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1981: On Cloud Nine … 2021: On Jab Three


IT’S time to revisit 1981, to look at the changes over four decades. Rose-tinted lenses are a must. Let’s go through the Round Window … 

The final year of school. One final push to A-levels, university applications, driving tests (many), the angst of trying to understand the opposite sex (work in progress).  

Then there was the endless summer holiday with foreign trips to plan. Let’s go to Greece on the ‘Magic Bus’ (old coach). It’s only £28 and takes three days, what could possibly go wrong?  We flew back. 

Punk had unfortunately departed the charts and New Romance was starting to fill the void.  Soft Cell, Adam Ant and the Human League kept the nightclubs ticking over. Harmless fun, ridiculous fashions and face paints – surely we didn’t do that? Ah, you still have ‘the negatives’ …  

Off to university and working out if one could live off a ‘grant’ of £500 per term. When topped up with holiday jobs, this seemed pretty fair. No, there weren’t any tuition fees – ask Mr Blair and Mr Clegg about that.  

Course no good? Then change it. Take a decision and stand by it; personal responsibility and all that. Some entrepreneurial students found a deposit and bought their own place, with other students paying the mortgage. Seize the moment. If you couldn’t join them, £12 a week rent plus a share of bills seemed good value. 

In the charts there was Queen, David Bowie, Earth, Wind and Fire, Rainbow, Phil Collins, Kim Wilde. On TV we were lucky to have the likes of Dave Allen, Kenny Everett, Jasper Carrott, Yes, Minister and the final year of It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. 

Suddenly the first term had finished with the end of 1981. What a long way one had travelled in 12 months. You had tasted independence, made new friends, taken many decisions for yourself. Some worked and others didn’t.  However, you were learning all the time. 

Fast-forward four decades to 2021.  The final year of school destroyed by a rudderless, panicky government.  No proper end of year parties, missed goodbyes, no rites of passage, postponed driving tests.  

Grades straight from the teacher and 20 per cent higher than any recent years. Inflation has always eaten away at value.  More than 50 per cent of school leavers still jumping on the conveyor belt to ‘university’, huge debts guaranteed. 

However, don’t expect to enter university on ability and achievements.  Now it’s your ‘background’, closely followed by your willingness to prostrate yourself at the Woke altar, that matters.   

Face-to-face lectures, perhaps – but probably not. Don’t forget to ‘check your privilege’ and mind your ‘micro-aggressions’. Finally, don’t even think about having an independent opinion on anything – just to be safe. All for an absolute bargain of £15,000 a year. 

Foreign holidays?  What, are you crazy? Don’t you know there’s a bug going around and you may ‘kill granny’ if you do anything so reckless?  

Well, if you really insist, then as long as you have an armful of jabs, and a never-ending series of ‘tests’ we may let you over the Channel for a few days before quickly changing the regulations – again.   

Oh well, forget holidays. Let’s go down the pub and drown our sorrows. Oh, hang on … 

It’s autumn, it all seems to be calming down a bit. Oh, no – heeeere’s Omicron! Time to hit the panic button again. There seems to be a pattern here? Can’t the Government just let us get on with our lives? When did it become our duty to protect the NHS? 

My takeaway? The challenges are totally different for today’s youth. There are still some great opportunities, but they must be sought out, as they won’t be given to you.  

If however I was given the choice of 1981 or 2021, what would I choose?  Well I’m rather enjoying looking through these rose-tinted lenses. I might just stay here a little longer … 

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James Phillips
James Phillips
James Phillips (pseudonym) has served in both the Fleet Air Arm and the Army Air Corps. He also spent a few years flying police helicopters.

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