I visited our local museum today. It’s about a ten minutes walk away from my house, in an old white-washed house with a thatched roof, with lovely arched windows and a manicured lawn in front of it. It sits just on the edge of the main road through town and I have walked past it numerous times while walking our dogs back from the beach. I first encountered it when I was merely visiting my parents. It was shut at the time, only open during the months of April and September, and of course my first visit happened to be the first weekend in October two years ago. Six months later, after I had moved to the town, it had been about to open but then the Pandemic started, and shut down everything.
Roll on eighteen months and I finally decided – on the last open weekend of the season – to pay the £2.50 and take a gander at the story inside.
The visit was a delight. It was a true history of the town, starting with prehistory all the way up to modern day. I live on the Jurassic Coast, so of course it begins with ancient fossils and rocks from that time, but it also covers interesting maritime history – including smuggling – considering we are on the coast after all.
But now I’m back from my little culture trip, and having made myself a cup of hot chocolate and sitting down to write this little blog post, I am amazed at the time I am living in. Amazed how things have changed, amazed at how easy life must be for us in comparison. In the museum, just as an example, I encountered clothes from over a hundred years ago and I think of my own outfits of these days – jeans and jumpers and items that are easy to throw on and zip up, and am thankful of the changes that have happened in the last hundred years. Of the fashion changes, that I can move around easily, without the faff of corsets and ground-trailing dresses that very likely would have ended up dirty unless you were confined to the inside of your houses all the time – which would have been fairly boring, filled with embroidery and book reading (ok, I love book reading and am even learning embroidery, but not all the time!), and without the technology we have now of communicating with people instantly, of checking out whatever film or TV show we want, of ordering take-away instead of having to cook everything from scratch.
In another room in the museum, it told a story all about lace-making. In the 19th century, girls were taken from a young age into lace-making schools and they trained from 8am until 6pm – sometimes until 8pm if they hadn’t finished their work – and, shockingly, had to pay for the privilege. In many of the schools, they didn’t teach maths and literacy – no, it was the lace-making that was the focus. Tedious work, if you’ve ever looked at lace, and likely your eyesight would have gone down the drain by the time you were in your thirties.
There would be uproar these days if anything like that happened. These days school is generally free to attend – your notebooks and stationery are even given to you for free (well, they were when I was at school here in the UK). Ok, so we have to pay for school uniforms and textbooks, but honestly people – why are we complaining here? Once upon a time girls weren’t even allowed to go to school, and even boys of certain social status weren’t taught to read or write either, or if they were they had to stop school by the time they were early teens to go to work. Times have changed incredibly over the past few centuries, and part of me wonders what the next century or two will bring.
Will notebooks fade out entirely? Will pencils and pens too? Given up in favour of iPads or the like, computer work the way forward. Will the arts drift into the sidelines? We are already seeing the focus in schools on the STEM subjects. Dance, Drama, and the like falling by the wayside (I worked at a well-known Exam board a few years ago, and these subjects at A-Level had falling numbers in comparison to the likes of Mathematics, IT, and the Sciences).
As a creative being, I personally sink at the feeling that the arts might disappear into the background – certainly at school during teenage years. I was the kid doodling in my notebooks, penning stories, playing piano and generally just fascinated by any kind of arts and culture, even when I had no talent for drama and dance. I might have had an aptitude for the more academic subjects – I loved history, physics, and I think I was one of the few students who enjoyed algebra. But my soul is a creative one, and I can’t imagine that being put on the backburner for other subjects.
All of it just makes me wonder what the future holds for all things. What will remain of us in 500 years time? I think I made a comment while I was walking around the museum that at that time we’d be seeing only plastic. Or would you be seeing images and bones of animals long gone, that today are nearing extinction?
Questions, questions. I hate to shower negative thinking around, but that question of the future still perturbs me.
But should I even worry about it? Should I just be grateful for what I’ve got, for the time I’m living in, for the privileges that I know I have and carry on regardless?
See, I don’t entirely believe in that either. I agree that I should be grateful, because sometimes only by looking back do we appreciate what we’ve got. But that doesn’t mean things are perfect, that doesn’t mean things can’t be improved. Change is constant, and as long as change happens in the right direction then we’ll see real progress. But I know from looking back over history that those changes take time. Not everything happens immediately. That’s frustrating. Especially these days when we all expect everything immediately, from buying our clothes and ornaments to decorate our homes, switching on our phones to get the latest music streaming through our headphones, to watching the latest film on the TV – out in cinemas a mere few months before.
It wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time, clothes had to be made by hand – either the material bought and made by hand yourself, or the piece of clothing ordered weeks and months in advance, either of these paid for after working hard to save up the money rather than getting it all on a credit card. Once upon a time the visual entertainment would have come from visiting the theatre perhaps once a year, with the knowledge that you couldn’t watch the same thing again – ever. Once upon a time music wasn’t even recorded, let alone available for you to listen to in the comfort of your own home.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past year, is that everything worthwhile in life happens gradually, it happens day-by-day, moment-by-moment, not instantly. It takes time and effort and a great deal of purpose and courage. So if we want change? We have to make the change, and realise that it could take weeks, months, years, even a lifetime. That shouldn’t dissuade you, but make you realise – you have the dedication and courage to make that change and that should absolutely be celebrated.
And if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to? Well, that’s life. You stick with it. You learn as you go, change up the actions to get a better outcome. Not everything works out immediately, and sometimes things don’t work out at all. But things will get better – they always get better. You just have to look back at history to realise that.
Kate @ Kandid Chronicles x
Song I’m Loving Right Now: ‘Magnetised’ by Tom Odell