It came as something of a shock the other day to realise that we are a matter of just 12 weeks or so away from the end of this decade. Yes, not just the end of the year, but the end of a whole ten-year period.
Why I found this somewhat surprising is because in many ways it doesn’t feel as though we’ve ever properly defined this period at all and it seems odd to wave goodbye to a decade we have barely said hello to.
One of the reasons for the lack of identity for this time is that even now, as we enter the last weeks of 2009, nobody has really found a decent, universally understood name for it. We all have images flash into our mind the moment anybody says the 1970s (Abba, punk, Silver Jubilee etc), the 1980s (Thatcher, new romantics, the wedding of Charles & Di etc), or the 1990s (Oasis, the rise of New Labour and Britpop) but this decade’s name just doesn’t have the same immediacy. The phrase ‘the noughties’ just doesn’t do it in the instant-warmth, instant-memory sphere does it?
The truth is, when I think we do look back on the noughties (for that looks to be the name which will go down in history), I suspect any of its great music or cultural events will be dwarfed by the really bad stuff. Forget the Beatles being the enduring image of the 1960s, for instance; I’m afraid this past period will best be remembered for 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, climate change, economic meltdown and that appalling fellow George W Bush.
But, if the noughties were a bad dream best forgotten, what are we going into next?
Are we going into a nice easy-to- identify, well-named decade like the 20s, 40s or 80s again? No, of course not. Sadly, we’ve got another decade with an ‘identity crisis’.
The preferred name (apparently) for the next ten year stretch (2010-2019) is the ‘twenty-tens’. Others prefer the ‘two thousand and tens’, some go for ‘the tens’ and the odd person (well, me to be specific) prefers ‘the teens’. OK, I accept that ‘the teens’ is fine for the year 2014 but not so great for 2011 but, heck, I still like it.
Of course, the one thing that can cheer us all about the decade to come is that we can already see some bright lights on the horizon.
There is nothing in the America constitution that could allow George Walker Bush to stand again (although I understand there are more Bush’s lurking in the, err, bushes) and let’s not forget this country will be given an enormous boost in 2012 when we will have the Olympics and hopefully six years later if we get the football World Cup. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you have to admit that at least it’s something positive to look forward to after the pretty uninspiring and rather bloody decade we’re vacating.
The end of a period like this will, inevitably, mean a plethora of newspaper and magazine reviews where we look at the highlights and lowlights of the years gone by. There will be Best of the Noughties CDs galore and you can bet your life that the TV schedules are already bulging with retrospective programmes about a decade I suspect many of us will actually quickly want to forget.
So what has (apart from the truly gruesome things mentioned earlier) really defined the noughties in the UK? I personally suspect it will be the rise of reality TV in all its guises from Big Brother and X Factor to the reality-TV-for-people-who-claim-they-
don’t-like-reality-TV such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den. Such programmes have revolutionised TV and made everyone believe, sadly, that ‘celebrity’ is the ultimate profession to aim for.
So, reader, George W Bush and Simon Cowell could well be THE defining faces of the noughties.
Bring on the ‘teens’....