Valerie Marquez

The following shows how I personally saw changes in my life and how they affected me.

Oh, how times have changed, and how easily we adapt to keeping up with modernity and modernisation. What is modern now soon becomes old-fashioned, and with each passing day new things are made. As they say, change is the only consistent thing.

Today’s newspapers soon become yesterday’s wrappers for chips. Every day we adapt to the newer things and feel under pressure to accept the new differences as normal.  We remembering times gone by affectionately (or for some with disdain). When asked in my first year of secondary school, “What was the best and most memorable Christmas present you ever received?” without hesitation and full of glee, I replied, “New vest, knickers and socks.” That’s right ‒ it was the best thing I’d received. Why?  Because it was for me! It was the first time I’d received something I got to wear first, and that wasn’t handed down from my older sister. I got to wear it first, nobody else… ME! And from Santa, there was always an orange/tangerine, a small bar of chocolate, a small toy of sorts, or new pens or pencils and a colouring book to fit in our school bags. We were happy enough.

Some days were harder than others but there was always food on the table and once a week when Mum did the shopping, we all knew we were in for a treat. Without fail we got a Milky Way chocolate bar.  It was the treat you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite, or so the slogan went. We appreciated all we had. Money back then seemed to have been worth something, in my humble opinion.

Give a child something like that today, and they’d be mortified, and wonder if you’d lost your mind and seeking emancipation.  They would be looking for the latest mobile phones at the tender age of five or the latest games ‒ Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo etc. However, these new fancy phones and games do nothing else but cause us to withdraw into ourselves and become very antisocial. We would rather stare at phones and games than take part in a conversation.

In my day, we were allowed out to play and we’d meet up with real friends. It was great! We had a social circle, often playing games like Knock down Ginger, races at the swimming pool, and hide-and-seek, to name but a few. We never had watches or phones, yet we were always back home on time, and nobody panicked if you were a few minutes late.

Before landline phones became a big thing, we had the red phone boxes. They were dotted around on almost every street corner, and we managed just fine.

What I never understood was how if we got in trouble at school or whilst out with friends, by the time we got home our parents already knew. I’m still trying to figure that one out. We didn’t have carrier pigeons in my time, so how did the news get to them before we had time to concoct a different story?

It wasn’t much later when our parents finally got a house phone. It was a party landline phone and occasionally we listened in on the other party’s calls, not intentionally, of course. Then the mobile phones arrived. Now you can be reached day or night and landlines are being eradicated. We’ve gone again from being social to antisocial.

In the presence of modernisation, children of today have no respect for money. They  don’t care how their parents find it. ‘I want this, and I want that,’ is all the parents hear. They incur debt – just to keep up with the Jones’s and make their children happy.

We had more respect for our parents and elders in those days. We called our teachers Miss, Sir, Mr, or Mrs, unlike today where many are called by their first names. I find that so wrong. There are boundaries for a reason. Teachers are not your friends; they are there to educate and guide.

Teachers in my time were a little heavy-handed sometimes with dishing out corporal punishment. However, the thought of the slipper, ruler or the cane was more than enough to keep us on the straight and narrow. In our household we knew that if you were punished in school, you would be getting another punishment as soon as you got home. Teachers are now afraid of their students in this modern world, and parents are equally so. They are not allowed to spank, slap, or reprimand their children as it’s now a form of abuse, according to the law.

Parents now are more cavalier with their money today. We all strive to do better than our parents and give our children more than we had. However, the vast amount of money parents spend today, especially on Christmas and birthdays is, to my mind, diabolical. It’s like they live for today and worry about tomorrow when it comes. They are not teaching their children the value of money. Coming from a large family, we learned to be fugal with our money. Pocket money was small – scarce even, and we had to earn ours.

I used to get threepence and my peers had a shilling. Not long later decimalisation came in and that threepence soon became one and a half new pence. We were being cheated somehow.

I couldn’t afford to go clubbing as I didn’t get as much pocket money as the other girls at school. I couldn’t afford the entrance and didn’t like the idea of borrowing and I’m the same in that aspect today. If we don’t have it then we’re not getting it. I cannot put my hat where I can’t reach it.

To top it off I didn’t have and couldn’t afford the fancy clothes to go clubbing. When I finally could afford to go, my pocket money had gone up to one pound. I finally had enough to cover the cost of entrance and one drink. And just like that… POOF! All my pocket money was gone in one night.  Meanwhile,  my friends were getting up to three pounds. I felt I was always playing catch-up with them.

This is where the only shop I knew that did ‘Lay Aways’ came into play for me – Sybil Richards. It could take me up to six weeks before I got something new to wear clubbing. All these experiences taught me to value, look after and treasure the things I had. I didn’t need a name brand to look just as good as the next person. If the clothes and shoes fitted, then they did what they were supposed to do ‒ cover my body and keep me dry. It was not like today, where we live in a throwaway society, and everything seems to be easy  come and easy go.  

Yesterday our white goods would last for what seemed like forever, with a 12-month  guarantee, and wore much longer than the most up to date goods out there today. We could have those goods repaired and know we would have the product for several more years to come. Now today with modernisation these goods come with the same 12-month  guarantees and are obsolete the second that 12 months are up. It begs the question…is this really progress or just another way of sucking more money out of us?

I loved it when we were paid cash in hand. We understood how to budget and knew when that last penny left your hand there was nothing more until the next payday. Then the banks became more prominent, and our wages were paid directly to them. Now this is where I believe most people’s money problems started as you couldn’t visually see your balance and would overspend, and be charged for borrowing without permission until you became in debt. You’d write cheques and people would take so long to cash them, throwing you off course with your money, making you believe you had money when in fact it hadn’t been cashed and you were back in debt again.

Banks have now become an essential part of our lives. I’m still not sure I like them as it really annoyed me, when I needed to withdraw a large sum of money, the bank all but sat me down under a spotlight interrogating me as to why I needed the said sum of money. Come on… it’s my money and what I do with it is my business. Some changes like those are a bit OTT (over the top) for me. I so don’t like change, all our information out there in cyberspace. It means easy access for the clever criminals of today. I know hiding our money under the mattress wasn’t a good idea but… you didn’t need to get down on your knees and beg someone’s permission to spend your own money. They always made it seem like they had a right to and if the reason wasn’t valid enough in their eyes you weren’t going to get it. It seems strange now that we used to know our bank tellers and managers by name.

Now this next generation of children growing up won’t even know what money looks like for real, let alone its value.  Our times in banking have changed so much from the hole in the wall. Known as the ATM machines – automated teller machines, which are dotted all around the world. Next we will see the demise of money and banks altogether.  Banks in 2021 are slowly disappearing from the high street as we now take on technology and almost everything is now online. This means discriminating against the elderly and disabled people who can’t manage with this online technology. This also pushes people out of jobs. Artificial intelligence will take over and there will be no jobs for the human race. That’s tomorrow…

All this new technology, though advanced, is still making us all dumb… Why, how you ask…

Well, yesteryear we all knew each others’ phone numbers off by heart. We could recite them at the drop of a hat.

Today we look through our contacts for either a picture or name on our phones, push a button and we’re good to go, but if someone asked you for Aunt Betty’s mobile number, without checking your phone you possibly couldn’t recall it from memory.

There are cameras everywhere we go; we are watched 24/7 and live in a Big Brother Society whether we like it or not. I remember when the film Enemy of the State came out in 1998 and people thought it was advanced thinking. It was an eye opener. You could be tracked using minute devices and authorities planting cameras in your home. We are watched although we don’t know who is spying on us. These devices are readily available to buy and plant yourself today. Is this modernisation or an infringement on people’s privacy? Admittedly these things can be used for betterment over evil.

We have ring doorbells that you can access through your phone from anywhere, see and speak to, whoever is at your door. This is advancement in technology and  modernisation.

Mobile phones may be great technology, but at the same time could also be the death of us. If we are so engaged with our phones when we are out that we forget to look where we are going, we may well end up under a bus, because that handset is more important than watching what is happening around us.

We are also tracked by our phones, whether we like it or not. It seems our whole lives are entwined in our phone. They are mini computers. We don’t need to worry about learning to spell because predictive text will correct mistakes for you and if that doesn’t work there’s always Google. Gone are the encyclopaedias where we’d search through pages for ages to find our answers. Google does it for us in a fraction of the time.

Maps could be hard to read; we learnt to use a compass and road maps and now we have SatNav and Waze that talks you through your journey, giving directions verbally from home to your destination. How can you possibly go wrong?

Computers are great but at the same time, they are dumbing us down… They save us time yes, but… 

And this is modernisation. 

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