They were of course not simpler times; they were times of depression, unemployment, no healthcare and panicked carpe diem inspired kisses before getting blitzed. And I’m not talking bootleg style here. But hey at least when you went out you knew the moves.
We have comfort foods, comfort reading (when you re-read a childhood favourite), and now comfort eras. Where we conveniently forget what we're fondly recalling is a time when women didn’t have the vote and rape within marriage was thought impossible.
Instead we focus on the glamorous side, as well as retro style films, TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing have fuelled the trend to learn to dance properly. Or zumba.
Oh the agony it sounds, standing on one side of the room, waiting for some young man to cross the floor to ask you to dance.
The comic Joan Rivers (not JOAN) recalled spreading a rumour she and her friend had polio, hence why no-one had asked them to dance. Polio over admitting no-one had scratched their name in your dance card!
At least when they got to the dance floor they and their partner knew what to do. Because Shirley Hughes and Joan’s memories bring to mind school discos of my youth, mercifully standing in a circle of the class 4 girls and not waiting on one side of the dance floor, tapping one ankle to the other and back. Over and over. Until the next song, (‘let it be Kylie, let it be Kylie…’) when the only change would be speed.
Forgive me; I went to primary school in Studley so my experience is a little different from those who experienced a more streetwise childhood. I fear I can honestly say I never heard rap until, aged 10, I attended my new school’s disco. Don’t worry I was able to style it out and mimic everyone else’s actions to Boom! Shake the Room like it totally wasn’t a new sensation. I’m also confident my mouthing the lyrics to Take That’s Pray (which I did not know) was utterly convincing.
Does the success of these films (and Madonna’s leap at the bandwagon with W.E) suggest a hunger for yesteryear or just a wish for more structured social encounters with each other? Now we know we are apparently more dishonest (or, of course, more honest about our behaviour) than ever, people might wish to hark back to times of open backdoors and interfering neighbours (“your backdoor was open…”).
Let’s look again at these recent films that revisit The Good Old Days. W.E recounts the Wallis Simpson scandal (glossing over the Hitler handshake episode) where a twice divorced woman is a disgrace. My Week with Marilyn covers the time period where, considering it was Ms. Monroe who was technically employing Laurence Olivier, the film industry struggles to control a woman-child. Hugo is a magical story of the state’s neglect of a 1930s orphan.
Sure the dresses are nice, it’s nice to educate ourselves accurately about history, it’s nice to bake cakes and call it a retro activity. Let’s just be sure our love of retro begins and ends with a headscarf and not a return to no NHS, no free education and no women’s rights…And let’s be grateful we can all happily bust a move and throw shapes in whatever fashion we dare to. In the UK at least.