by Peter Pharos

The Good Old Days

The past is a foreign country
we get to rule as we wish.
It is as we say it was and
as we sit back to have some wine, talk some wine
who can say
it was not?
Is there a bigger birthright
for the Englishman
or woman
than to sit back
and talk
about the Good Old Days?

We had proper writing
then, not
blogs and vlogs and tocs.
We had craftsmen, artists, labourers
(and copyeditors and editors and a column a week.)
History treats talent like the TfL does buses
doesn’t it
sometimes two a minute
sometimes two a day.
It’s funny how many buses turn up
when you can live on 600 words a week
like in the Good Old Days.

There was no vulgarity
Things didn’t smell of lemon and herbs,
Or have medium structure,
Or long aftertaste,
again and again.
(Why would anyone want to know how wine tastes?)
We wrote for the mind and the soul,
we had poetry and thought,
artistry and hard work.
And we never wondered
why so many wines
seemed to end up on page
like the something or other
of young girls
in the Good Old Days.

We didn’t have scores,
back then.
No barbarism of
X better than Y
Y better than Z.
Is Z better than X?
(Who can do algebra on the fourth glass?)
(Or on the first.)
We were bards and minstrels
not accountants.
Who are we to say what is best?
And if we were ever asked
and asked again
we knew the answer lied
with whom it should,
dead French Emperors and
alive English merchants.
Life was simpler
in the Good Old Days.

We had proper exams
we had scholars
Isn’t it so much more challenging
when you have to call
if the thing in your glass
is the Bordeaux you had at lunch
or the Burgundy at dinner.
(And the sparkling, was it Champagne or the other one?)
We did proper research
before writing
And if we didn’t
who was there to say
and when
and how.
You could write any old crap
and have it thrown away
with yesterday’s fish and chips
and nobody would ever know.
Oh how we laughed
with the Letters to the Editor
in the Good Old Days.

Americans knew their place
in wine, if in nothing else,
Isn’t it rare to find a Rome
looking for an Athens
or at least,
a Syracuse.
And the French loved us
(who else was there? The Germans?)
And we could laugh at the Spanish
and patronise the Italians.
We all looked the same, thought the same
but we were diverse
in school ties,
a bit.
It was so nice,
it was always 1925
in the Good Old Days.

And we had Australia
and Australians
and Australia’s Australian PRs.
Isn’t it lovely
to be on an airplane
and have joy and have fun
(our seasons in the sun.)
All one had to do
was write
it is like stereotype in a bottle.
And we did.
We never wrote a bad word
we were always off
to see the Wizard,
nobody called us influencers,
we didn’t have to take a sip of rosé,
or even be on camera.
Wasn’t proper Journalism
in the Good Old Days.

We flew and flew
travelled and trekked
boasted and wrote.
Isn’t it fortunate that now
that it hurts to go from the bedroom to the kitchen
and back up,
nobody should fly.
Do you want me to tell you
how you shouldn’t board a plane
nor board a train
nor take a car
nor go very far.
(Unless it’s somewhere really nice, and nobody finds out.)
Funny, we never considered
inviting retired Wehrmacht majors to lecture us
on the sanctity of national borders
in the Good Old Days.

We had everything
but you should have nothing now.
Isn’t it delicious to say
nobody can have something
you can’t use anymore.
What could be more fitting
a closure
for us
than conjuring the deluge.
(Old King Louis, you big dreamer.)
So, grasshopper
do you have a minute
to hear my thoughts
about glass?
None left for you
or you
or you.
Only for my rich friends.
Aren’t the rich wonderful?
The only thing still as beautiful as
in the Good Old Days.

It is not me
it was different in those days
wasn’t it?
The good news read better
and the bad news not so bad.
The bits that are nice up were up
and everything was free.
We woke up with nothing hurting
and we attended four weddings for each funeral.
And you could have Sekt every day if you wanted
if only by yourself,
in the Good Old Days.

We were young weren’t we
in the Good Old Days.

Photo by Ian Dooley on Unsplash

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