Posts from Your Archives – A la recherche du temps perdu by Pete Johnson

I recently invited you to share some of your posts from your archives. It is a way of giving your earlier or favourite posts a chance to be read by a different audience. Mine. Details of how you can participate is at the end of the post.

Every Tuesday for the last few weeks I have been sharing some posts from the archives of Pete Johnson.. also known as Beetley Pete. Today Pete, who has shared some wonderful stories as well as some of the less enjoyable aspects of his childhood, such as drowning, takes of the rose colour glasses and reflects on the reality of life in the 1950s and 1960s.

A la recherche du temps perdu by Pete Johnson

With apologies to Marcel Proust for stealing his title, I confess to a lot of time spent in remembrance of things past. Not just lately, but for much of my life. Even as a man in my twenties, I constantly reflected on my childhood, and my early school years, developing a habit of looking back that I never lost. I was caught up in a chain of nostalgia, from which I found it difficult to escape. When I got to secondary school, I pined for my primary school, and less pressure. Once I left school and started work, I really regretted leaving education, and thought about those last few years at school with great fondness. Every job seemed better than the one that followed it, and I managed to conveniently forget my reasons for wanting to move on in the first place.

During a convivial dinner party that we were hosting during the late 1970s, I was asked by a guest, “If you could choose to live anywhere, where would that be?” I replied without hesitation, “In my past, I was happy there.” This was a thoughtless remark, most unflattering to my wife at the time of course, and left an uncomfortable atmosphere at the table. After many moves, broken marriages, and failed relationships, I still carried this obsession with me, like an unwanted blemish. I convinced myself repeatedly that things were better ‘then’, whenever that was. I had taken the natural tendency for fond reminiscence, and turned it into a philosophy.

I have now moved away from London, retired from work, and married for the third time. It has taken over sixty years for me to shake off this unhealthy desire to spend my life looking back, and to take off the rose-tinted glasses that I habitually wore when doing so. I cannot deny that a part of me still looks back. The difference is that I now do so with a much more considered and realistic eye. Standing back from the personal recollections, I can see things as an observer might, and realise that it was all far from rosy. It is so simple to remember good things, and put away the less attractive aspects of a past life into a sealed compartment in your mind. Time to open it up; it is long overdue.

Primary school was not great. Inkwells, strict teachers, rote learning, and hard discipline, including being caned. Being made to stand in a corner, cleaning blackboards, or awaiting the pleasure of the head teacher, nervously perched on a chair outside their office. Gangs in the playground; choose the wrong side, and suffer for it. Do well in lessons, and though you may receive the praise of teacher, you are derided by your less academic class-mates.

Secondary school was a great improvement, I was very lucky there. But it wasn’t for everyone. Be a little educationally backward, have unfortunate physical features, or fail to be accepted in a group, and you had a lonely and depressing life. Run the gauntlet of the kids from the ‘tough’ schools on the way home; get your uniform torn, or your cap and bag thrown over the railway line. The bad parts often overshadowed the good. Less pleasurable memories, easy to discard.

And it was always cold in winter. Homes heated by one coal fire, sometimes supplemented by smelly paraffin heaters. Pipes frozen, hot water scarce, and legs and fingers freezing in clothing inadequate for protection. The air quality was so poor, that we often had to wear smog masks for the short trips to and from school. One outside toilet provided for two families sharing a house. Using this in all weathers, perched on a high seat, terrified of the huge spiders, trying to go as fast as possible. Baths once a week, in water shared by your parents; and later, shivering in bed, yearning for sleep to make you forget the cold.

Life for the working classes was predestined. Years of hard labour, followed by an early death for most of the men. They sought refuge from hardship in cigarettes and alcohol, and unbridled pleasure at the weekends. There were lots of widows then; not so many now, at least at a young age. Home ownership was unknown, and there was little chance to escape the financial chains of your class, outside of crime. There was a general acceptance of your lot in life, and a degree of resolution that stifled hope.

Despite living in London in the so-called ‘swinging sixties’, things had not really changed a great deal since the end of the war. Except for the cinema, entertainment was mostly left to you to make it yourself. There were only two channels on the television, if you could afford one, and the only games were on flat boards, using cards and counters. There were some sports clubs and youth clubs, the Cubs and Scouts, Brownies and Guides; but they were regimented, and felt like being at school.

Unlike many families, we had a car, so got to go on trips out, and an annual holiday, but it wasn’t for everyone. Work was available, and it paid just enough to keep you where you should be, without too many grand aspirations. Politicians paid little regard to the needs of the ordinary people, and the Police could do anything they wanted to you, and frequently did.

Even Doctors talked to you as if you were a servant, and made you feel grateful that they had taken their valuable time to inspect your ailment. If you made it to hospital, it was one step above being in a prison. No sitting on the bed. ‘In or out but never on.’ Lights out at an early hour, no talking, and patrolling night nurses making sure that you were not disruptive.

Then came the 1970s. Workers found their voice at last, and things slowly started to change. We had moved to a house with central heating, and unlimited hot water. Colour TV arrived, and with it, a new channel. Foreign holidays became the norm, for ordinary people, on better salaries. Home ownership increased, and the middle class merged with the working class, into something that has never had a satisfactory name. This wasn’t all ideal of course. It bred conservatism, and greed for profit. There was confrontation, and the inevitable strikes. It left a legacy of fewer council homes, diminishing employment prospects, and disaffected youth.

But it was still a lot better than what preceded it, take it from me. Without the romance of revolution and dissent, and that ubiquitous rose-tinted eye-wear, the reality is that the past was hard. By comparison. life is a lot easier now.

I will still reflect of course. I will often think that this or that, was better ‘then’. That is my nature. The reality is that my life was never better than it is now. I have a devoted and loving wife, a nice home in the countryside, and no work responsibilities. I live in peace and quiet for the first time in my life, and I can anticipate that my last years will be more peaceful and happier than I could ever have expected. I doubt that I will ever look back to a better time than this.

©Pete Johnson 2017

About Pete Johnson

I retired in 2012, then aged 60, and moved from a busy life and work in Central London, to Beetley, in rural Norfolk. I thought I would start this blog to share my thoughts about life in general, and my new life in Norfolk in particular. My wife Julie is still working in a local bank, so I am at home most of the day, accompanied by my four year old Shar-Pei dog, Ollie.

My interests include local and global history, politics, and cinema and film. I also enjoy music; Motown, Soul, Jazz, along with many modern singers and styles.

After 22 years as an Emergency Medical Technician in the London Ambulance Service, followed by 11 years working for the Metropolitan Police in Control Rooms, it took some adjustment to being retired, and not working shifts.

I am updating this info on the 6th of July, 2017.

Ollie is now five years old, and is still a great dog to own. The blog has continued to grow, and I have now posted over 1330 articles. I currently write a bit about films and cinema, mostly short reviews and suggestions; and I did write a lot of anecdotes about my years in the Ambulance Service. I have written a lot about past travel and holidays, and also about architecture. I also post a lot about music and songs, those that have a significance in my life for one reason or another. The core of the blog remains the same though; my experiences of my new life in Norfolk, walking my dog, and living in a rural setting.

During the past year, I have been adding a lot of photos, and they are always popular.

I have had my blogging ups and downs; attracted some followers, both loyal and fickle, and gained a great deal from the whole process. I have written articles that were published on other blogs and websites, as well as trying my hand at more than 60 fictional stories. I am pleased to report that I have had two of these published in a magazine.

If you are considering starting a blog, I would suggest you give it a try. I really would. It may not change your life; but then again, it just might.

Get in touch with Pete


I am sure you have enjoyed this post as much as I have and I hope you will consider commenting and sharing… and heading over to Pete’s blog where you will find even more of his entertaining posts. thanks Sally

If you would like to participate in this series of Posts from your Archives here are the details.

All of us have posts that sit idle in our archive with perhaps a handful of visits from readers who are browsing on our blog. But I would like to offer you the opportunity to share some of your posts that you feel would be enjoyed by a different audience.. Mine.

Apart from sharing your post, I will of course share your bio, any book links, social media and of course your blog so that readers can head over and enjoy your more recent hard work.

If you are interested all I need is the links to those posts you are interested in sharing (three or four) and then I will take it from there. Most of you have already sent me your links but if we have just met I may come back to you.

Look forward to hearing from you and thanks for dropping in .. Sally

Here are Pete Johnson’s posts so far in his series.



50 thoughts on “Posts from Your Archives – A la recherche du temps perdu by Pete Johnson

  1. Pingback: Posts from Your Archives – A la recherche du temps perdu by Pete Johnson – The Militant Negro™

  2. Great Post Pete. It is amazing how much social change we have witnessed over our life times. Some of it’s even good! Just kidding! I actually agree with you. For most of us life is better now. There is a lot to be said for rose tinged spectacles too as the past is gone. Whether a relatively normal life damages us (I am not talking about people who suffered horrific things as children- I could not even begin to comment on that) is something we let happen. We can go into the future bitter and resentful or choose to think things aren’t so bad and focus on the good aspects. Like you I know which I prefer.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think it’s natural for most of us to reflect on the past and call them the good old days, often like women going through labor thinking how much they suffered saying they won’t have more kids, but they do once the pain memories fade away. As a memoir writer, I didn’t forget to much in my dysfunctional past. My 20s were the best of times, but I never say I want to go back. I don’t forget the shitty times. I just wish life wasn’t passing by so quickly. Thanks for sharing a beautiful post Pete. 🙂 x

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Ahhhh memories and where would we be without them to pass on to future generations so the past is kept alive and yes they were hard but also we had good times . Like you, I love my life now and never would have invisaged I would be living this life 20 years ago…. A beautiful post and it sounds like you have found your peace and contentment 🙂 Happy Days Pete 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  5. I find myself reaching for those ubiquitous rose-tinted glasses more often than I’d like, Pete. I think it’s because time seems to be passing so quickly, and, unfortunately, so are we. It’s a blessing that you’ve found peace and happiness in the present. Perhaps you ought to bottle and sell it. Your bank account would surpass Warren Buffett’s 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Many thanks for featuring me again, Sally. I have to go out soon, but will be back tomorrow to catch up on comments. Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to read, and to leave those lovely thoughts.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Pingback: Archive posts: Sally Cronin guest spot | beetleypete

  8. I’m glad you finally got there with appreciating the life you have now Pete. I always accuse my hubby of living in the past as he often seems to be stuck in the 70’s 🙂 but I know he is very happy with where he’s got to. I excel at not looking back,(my memory is atrocious which helps 🙂 ) and am always looking to the future, so we kind of make a whole between us! But your post the other week had me delving back into my childhood, so hand me those rose tinted glasses, it was fun!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks, Pete. It is not good to live in the past but it tends to always feel easier in our memories (perhaps part of it is looking at things from the perspective of our present responsibilities and chores, but yes, many things have changed for the better. And, who knows?)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a lovely and poignant post Pete. It does seem that aging aside, you are truly in a happy place right now with Julie and Ollie. As for me,, I don’t have many happy past memories to be nostalgic over thanks to my abusive mother, but there’s a few, like my trips to the library with my dad, the Harry Potter events and storyhours I’d host at the library, and marrying Tom. We’re going through a rough time financially right now, but I keep hoping things will turn around.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Hallo Pete. I’d agree with most of your assessment, barring doctors perhaps. I remember some absolutely wonderful family doctors years back, who truly couldn’t do enough and genuinely cared for their patients. Now, the majority seem to view patients as a nuisance and obstacle to getting enough time on the golf course… Perhaps it’s just the luck of the draw!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Alex. It may well have been where you lived, and what doctors happened to work there. When I was older, I did experience some kindly family doctors, but at one time, I think some of them really looked down on us form the ‘poor districts’ of London. As you rightly say, luck of the draw.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. You got to the core of memories, Pete. I think our brain naturally holds the good memories, even though things might have been otherwise. It’s really not a bad thing; when I am old and near the end, I want to remember the good. Like you, I also want to know how it really was. Caning? In fourth grade we all had to watch the teacher spank a boy with a paddle that had holes. It was so traumatic for me that I remember the boy’s name, Gary Dawson. You can call me a Pollyanna, but I believe teachers can make the difference, especially in a troubled home. Thank you for a wonderful story. I love your bio, your thinking, and where you are now.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What a wonderful reflection on your journey through life – especially since you finally found your balance and are relatively content living in the present. There are ups and downs most days throughout our lives, and I guess the moral is to focus on the ups in the present and leave the past in their shadows.

    There are entire periods in my past I would love to relive (mostly fun and uplifting times) – and days in my present that are beyond trying, but I muddle through in gratitude (most days, anyway). 🙂 Thanks for sharing – and thanks to Sally for hosting.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Dionne Warwick, Hurricanes and Archives. | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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