Then along came mass media, and by the 1950s the whole country could discuss with knowledgeable enthusiasm the output of two television companies and four radio stations. Now, the age of satellite television and niche marketing has fragmented the shared experience. So if you wonder why everyone you meet seems to talk of nothing other than going to Cornwall for the eclipse, put away those portentous theories of millennial anxieties and New Age rituals. It's just an all-too-rare chance to have a communal sense of wonder and delight.
ONE HUNDRED years ago, of an evening, everyone was doing something different. Some were down at the pub talking over the day's events; others were in the parlour sharing a sing-along; still more were pursuing their solitary pursuits, whether they be stamp collecting or reading the latest works on that new theory of evolution.