Heraclitus , the Greek philosopher who lived about 2,500 years ago, is credited with saying ‘There is nothing permanent except change’. That’s true for many aspects of existence but, whatever you believe in, the end of a person’s bodily life is permanent. We’re all sliding down our life’s helter skelter at various speeds until our time comes. What we can’t do is emulate the lyrics of that famous Beatles song, Helter Skelter, and go back to the top after reaching the bottom. Not even reincarnation brings a dead body back to life.
When someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the bottom of their life’s helter skelter is within sight. But even with the dubious benefit of a doctor’s prognosis, we are unlikely to know when we will arrive at that permanent stop.
My brother, Phil Baylis, died in 2020. He only survived for 7 months after a diagnosis of an aggressive cancer. He didn’t know precisely how long he had left but he knew it was not going to be years.
Phil’s cancer symptoms, chemotherapy, blood transfusions and reactions to the treatment were forever changing. He and his wife adopted the phrase ‘one day at a time’ as their guiding principle. (I reminded them about the John Lennon song with that phrase as its title). Some days were better than others but the twelve-hourly paracetamol battle with Phil’s spikes in temperature was one thing that didn’t change much.
It’s in this context that I recorded an informal and socially distanced discussion with Phil almost exactly three months before he died. I had previously told him about the podcast I was developing on the theme of change and he was up for it. Despite tiredness and weakness brought on by low levels of haemoglobin in his blood, he was happy for the recording to go ahead on the day we’d agreed on.
It hasn’t been easy for me to be objective or control emotions whilst listening to and editing the 3 hour recording after Phil’s departure. What has kept me going and made me laugh out loud, often, has been his infectious and dry sense of humour, sometimes gallows humour. It really tickles the ears and I hope that listeners will enjoy that.
Episode 1 of Time Is Sliding includes the first part of the discussion with Phil along with my commentary. It considers the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 'grief cycle' of change alongside changes since the 1960s in attitudes to race, gender, money, prosperity, the environment and each other. Climate change, computing, population, the modern phenomenon of choice overload such as in coffee shops, corporal punishment and policing are covered too.
It's meaningful to me that the first episode of Time is Sliding is being released on 25th July 2021. That's the first anniversary of the recording session with Phil. Next month's episode includes the second part of the discussion with Phil.
Thanks for listening.
Rob's on Mastodon @firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello time sliders. You're listening to Time is Sliding. And I'm Rob Baylis. podcasting about change. Now let's slide on.
Welcome to this first episode of Time is Sliding. Each month I'm going to explore aspects of the world that are changing over the precious time that is slippery sliding away as we hurtle down life's helter skelter. I’ll interview extraordinary and ordinary people about changes in themselves, society and the environment on which we all depend.
Changes through time are of the essence of Time is Sliding. So I'm going to get on and introduce this, the very first episode. It's called Viewing Change from Cancer’s Helter Skelter. The core discussion was recorded on the 25th of July 2020, almost exactly three months before my subject experienced the biggest change that everyone will experience, the end of his or her life. It's particularly meaningful to me, because it's the last recording I have of my brother Phil. That's the reason why this episode is being released today 25th of July 2021, on the anniversary of the recording.
Despite the fact that Phil's health was changing for the worse, because of an aggressive cancer, his infectious and dry sense of humour shines through the recording. And I hope you'll enjoy that and his insightful words. The setting was Phil's home. Our words were captured on a portable recorder placed between us to maintain the social distancing dictated by COVID-19. We would have been careful anyway because Phil was having chemotherapy and so his immune system was compromised. Those who knew him will also hear a change in his voice.
A few other people make brief appearances in the recording: our mother, Phil's wife, Jane, and one of his sons.
Before you hear Phil, I want to say a few things about him. His career started in the National Health Service as a Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer in Haematology. It's a bit of a mouthful, I know. But basically, blood was his business then, and it became personal during his relationship with cancer. His work in the health service got him interested in computing and that led him into working for hospital computer systems companies for the rest of his life.
In our discussion, I asked Phil if he would describe himself to other people as a Christian. I knew it was important to him. There can't be many people who have read the Bible from cover to cover. He was also a well respected member of his local church, and his profound Christian faith stayed with him throughout his illness. His church’s bells were told in his honour at his funeral and on a very personal … and sad …er…recollection, he was … holding his hands in prayer in his last hours and minutes.
Allegri’s Miserere comes up in the conversation. As a boy chorister in Worcester Cathedral Choir, Phil had sung the piece’s incredibly stretching solo both in the cathedral and also with two other choristers in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral during a tour by the choir. There aren't any recordings of Miserere with Phil singing but it's worth checking out the King's College Cambridge recording with Roy Goodman as the soloist. Phil and I both agreed that that remains the best available performance of it.
In recent years, Phil returned to singing. He sang as a bass in the Rivendell Singers, a mixed voice choir in his local area. He was also having singing lessons to further his ambitions to be a soloist and duetist.
That's enough introduction. Now, here's the conversation with Phil himself.
I need to ask you what connects you with me? Or me with you,
You’ll have to be a little bit more flowing with your answer
Dad as well.
Who are you?
Oh dear. No. That’s a nebulous question. Who are you?
My brother. You’re, I mean, you're the interviewer aren’t you?
Yep. Well I wanted Phil to introduce himself basically.
I'm Phil. Your brother. Pleased to meet you.
I think we’ve met before somewhere
Yeah, quite a few times
Over the last 60 years.
I’ve known you all your life.
You’ve known me most of mine.
Well I’ve known you all mine. That’s sorted that.
And er, what gripes have you got against me?
What gripes have I got against you?
Yeah. What have I upset you over?
Oh my goodness!
Have you forgiven me yet?
Well I should have had notice of this one.
I must have forgiven you. I can't think of them but my fan’s still bust.
The fan in the downstairs loo is still bust.
I’ve noticed that you’ve not jumped to on that.
So my brother ribbed me about not having fixed his toilet extract fan. I did that on my next visit.
I'd like to think that three words could be used to paint a broad picture of anyone. I hoped that I could elicit three words that Phil would use to describe himself. I wasn't looking for words to use in an obituary and I didn't get any. What I did get were words describing Phil at the time of the recording. We ended up talking about Phil's illness and the changes it had imposed on him.
Do you remember we had that conversation about describing yourself in three words?
Oh yes. Well you can make up any three words you like really:
Leave me alone. LAUGHING
Who asked you? LAUGHING
I’don’t know. Older… stupider… er…and wiser.
Older, stupider and wiser?
I think you can be stupid in certain areas and wiser in others. Iller. Certainly iller than I was. Thinner.
You’ve gone beyond your three words here.
I'm just doing them in threes. Yeah. So you can … I mean with only three words you can make yourself out to be anything. Sagacious, wise and … reliable.
I would’ve thought that Christian would be one of your words.
Well, one tries to be. Yeah I mean if you're going to a dinner party, and someone said “Oh, tell me what they’re like” …then Christian would be one of the words that you'd use, probably. Talkative would be another. Sensitive, perhaps would be another.
You think you're sensitive?
Oh, yeah. Did a bit of Desert Island Discs today on a call with the girls. It was difficult for me to actually tell them the stories behind the tunes. So…
Is that sensitive or emotional?
What's the difference?
Sensitive is more a case of being easily upset. Which I suppose is similar but it's not quite the same. Sensitive could be easily offended… or easily… almost touchy.
Yeah, I don't know how easily offended or touchy I am.
Yeah, easily emotional. So there's pieces of music that I find it very difficult or impossible to sing now. Even if I could sing them because they are impossible to sing.
Well you couldn't sing Miserere now could you?
No I couldn’t.
Can you sing anything? Have you tried Phil?
No I can’t Mom. I haven't got enough haemoglobin to keep my voice on a level playing field, let alone trying to sing in pitch. Which is a change In itself. You know when you've got a life threatening illness, you start off and you're not feeling particularly unwell. So you still have ambitions and aspirations. I always wanted to have a go at solo singing and singing duets, and perhaps doing a bit on that side of things. And then you lose your voice and, you can't do it anymore. And you’re thinking, well, you know, I'm prepared to give that up… as long as I can stay well. And the trouble is, you just give up more and more. So I'm having trouble speaking, really. I’m having trouble staying awake. And all of these sort of chips off the normality block…
Anyhow. Let’s not dwell on that because that's ….we always dwell on your illness don’t we rather than dwell on other things?
Well, we end up talking about it. I'm not sure I'm dwelling on it. I've only mentioned it once.
I mean, I don't want to take you off the subject if you want to talk about it. Don’t get me wrong. But what I don't want is to push you into talking about things that you don't want to talk about.
No. It's a rapid change. So sort of at Christmas I'd be aspiring to… In fact we’ve talked about it, even in February, doing a concert in the summertime.
Do they get in touch with you?
You asked me this before. The Rivendell Singers? Yes, they do.
COVID-19 has changed a lot as well.
I mean, the trouble here is that COVID-19 has coincided with your health issue.
Yeah well. It's not really impacted it that much. Apart from the fact Jane’s not been able to come in and see the doctors with me. It's impacted a lot of other people.
Well it’s lucky that you’ve been able to go in to see the doctors even, isn’t it?
Yeah, although I was in a group, sort of first treatment sort of cycle. I was in the sort of golden group that could go and see doctors.
I'd be surprised if you aren't haunted like I was, and still am to hear Phil's description of how his illness had eroded his abilities and thwarted his plans. And yet he accepted those changes and losses as a trade-off for staying alive. Phil left the room for a comfort break. If he was upset about what we'd been discussing, he didn't show it. On his return, he heard my reaction to a question raised by our mother about courage. Here’s what he thought:
It takes courage to carry on doesn’t it?
Is there any choice?
Is there any choice to what?
Mom said “it takes courage to carry on.” I said, “Is there any choice?”
Not really. I suppose there is: you could kill yourself. It's not much of a choice though is it?
I mean, that's a curious thing about my illness. People say “oh, you must be very courageous and very brave.” I’m thinking, well, actually, I don't have a choice. It's kind of easy for me. I just have to put one foot in front of the other.
Do you get angry?
I've never seen you angry.
What’s the point in getting angry about it? Who am I angry with and about what?
It's impressive how Phil showed no anger about the huge changes he was going through. On the surface, his reactions to his illness seemed not to fit popular interpretations of the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She published a book in 1969 with the title On Death and Dying. In it, she described five stages that she had observed in the emotional reactions of people facing terminal illnesses just like Phil’s. So we might have expected Phil to progress through feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, Kübler-Ross warned that many of these stages can overlap, occur simultaneously, or be missed out as in the case of Phil’s reactions.
Phil's diagnosis came fairly early in the UK’s first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. As we heard, he was not angry and there was no hint of him ever being in denial about it. So had he skipped Kübler-Ross’s bargaining and depression stages too? I wasn't aware of him trying to negotiate staying alive for longer so that he could be there for a family milestone. But he was certainly trying to live as long as he could. That's why he signed up for a trial of a new cancer treatment. In my book, that is not bargaining. Was it bargaining for him to accept his inability to do things like singing as a trade-off for continuing to live? I don't think so either.
As for depression, I didn't see it in him as such, but Phil's emotions could be triggered when talking about important pieces of music, for example. But getting emotional about something that touches you does not mean that you're depressed. Sensitive, yes. Could he have been hiding depression? No, I don't think so. His gallows humour and his humour in all other circumstances was just how he was and not a brave face on inner turmoil.
At the time of the recording four months after his cancer diagnosis, Phil was certainly demonstrating the final stage in the Kübler-Ross grief cycle, acceptance. This wasn't new. In my interactions with him, he had not shown anything other than acceptance once he had had that shocking diagnosis. He was realistic about the big change coming at some uncertain, but imminent, stage and so he prepared the whole family for it. He was open about it, and gave advice about how to handle it.
Despite Kübler-Ross's caveats, the five stages of emotional reaction to change have been adopted almost as an inevitability in business and organisational change management circles. The resultant model has been used to help understand or predict how people will react to changes in many aspects of their lives, from departmental restructures at work to ageing, or the changes necessary to mitigate climate change. However, and as seen in Phil's case, it's unlikely that all five stages can be expected in every change in our lives. I'm not sure they'd apply to moving house for example, unless of course, the move is not voluntary.
I'll try to entice psychologists on to future episodes of Time is Sliding to talk, hopefully in simple English, about various theories of change including Kübler-Ross’s. Her five stages of grief have been adapted into the Kübler-Ross change curve and I've included a link to that in the Episode Notes. It can be helpful in gaining an insight into how people might be feeling when change is imposed on them, even though not every stage is inevitable.
As I said in the introduction, the purpose of this podcast is to explore the many aspects of change. In the next clip, I prompted Phil to look back at changes that he'd observed since the 1960s. He pointed to changes in attitudes, the environment, computing, population and music.
So you were saying, Phil, about change.
Can't remember what I was saying.
You were saying what's changed since 1960s.
Where the biggest changes have been.
Where the biggest changes …and you came out with a great long list of things.
People's attitude to women, black people, the environment, each other, money, prosperity.
One of the things I saw recently was a graph of the emissions of carbon into the atmosphere. And you know, up until the 1960s, it was relatively low and then in our lifetimes, it's just mushroomed.
It’s a funny shaped graph.
It's a very… well it's not mushroom shaped. But you know what I mean. It's really, really grown exponentially. So most of the carbon that's now causing climate change, and will continue to do so, was emitted in our lifetime… despite the Industrial Revolution.
I feel I should interrupt the conversation here to explain about the graph I’d been looking at. The Our World in Data web site has a graph of global annual carbon dioxide emissions covering the period 1750 to 2019. Just to be clear, there’s scientific consensus that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity are the cause of climate change. There are other well-known graphs showing the interrelated data on the effects - rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and the consequential increases in global average temperatures.
The emissions graph I was referring to was based only on carbon dioxide emissions from cement manufacture and burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Emissions from other sources of greenhouse gases such as fertiliser, animal agriculture and changes in land use were not included. These would have made the graph even more pronounced.
As it is, the graph is almost flat from 1750 to 1850 and then rises gradually in line with industrialisation until about 1950. After that, its slope increases rapidly. So, in 1959, it shows global carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 9 billion tonnes compared with 0.3 billion tonnes in 1859. That’s nearly 9 billion tonnes per year more in 1959 than was emitted a century earlier. For 2019, the graph shows global carbon dioxide emissions of over 36 billion tonnes. Therefore, over the 60 years since 1959, the annual emissions have increased by 27 billion tonnes. I hope that this makes it obvious that the sum of the emissions for every year from 1959 to 2019 will amount to the bulk of carbon dioxide emissions from the start of the industrial revolution in the 1800s to the present day.
Now back to the discussion with Phil. I reminded him that we had been talking earlier, off mic, about historic predictions about the world’s needs for computers.
Oh, yes, just needing to be four computers.
Someone said that we only needed four computers - supercomputers - in the world, and that would be it.
I can't remember who and when. I also know that the dead outnumbered the living by 30 to 1 in 1969 and it's about 7 to 1 now. So there's a lot more people on the Earth.
And there’s a lot more due as well.
I blame COVID-19 for that.
Do you think people had nothing better to do than to procreate?
Well, the TV's been a bit lousy. So you can imagine people thinking, “well what should we do now then? We’ve played all the Trivial Pursuits that we can. We've watched all the reruns, all these programmes that we hoped we'd forget. What shall we get up to now?” You can see the train of thought can’t you?
I mean music’s changed. We were talking about Luxembourg earlier on weren’t we and the fact that there was so little music on the radio. It was a wonder that anyone bought any records.
Yeah, although, I suppose it gives it caché being underground. But then where did people listen to music? I suppose they listened to it in the UFO club in London and places like that.
Well I remember going into record shops and listening to music in booths.
Oh, yeah. I remember that.
You had booths to listen to the music.
Oh, yes. I remember that.
And you’d go down into the cellar and they’d say: “Oh right. Booth two.” And you could listen to music.
I think any decent record shop had a booth… or two…or three.
Oh yeah. I also remember that you wanted a flat record with a hole punched in the middle.
And that’s not so silly, because a lot of records were not flat and they were very difficult to play. They got warped. The number of albums I took back, because they were warped, was amazing. Blind Faith in particular. I remember having to take that back several times because they pressed it on thin vinyl. So they're more likely to warp.
They only ever did the one album as well. A shame they didn’t get it right.
You see that album cover would never have passed muster these days would it?
Er no and perhaps nor should it.
No. That album cover was of a young girl going through puberty. Topless, not bottomless, thankfully, but topless. Holding a model aeroplane. And it goes back to this whole attitude towards women at the time.
The album cover was changed for America.
Probably not for the right reasons, not for child sexual abuse reasons.
But apparently her mother was there and she was quite happy with it.
Yeah, well again, that's an attitude that wouldn't stand now. Well I don’t think it would.
I mean, I've seen the cover and it does make me go ooh - I don’t like that much. I remember you arguing with Dad at the time that it wasn’t so bad.
And you see there's my attitude change. I'm not sure what grounds he was arguing it was bad and I was arguing it wasn't.
Neither do I.
I mean music itself was very different then wasn’t it?
Yeah. Much better.
Well. It’s easy for us to say that.
Because it's true.
Well, is it just that our tastes are different, and our tastes evolve?
You’d have to get the boys down to answer that. But then I've indoctrinated them with listening to my music. I think music was a lot more complicated then. People actually put a lot more effort into it so you’d get a lot more out of it. And you can listen to tracks and still hear things in it. Then people weren't as precious about it. So for instance, is there Life on Mars off Hunky Dory, is it 1969, for David Bowie…there’s a telephone playing, you know, ringing right at the end of the track. And, you know, it’s kind of wow … I wonder what that means? Well it just meant that someone had rung up Abbey Road Studios and it just bled through onto the mics in the recording studio and they decided to leave it in…and you’re thinking… well, why not? We've all been trying to guess what it was all about. Then again, we've probably all been trying to guess what that song was all about anyway.
Have you ever worked it out?
No. Because I don't think David Bowie really knew what it was all about.
It gave rise to that TV programme. 2006, Life on Mars.
I don’t know what resulted from one to the other, but it was good programme.
For those listeners with an ear for detail, I’ve got to point out that David Bowie’s song, Life on Mars, was recorded in 1971 not 1969 and at Trident Studios, not Abbey Road as mentioned in the discussion.
Phil and I also talked about someone saying in the past that the world would only need 4 supercomputers. That was Thomas Watson, president of IBM at the time. In 1943, he predicted “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." When he said "computer," he was referring to the glorified adding machines produced by IBM at the time. Apparently, they were as big as a house but he obviously lacked the vision to predict how the product could evolve in miniaturisation, capability and applications.
Phil and I talked about Blind Faith. That was the name of a supergroup and its 1969 chart-topping album. The band members were Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Stevie Winwood and Ric Grech. It was the only album they made together as a band. If the album cover of an 11 year old topless girl had been released today, I feel sure that many people would be concerned that it amounted to paedophilia. It would certainly ring alarm bells about child safeguarding and exploitation even though the mother was present when the photo was taken, apparently.
Music was very important to Phil. It’s one area of his life that had resisted significant change since his teens and twenties. It’s a common belief that musical taste does not evolve after that stage of life. I’ve reflected on that and have found some psychological research indicating the opposite. I’ll include a link to it in the episode notes. To summarise, the Cambridge University research found that our adolescent musical tastes are an assertion of independence. Noise and aggression are a common characteristic of that phase. Through time, tastes evolve towards gaining acceptance from others. As middle age approaches, tastes become more sophisticated and so jazz and classical music come to the fore. Alternatively, unpretentious music like country, folk or blues become favoured. This seems to me to be quite a persuasive theory even though many might argue against it when it comes to their own tastes and I would too. I must say that there seems to be a middle-aged gravitation in some quarters towards opera. Even though a best friend of mine from school became an opera singer, it’s not grabbed me yet.
By looking back over time, we can see much that has changed but most of it happened without us noticing it. Gradual change creeps up on us just like climate change is doing now (well maybe it’s not creeping any more) and the loss of biodiversity too. That reminds me of a John Lennon song, What you got. It’s on the 1974 album Walls and Bridges and has a chorus “You don't know what you got, until you lose it.” There’s also a 1961 song by Ral Donner (of all people - I’ve never heard of him before) with that phrase as its title. Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song, Big Yellow Taxi, includes a similar phrase - “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” That song is even more apt today than it was 50 years ago. Humanity continues in its reckless assault on the environment often for frivolous purposes.
Talking of frivolity, next Phil expresses his irritation at a mundane and relatively recent change in the way things are done.
Yeah well that's another thing that has changed a lot and that's the amount of choice you've got. I mean, you go into a coffee shop now and you say “will you just get me a bloody coffee?” I am fed up with all these choices. That’s all I want. I just want a coffee. In fact, I think a lot of them now just do filter coffee don't they? That’s the sort of standard coffee. So you can sort of say “Don't give me a Mocci whatever or a skinny thingy. Just give me a coffee.”
There was I thinking that you liked all these fancy coffees.
Er no, because you can lose your way.
We move on from coffee choices to other choices that would have been simpler in the past. Phil’s wife Jane makes some interesting points about how Covid 19 has influenced a change in what she buys.
With all this choice that we do have, whether it be TV, clothes, music, whatever. It is a challenge for people to make their mind up and I see that in our own household.
Do you see it in your household?
I see it in my own head.
We do have so much choice. It's difficult to get to… you've got to weigh up all these different factors… I like this bit. I don't like that bit and I like this bit. This is what I need. Oh, no, I don't. But yes, they've got that. So I need that. It's all sort of …
It’s been quite interesting being in lockdown, actually. Because I think it's made a lot of us stop and think that there’s a lot of things we don't actually need.
A lot of choices we don't need to make, a lot of things we don't need to buy.
I haven't been out to the shops or bought online apart from groceries since we've been in lockdown and it makes you stop and think …I probably would have popped out to the shops, whether it be clothes shopping, or you know, sort of gadget shopping or things like that. But as I'm not a natural online shopper, I think it's made me stop and brought me up a little bit as to things that I would have perhaps got, because I thought I needed them. But in actual fact, no. Don't need them. So it's actually, it's brought me into more of a frame of realising that I don't need to be quite so much of a consumer.
I've never thought of you as a rabid consumer.
No, I'm not but there would have been times when I'd have thought oh I'll just pop out and see what I can see. Whether I would have actually bought any of it or not, I don't know. But I might have done. I just feel as though it's become less of a part of life because of lockdown and therefore I don't think I'll be going back to it.
That sounds good.
During the next clip, Phil, Mom and I talk about corporal punishment when we were at school. Some context, Phil was a boy chorister in Worcester Cathedral Choir from the age of eight until he was 13 or 14. I'd also been in the choir before Phil. Both of us had been given the choice to go or not to go by our parents. Part of the deal was that we had to leave our state primary schools to go to the boarding school linked with the cathedral. We completed our school days in that school.
Despite the unfairness that Phil talks about in his early days at boarding school, he was generally positive about the experience. As for me, I rarely admit to having been at such a school because of many unpleasant memories and the fact that most of my time there was far from the privilege commonly associated with such places. Nevertheless, I sometimes wish I'd taken one piece of careers advice I received whilst there: to be a journalist. It would certainly have changed the course of my life. I'll never know if it would have been for better or for worse but the son of the man who gave me that advice is a well known regional BBC journalist.
Chris and Josh are now distracted by watching a film or something on the phone. But that's a change isn’t it?
What’s a change?
The fact that they can be watching something on a little device like that.
And we actually forgive it.
Well, you did. I'm gonna belt them when you're gone.
Well, there's another thing - corporal punishment. That’s changed.
Yes it’s got promoted. It’s Major Misdemeanour now.
Were you ever punished at school Phil?
I remember at primary school, I was beaten over the hand with a ruler.
The sharp edge of the ruler.
Oh, I was … over the knuckles.
Yeah. Miss Litherland. Never forget her.
Because I was late for school.
Oh right. That didn't happen to me.
And I was late because I'd had to give breakfast to my younger brothers and sisters. But they didn't want to know that.
I missed out on that at primary school.
Did you get beaten at Worcester?
Oh yeah. I was very affronted. Got beaten on the second night for talking after lights-out. And I was just being honest. I'd actually almost … I think I'd gone to sleep actually and I’d spoken something after lights-out, several hours previously and gone to sleep. This master comes in and he says “who was speaking after lights-out and waking everybody up?” And I said “well I did.” I got beaten for it. So I thought oh right. So honesty, you know… that's a bit tough, isn't it? He wasn't talking about that, he was talking about as he walked in. No, we’d get the slipper Mom.
I was caned at school and had ‘Happy Harry’…
…a plimsoll that was so used for beating that it had a polished surface.
They’re not allowed to now are they?
Used to get beaten for all sorts of stupid things: looking at matron in a funny way.
Sounds like a teacher in those days was more of an excuse rather than a ….
Well, I did wonder whether some of those teachers might actually enjoy all this beating of children.
Phil and I moved on from punishment to talking about some British TV series that showed the different attitudes in the police in the 1970s and 1980s compared with today. The point is not diluted by the fact that Ashes to Ashes was actually set in the early 1980s and not the 1970s as mentioned by Phil. It was a sequel to Life on Mars and that was set in the 1970s. So was The Sweeney.
You see there's another change. The fact that we can watch television programmes on demand.
Actually, Ashes to Ashes was good because it showed change - the attitude to female officers… and attitudes to criminals. There was a lot of stuff in there that you forget about the 70s… that perhaps they were a bit more vicious and violent than your memory would allow. Then that was seen as normal. Whereas a lot of things I suppose, in the past, were seen as normal. We don't find them acceptable these days.
But I wonder whether actually the police were as violent as betrayed in that programme.
It's probably slightly over-egged, yeah.
Personally speaking, I never had experience of the police to know whether they were violent or not. So the only way that we knew whether they were, would have been off the TV … with programmes like the Sweeney where they probably were quite violent in that.
They were, in The Sweeney, yeah: “Shut it Regan.” Then you’d got these wonderful phrases from Ashes to Ashes like “fire up the Quattro, Bollyknickers.” Actually, he would never have said that would he? No it would have been “fire up the Quattro.” Bollyknickers would never have been allowed to drive it.
Well that first episode of Life on Mars… the WPC was seen as sort of back office, not quite tea maker, but not very relevant… but she had a psychology degree and she came out with a theory that made sense of all the clues that led to them capturing the criminal.
That’s it for the first episode of the Time is Sliding podcast featuring a discussion about change with Phil Baylis, my brother. That discussion was recorded exactly 1 year before this podcast was liberated from my sticky fingers and launched onto the Internet. Thanks Phil…wherever you are. Your humour has given me a lot of laughs in producing this precious podcast. Without it, I might have ruined my computer with tears.
The episode included contributions from our mother, Phil’s wife Jane and one of my nephews. Thanks to them too.
I shaped the discussion with Phil around change and he bought into that. We covered changes imposed by illness along with changes in attitudes, technologies, behaviour, music, entertainment, punishment, choices and the environment. There’ll be more of the discussion with Phil in episode 2. In that, we’ll look at change through the lens of time-travelling into the past and into the future. We’ll also cover science fiction and end with Phil’s Christian perspective on death. Phil being Phil, there’ll be some more sharp humour too.
If you knew Phil, I hope that hearing him has touched you again with his thoughtfulness, intellect and humour. For those listeners who never met him, I hope that you too enjoyed his perspectives and the laughter we shared in the face of the bleak changes we knew were ahead.
I’ve put some further information and links in the episode notes. If you enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe to it, if you haven’t already done that, and give it a good rating. All ratings and reviews will be received gratefully and gracefully too.
I’m going to end with two quotes. The first is attributed to Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived about 2,500 years ago. He said: “change is the only constant in life.” That’s true for many aspects of existence but whatever you believe in, the end of a person’s bodily life is permanent. We’re all sliding down our life’s helter skelter at various speeds until our time comes. What we can’t do is emulate the lyrics of that famous Beatles song, Helter Skelter, and go back to the top after reaching the bottom.
My second quote was uttered by Paul Dickinson on the Outrage & Optimism podcast released on 11th March 2021. He said:
“A friend of mine said that you spend all your time trying to think is this happening? Is that happening? And we’re going to get back to normal, but there is no back to normal. This is the one thing we’ve learned… that change is the eternal present and we should always be ready for it and grow.”
I’m Rob Baylis. For better or worse, all production work has been by me. Any extraneous noises and background chatter you heard was because of the rustic way the recording had to be made.
Bye for now and a tatty-bye for those over a certain age who’ve resisted change. Watch out for the next episode of Time is Sliding. It will be let loose on the world in a month’s time.