A friend's son - aged eighteen - recently set off with two of his mates on an adventure. Back in the day, "when I were a lad", some young people bought "Interrail" tickets and travelled to the far flung corners of Europe while stay-at-homes went youth hostelling or raspberry picking in Scotland. The friend's son - always quiet and homely - has gone first through Russia and then into Mongolia before exploring China, Hong Kong and Singapore. It is his "gap year" before beginning mathematical studies at the University of Leeds. Oh my - how expectations have changed!
And furthermore, when I were a lad in my idyllic East Yorkshire village, I would sometimes visit the local grocer's shop. There were no free plastic carrier bags to carry your purchases. You had to take your own bag or basket. Seasonal vegetables - there were no others - were weighed and placed directly in your bag. Biscuits came from big wholesale tins and were bought by weight. The choice of goods in that shop was very limited. In contrast, you visit a modern day supermarket and you are overwhelmed by multitudinous choices. You leave subconsciously wondering what alternative items you might have bought to achieve greater personal fulfilment.
Returning from the grocer's shop, I re-entered a home in which there was no central heating. In each room there was only one light-bulb apart from the living room in which my mother had a side light to help with her late night craft work.Television - in flickering black and white - lasted from five o' clock to roughly midnight when the national anthem was played and many viewers would stand up in an act of patriotic respect before taking their cue and getting to bed.
Back then, only 13% of any one generation went on to university compared with 35% today and rising. Back then when my family went on holiday with our caravan to the Lake District, France, Italy, Scotland - we were outside the norm - not just because of our unusual holiday destinations but because we had a car with wheels - a real car. See pictures of nineteen fifties Britain and there are kids playing football and hopscotch in streets that are utterly devoid of parked cars.
And when I were a lad say of ten, I had never heard of homosexuality or condoms or prostitution, curry or cannabis, paedophilia or perverts. Our village was populated entirely by white Anglo Saxons and when we travelled into Hull we very rarely saw anyone who wasn't the same. Once I saw a black sailor - the first black man I had ever seen in real life and my jaw dropped. This was real - not the Saturday night "Black and White Minstrels Show". Multicultural Britain was a long way off.
How expectations have changed and in environmental terms it is easy to see how big the price has become. Most homes have central heating. People in work almost expect to have cars, computers, holidays abroad, weekly visits to supermarkets where we buy haricot beans from Kenya, rump steaks from Argentina, wines from New Zealand while back at home our student offspring plan gap years in Thailand, Mongolia, South America.