victims, and keeping the peace at the sharp end, not wasting their time and ours chatting in the post office or the local supermarket.

Nor should local tax-payers suffer because our police are being diverted to crowd control whenever the council decides to put on another party or extravaganza for tourists. Police Scotland, especially in Edinburgh, is turning into an embarrassing and expensive shambles.