Britons are today voting whether to remain a part of the European Union, their so-called Brexit referendum. Watching the coverage on television makes me recall a night back in 1973 when I stood in a crowd outside the Houses of Parliament while inside the chamber was being held the vote that made the UK part of what was called back then the Common Market. If today’s vote is for Brexit, that night 43 years ago was the Brentrance.
It wasn’t clear that night which way the vote would go. The Tory government of Prime Minister Edward Heath was all for the Common Market and so that’s how the vote went sometime before midnight. The first-ever all-UK referendum on membership was held two years later and the people strongly supported membership, unlike today when the outcome is far from certain.
I’m not here to support one position or another on this issue. It has nothing to do with me. But the memories flooding back of that time remind me of how much has changed, possibly as a result of that vote. England in 1973 was very different than it is today. The institutions were the same but the feel was certainly different. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that the going rate in 1973 for staying overnight in a London bed and breakfast was less than £5 or about $8. To put this in context, when I arrived in the UK as a schoolboy during the late 60’s it was explained to me that the B&B rate in London was generally £2 in London and £1 in the rest of the country. That wouldn’t pay for the breakfast bacon today.
To balance this out, pay is of course much higher today than it was back then but the oligarchs had yet to arrive in London and everything was a lot more affordable. The British people were skinnier, too. Britons and Americans alike are fatter than they used to be. In the UK I like to attribute this to the arrival of natural gas. North Sea gas and all the economic development that accompanied it had yet to come to Britain in 1973, where central heating was uncommon, at least where I lived. Rooms were heated by burning coke (coal processed to make it smokeless, which ended the London fogs of Jack the Ripper) in little fireplaces. Get close to the fire and you’d burn up but leave the room and you’d freeze, which is why the men in Downton Abbey are always wearing jackets. I figured it was all the shivering that kept the British people so lean. Once thermostats arrived the shivering ended but people didn’t eat any less.
There’s no easy explanation for American fat.
In 1973 I lived in Bedfordshire in a cottage on the estate of Sam Whitbread, the brewer. Sam hunted foxes or shot pheasants most weekends on his 10,000 acres and I picked up extra work as a beater, scaring the birds out of the brush. In addition to the bloke who brought fuel for my fire there was the milk man, a guy who delivered bread, and someone else came by to empty my electric meter which was — believe it or not — coin operated. The lights would go out right in the middle of Monty Python if you forgot to add money. All this labor was available because people for the most part didn’t go to universities and many entered the work force at 15. It was a different world.
Whichever way the vote goes today I’m reminded of Thomas Wolfe: “You can’t go home again.”
Some things, however, do return and one of those is my little film Steve Jobs — The Lost Interview, which has returned to Netflix not just in the USA but worldwide. The film is also available for sale (I’m not sure about rental) on iTunes and should shortly be available on Amazon, too. Even DVDs will shortly return to Amazon, I’m told.
You’d think a film like this that was available previously in all these same places could be brought back with the flick of a switch, but no. Putting a movie on these services — even a movie that was there in the past — takes months of work. Every outlet makes you start from scratch with a new master recording and any IP we didn’t own, like a trailer or a DVD cover, has to be redone from scratch.
Still for us it’s a labor of love because the film stands apart just like its subject. Believe me, nobody in Hollywood — and I mean nobody — thought there was an audience for a totally unedited 69 minute Steve Jobs interview complete with Steve picking his nose. Yet four years later the film has a rare 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and five stars on Amazon based on 362 viewer reviews. It’s worth a look if you’ve never seen it, especially if you are already a Netflix subscriber.