Child of the 1950s

Dark satanic mills as seen from the local canal.
Commissioned watercolour, artist unrecalled. Original hangs in my hallway.

I was born during the early 1950s into a drab district of a worsted grey woollen town in a part of the grim and grimy north of England known then as the West Riding Conurbation of Yorkshire. I was the only child of working-class parents.

Back in those days, my working-class baby boomer generation had two choices on leaving school: we either became fodder for the dark satanic woollen mills or cogs in the crepuscular engineering workshops as these were the two industries that dominated our town. At that time, mills and workshops offered a job for life but mobility of any kind wasn’t really an option. Nevertheless, technology and changes of location are the two major themes that have run through all of my peripatetic life. Always standing out rather than fitting in, I’ve never just gone along to get along. Mais, je ne regrette rien!

‘Life was a lesson we tried to learn.
There were no tests to pass, no licence to gain Only win or lose …’

Barclay James Harvest. 1983. ‘Fifties Child’ from the album ‘Ring of Changes’. Polydor Records

The baby boomer generation was large and there were plenty of contemporary competitors in everything I did … from selection for the local state grammar school (a race that I won) to places at university (a race that I lost, at least until the 1990s). The ‘may the best man win’ approach to competition has shadowed me all my life and has been a source of much motivation in gaining my many achievements. But for later generations, it seems they are told disingenuously that there are no losers, only winners, and failure is often spun as ‘success’. However, I have found that where there is no failure, there is little learning.