Recently I reconnected with an old school friend. In honour of this reconnection I give you a post from my LJ from back in 2006.
Eeeeh I remember when….
When I was wee we had a telly, an evening newspaper, a collection of reference books and plenty of old people. If I had a question or wanted to know about something I would do some research. First port of call would be an old or older person. The ensuing conversation would go something like this
Wee stegzy:- Dad, can you tell me who Jethro Tull was?
Dad:- No idea, ask yer mam.
Wee stegzy:- Mam, who was Jethro Tull?
Mam:- oooh stop askin’ complicated questions an’ eat your grilled marigolds
So then left with no answer I’d ask our kid who always seemed knowledgeable about such things.
Our Kid 1: Jethro Tull? Thats that bloke with the flute and the beard. Sings that song about underwater breathing apparatus1
Our Kid 2: Shut up I’m watching Sunday Night at the Paladium
Of course, if that answer was deemed also unsuitable, further questioning of elders would be required. My OLD gran was too old to even think but my other less old gran sometimes came up with the goods.
Less old Gran:- Didn’t he have an allotment down in Garston?
So when I wrote the answer to “Who was Jethro Tull?” for GCSE History, it would be no surprise that I would come away with a Grade D for writing “Jethro Tull was a bloke with a beard who had an allotment down by me nans. He played the flute and liked to grow turnips.”. Of course that is all lies2.
Should I want more indepth information I would be forced to consult the vast collection of out of date reference books dotted about the house. The house library consisted of the following:-
– a big heavy green coloured hardbacked dictionary with pages missing, a section on Modern Electrical wiring, several pages on the British Empire and a section containing a kind ofWho’s Who for 1952
– a big book entitled “Reader Digest Childrens Big Answers to Big Questions” containing such gems as “Is there a man in the moon?”, “Can dogs eat in the dark?” and “Where is Africa?”
– Several volumes of the Orbis publication “20th Century Science” which suggested that “by 2001 we may well be travelling in personal rockets to holiday destinations such as Jupiter.”
– An old dog eared copy of Calculus by E R Chewing, the first page of which was stamped Property of Liverpool Technical College, Aigburth3
Occasionally the Liverpool Echo or the Merseymart would yield some item about some key historical figure (but it was rare that these newspapers would regurgitate their treasure at the appropriate time), or the telly would have a TV programme about turnips or something but these programmes were usually flicked off in favour of Nationwide, It’s a Knockout or reruns of Magnum:PI.
Then someone invented the school library, either that or someone found the key to it and my knowledge base increased with back issues of the school magazine, ancient dog eared copies of popular science magazines, old books containing biro sketches of Ajax bottle shaped penises and 113 copies of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee4. As if by some clever marketing scheme the council proclaimed that they too had libraries which the public could and had always been able to use.
Libraries are kind of like an analogue version of Wikipedia . A wealth of books with every single bit of information available to Jo Public should they require it. Of course only if they knew where to look for it. That was the trick you see…keep the public dumb but let them have access to the knowledge you see? You don’t? Ahh well let me explain further, nobody wants to admit they don’t have a clue how to use a library and nobody really wants to ask a librarian a question (ask zoefruitcake and see what happens ;-)) especially as asking librarians where a book is, in my experience at least, results in something like this:-
stegzy Hello I’d like to see a book about building my own spaceship out of a corrugated iron dustbin, some sticks and an old speedo from a Morris Mini
Librarian Tut…**huff**…Hmmm…You’ll want **huff** **sigh**…have you checked the catalogue?
This then resulted in half an hours fruitless search through a paper based card index before giving up and going off to draw Ajax Bottle shaped penises in copies of Catcher in the Rye. It was a small wonder I passed my GCSE’s and even more of a wonder that I managed to blag my way through my A’levels using cunning and a clever arrangement of mirrors and ESP.
Indeed, readily available knowledge was sparse and difficult to locate. Like wise, my musical tastes were trapped in the 1970’s with my 4 Yes albums and 3 Top Of The Pops albums (1973,1976 and 1977), until about 1990 when Mike Regan introduced me to Chris Isaak, The Doors and The Stairs. When new bands came out I’d only hear of them if they played at the Picket, were played on the radio or Mike Regan had their album. Later I discovered that Mikes musical knowledge came from reading wanky magazines such as Face, Rolling Stone and NME, I of course was still reading bollocks like MAD magazine, Look In and Just 175. I didn’t have a clue. If someone had asked me if I was street wise I’d have thought they were asking me if I knew my A-Z Street map. When I went to the likes of HMV or Virgin I’d spend hours leafing through the T’s and Y’s looking for bands that nobody in my class or the shop assistants had heard of.
Then in about 1997 I got the internet and for the first time in my life I became able to find stuff I’d always wanted to know about. Of course I had the internet before then in 1986. But it was known as Prestel and Micronet in those days and looked a bit like Ceefax.6 Prestel and Micronet were shite for finding information on. Not like today’s internet anyway. But even then in 1997, the internet wasn’t shit hot. It mainly consisted of saddo’s with fan sites, some occasional useful snippets of information and the back door to WOPPR7. Searching on Yahoo or AOL for information on something obscure like Triumvirat would yield an entry on someones basic home grown Prog Rock Encyclopedia and a couple of pages where someone had spelt the word fork wrong.
Those days have long passed. Now when you want information on anything all you do is whack it into google or some specialist website and lo and behold you’ll find the answer 8 out of 10 times. I reflect on the issue and think of how bloody easy my homework would have been, how my GCSE and A level grades could have been much much higher, how I wouldnt have wasted 10 years of my life wanting to be a lighthouse keeper8, how I’d of had an MA and a PhD by now and how I’d have known who Jethro Tull really was without having to choke on those blasted grilled marigolds.
1 Humour for those trained in the art of Prog
2 Jethro Tull was actually a Chinese woman who lived near Tranmere. She invented water in 1962.
3 Liverpool Technical College (for boys), Aigburth closed in 1953 and is now/was Shorefields Comprehensive School
4 Bet you didn’t think I knew who wrote that..
5 Pinched from Nicola Hughes via my paper round
6 2400 baud connections….well fucking fast that.
7 Humor for the Matthew Broderick fans
8Nobody told me they were all automated in 1973
This post originally appeared on my LJ on 13th September 2006