Having spent most of my working life dealing with the legacies of contaminated land, and aware of the consequences of our treatment of the planet, I am under no illusions about any golden age, any more than I would seek to downplay the appalling racism, sexism and homophobia of the past (‘Who remembers proper binmen?’ The nostalgia memes that help explain Britain today, 15 November).
However, it would be foolish to deny the benefits of growing up as a baby boomer in a country with a more equitable distribution of wealth, where we collectively owned and controlled our water, energy, telecommunication and public transport systems, were confident of seeing an NHS doctor or dentist, and where there was a plentiful supply of affordable council housing available, not to mention food and fuel.
The last 40 years has seen the social democratic baby thrown out with the bathwater, when it is needed now more than ever to confront the social and environmental issues we face.
Dr Richard JF Bewley
• Having grown up in the 1950s, your long read brought back memories of the items and activities listed as consigned to history. However, I was surprised to see the suggestion that the eating of beans on toast is also long gone.
This meal is cheap but nutritious, particularly if the toast is made with wholemeal bread. A version of this dish that our household enjoys involves spreading the beans straight from the can on to a slice of unbuttered wholemeal toast on a plate, adding a layer of sliced tomatoes and heating everything in a microwave for a couple of minutes. Then top with some cubed feta cheese, perhaps a few basil leaves, but definitely a drizzle of a homemade infusion of chilli, garlic and rosemary in olive oil, and enjoy. The result is a low-cost light lunch with minimal energy use.
• Dan Hancock’s long read was a timely reminder of the need to rebuff the economic narrative being established by the Tories. It chimes, strongly, with the patronising, patriarchal and downright dangerous notion of tough times being good for “us”. What we need is a forward-looking, investment-oriented plan for the UK economy. I look forward to hearing Keir Starmer’s vision for how this will be achieved under Labour. Now is the time to present a compelling and constructive answer to the mess the Tories have made of our economy.
• I certainly do remember binmen! In 1965, my first job between leaving school and college was a bin man in the Durham pit village of West Cornforth (which even to this day is known as Doggy).
We carried metal bins filled to the brim with rain-soaked coal ash, not to a modern wagon, as in your photo, but to the side of a wagon with slide-down shutters. We stacked, lifting bins over head height until the rubbish would tumble down on us. As the newcomer, I had a special job. Armed with a cardboard box and a shovel, I cleaned out the outside “netties” (earth closets) that still remained around the village green.
Last call was always Sweeting’s butchers, where we ate meat pies straight from the oven. Removing our gloves for hygiene, of course. I loved the job.
Trimdon Grange, County Durham
• As a second world war baby, I remember every one of the “Who remembers” challenges, plus sliding down rubbish tips on discarded asbestos lorry brake linings. None of it, for all the stuff I recall fondly, stops me giving the same answer in the “Which year would you most like to have been living in?” parlour game. Answer: this year; with my insulating jabs and a wonderful cottage hospital and GP practice just minutes away.
Crieff, Perth and Kinross
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