Life is different today than in times gone by, for good and for bad. Three grandparents and their grandchildren talk about their upbringing, the effect on their identity and what they most envy about the older or younger generation.
0 1 _ _ _ LAWRENCE'S GRANDAUGHTER
17 YEARS OLD
Grandpa’s generation had to do what society and their parents told them to do. Our generation is following our dreams. People are more understanding that not everyone is the same so the colour of your skin is more accepted, your sexuality is more respected and difference is more accepted. In fact, being different is the style these days: be as different as you can. I think that life seemed to be simpler before and less dangerous but I like my sense of freedom and that I can do what I want, especially as a woman. In my grandparents’ day, if you went into an office and saw a woman, she would be a secretary. These days, she could be head of the office. One thing I do envy is the sense of romance there was in Grandpa’s day. Little things like giving each other flowers or going out on a date – they don’t seem to exist anymore. And people start having boyfriends and girlfriends at a much younger age today – before they even know what they want or what love is.
0 2 _ _ _AISSATA'S GRANDFATHER
88 YEARS OLD
My generation was brought up in the middle of the war and that made a huge difference. We grew up with bombs dropping all round us. I think that made us much more responsible than today’s young people. Life was a serious business and everyone had a job to do. I was the personal messenger of the head of the Women’s Voluntary Services, for instance. Then, at the age of 16, I became an office boy. I was earning £1,2s&6d a week and I still had enough money to pay my mother, go out for coffee every morning with the other boys and even take a girl out. But Aissata’s generation have complete freedom, which we never had. And that must be nice.
0 3 _ _ _ KRISTEL'S GRANDMOTHER
81 YEARS OLD
I love that younger generations have a more open outlook than we did. Growing up in Jamaica, we were raised under such strict circumstances. While it was good in some ways, we were so restricted. The minute we had a bit of freedom a lot of us jumped into marriage, because it was seen as the right and proper thing to do. We didn’t give ourselves much time to figure out if it was something we really wanted, or if the person was right for us. These days, there isn’t that same pressure – you can design your own life! Back then, the main thing we thought about above all else was working. I was happy to do any kind of job, but the types of jobs we could do were limited and employers used to get away with a lot of bad stuff. If I was coming up in this day and age I would definitely have taken my education further, but I’m happy to see that my grandchildren have more options now.
0 4 _ _ _ EDNA'S GRANDAUGHTER
29 YEARS OLD
I’m very aware that being a mixed-race woman in Britain today is a lot better than it would’ve been in my nan’s time. But I do envy the fact that housing was so much more affordable back then. Despite working in low-paid jobs, my nan was able to buy her first home in North London within a few years of moving to the UK from Jamaica in the 1960s. I also wish we had the same sense of community as older generations. To help one another settle into their new lives, nan was part of a tight-knit West Indian community and remains so to this day. There was more of a sense of neighbourly support in those days too. I don’t have a clue who most of my neighbours are but she always recalls the first night in her new home when, despite being the first non-white family to move onto the street, a neighbour brought over a ready-boiled kettle of water so they could have a cup of tea together. You can’t get much more British than that!
0 5 _ _ _ LUCA'S GRANDMOTHER
69 YEARS OLD
Every generation has its challenges. I was an immigrant from Italy in the 1950s so for me, growing up was about survival. In that sense, I’m happy that the younger generation has more opportunities than I ever had. But, when I was growing up, we lived in a tight-knit community. There was a strong sense of honour and respect for our elders – that seems to have been almost completely lost. Kids are so distracted now, they don’t have time for one another or for the things that are really important. They spend hours on their phones in their bedroom and no one knows what they are up to or the impact it is having on their health and self-confidence. I think that is very sad.
0 6 _ _ _ ROSANNA'S GRANDSON
14 YEARS OLD
I envy the fact that grandma doesn’t feel like she needs to be on her phone all the time. If she’s bored, she’ll do other things. If I’m bored I go straight to my phone – sometimes I ask myself, why am I even on my phone right now? But mobiles are a huge part of the way we all socialise. In fact, most of my friends are more interested in texting than talking face to face. Even talking on the phone can feel weird. We like being masked and concealed from other people. It makes us feel more safe and secure. If you call people up, they know what your voice really sounds like and that can be awkward.
Illustration: Sam Green