So, You Want Your Country Back? Welcome To 1965

When The Beatles Were New

When The Beatles Were New

Welcome aboard our time machine. Today we’ll be taking you back 50 years to 1965, to a long ago world which some people in 2015 appear to yearn to inhabit, a world free of those pesky immigrants, free of Political Correctness, a world where everybody knew their neighbours, a world free of benefit scroungers and crime, a friendlier place with a caring society.

Getting out of bed in 1965 was slightly more difficult than it is today. The vast majority of dwellings in 1965 didn’t have central heating, or duvets. You slept in a bed covered in blankets, and you didn’t hang your coat up – you put it on the bed for extra warmth. Having braved the cold, people washed in cold water – quickly. Then the man of the house would light a fire in the grate, using scrunched up balls of newspapers to light firewood, adding coal when the fire got hot enough. Sometimes the fire would sputter and die; in which case you’d have to start over again.

The man of the house would then make a pot of tea and have a rudimentary breakfast, usually toast and jam, or if pressed for time bread and jam. Then the man would set off for work. Notice that the man doesn’t have a car. Very few people did back then. The man goes out into the pre-dawn darkness and walks down the street to the corner shop, where he buys a daily newspaper, a packet of Woodbine cigarettes and a box of matches. Then he goes to the bus stop and waits. The bus conductor wears extra jumpers, a scarf and fingerless gloves because it’s winter and it’s freezing cold on the bus because the boarding/alighting point of the bus is at the back and open to the elements. Most people on the crowded bus are smoking, because in 1965 a lot of people smoked. The passengers shiver with the cold and it isn’t unusual to see steam rising from their clothing.

The man of the house gets off the bus and goes to a huge factory, where he punches his clock card as evidence that he’s arrived on time for work. Then he goes to a machine and gets cracking because it’s cold in the factory too. He runs exactly 2,500 component parts through the machine before passing them on to the next work station. He gets a tea break and a lunch break during the course of his working day – ten minutes and thirty minutes respectively. The man does the same 2,500 parts every day, week in, week out, year in, year out.

Back at the house the man’s wife is getting her two kids ready for school. She makes them a hearty breakfast of tea and porridge, followed by bread and jam. The kids will get a small bottle of milk at school, and a dinner which costs a shilling a day. The kids’ uniforms are looking a bit worn and the little boy’s shoes have holes in them. The mother puts newspaper in the boy’s shoes to try to keep the wet out. She’s saving up for new school clothes for the kids, but it’ll be a couple of weeks more before she’s saved enough.

The kids walk the mile to school, whatever the weather. Sometimes the mother walks with them, but they don’t really like her doing so because they don’t want to be seen as mollycoddled. When the kids go alone she instructs them to stick together, to take care crossing the roads and not to speak to strangers. They’re good kids but she worries about them – and she’s right to. 1965 was no safer for kids than 2015. Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were arrested in 1965 for abducting, torturing and murdering children before dumping their bodies on Saddleworth Moor.

The mother has her own breakfast; tea, egg and bacon on toast. She relaxes with a cigarette for a few minutes. Then she’ll do the laundry and clean the house. Having done that, she’ll walk to the local shops to buy something for the evening meal. There aren’t any supermarkets in 1965, so the mother has to walk to the shops daily in order to buy bread, milk, potatoes, vegetables and a small quantity of meat or fish. There are no credit or debit cards, and there aren’t any cashpoints so the mother has to balance her budget, ensuring she has enough cash for the family’s daily needs and a little to put in the bank for rainy day moments. Her husband’s payday is a weekly blessing. His wages are paid every Thursday, in cash, in an envelope with a pay slip. The mother worries that the company wages van will be robbed by thieves with guns and pick-axe handles, which happens frequently. If it happens to her husband’s employer his wages will be delayed by at least a day, and that can be a harsh blow to those on a tight budget. It hasn’t happened so far, but it’s a common occurrence in the area where the family live.

Meanwhile the husband is feeling uncomfortable at work. One of his workmates has been carpeted by the boss for failing to meet his work targets for two consecutive days, and the man has asked his union rep to speak on his behalf. The union rep explains to the boss that the man has been an employee for nine years at the firm with a previously flawless record regarding both his work output, timekeeping and attendance. He explains to the boss that the worker isn’t feeling well and assures the boss that the man will be back up to speed within a day or two. The boss relents, and says he’ll give the worker a week to improve or he’ll be shown the door. Everybody is relieved. Union policy dictates than any worker subjected to unfair treatment will receive full union backing. The worst possible scenario could be a strike, and that’s the last thing the men want. They can’t afford to strike.

As the man worries whilst operating his machine, his wife walks to the shops. She stops to chat with familiar faces, before getting essential supplies. For the evening meal she buys sausages from the butcher and a tin of baked beans from the corner shop. Sausage, mash and beans for tea. She also buys a tin of pilchards – pilchards on toast for supper.

It’s been a long day for the man, but he finally clocks out at five and takes the bus home. The Beatles are playing on the transistor radio. The sound quality is poor, but despite that the Beatles sound great. The kids are out playing in the street, the mother is preparing the tea, and the man eases back in his armchair and reads the newspaper. There are no computers in 1965, no iPhones, and only two TV channels. The man puts more coal on the fire and he chats with his wife, discussing what they’ve done that day.

After tea they bring up the possibility of a summer holiday, when the man has two weeks with pay off work. The children are excited by talk of a week’s stay in a Blackpool guest house, or a camping holiday in Great Yarmouth. In 1965 most people stayed in Britain for their holidays. Some adventurous souls ventured to exotic locations like Spain and France, flying to their destinations, but you had to be relatively well off to afford luxury jaunts like that.

Eventually the children go off to bed and the couple watch TV for an hour. The mother is exhausted and wants an early night. The father asks if it’ll be okay to go down the local pub for an hour to see his mates. The wife smiles and hands him some coins from her purse. Then she kisses him, tells him she loves him and goes off to bed.

The man walks to the pub. He says ‘good evening’ to Mr Hassan who runs a shop on the parade, and breathes deeply of the exotic aroma wafting from the Chinese chippy. All the other shops closed long ago. The man marvels at Mr Hassan’s work ethic – his shop is open from the early morning until late in the evening. The man then enters the public bar where he meets up with his mates.

He stays for an hour and drinks two pints of beer. They talk about football. This is 1965, Sky Sports and ticket allocations for modern stadiums are a long way off in the future. When the men watch their local team they are packed into standing terraces where men pissed where they stood. Next year the World Cup will be coming to England. There’s excitement about the brilliant Brazilian star Pele playing locally – although none of the men have seen him in any more than grainy short black and white clips on TV. The talk quickly turns to politics and Harold Wilson’s Labour government. Opinions are divided.

Eventually the man goes home and climbs wearily into his bed. The fire downstairs has long since spluttered and died. He huddles up close to his sleeping wife for extra warmth. When he breathes his exhalations form little clouds as the temperature plummets once more. As he closes his eyes he hears a dog bark, and the clanging of buffers as the night workers in the railway yards organise the freight trains for the morning. Eventually he falls asleep.

When tomorrow comes, the family will do it all again, and the day after.

This is 1965.

Do you still want your country back?

Reporter: Paddy Berzinski.