Nenthead Tea, 1979
I am enjoying the emerging and converging technologies of the world. Sure, there’s a dark edge to them – how they might be applied and used with abuse in the wrong hands, but there’s primarily a sense of delight in seeing the things that I used to only daydream about (and write about in earlier novels) actually starting to come into tangible, living reality.
Skip back three decades plus a sprinkling of loose years and everything is so different. Growing up in the 1970s was, for me, a unique and special experience. The 70s saw the cusp of Science Fiction emerging into Science Fact. Star Wars happened to me in the 1970s, followed by Space 1999. Then the advent of the electronic calculator -I remember all the staff in my dad’s firm used to make calculations on these hand-cranked “adding machines” that churned out sums on long rolls of paper. I was given a Casio AL-8S on my 8th birthday: I guess my dad hoped I’d get into maths and numbers like he did. I went the way of words. Then consumer computers: again, my dad’s office, an olivetti FDU based computer, something very similar (if not identical) to the Olivetti BCS3030 (FDU-based) + PR1370 printer, followed a couple of years later by the arrival of a ZX Spectrum in my bedroom but that’s the 1980s and a whole different story – polychrome colours, Max Headroom culture.
The 1970s also held the feel of polyester wool jumpers with frayed elbows, sometimes with patches; flared trousers; and, most importantly – kids such as myself playing in the street, clambering over construction sites after-hours, exploring the parks and generally getting dirty, getting cut, bruised and bloody, and staying healthy.
The Health & Safety Executive (and the moronic wannabe police who enforce the rules to bizarre degrees of absurdity) and scum-faced “injury and accident” predators hadn’t yet destroyed the western world.
My good friend Richy – he and I have known each other since the age of 6, when his mother and my mother discovered friendship in the North of England. His mother was a somewhat zany, renegade-type character being harassed by the police of the day because of a certain, unfortunate and isolated event. My mother was a very young Scandinavian who barely spoke a word of English, with a quirky sense of humour and a love of unusual people. This is a photo of Richy and it’s the reason I’m writing out this spray of words. I found it on my computer and just felt moved and inspired. Taken back to a time I’d partially forgotten. Including trips with Richy to Nenthead. An odd, isolated place way up in remote hills in the Cumbria district of England. It included a group of artisan-type people who became embedded deep within my young imagination, and later proved to be a source of inspiration for post-apocalyptic survivor communities. I got to experience a lifestyle where you could renovate an early 19th century cottage with your own hands to become a fusion of timbers and stained-glass, wood-smoke and candle-wax, a labyrinth of levels crowded with cushions and blankets, and crazy-characters sprawled in the shadows. Much, I think, in the way the creators of Children of Men (2006) saw things – farmhouse scene / community.
And amongst it all, covered in grit and grime, sitting there with a mug of tea.
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