We did not have green in my day

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

“We did not have green in my day” is something that we hear again and again from people of the older generation and even of those that grew up in the time when the free plastic carrier bag came in.

Those of the latter category cannot, for that very reason, I guess, understand that plastic grocery bags are not good for the environment and, for all of those, having grown up with plastics as the dog's proverbials, that that also applies to the great majority of all plastics.

In the days of old, the days when I was born too, we didn't have the green thing.

Back then, we returned our milk bottles via the milkman and we bought milk loose – yes, from a big vat – at the store where it was ladled into little metal churns that you took along for the purpose of buying your milk.

Coke and lemonade bottles and beer bottles to the local pub, off license or store, against a few pennies that was the deposit on them, to be returned back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

As kids we used to scour up and down the lanes in the ditches for those bottles that people were too lazy to return to claim their deposit so that we could claim that and we made most of our money that way.

We got milk from the milkman or loose from the store (or even, dare I say it, as raw milk, direct from the farmer, often still warm from the cow), bread from the bakers, only got vegetables or salad in season.

Not like today when we use aircraft to bring produce from around the world that looks like the real thing but with little taste. Like “organic” French beans alls the way from Kenya, flown into he UK daily, and which, when the planes cannot fly, as in the case of the Volcanic ash issue, will rot in the warehouse in Kenya because the Kenyans don't eat them. They just grow them for us. Is that not madness?

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

In my day, we walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator of lift in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery shop or cycled there and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go a mile or two.

I have watched the hilarious exercise of a mother taking her “little darlings” to the local Primary School (about 200 yards away from their home) by bundling them into their SUV, strapping them all nicely in, as is the law (about 10 minutes for that exercise – there were 3 of them). The she drove the 200 yards down the road, double parked, left the engine running, bundled the kids out of the car, walked them into the school and handed them over to the teacher, I guess (another 5 or so minutes). The lady then proceeded with the car into the local village to get a few things from the store. The village high street is about 5 minutes walk from the school, if that.

There she then drove around for about 5 or so minutes looking for a non-existent parking space near the stores. Went then to park in the official car park where she has to pay, walked back into the village and then back to the car and drove back home.

Time spent, without the time at the shops, about 25 minutes. Walking the kids to school and then going to the stores would have been about 15 minutes all in, not counting, as said, the time in the shops, and going from shop to shop on the high street.

But those old folks are right. They didn’t have the green thing in their day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up about two thousand watts of electrical energy for an hour or so – wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, from other people and even from clothing distributions such as the Salvation Army, not always brand-new clothing. And no one did the “brand” thing of the “it has to be Nike”, as it is now, or “Fila” in the 1980s.

We definitely didn’t have the green thing back in those days.

Back then, most people had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room and the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the State of New Hampshire.

In the kitchen, people blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you. They did not have ready meals in plastic packs that heat up in seconds in a microwave. They didn't have a microwave and many of the old folks are, in fact, afraid of the microwave.

When they packaged a fragile item to send by post, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, people didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. People, bar the rich and lazy, exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that are run, pardon the pun, on electricity.

No, honest, we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a tap when we were thirsty, cupping our hands, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. We refilled pens with ink, or refills, as in case of the ballpoint pens, instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. We resharpened knives or had them professionally resharpened; no one threw a knife away just because it had gotten dull.

But, honestly, we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or even walked for miles and miles to school every day, rain or shine, instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. Their mothers also would not have had a car. They mostly had but one car, if they had a car at all. Aside from the fact that cars were still rather expensive and out of reach for many very few saw the need of having to have more than one car anyway.

People had one electrical outlet in a room, maybe two, and two double outlets even at times, but not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. There weren't that many appliances to power.

People did not need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza takeaway. There were no or few satellites and their jobs was another than to do silly things like that.

We didn't use a satellite navigation system to find our way around when going somewhere; we used a norm al ordinary road map, planned the journey properly and got there easier and better than most people with a Garmin or a TomTom today.

We also did not need a GPS compass to find our way around the countryside. Ordinance Survey may and compass of the magnetic kind, simple or more sophisticated, such as lensatic or prismatic, did the job. And we did not need to know where precisely, to the faction of an inch we were on that map anyway. We could read the land and thus we knew.

Children were rarely obese, or far, though some were but that was due to genes most of the time and overeating in some cases, as they walked or cycled everywhere, ran, climbed trees, made their own adventures in woods and rivers and wherever else, and did not need some machine to do it all for them.

Oh my, how we could have done “the green thing” back then. How did we ever manage without it? How did we ever get by?

We and others did have the green thing back then, we just did it without know that that was what we did, the green thing.

Is this what we call progress today? We have gotten nowhere fast, have we? We must find our way back, back to sanity and to the non-green thing of old.

© 2011