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Forward march

The good old days seem warm and cosy in times of uncertainty. Why so? Because in some ways (definitely not all), they were much simpler. I can vividly recall ‘my old days’ before cash machines when banks closed at 3.30pm, so people would queue around the block to withdraw their money via cheque! Telephone boxes were widely used for… yes you guessed it, telephoning other people as opposed to serving as impromptu studio backdrops for tourist’s photographs – particularly of London.

The yearning for yesteryear seems everywhere. In the luxury market, gone is the bling and pouting fatales with backless gowns and back is the master craftsman, cutting, stitching and shaping – by hand, not machine. And one can hardly of not noticed the success of TV programmes like Downton Abbey and the (stunning) interpretation of Sebastian Faulk’s classic WW1 novel, Birdsong. Their endearing themes of duty, integrity, honesty and friendship appear majestic, bold and worthy. That moral framework when put in a modern context seems dreamily romantic and applied to 2012 sits like cheap wallpaper, Betjemanesque, hanging by a watery paste ready to slide ungraciously to the floor.

When we look back wistfully, we often do so with this myopic blurring of the edges. In these margins we are over-looking the spectres of racial intolerance, religious bigotry, class division, poor social mobility and the non-existent child protection that blighted those eras. That said, there is an argument that questions the fact that everything in our increasingly lonely, digital existence is positive. For many Mr Albarn was right ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’.

If I can return to my place of work and expertise, the luxury brand sector, it was noticeable in 2011 that the biggest feedback from my clients and business people I met at events was that the digital world was in one sense helping them reach out to a greater audience and in another more poignant way, detaching them from their customers and suppliers. Many were uneasy that they had in fact never met people they had contracts with and although commissioned detailed spreadsheets of online research, had no real sense of the ‘virtual people’ who were purchasing their goods and keeping them in business. A little scary. This has made them redouble their efforts in 2012 to get out and meet ‘real people’ and talk to them, even shake their hand and if possible, make eye contact. I’m sure that’ll beat the numerous cardboard cut-outs hoovered up through data capture that fill their inboxes.

I’m about to catch my Hackney carriage (taxi to you) home, no doubt I’ll don my cravat and salute her Majesty and the Prime Minister as I sweep passed their respective residences and I’ll dream of a better England along the way.