PAUL STAINTON: The olden days – when were they?

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host -
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Growing up, my old mum would often say that things were better in the mystical, “Olden Days.”

Being an inquisitive whipper snapper, I would always try to pin her down on the exact time frame for this golden age, when everything was supposedly hunky dory, but my interrogations always proved fruitless.

I suppose at some point in our lives we all hark back to our own “Olden days” when, through our rose tinted glasses, we remember the good times with fondness, whilst the not so good memories are affected by selective memory syndrome.

Peering through my own “Happy glasses” I remember long summer days playing cricket until the sun went down and games of knock door run with the grumpy old man who lived on the corner of our street – He absolutely loved that!

Mars Bars were seven pence and you actually had a bus service that went through your village (unbelievable eh?), whilst Sunday nights were spent recording the Top 40 on this amazing new invention called the cassette player.

Trying to edit Tommy Vance’s voice from in between the songs was a real skill and required precision depression of the pause and record buttons. The lids of today don’t know what they are missing, although sales are up so perhaps the C90 will one day rise again and slay the fruit based electrical storage unit.

But it wasn’t all good – In a morning you could draw faces in the ice on the inside of our bedroom windows and it was no fun going to school in your mum’s latest fashion creation - Patched jeans - Jeans that marked you out for “Special treatment” once you were inside the school gates.

We had rubbish on the streets and power cuts and I vividly remember our pet rabbit “Disappearing” one day from it’s hutch and then tucking into “Meat stew” for tea that night - Strange because we didn’t have the money for “Meat.”

Another who requires no funny coloured spectacles to shape his view of history is retiring Councillor, Charles Swift, OBE.

The longest serving councillor in Great Britain and probably one of the best known faces in Peterborough, has been telling it like it is on the council for sixty-two years, good and bad.

In a wide ranging interview with me on the BIG Conversation, on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, he talked of Brylcreem (no need for that now Charles) dancing and becoming the city’s youngest ever councillor, aged just twenty-three.

He waxed lyrical about his part in the huge re-development of the city which started with its designation as a new town in 1967 and beamed with pride when I mentioned his role in rescuing fifty Ugandan families from the clutches of Idi Amin in 1972.

It wasn’t a popular policy at the time but as he said, “It was just the right thing to.” Those who disagreed with this small piece of controlled immigration took their anger out on his windows.

Ironically his views on uncontrolled immigration are equally forthright and he mourns the negative effects that it has had on his ward in recent years.

His utter contempt for some of his present day contemporaries on the council is also plain to see. Many of them, he claims, are not up to muster and in it for the wrong reasons – Many of them would be for the chop if old Charlie was wielding the axe.

It says much about the state of local politics though when a man like Charlie has lost the appetite for it. A man who has fought and won fifteen elections, a man who has given sixty years of public service to this City, a man who has quite simply had enough of it all.

Maybe things really 
were better in the “Olden days.”