We frequently hear from politicians and media commentators likening the present crisis to that in the 1940s. It is obvious, to one who was alive then, that they were not there!

Life and attitudes were quite different then. The country really was bankrupt then after six years of war and most ordinary people had few reserves after not only the war, but the depression of the thirties and high unemployment which immediately preceded it.

Despite all this I don’t remember an air of pessimism and gloom. On the contrary people were so happy to be free from the horror and worry of war that they looked forward with optimism to, what they hoped would be, peace.

Many of the cities had suffered terrible bombing attacks leaving a great shortage of homes and communal buildings so a huge re-building programme  was begun. There was no talk of cutting back to build up the finances first.

A huge loan was obtained from the USA which took 50 years to repay, so please don’t tell us that we are leaving a huge debt for our children to repay, we have lived through the repayment of a loan (and survived).  In this time we have seen living standards rise enormously. There have been advances in medicine, science, technology etc. which we could never have imagined at that time. The NHS and welfare state was established, so that poor people need never again die from lack of treatment, or feel the fear of watching their families starve or being evicted from their homes if they lost their jobs. Of course there will always be those who abuse the system, just as there are those at the other end of the system who abuse the tax system and find ways of avoiding paying all the taxes for which they are liable.

I don’t think anyone expected rationing to last as long as it did. I was six when the war ended. I think I thought that things would go back to the world I had been told about, but had never experienced, sweet shops full of sweets and chocolate, this mysterious thing called ice cream reappearing, no ration books, real eggs every day if you wanted them. I also expected my father to come home to live with us next day instead of the nine months in actuality. When he did finally arrive home it took a while to get used to him being home and having to share my mother with him!

The years after the war were difficult for the adults, but as a child I don’t remember it as a miserable time. Rationing became even more severe, wages were low but there seemed to be plenty of jobs around. Most people lived in rented accomodation but the rents were affordable on one wage  so most mothers stayed home. This meant that children were under the beady eyes of not only their own mothers but all the other mothers, which kept us safe and reasonably well behaved 🙂

As communities we celebrated the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, the 1948 Olympics, the Festival of Britain and the Coronation. It seemed as though every couple of years there was something to look forward to.

As schoolchildren we had more opportunities for further education than previous generations. Many in my parents’ generation were unable to take up scholarships as they had to go to work at 14 years old to help support the family. It was even rarer for girls to have higher education then, but I don’t know of anyone in my age group who had to renounce a scholarship on economic grounds.

We had far fewer “things” in those years after the war, our clothes were often hand-me-downs or homemade, (I had never heard of designer labels), bicycles were second hand and much prized,  presents usually only for Christmas or birthdays, no credit cards or extended credit, but we really were “all in it together” so had no peer pressure to worry about.

I think the positive attitude of politicians and the people did much to engender the optomistic air. Gloomy forecasting seems to be a self fulfilling exercise. Maybe our politicians and media wallahs could learn something from that.

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