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It's the 1970s all over again - the pandemic has set us back 50 years

Brendan O'Connor


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This cover image released by Republic Records shows Folklore the eighth record by Taylor Swift. (Republic Records via AP)

This cover image released by Republic Records shows Folklore the eighth record by Taylor Swift. (Republic Records via AP)

This cover image released by Republic Records shows Folklore the eighth record by Taylor Swift. (Republic Records via AP)

There was something familiar that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It was like a taste or a smell or a feeling from childhood. I knew this feeling, this kind of atmosphere. But what was it? And then it hit me. It's the 70s. It's the 1970s all over again. The pandemic has set us back 50 years. Or maybe the decade was coming back anyway, and this just crystallised it. They say a pandemic presses fast forward on history. Maybe this one pressed rewind, on a cassette player.

Taylor Swift

Taylor spotted it early, or at least her marketing department did.

Taylor probably has a dozen trend forecasters working for her, who make up algorithms of various strands from culture to produce her latest album and look, which, this time, is folk. So they crossed Makem and Clancy with Joni Mitchell and the original generation of Grace O'Shaughnessy-era Irish models and they came up Folktaylor. And she is not just wearing an Aran sweater in the publicity shots. She is actually wearing a full bawneen suit, and she has a peaked bawneen cap to go with it. She bought it in Switzers.

In reality, Taylor didn't even steal the music on her new album from the 70s. Nobody is suggesting the new album isn't stunningly original and let's be careful legally here, but you imagine Lana Del Rey might be feeling a bit put out about Folktaylor's new music. Rumour has it that Taylor's next album is going to be Country and Irish. Tapes have surfaced online of her singing Pretty Little Girl From Omagh.

The Good Life

Before there was Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin there was Tom and Barbara, popular sitcom characters who had dropped out to become self-sufficient. At the time it was considered humorous.

We are all Tom and Barbara now. Your mother could whip up a loaf of brown bread in five minutes and she didn't make a big deal of it. Now it's a three-day event, with various creatures growing in hot presses. When the bread is actually made, it is not eaten but photographed.

When we are not being semi-full-time bakers, we are tending our gardens, so we can share pictures of our tomatoes with people who couldn't care less. The next thing to come back with be village fetes (online this time) where we will all compete with Mrs Murphy's prized marrows, and where the local priest will judge the jam. While we are tending our actual gardens, we have all been rewilding our bodies, letting the hair grow out everywhere.

No doubt we will start comparing that on social media soon. At least in the actual 70s you only had to look at other people's pictures once a year when they got out the slide projector after a trip abroad. With social media we are subject to a constant slideshow of every aspect of everyone's life. Staycations

We had another word for staycations in the seventies. Holidays.

You didn't have to specify back then that you weren't going abroad. We assumed nobody was going abroad unless they told you they were. And they did tell you. Going to Benalmadena was considered the last word in sophistication then. Up there with drinking Maxwell House coffee. Anyone who wasn't a farmer who had a tan was regarded as the kind of exotic creature you'd see on Dallas.

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The Suburbs

The rise of localism has meant that suburban dwellers are rediscovering the areas around their semi-ds. It was actually compulsory at one point to stay within 2km of your house. So everyone got to know their neighbours and started treasuring their local butchers and restaurants.

Standing outside clapping for frontline staff became the new key parties, where neighbours mingled and Mrs Murphy had a gin and tonic and got flirty with the man from number 74. After a second one she was offering to let him inspect her prize marrows. Ooh er missus, as they used to say in the 70s. Cycling

There is something distinctly 70s about all the gangs of bored kids going around on Chopper-style bikes.

But the rest of us are reverting to the pre-motor car era too. Roads in our city centres have been turned into cycling motorways and trying to buy a bike right now is harder than trying to get a puppy. The people in lycra are livid that the rest of us are ambling along in their cycle lanes, taking our sweet time to get nowhere in particular, because if we get home we'll have to see our children again.

Stay-at-home parents

In the 70s, people's mothers were at home all the time. Many of the mothers took various drugs to make this bearable, while some got by on tea and idle gossip. Now everyone's parents are at home all the time and everybody knows their families far too well.

When people got hitched and had children they weren't expecting they would have to spend all their time with their partner and children. This is not what anyone signed up for. Cans of Guinness When the pubs do open again a lot of people will be too mean to go to them. There are already mutterings about the fact that you can get a slab of cans for the price of one of those fishbowls of artisan gin with half a garden in it.

The 80s If you think this is bad, remember what comes next. Let's enjoy the 70s while we can.


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