What's in store for '94? David Morton puts aside the crystal ball and instead turns to the man on the security desk for his views on what we can look forward to in the New Year year.
Like everybody else the Security Guard had found that there wasn't too much to do sitting at the desk just after Christmas so, like everybody else, he got to thinking about the future.
And like everybody else who turned up to work in the last drab days of 1993 I had found that there weren't too many people to chat to around the office.
As a result we got talking and he told me about the future which he had been giving a lot of thought to. Thought which, he pointed out, had been paid for by the company at a general rate of £4.60 per hour, although some of it, he admitted, had been pondered at the double rate which applies to security guards' musings after 11.00pm and on weekends and bank holidays.
On the basis that once you've paid for the research you might as well use it, Backbite is pleased to pass on these insights into the future which awaits us in 1994.
'The first thing you have to understand,' said the Security Guard, 'is that the future isn't what it used to be', and seeing my confusion he went on to explain.
'You see the problem is that when you and me were kids, the future was a long way away, along with Dan Dare and 2001, and life was going to be really different with all sorts of strange gadgets so that you could have a chat to Digby no matter where you were or he was, just by speaking into some incredibly tiny gizmo. Well, nowadays, the future isn't very far off at all. In fact, just recently, I've noticed that the future turns out to be what happened yesterday.' 'Now I know that the experts keep telling us that we're living in a "time of unprecedented change" but they're living in the past. You and me know that all that change means now is that every year the gizmos get a lot smaller and lighter, the design is changed so that people can actually use them and Dixons tries to flog off the old unusable models in the January sales. But there ain't nothing new in that, is there?' Now writing a column dedicated to the idea of human progress, I challenged the Security Guard on this point. If nothing had changed, why was it that his five-year-old child could programme the video tape recorder, focus the camcorder and battle with Sonic the Hedgehog when he couldn't do any of them.
'Nothing changes,' maintained the Security Guard. 'My own grandmother spent much of her life approaching electric light bulbs with a lighted match, my mother still finds it impossible to locate Radio 4 FM on the dial of her transistor radio - as indeed does my wife. Each generation refuses to come to terms with some perfectly straightforward aspect of technology. But at least it gives the kids an opportunity to show off.' 'But what about social change?' I asked. 'What about the new Europe, the impact of women in the workplace, and the demographic changes that mean there will be 10 senior citizens to every teenager in the country. Isn't that change?' Now at this point the Security Guard gave the sort of sigh which comes from careful training in the monotonous stretches of the night-watch.
'Change like in Europe you mean, where everybody's worried about the recently-unified Germany and the Balkans crisis just like we were 100 years ago. Or change, like all those strange new countries that emerged from the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire?' Or was I thinking of the Soviet Empire?
'Or change,' he continued, 'like the closer cultural and business ties of the new Europe, the way we eat each other's food and work in each other's countries. Like the thousands of German waiters and musicians who left London in 1914 shaking hands with thousands of French waiters and musicians at Victoria station as they went off to do their bit back home. Or change, like the fact that the German and French steel industries were actually more closely integrated before the first world war than they are today.' As to the changing role of women, the odd thing was that whether it was the new textile mill of the 1830s or the new consumer goods factories of the 1930s, or the new service industries of the 1980s, all the new jobs and the new money were always said to be going to an ever-more independent generation of women.' The Security Guard shook his head sadly: 'Once again it's not so much change as more of the same thing dressed in lycra instead of nylon, instead of silk, instead of crinoline.' 'But what about the triumph of the wrinklies?' I asked. 'What about the fact that all the new novels are just sequels of old novels, that teenagers have to rave to remixes of old LPs and all the new fashions are revivals of old fashions. Isn't that diferent?' This I could see was something of a winning argument and I pressed my point: 'In fact the unprecedented change we are facing is that in 1994 we will be living through a time of unprecedented unchange.' So much for 1994. Much the same for 1995. Of course, 1996 is different. There's one day more of the same, inevitable, unchanging, unescapable (bloody) thing. Let's talk again on 29 February.