I think it was the vision of the poor woman struggling to open a can of pilchards that made my mind whirl. She scraped , banged and struggled ,but the can steadfastly refused to be breached. Her daughter had a go next. She had no better success. She prodded with the tool and attempted to somehow hook it to the edge of the undefeated can. It was looking as though those pilchard sandwiches would be off that evening’s tea-time menu until her husband arrived home to save the day. His attack was more physical but every bit as cackhanded, but by stabbing and prising shards of the metal lid he accomplished a rough hewn hole in the cover .It was enough to scoop and hoke the fishy contents out onto a plate.All the while , I feared evisceration, cut wrists and spouts and spumes of blood lashing across the kitchen’s walls. Thankfully a bloodbath was avoided and the family group survived intact.
This was a small scene in a programme I watched which purported to re-visit snapshots of daily life back in the 1950’s. I was a child of the 1950’s , so I imagine this nostalgic time-trip was aimed at viewers much a as myself ,who’d experienced the kaleidoscopic whirl that was the progression of daily life in the last half of the twentieth century…. and had actually survived to remember and tell the tale.Could we now be so removed from that basic , almost Iron-Age technology, that we were actually now helpless in its usage.Had we forgotten to open a simple can of fish?
It made me think what a time- traveller or an alien species , journeying to any part of our modern life would make of any of it ,or what we’d each do if life, as we currently know it , disappeared in some holocaust or disaster.and we had to begin again without all our modern conveniences. The small nuclear family in the television programme who had agreed to this temporal experiment were deliberately lost in time ; that is , to live throughout a particular decade and behave as if they were in each particular year, eating the food that those of us who lived through those days , actually ate. Each year of the 1950’s was represented by a typical day in their lives.It ran through post -war rationing which was only revoked in 1954 right up to the looming 1960’s of the year 1959 .They survived the experiment but at times appeared ,not unlike a family of chimpanzees, attempting to use a stick, for the first time, to prod ants from a hole in the ground. Each day represented a particular year and the food that may have been consumed by a “typical” family group back then.Even though the projected household would have been luxurious compared to what many actually had to work with back then, it was still a very spartan affair in comparison to modern life .Food was a particular puzzle.Somehow , it was all so very basic and unflavoured.
It was the tin-opener that did it , though. In another few short years , it will be entirely redundant, what with ring -pull cans and possibly reinforced waxed paper packaging,it’s need will be gone. The opener was one of those punch- and- lever affairs that sometimes also had a cork-screw built into the handle. Sure, they been superceded by key winding openers and electric versions , but it astounded me how quickly the basic skill or understanding of its use had actually disappeared from the ordinary lives of this one family
I can’t wait to see what the children of the household make of the new-fangled “Dansette” record player when they return next time to immerse themselves in the near-mythical 1960’s. Will they struggle to place a vinyl Beatles record on the deck and play it?