Looking at the past, what one classes as “recent” depends on how old one is, but also from which direction one views the event. Use that event as the fulcrum and cast back the same number of years and one’s perspective changes completely. A personal example: I was born in 1962 some 53 years ago, which is a reasonable time in the past. Just how far back can be seen when one swivels back another 53 years – Edward VII is on the throne and Britain was at the height of its imperial power. Or an example from popular culture – this June it will be 37 years since the Sex Pistols released ‘God Save the Queen’; 37 years before that we had just survived Dunkirk. The Sex Pistols are closer to D Day, Suez and the government of Harold Macmillan than they are to us today.

There was an article that made precisely this point in the Spectator a couple of months ago (I’ve lost the link – can anyone oblige), and it was something that struck me at the World War I centenary last year; the soldiers marching off to Belgium 100 years ago last August were closer to the troops fighting at Waterloo than they are to us.


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