The past sucks

It’s a human failing that we always think we stand on a cusp between what was better and what is to be worse; it’s a staple of the tabloids and of politicians, for whom the future is a fear to be exploited for votes.

Having spent many hours trawling through our archives I tend to think that this is not true. The past often sucks, and we are apt to forget we are the most prosperous, long-lived and healthy people who ever walked the planet.

In Another Week this week we cite a Mr Rutland, who wrote to us in 1965, looking back 50 years previously.

Having worked in the “miserable starvation task of fustian-cutting” — seen by us now as part of the area’s rich heritage — he ended up working in Biddulph, walking six miles each way for a hard job.

He said: “Those good old days that some people are so fond of talking about, now gone, I hope never to return.”

Further on in the same year we came across a story that showed the swinging 60s, “when Britain was Great” as many people say, was itself not an age we’d want to return to.

The story was headed “Colour bar on estates” and reported on a local builder whose company had decided not to sell houses to “coloured people”.

He said he was “unhappy” with this but saw no other solution.

The firm’s policy had come to light when it returned a house deposit to a British-born man who had hoped to buy a house on a new estate at Chester, built by the company.

The reasons given were that the company would have found it difficult to sell other houses on the estate, and that people who’d already bought houses were worried their own properties would fall in value because of the presence of “coloured people”.

I know we reported a similar case from Buglawton, and when we posted this story on Facebook, a former Congletonian reported that his wife remembers a vote on West Heath because a black family — whose daughter was one of her classmates — wanted to move to the estate.

There were no good old days, and don’t let politicians fool you into thinking that if we turn back the clock, things will get better.

It’s one thing to want a reasonable debate on Europe, another to hark back to day when “coloured people” couldn’t buy houses wherever they wanted.

***

Not that stupidity is a thing of the past. News broke this week that the Co-operative is closing branches in this area.

As well as being really inconvenient, this is really annoying.

I moved from the Royal Bank of Scotland, dismayed at the mix of incompetence, stupidity and vanity (at its head office; the staff are lovely) that caused the bank to collapse. Already debating where to go, a new mortgage with the reliable and dependable Britannia Building Society brought with it an account at the Co-operative Bank, a perfect solution.

But then it transpired that the Britannia was not so reliable, and had diverted from its tradition of safe lending to higher risk (and thus more profitable) loans, leaving a black hole in its accounts.

The Britannia would have collapsed had the Co-operative Bank not stepped in; God bless the reliable and dependable Co-operative movement.

But then it transpired the Co-op wasn’t so well run either. It had its own black hole and a boss soon dubbed the Crystal Methodist: he was done for possessing cocaine, crystal meth and ketamine (being on horse tranquilisers would explain all the bankers’ behaviours) though he escaped prison. (How? People at Newcastle Magistrates Court get sent down for less).

The bank had a black hole of about £1.9bn it couldn’t fill, and had to sell out to hedge funds, those bastions of the capitalist system.

Never mind, the Co-operative Group still owned 20% and promised to stick to its ethical values.

But now it transpires that even this isn’t true and the Co-operative Group is closing branches and shedding jobs; jobs that came to it via the failure of the Britannia. Never mind: the Co-operative Bank might make a profit by 2017 and it has promised to buy back the shares.

The past sucks. Roll on the future. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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