Nostalgia isn't what it used to be, but if we are to believe the legend, time was, when everyone, and everything, knew their places - servants bowed and scraped through their menial chores, peasants touched their forelocks as they toiled in the fields, and machinery contented itself with doing what it was supposed to do. Now, however, "You just can't get the staff, these days!", and even machinery has an attitude problem, but I never realised quite how much the world had changed until one day, or rather night, in the 1980s.
Shortly before my ex-wife and I first started courting, I was giving her a lift home after a weekend of dancing and singing at Chippenham Folk Festival, and at some weary, god-forsaken hour of the morning we stopped to get petrol at an automatic filling station - that is, £5 or £10 note operated, there was no attendant and the kiosk was closed for the night.
I put the note in the machine (unusually, perhaps to lull me into a false sense of security, it was accepted first time), leaned down to select a nozzle and the pump bellowed in my ear:
"YOU HAVE SELECTED UNLEADED PETROL!!! DO NOT CONTINUE UNLESS YOU WISH TO USE UNLEADED PETROL!!!"
"Jeez! What the ..." This was my first encounter with speaking, or should I say shouting, machinery, and it completely stopped me in my tracks. Would the nozzle be wrested out of my hand by the pump making a Nazi salute? It wasn't, but the world I grew up in had gone for ever.
And me nerves have never been the same since ...