A trip to one of the country's great Catholic schools last week caused me to reflect upon life's hopes and expectations for 18 year olds in 2016 and as they were for 18 year olds in 1966 at one of the country's more idiosyncratic and long since closed Catholic schools.
The headline difference that comes to mind to the advantage of the older generation, is the cost of buying and setting up home. Not only were house prices hugely less expensive in the 1960s than today representing maybe 3 times a couple's joint income but also one could up until the 1970s at least, obtain a 100% mortgage from a local council. The c.13%+ interest rates on repaying the mortgage debt seemed very off putting at the time and compare poorly with today's far lower interest rates but even so, the older generation appear to win hands down on the costs of setting up home.
However memories of the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of president Kennedy along with the Wenceslas Square Czechoslavia protest immolation of Jan Palach and the whole USSR regime remind one of the dire times that mankind just about managed to survive during the 1960s; added to which memories of WWII were still almost fresh and many battle scarred buildings were in the 1960s still to be seen in British cities
Since the 1960s the Berlin Wall has tumbled along with the Soviet Union; normal international relations are fast being restored between Cuba and the West and recollections of a cargo load of British buses on its way to Cuba despite US irritation and then sinking, have faded as have the earlier Suez Canal crises.
Memories of Apartheid and huge racial prejudice elsewhere still exist but at least attempts are being made in the age of today's 18 year olds to eradicate such appalling and unfair human behaviour. In England the Race, Sex and other anti discrimination laws in 2016 provide scope for complaint and where apt compensation. Yet it may not be recalled that Ted Heath's government only began to introduce a proper forum for resolving such issues in 1971.
Travel for 18 year olds in 2016 is far less expensive and complicated than was the case in 1966 when even for only £7 one had to have permission stamped in one's passport for taking currency out of the country. International flights extend across the globe and are relatively cheap in 2016 compared with the cost in the 1960s.
Simply buying say some beer in a supermarket in 2016 is simple and one is spoilt for choice. In the 1960s the choice was largely absent the quality often poor and the price comparatively expensive.
A difficulty about making comparisons of life between current and previous generations is that one takes for granted some of the amazing advances that apply today such as computers, mobile phones,comparatively inexpensive personal travel and colourful digital TV (compared with black and white analogue TV pictures of the 1960s) yet tends to look at the apparently positive factors of previous years such as quieter roads, which have in later years been reduced if not lost altogether.
Taking roads as a good example, traffic flows have increased enormously but the first UK motorway the M1, was only opened in 1959 prior to which driving N from S took an age. Likewise driving to Cardiff from London at about that time took four hours but since the completion of the M4 motorway in the 1960's, the London to Cardiff journey time by car has been cut if one is lucky, to two hours despite the huge increase in motor traffic.