We might be the first people to be experiencing the sense of the death of a time. In two years, this freshly-minted century will have raised its first 18 year olds. There’s a change to the order of things. Perhaps it’s the death of the 20th century that we’re feeling.
Those are words written by Hamish Thompson in reaction to the news of the death of pop star Prince yesterday, but also addressing the bizarrely long list of celebrity deaths 2016 has brought, from Bowie to Victoria Wood.
The death of the 20th century. That’s a thought that hit us hard, and which rings true.
It explains the thrill of going to watch a retro-styled Star Wars film that was almost identical to the first Star Wars, which came out just before we born, when Harrison Ford was young and on the up.
It explains why, in the last few years, disposable concrete buildings that were at best ignored and at worst despised are now regarded with the same nostalgic fondness as was the Euston Arch in the 1960s.
— This Brutal House (@BrutalHouse) January 10, 2015
All that concrete, pale-red brick, linoleum, muted Festival of Britain glamour… It was the landscape we grew up in, and now it’s disappearing.
It explains why in 2015 the BBC gave us The Kennedys, Cradle to Grave and Danny & The Human Zoo — three weirdly similar programmes in which comedians attempted to summon the spirit of the 1970s as they were actually lived, while there are still people around who can recall the minutiae.
Maybe, getting to beer and pubs (at last), it’s why old brewery brands such as Magee & Marshall are being revived — your grandfather, with his war stories and Sunday best, may be long gone, but you can at least drink his favourite beer.
This anxiety over the passing of time is certainly behind our current obsession with estate pubs and theme pubs, dismissed for so long as diversions from the true path of ‘pubness’, and now almost all gone, along with many of those who remembered drinking in them when they were new, their Formica fresh and blemish-free. We find ourselves following leads only to discover that the person who commented on a messageboard in 2007 died five years ago.
The only complete surviving post-war prefab pub we’ve identified (thanks, @TenInchWheels) the Arches at Bradwell, we now learn (thanks, Lorraine) is scheduled for demolition.
We gather around us bits of tat (ephemera, if you’re being kind) because that branded pint glass or now useless pub guide are physical connections to a drowning past.
What we’re trying to do, in our small way, in our own field of trivia, is cling on to the twentieth century as it slips away — to grab what we can before there’s nothing left, and we find ourselves orphaned in this weird future, like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.