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Antenna

Arthur Century Later

25 April 10 words: James Walker
illustrations: Rikki Marr

ITV were supposed to remake Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 2008, but they chickened out. So what would a modern Arthur Seaton be like? We have a stab at it…


If Arthur Seaton were 21 today, much of his life would have changed. But not that much.

He’d still be living at home with his Mam, but chances are that his Dad wouldn’t be there, divorce having been a luxury in 1958 but almost an obligation today. As for his neighbourhood, the only arse he would be shooting would be Bowser's on his Nintendo Wii, because in 2008 nobody knows their neighbour at all, let alone enough to shoot them for gossiping. In any case, Mrs Bull would be too busy watching Big Brother and exchanging tittle-tattle on the Popbitch message board. And waving an air rifle out of the window in Radford is not the cleverest thing in the world to do these days. 

Workwise, he would no longer be stuck in front of a lathe, worrying about how much piecework he could do in a shift. Instead, he would be sat in front of a computer terminal (probably for the private sector or a faceless corporation) deleting emails, attending health and safety training and uploading statistics to cover his department's arse. Propaganda is the one thing which hasn’t changed over fifty years. It’s just taken different forms.

 

Arthur could forget about relieving the monotony of repetitive labour by pissing about, because laughter is not allowed in the modern workplace, lest someone take offence and notify HR. Instead, he kills time by trying to look busy and insulting people on the LeftLion forum. He could also forget about working his fingers to the bone to earn some extra beer money - flexible working these days requires a fifteen-page business plan and approval by ten Line Managers. Instead of working his arse off for overtime, he’ll be working just as hard to avoid it, now that it’s unpaid.

Arthur still likes his pint, but he also likes his shorts, his cocktails, his alcopops and his shots. Concoctions that the Arthur of ’58 would consider ‘women’s drinks’ are decked without a second thought by his modern-day counterpart, who also enjoys the luxury of a credit card. No more waiting until payday or having to eke out your wages when you have a handy bit of plastic. No more trolling around local pubs, either – only old men and nutters frequent locals these days.

Arthur would still be fighting, just not on the street, lest it be picked up by CCTV and shown on Central News East. His new enemy would be anonymous and harder to pin down; the ‘no smoking, no drinking, no hunting, no fucking’ puritanical killjoys mentioned by Sillitoe in his interview, who are the oppressors fifty years on.

Summing it all up, although today’s Arthur Seaton has an physically easier, ostentatiously more leisure-orientated life than his predecessor, he also has a greater need to get out of it now than he did in 1958. Sex and booze would still play a great part in his life, but nobody would be shocked by that anymore. Pills, herb and coke would be added to the mix. Nobody would be shocked by that, either. The weekend would be just as vital and relevant as ever, but with a credit card bill the size of Mrs. Bull’s arse awaiting him on Sunday morning.

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