This social club serves an area called Westfield in the north of the west country town where I grew up. It was touched by unwelcome fame last year when a Panorama programme about teenage binge-drinkers filmed scores of examples hanging out, legless, in the club's adjoining children's play area and park. I don't recall if the club was there when I was a child, but the burglar alarm and "Don't Get Barred" notice warning punters against using drugs on the premises tell a story of changing times. There again, are things all that different from how they were back in the early Seventies?
Perhaps the shift is more in degree than in kind. There was underage boozing in my youth, and I well recall helping a quite dangerously plastered friend aged 16 or 17 back to his home in Westfield one summer night after a party. But now booze is more easily available and more teengers are drinking to excess more often, as they are throughout Britain. Youths broke in to places too, but now there seems to be more of it, perhaps largely because - again, as everywhere else - there's more stuff worth nicking. Then there is the attitude towards the wider world. A local headteacher says, "People are hugely insular – it’s like a time warp. You can talk to children about world events and they haven’t a clue what you’re talking about."
My gloomy conclusion is that in many ways "home" hasn't changed much at all, except that the most depressing characteristics of its young people have become even more entrenched. This is hardly surprising. The social marginalisation of relatively poor, small town neighbourhoods like Westfield has increased in recent decades. Meanwhile, Britain's general fear and dislike of teenagers remains as ingrained as ever. No wonder Westfield's youngsters turn to drink.