We started the wonderful Hercule Poirot series last week. The change’s in fashion, style, and mannerisms in upper crust British society between Sherlock Holmes and Poirot are startling. It;s not just raised hemlines or the wonderfully written smart and sassy women in Poirot’s life. It is the overall atmosphere of London between 1895 – 1935 as depicted in the two television series and books. I have read all of the Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) novels. No that’s not quite right, I’ve devoured all of her books. Poirot wasn’t my favorite character to tell the truth. The Tommy and Tuppence characters and stories were my favorite. We are thoroughly enjoying the series.
Now onto the purpose of this post, if you could pick an era of history to live which era would you choose and why? I think for me it would be very late Victorian era. Yes, this flight of fancy completely involves wearing rose colored glasses and remembering only the best of what the age had to offer and not the hardships faced by the poorest or the inequalities in society. However, my rose colored glasses are firmly in place.
The pace of life in Christie’s Poirot has all the trappings of modern day life. The omnipresent telephone, hemlines that never seem to grasp when to stop exposing flesh, and societal boundaries beginning to erode. Late Victorian era still had modern creature comforts we are accustomed to but still had dignity and grace. Telephones and cars existed but were extremely rare and honestly, life would be much better if it had remained such.
Modern society is so much more disconnected from the immediate people surrounding us and we’ve lost communities. For the overwhelming majority of first world communities today, if we need to go somewhere we reach for the car keys and drive off, complete our business and return to our houses. No longer do we walk to town, talk to our neighbors, and have relationships with the butcher, green grocer, or postman. We have long distance, electronic relationships with people that are impersonal and sterile. Of course, it means we have the ability to move away from the place where we were born, talk to people all around the world, and have instant communication with others. But personally I mourn the trade-offs and that mourning is in only increasing as I age.
Gone are the days of handwritten letters, notes, and more importantly journals and diaries. It is no longer possible to truly have a relationship with the butcher, fishmonger, and green grocer because with rare exceptions, those roles have been consumed by large corporations and big box stores. Walking to the store is also rarely practical anymore. We all have a get-in, get-out attitude when we go shopping. We don’t make eye contact with other shoppers or say good morning in general. Society is becoming impersonal, distant, and disconnected.
Handwritten communication conveys so much extraneous information about the writer than a type written note ever can. I tease my husband that he writes like a serial killer but he does have the most awful chicken scratch. My own handwriting is small and at times completely illegible. And now it seems that cursive is no longer being taught in American schools. I find this completely irresponsible and yet another reason I think the American public school system should be scrapped in it’s entirety.
Handwriting is a reflection of your personality. Do you draw hearts over your i’s, or do you have tight, cramped lettering dashed off in a rush? All that is being lost and twenty years from now it isn’t unrealistic to think that the youth of our society will be unable to read letters stored from the past or journals written by long deceased relatives. All of that history lost for future generations whose lives are stored digitally where the past can be altered to suit the whims of the government currently in power or to correct history based on the latest scientific findings. Nothing is permanent or set-in stone, the word of today and tomorrow is constantly in flux.
I realize I am waxing nostalgic for a bygone era but I believe that the course and direction of modern society is misguided and detrimental. I am guilty of living in the modern age but I always try and make an effort to make eye contact with strangers in the supermarket and I still have my handwritten journals. I haven’t kept a hand written journal in years but I am going to strive to correct that effort over the coming months. Our nieces, nephew, and cousins need to have a handwritten connection to DH and I, not just great grandparents and distant aunts and uncles.