Being raised on Monty Python, an old sketch popped into my head (The Four Yorkshire Men) and led to a thought. A grandfather and grandson are at the dinner table …
Grandfather: Ah, when I was a lad, life was very different.
Grandson: In what way, grandad?
Grandfather: Well, we used to get our milk delivered to the door, along with bread and eggs, and we used to grow our own vegetables in the garden.
Grandson: What’s a garden, grandad?
Grandfather: It was a space of land attached to houses.
Grandson: What’s a house, grandad?
Grandfather: Well, back in the day, we used to have our own houses with three or four bedrooms and a garage and a garden. Obviously with so many folks around today, everyone just has a small space but, back then, it was very different.
Grandson: Do you think it was better or worse, grandad?
Grandfather: In some ways better and in some ways worse, lad.
Grandson: In what way better then?
Grandfather: Well, we used to have vinyl LP’s, or Long-Playing records. You would buy them in record shops and rush home to listen to the whole thing end to end using a record player. The record player had a needle that would take the music and play them through speakers via an amplifier.
Grandson: That sounds complicated grandad. I’d rather just think of a mood and have the music stream through the house, so how do you think that was better?
Grandfather: I thought it was better because you could see that music and the artist, feel the vinyl and appreciate the whole work, not just the one song everyone likes.
Grandson: What else has changed grandad?
Grandfather: Oh, so many things, so many things. I mean you only have to look at money these days to see how it has all changed.
Grandfather: Sure. I mean we don’t see money anymore. When I was a lad, money was everything. We counted every penny. These days, you don’t ever see a penny as it’s just a number on an account run by a machine far, far away.
Grandson: Is that better or worse?
Grandfather: It’s worse for me, as I like to count the cost of things. If I cannot see the cost or count the money, I have no idea what’s going on. We used to have cash and cash ruled. We had bank notes and bank coins, and we could instantly know how much we had in our pocket and how much we can afford. These days, no one knows and they just spend, spend, spend and then borrow, borrow, borrow. We couldn’t do that, or not without an interrogation from the manager of our local bank branch.
Grandson: A bank branch, grandad? What’s that?
Grandfather: Jeez lad, I forgot we don’t have those anymore either. Well, a bank branch was a place you would go to get cash, talk about money and meet people. It was a community place, where everybody knew everyone else, and we could have a chat about things on our mind. And remember I mentioned a house with a garden? Well, the bank would fund that if you could prove you could afford it. You would take out a loan over twenty or thirty years, and eventually the house would be yours.
Grandson: You owned the house? Wow!
Grandfather: In those days you could. Not like now, where everyone just pays a landlord for the luxury of having a small space in an apartment block. There were so many other things you could do in a bank branch, like getting a mortgage to buy a house or to pay in a cheque.
Grandson: What’s a cheque, grandad?
Grandfather: Well, sometimes you wanted to pay someone who was in another town and you couldn’t pay them in cash as they were miles away. When that happened, we would write a piece of paper from the bank with who we wanted to pay and how much, and then pop that in the post. We even had a common line which was to say to someone: “oh, the cheque’s in the post”, especially if you didn’t want to pay them.
Grandson: So, you would pay with a cheque if you didn’t want to pay someone?
Grandfather: Not exactly, but it was a lengthy process. You see you would put the cheque in the post, it would arrive at the person you wanted to pay a few days later, then they would take it to the bank and, after another three or four days, the bank would ensure the cheque was real and add the money to that person’s account.
Grandson: Are you telling me it would take almost two weeks to pay someone?
Grandfather: That would be about right, son.
Grandson: How is that better when I can pay anyone now, right away with no delay?
Grandfather: You don’t get it do you, son?
Grandson: Get what, grandad?
Grandfather: Well, back in the day, we knew the value of money and could see it, touch it, manage it. Today, it’s just numbers and no-one cares.
Obviously, the sketch could go further and talk about when a big trip would be going into town, that you could trust politicians, that the local priest was safe to be left alone with the grandson and more, but I think I’ll leave it there … oh, and a thumbs-up to Brett King who uses the cheque example often to illustrate the way in which our world used to be so stupid. Two weeks to pay someone? You’ve got to be joking …
Postnote: I just got a cheque from an American bank that is taking a month to process …