Not surprisingly, the newspapers this week have been in full nostalgia-mode, harking back to the time when Elizabeth Windsor became The Queen, a time when half the British population over 30 had false teeth, you'd be considered middle class if you didn't have an outside lavatory and a fridge was the ultimate in domestic luxury.
The tone of most of the pieces was that life was simpler and more fulfilling in those days. Well, I was born a few years after The Queen's accession to the throne and I think that, in almost every way, life is better in 2012 than it was in 1952.
I'm not just talking about technological developments, although Skyplus alone makes life worth living, or political shifts that have brought more equality. And I'm leaving aside advances in medical science, which is a column in its own. (On that subject, I sat next to a retired gastro-enterological surgeon at lunch yesterday, not a usual occurrence. He had just had a double hernia operation. He told me that when he started as a surgeon, an operation such as this would take several hours and require a few days in hospital. Now, it was done by keyhole surgery, he was back home that evening, where he watched a DVD of the operation on his television.)
I'm talking about the profound improvements in the way public life is conducted. Some may not consider this an altogether positive change, but I think that the general lack of deference we have towards authority makes for a much more mature society.
We don't believe everything that governments tell us, we challenge the high-handedness of public officials, and we don't unquestioningly accept a doctor's opinion. In every area of life, we have an acute sense of our rights, and we no longer feel like Her Majesty's subjects. This has in turn made for a much more open society, one in which information is willingly shared – a simple example is public transport: a train only has to stop for a minute, and you're given a full explanation – and transparency is the norm (for almost every institution, with the possible exception of the Royal Family).
There's much less litter, and that is an equitable trade-off for people saying "amazing" all the time or not hearing someone whistling in the street any more. Men never kissed each other back then (unless they were in the Mafia) and I have to say that I'm fond of a manly embrace among good friends.
We didn't have proper food in 1952, never mind a gastronomic culture and we had very little sport on television (thanks, Rupert). Some readers will disagree at this point, and of course, there are ways in which we have been coarsened as a people, but this weekend's festival of looking back offers a perfect opportunity to rejoice in the present. Enjoy.Reuse content