Anton Rippon: Some sound advice but drink claim is difficult to swallow
"DO you remember," said the man at the bar, "those words of warning from your mother when you were a child? I was only thinking, the other day, that most of them still make sense."
"It depends," I said. "I never believed that one about if the wind changed direction while you were pulling a face, then you'd be forever stuck with a gormless expression."
"Also," I said, "that thing where we were told to 'be careful with that or you'll have someone's eye out'. I don't remember any one-eyed schoolmates. There were a few cross-eyed ones who had to wear sticking plaster over one lens of their National Health glasses. But no-one sporting a Nelson."
"Maybe that was because people took such advice seriously," said the man, swirling around the last inch of beer in his glass.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"But no, I was thinking more of things like 'don't touch – poke, play with, step on, etc – that because it isn't yours'. Or – applied to swinging on gates, tugging at fences, etc – 'don't do that; imagine what would happen if everyone did that'. And 'don't make a lot of noise because Mr So and So might be on nights and trying to sleep'."
I suppose he was right. Looking back, the instruction to "sit there and let your dinner go down" was probably sound advice.
Indeed, in the 1950s the whole nation seemed obsessed with digestion, the need to avoid constipation and stay "regular". Newspapers were littered with advertisements for something called California Syrup of Figs.
Children were cross-examined: "Have you been today?" Whether we reported in the affirmative or not, something called "salts" was added to breakfast tea, and foul-tasting laxatives were routinely distributed.
They weren't all vile concoctions, though. A new one came out disguised as chocolate. A boy down our street thought it was chocolate and that, in those days of sweet rationing, his birthday had come early. He ate a whole bar in one go. We didn't see him again for several weeks.
When I think about it, growing up was fraught with danger. I ate food loaded with cholesterol, indulged in round-the-clock passive smoking and played with lead soldiers, or tin ones with sharp edges. If you believed the advertisements, however, a drink of this or that could cure most of life's disasters and disappointments. One purveyor of a malty milk drink even went so far as to invent something called "night starvation" which appeared to play on the theory that going without food from a late supper to breakfast could ruin your health and career.
The adverts ran as a series of strip cartoons. A lowly office clerk might visit his doctor to complain that, despite apparently sleeping soundly, he felt permanently tired.
The reassuring figure in a pinstripe suit would diagnose night starvation, recommend – you guessed it – and a month later the clerk would have risen to the position of managing director, proclaiming: "And I owe it all to … "
As I said to the man at the bar, actually, when we were lads, life was far less complicated.