When Worlds Collide

Forty years ago this week my dad was at his Corby home in Thoroughsale Road lying in his bed dying from cancer and I was just a boy. He passed away on 11th January 1971 at the age of 55 yet, even today, I can still hear his voice, feel his hands, smell his pipe tobacco, taste his dark diabetic chocolate (which I’d pinch when no one was looking) and see his smiling blue eyes. Recently my brother Tom had found a little booklet containing Stewarts and Lloyd’s employee information which included an amount of money given to my dad by way of compensation after he’d lost a leg whilst working as a carpenter in Corby’s steel works. Though its not compensation as you and I might understand from today’s world. This was money given to dad following a ‘whip-round’ amongst his fellow workers – £18. That was it. No disability benefits or pensions, no employers’ liability insurance. Nothing more than £18. The total price of a leg and a job. I can only thank those that could find it in their hearts to give anything from their own hard earned wages. After I’d seen dads name in this little old book I began to wonder about how all our lives have changed in the past 40 years, and the things, mostly domestic, that simply didn’t exist in 1971. As I drove away from Tom’s house in Weldon I began my mental list with the most obvious: disability and/or mobility vehicles of any description. I found myself speaking out loud as I drove. “The microwave oven” I said as I clattered over another speed hump. “Speed humps” I shouted. (I know speed humps aren’t a domestic item: they just popped into my head). When I arrived home I thought I’d send a text to thank Tom and his lovely wife Sue for our Christmas presents. “Mobile phone,” I said, as I loaded the dishwasher. There’s another one. Now, that really would have made a difference to my parents’ lives. “Not possible” I thought, “Without the micro-chip: what’s that all about?” They had their valve-driven Peto Scott black and white television but they didn’t have a hand-held remote control unit (I call it the ‘zappa’: Liz calls it the ‘box’). Now that really would have made a difference to a man with one leg who loved watching the six o’clock news, Dads Army and Panorama! A cordless home phone might have been handy, if only to tell dad that his tea was ready, instead of sending me scampering up the garden as mum’s messenger. Then they could have had their meal which had been cooked in a self-cleaning oven, served on dishwasher-proof plates. The list is endless and I’m sure that you can think of many more domestic delights, but what of the future? What will be in the homes of 11th January 2051? The mind boggles. One things for sure. We only get one set of parents in this life!

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