Past, Present and Future
Edited by D. S.P. Rao and Bart van Ark
Confessions of a Chiffrephile
FAMILY INFLUENCES My interest in economics started early. Until I was six, I lived in Newcastle- on-Tyne, where the main industries were shipbuilding and coal-mining. A large proportion of the work force were unemployed throughout the 1920s, and unemployment was massive in 1929–33. My father had a steady job as a railway fitter but I had two unemployed uncles, and there were many unemployed neighbours. The unemployed were not only poor but depressed. Many loitered aimlessly at street corners, looked haggard, wore mufflers and cloth caps and smoked fag-ends. Their children were often sickly or tubercular. My father took me to Gateshead every Sunday to see my grandmother. The double-decker bridge across the Tyne had openwork iron girders with a long drop to a dirty river that flowed between laid-up ships and a long line of derelict factories. The bleak image of the dead economy was sharpened by the noise and vibration above. Trams rattled down the middle of the roadway, and trains rumbled ominously overhead. At the Gateshead end, the buildings were blacker, and the clusters of unemployed thicker than in Newcastle. I saw nowhere so depressing until visiting Calcutta 30 years later. In 1933, the railway workshops were relocated in Darlington. We only moved 30 miles but it was a different world with much less unemployment. I was also aware of other improvements, as I knew that food prices had fallen and that mortgages were affordable. My parents both left school when they were 12 and were interested in improving their education and mine. My mother used to read to me at an early age, she taught me to play golf, we had competitions in spelling or guessing the title of operatic music we heard on the radio.
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