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Tony Allen: And finally …

Apr 16, 2015
Things ain’t what they used to be!


Apparently it’s part of the human condition that we generally yearn for the good old days, and that’s for a world that existed 30 years ago. Yes, 30 years! Don’t ask me why it’s 30 years, but that’s what the scientists say.  Of course this works fine unless you are 30 years old, or perhaps slightly older as we remember very little from our younger childhood; the only memory I have from being under five is being stung by a bee (charged me £50 for a jar of honey).

So we can assume that anyone up to say 35 years old is OK in the present. Although maybe not.  Come to think of it; you don’t actually have to have been alive during those halcyon days to want to go back to them. By the way, did you know that the word halcyon is ancient Greek for kingfisher? So maybe, even then, people would dream of happier times spent sitting by a river watching kingfishers feeding (probably 30 years earlier). 

Why have I acquired this atavistic preoccupation with time? Well it probably started the other day when I said to my son that time appears to go so quickly that I seem to spend all of my life eating breakfast. The one thing that we all have in common is that we are getting older, and what we don’t have in common is that some of us don’t realise how quickly time goes until it’s too late.

Let me put this another way. When I was about 19, I was given a leaflet about pensions by a company I was working for at the time. I can literally remember thinking that reaching 65 was so far away that it would simply never happen: Pension? I’ve got better things to spend my money on, music, alcohol, clothes, etc.  The optimism of youth – and perhaps the reason why few of us make adequate provision for the future.

What about the moving industry? It certainly has changed, and quite rapidly. Technology has had a dramatic effect on the way we work. I was quite late to having a mobile phone and can remember saying that I was going to get through life without one. ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ I simply could not do without mine now, to the point of driving my other half mad. I even had a ring tone that said ‘Hello handsome’ - although it caused me a degree of trouble when I was sitting on a bus next to a rather large and masculine weightlifter type, and my phone rang.  I soon changed it to an old fashioned ring tone: safer! 

And what happened to the fax machine? One minute it was the essential tool for commerce; sold for hundreds of pounds; answered all of our problems; and the next moment in came the Internet and e-mails. Bye bye fax! 

So were things better for movers 30 years ago? I think it’s fair to say that we certainly look like a more modern industry. Vehicles and equipment are better, company profiles are better. But I’ve a suspicion that if we went back 30 years we would be amazed at how many basics are still the same. The interesting thing is that there is a timeless quality to the removal industry. The basic ingredients are still the same: vehicles, labour, materials and that’s not going to change as long as people live in houses.

Do we make as much money in real terms as we did 30 years ago? I doubt it. I remember a mover once saying to me that when his father ran the company he put three children through private school, had a big house in the country and had very expensive holidays. Whereas as far as he was concerned …. Well I suppose in some ways this reflects a higher proportion of a company’s profit going to the employees in terms of income and benefits and also perhaps changes in the tax regime. Then there are hire vehicles and more people able to drive and so on and so on. 

But the question is: would you really want to go back to how business was 30 years ago?  I very much doubt it; there’s much to be said for today’s business environment and much less of the ‘us and them’ mentality.

If you asked the same question of me I’m afraid I would have to say yes – but only so that I could buy a large quantity of Microsoft shares!

Photo: Tony Allen

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