Last night I was watching BBC2's Back In Time For Dinner. I have not managed to see all episodes but the basic premise is one of those "send a family time travelling" programmes. How will they get on living in the Second World War/as Edwardians/etc...
Anyway, this series has been looking at the changes to food fashions/availability and family eating habits. So the family concerned have "lived in" every decade from the Fifties to the Nineties. It has been an interesting experiment and quite eye opening to see how things have changed in many ways.
But last night, I watched the Nineties episode in despair. Not at the quality of the programme or anything. Just at what a predictable life I seem to have had. Each show, they have re-done the house's kitchen appropriately for the decade. Well, last night they could have been standing in the first kitchen which I ever properly owned. It looked identical, even the door handles! And as for the music, their clothes, the dinner party food fashions, let's just say someone had been watching my life in the Nineties and decided to recreate it for television.
Yes, it is funny but it is also disturbing in some ways. Most of us like to think of ourselves as distinctive in our choices. You think you have maybe given the nod to a trend in home décor or in cooking but you don't like to think that you are wholly immersed in/influenced by your times. You want to feel creative and unique. [Strangely, for the Seventies, I had just laughed and reminisced - I guess because the ghastly choices were not made by me - they just seemed nostalgic! Maybe my mother would cringe though.]
Yet once you look back at a period of time, you can see how sheep-like we all really are! Obviously those programme makers did not use just my life. My life in the Nineties was just, unbeknownst to me, completely mired in the trends of the times. I had wholeheartedly embraced the Nineties apparently.
Sadly this means that my current almost brand new kitchen living room will one day probably be looked at by someone as "typical early twenty first century open plan living". They will question how we ever thought we could live like this, who would have a cooker like that, etc etc. By then, who knows, they may all be living on Willy Wonka style meal chewing gum or something!
It would be curious to know if our nineteenth century and earlier ancestors would have similar feelings if we were able to show them footage relating to their own early days. That is to say, Victorians did not call themselves "Victorians" or Georgians use the term "Georgians". Is this defining of a period's trends new or would someone in 1890 be despairing at the cliché of an 1870 kitchen or living room décor?! There were huge innovations during the nineteenth century. I am not sure that an average person would be able to pinpoint a particular decade from its style though. Maybe an aristocratic person could but I think the rising consumerism of post war combined with wealthy middle classes, mass media and so on has caused our lives to be much more trend-led. More so even than we realise, clearly...