Anton Rippon: Try seeing things through rose-tinted pint glasses
"DID the future turn out to be a disappointment for you?" asked the man at the bar.
"How do you mean?" I said, trying not to sound like Al Read. Before we go any further, let me explain: years ago, when the radio was called the wireless, I was a boy and dinosaurs roamed the planet, comedian Al Read, who did every voice himself, always included a sketch where, when his wife nagged him to do something, he tried to deflect her with: "How do you mean, love?"
It never worked for him then and it doesn't work for me now. But I thought I'd explain for the benefit of younger readers. Well, okay, for anyone under the age of 60. I was also going to say that, every week, millions twiddled the dials to listen to the Salford sausage-maker-turned-comedy-king, but that would take me too far off track. So, back to business.
"Well," said the man – who obviously grew up as part of the same 1950s, Dan Dare generation as me – "did you share similar hopes for the future? You know, big round space stations, doors that opened automatically like that amazing example at the London Science Museum – oh, we have that one .
"But I never anticipated a television set with a remote control. I remember my first house. I'm sure what swung the deal was that it had a BT Trimphone, although not one with buttons.
"But those architects' drawings that showed broad plazas with fashionable people strolling around or sitting on benches in the sunshine… I've still never seen a finished scheme that looked quite like the dream we'd been sold."
"And whatever became of those shiny futuristic suits without collars? I really expected to be dressed like that by 1999. I never saw scruffy trainers and baggy tracksuit bottoms in my vision of the future. Then again, I never saw teachers sacked because they'd restrained a pupil who'd just thrown a drink over them. And I certainly never saw parts of Derby blighted by incomers who think it's okay to throw rubbish and human excrement into the street.
"As a kid I used to get excited about things like breaking the sound barrier, going into space, life becoming better for everyone. But now all I see is a society with declining values; inwardly focused, instant and unearned celebrity; thick and proud of it; vandalism, crime, overcrowding and unemployment."
"Be careful," I told him. "You'll encourage those who blame our generation for the mess that you describe. Although, as their comments are almost always made anonymously on the internet – and are generally an inaccurate reflection of what one originally said – let's not take them too seriously.
"You're right. And now we're permanently governed by young, affluent career politicians who've no idea of what it's like to live in the world in which most of us have to operate because they've never had to."
"You know," said the man, looking at his pint and suddenly cheering up, "I reckon the best thing about the 'present' is that independent brewers are well established. These days, beer is far better than the Watney's Red Barrel and Double Diamond that was supposed to be our future. At least we can drink to that."