The wallpaper we grow up into, the political, social, economic and technological background to our early years, is the first ‘new’ that we experience, and as such, has a powerful hold on us. As we get older we adapt less well to change, and the further from the wallpaper of our childhood we get, the more uncomfortable we grow, it would seem, though the immediate post-war social revolution that established the welfare state perhaps shows that, in extremis or at times of great improvement in living conditions, the elderly are as happy to accept change as the young.
I was 2 months old when the Cuban missile crisis reached its peak, and grew up in a world as radically changed from that of my grandparents as ours is different from the 60’s and 70’s now. The world I grew up in was undergoing vast social changes, as the culmination of the imagination of spirit that enabled the radical agenda of the 1945 Labour government meant a backdrop of civil rights, CND and radicalised labour alongside rising prosperity and great technological advances. It was a world of change, and the new attitudes that I grew up with were founded on the collective will to change that permeated society. I was a child of course, and unaware of all this. To me, the wallpaper I learned to see, coloured by my experiences, was the only one that there was. It was far from ideal, and I have no great yearning for it, though I have a not uncommon fondness for the technology and products of the 60’s. These simply formed a familiar and ultimately comforting, but entirely meaningless pattern on the wallpaper.
I matured into the new age of the individual, as the political landscape changed, and finance, not industry, emerged as the new basis of our economy. Many of the successes of the post war period have now vanished alongside the attitudes that shaped them, and whilst I do not romanticise the time I grew up in, I do grieve for the fragmented unsociety we seem to have allowed ourselves to become. 40 years on, in the face of the failure of our economic system to enable us to reap the benefits of the technology we have created, it is not the wallpaper of my childhood that I yearn for, but the failure of the promise that it appeared to hold.