Back In The Day!

In 1956…

Which is a long time ago, I was starting work. I worked at a very exclusive boys College, in Bristol, John Cleese went there, and the boys were from good families, their parents had healthy bank accounts. But it was not ideal for me. In spite of the well- heeled teenagers I dealt with. At sixteen I was inhibited.  I hated the job as I felt I didn’t fit.

In those far off days we worked because we had to, and luckily there were jobs to apply for, I had another office job, then at last  I found my true vocation; caring for people. So for a very fulfilling year I was a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, happily working and taking my exams, then I met my future husband, and so starts another story… for another day. It rather stalled my career!

The point I am making really is we worked, because it was expected of us, some girls I knew were in factories at 14, others worked in shops, we took on whatever we could. We had to give our parents money towards the housekeeping. The comparison is so hard to make when I look at how it is now.

Some younger adults are stuck in limbo, unable to find work even after university. They are over skilled, or just totally unsuited to a work routine. So some fall into the easy path of just staying at home, Mum and Dad keep them, and they do less and less.  For them it maps out a life of aimless drifting.  Parents voicing any critical dialogue falls like water off a duck’s back. They know no other life, any attempt to motivate them is not accepted.

Whereas we adapted to work at anything, some jobs were truly demoralizing, like work in a laundry or packing engineering bits.  The younger ones now would not even try some of the things we did. It would be too hard.  I know of some who have given up looking, still languishing at home watching endless TV at 25.

At 25 I had been to New Zealand and back, also  had three children, and survived tuberculosis, I was then back in my home country, with no washing machine and no place to call home for a few months. It was a time that took all the grit I possessed to survive. Staying with parents was difficult.

My husband eventually started work in a new art studio, and we cobbled our tattered life together.  How, I wonder would some of the younger people today have coped with the problems I carried for a few years.

Would they have done what so many do, gone to apply for welfare, we never did, it was not freely available.  I do not deny them the payments, everyone needs help at some time. But it means there are less reasons for real effort.

I know it’s tough, and so many have slipped through the cracks, I feel sad for them. Yet we are giving them a view of a world that may one day crash around them. Money will not always fall into their hands, it will get harder.

Perhaps the time has come to start a new movement. A work ethic drive.  A new advertising campaign to wake the sleeping twenty year olds. A comprehensive two year training for those who could adapt would be a great boost for aged care. Then how about the practical skills we are losing? Carpentry, plumbing, all apprenticeships that have been dwindling recently. We still need carpenters and plumbers.

One of my sons did some lengthy training as a Stonemason, he worked with real tools not electric ones, everything he learned was an old skill. He made a very great success of life. His business here went well for over 20 years, from working on the Houses of Parliament to working in Australia. 

He has just retired at 56, and has left his mark on beautifully carved arches and pillars, on steeples and churches; on universities and statues.

Perhaps we need to look back at simple skills, re- train young people for a world that will need practical skills again. There will always be a need for cooks and farmers, however things change.  Those couch potatoes with glazed eyes watching a video game need to start a real life.

Well I can dream it happens anyway. As much for them as for us. They may not realise it but there is a world out there that they can access, a world that needs them.

I went back to train after my children were off my hands. Two new skills added; I did a course for occupational therapy when I was in my forties, and even more amazing did a course to get certificates 3 and 4 in Aged care and Dementia care when I was 64.

Never too late, just do it!


(c)2021 - Jacqui Lee - Originally published on Starts@60

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