Funny how rubbish skips creep up on you

I was looking at a skip being removed the other day, just idly watching the great metal rubbish bin being hoisted into the sky, and it suddenly occurred to me that when I was a lad I had never seen this being done because when I was a lad there were no such things as skips.

At least, I can't remember there being such things. When I rewind the patchy and faulty video that I call my memory, I see no pictures of skips in it. I don't know how rubbish was taken away 40 years ago, but I am pretty sure it wasn't in skips. Which leads me to the amazingly simplistic theory that things we all take for granted arrive sort of stealthily and then behave as if they had always been there.

Bar codes, for instance.

They haven't been around very long.

I can remember a time when nothing was bar-coded, and not so very long ago either, a time when Sainsbury's check-out cashiers did not pass objects over little glass screens which then beeped and put the price on the bill. (Incidentally, has there ever been a case of bar-code fraud? Has anyone ever gone into a big store and put labels with their own bar codes on objects to make a cheaper price ring up? Just a thought ...)

I can remember a time before cash machines and credit cards. I can remember a time before LP records. I can remember when there was no such thing as ITV, a time when my mother listened to Mrs Dale's Diary every day, a time when my father took our car abroad and got it into the ship by driving it into a big net which was then lifted into the boat by a crane. I can remember when people roamed freely inside Stonehenge, and I even have a photo of myself doing that very thing.

What I can't remember is when any of that stopped and when any of the modern things started. I have no vision of a newspaper headline saying, "Rubbish Skips Start Operations in Britain tomorrow", or an announcement to the effect that all the Dale family would be killed off in a final cataclysmic episode. This all steals up on us unawares. Very occasionally things come in with a bang and drum roll, like parking meters or seat belts, and sometimes they go out with an obituary, like National Service, but most things just arrive unnoticed.

Or depart without saying goodbye. A modern child who has seen a car drive on to a ferry would find it hard to believe they were lifted by cranes in the old days. I can remember seeing my first musical postcard - a souvenir postcard which was actually also a 45rpm record so that you could play souvenir music on a souvenir picture - and I thought it was so clever that they would always be with us, but I don't think I have seen one for 20 years.

Another example. My son's Cub troop recently did what we used to call Bob-a-Job Week. We don't have bobs any more. We don't have shillings or coins with names any more. So what do you think the Cubs call Bob-a-Job Week these days? I'll tell you what they call it. They call it Bob-a- Job Week still because it's still the best possible name, a rare instance of something being preserved from a former age. (I recently went to Spain at a time when the exchange rate was about 230 or 240 pesetas to the pound, and it suddenly struck me that this meant the peseta was worth exactly what the old pre-decimal penny was worth, and that therefore 100 pesetas was eight shillings and fourpence, and a fat lot of good this discovery was to me ...)

Another example. I met a man recently who owns a 1930 Bugatti racing car. There was something very odd about it. It had a passenger seat. What on earth did a racing car need a passenger seat for?

"To take the mechanic," he said. "Up to about 1932 all racing drivers took mechanics with them. This was because races weren't just around closed circuits - they were also long distance, from Moscow to Paris for example - and they needed mechanics badly."

"Why did they dispense with the extra seat, then?"

"Too many mechanics getting killed."

Now, this was all news to me, but the Bugatti man took it for granted. I just hope someone is making notes of all these changes.

Last example. My nine-year-old son does not know what a Belisha beacon is. Well, he knows what it is, but he doesn't know it is called that. Yet I can remember my father not only telling me the name, but the origin.

"It's named after the man who introduced them, Hore-Belisha. Same man who introduced mandatory driving tests."

"Strange name, Hore-Belisha."

"Well," said my father, "the story is that his real name was Horeb-Elisha, but that he felt this sounded too Jewish, so he moved the hyphen one letter and changed it to Hore-Belisha."

I was too young to doubt his word at the time, but I am not now. Unfortunately, my father is no longer alive. And if anyone is wondering what this piece is all about, you know now. What I want to know is this: does anyone know if there was any truth in what my father said?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence