Blotted Copy Books, and Caterpillar Coats

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The 70’s is currently enjoying a revival on TV thanks to memoir sitcoms Cradle to Grave and The Kennedys.

Cradle to Grave is part written by comedian Danny Baker and is based on his own adolescence in 1970’s London. With exploding toilets and loads of ‘farkin ‘ells’, it’s hilariously funny.

The Kennedys is written by actress, writer and TV presenter Emma Kennedy and is based on her memoirs The Tent, The Bucket and Me. Narrated from 10 year old Emma’s perspective, it resonates with me the most because I too was a child in the 70’s.

The show provides a nostalgic look back at the time when Darth Vader was a scary man (but nowhere near as scary as Jimmy Savile turned out to be) and schoolgirls lives were temporarily ruined by Donny Osmond’s forthcoming nuptials.

Both shows feature cars of the decade and it brought back memories of Dad’s Hillman Hunter.

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Dad and Me in his Hillman Hunter

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Dad putting the car away in the garage while I showed Mum what I’d been doing at school all day.

Another form of transport (for kids) was the Space Hopper. I had a go on my friend’s but wasn’t much for it as the bouncing made my head ache. I preferred to spin around until I fell over on the carpet and entertainment doesn’t come much better than that!

Not forgetting the hours of fun to be had from making go carts out of an old prams and bits of wood. We were recycling way before it was fashionable!

It’s Emma’s schooldays which have evoked memories long forgotten…

~ Inky Fingers ~

I remember inky fingers, blotting paper and my brother’s leaky fountain pens which resulted in Mum having to scrub his clothes. No magical Vanish in those days – just milk, vinegar and elbow grease!

Blotting paper reminds me of one of Mum’s favourite sayings..

You’ve really blotted your copy book this time, Madam!

I never actually understood the meaning of it but could tell I was in trouble from the way her eyes narrowed as she said it just before she ordered me up to my room to ‘think about what I’d done’.

~ Technology ~

Technology at school was watching a film via a projector which invariably involved disruptions while the teacher faffed about changing the reels. The films were usually about as entertaining as tonsillitis but they gave us the opportunity to eat sweets without risk of confiscation.

~ The School Toilets ~

The school toilets (more commonly known as bogs) were damp and drippy and there was always a cubicle with an out of order notice pinned to the door.

Hygiene was soap that smelled like antiseptic (because it was) and Izal toilet roll or ‘caretakers revenge’ as I like to call it. Wiping your arse with Izal was like trying to wipe yourself with a crisp packet, not that I’ve tried but it’s the best analogy I can come up with.

~ Thatcher, Thatcher Milk Snatcher ~

Dad considered Margaret Thatcher a cow of epic proportions..

~ Healthy Eating ~

On the way home from school, my brother would take me into the sweet shop where he’d give me a few pennies for some sweets and in those days you got a lot of sweets for your money. I remember the shop being crammed to the rafters with huge bottles containing Flying Saucers, Fizzy Cola Bottles, Sweet Tobacco, Black Jacks, Space Dust, Wham Bars, Drumsticks and Space Dust. I loved them all and it’s highly likely that the sugar in this lot contributed to me having ‘blotted my copy book’ on several occasions!

~ School Fashion ~

Fashion?

*guffaws*

The 70’s was the decade that good taste missed!

The sight of Emma Kennedy and her friend with their school satchels jogged my memory of having one as a child. Things were made to last in those days and were generally worn out before being replaced. Very different from today’s throwaway society where things are changed on a whim. My satchel lasted me for years because the sodding thing was indestructible!

Mum bought my coats a size too big so that I could ‘grow into them’. She bought me one in the sales once and it’s fair to say that it was going cheap because nobody in their right mind would want to be seen dead in it. It was phlegm green, padded and made me look like a caterpillar. I put up with the piss-taking for a few weeks then it ‘mysteriously’ ripped beyond repair. *shifty face*

I also had a pair of these..

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Mum liked to get her money’s worth when it came to shoes and demanded to see actual holes before she’d fork out for a new pair. Unlike clothes, she had to buy shoes that actually fitted so my growing spurts totally pissed her off. However, being a mother myself and having spent a small fortune on children’s shoes, I now feel her pain.

~ Miss D ~

My teacher in 1978. Goddess. Looked like Deirdre off Coronation Street.  A wonderful lady who actually liked kids which made a welcome change from my previous teacher who was straight out of a Stephen King novel.

The 70’s has been tainted with the recent revelations that some of it’s biggest icons were in fact depraved monsters but Cradle to Grave and The Kennedys have injected some warmth and humour back into the era to remind us that, disagreeable decor aside, it wasn’t too bad really.

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Image Credit Star Wars J D Hancock

Image Credit Clarks Shoes Alansplodge

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Imagination Makes A Cloudy Day Sunny

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It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The 70’s was the decade of all things naff. Naff clothes. Naff decor. Naff gadgets with the height of luxury being a teasmade. Yet as hideous as it was with it’s tartan clad teens with wing spans for collars, children still enjoyed the best toy ever designed..

Imagination.

The 70’s was arguably a difficult era with strikes, three day weeks and the rise of Maggie and the Morons. Times were grim, even more so when Thatcher finally moved into number 10 in 1979.

Though times were difficult, we didn’t go without. We always had a toy on our birthdays and Santa didn’t disappoint at Christmas, despite Ma’s threats of having us put on the naughty list. We had pocket money every week which we had to earn by doing chores – mostly crap ones. Ma was SS trained and woe betide us if we moaned about doing them!

My mother was ALL about routine and her routine was cocked up something rotten during school holidays. She looked forward to the long summer one with the enthusiasm of an inmate on death row. Bless ‘er.

To be fair, we were annoying gits.

We lived in an old house with what seemed to me to be a massive garden. In retrospect it wasn’t that big it’s just that most things seem bigger from a child’s perspective, like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs.

There was a garage (separate from the house) which I wasn’t allowed to play in, not that it stopped me. To Dad, it was a place of sanctuary – somewhere to indulge his carpentry skills while Ma scoffed her way through a family sized bag of Revels during her monthly psycho do’s. To Ma, it was a place to banish him to when she wanted to watch The Gentle Touch. To me it was escapism.

One venture into the garage almost proved fatal because while I was having a root around one day, an old back door fell on top of me. By some miracle I was pulled out with just a scratch on my nose. My traumatised mother gave Dad a verbal lashing for leaving the garage door unlocked. I have no recollection of the door falling on me but Ma assured me that it did. Incidentally, a bang to the head would certainly explain a few things. Ha ha

From then on the garage was strictly out of bounds. Or so they thought because I knew where the key was kept. 😉

To this day the smell of engine oil and wood shavings are evocative of the hours I spent in there. When I wasn’t trying to kill myself under back-doors, I was reenacting my favourite TV shows, like Dallas. I could do a mean impression of Sue ‘AM GON KEEL YEEEW JR!’ in those days!

When I walked in it ceased to be a garage. It was like entering a musty old wardrobe full of moth-balled coats and walking out into Narnia. If only in my head..

I didn’t need other children to be able to play. In fact, I much preferred to play by myself. Other kids seriously cramped my style.

Toys of the 70’s were simple. Star Wars was one of the biggest films of the decade so there were the gratuitous naff toys to accompany it.  We didn’t have Kindles. We had comics and books. The highlight of my week was buying a new Enid Blyton and Christmas was never complete without an annual of some description. I do have a Kindle but I still get the biggest thrill from the old fashioned way of choosing actual books from a shop or using the library.

Technology?

Pong was as techno as it got. And it was shit.

Children watched Why Don’t You And Blue Peter for rainy day inspiration and they’d get all creative with a bog roll holder and some Plasticine. For me, rainy days were the perfect excuse to curl up for hours on end with my books because reading was where I found my bliss – escapism at it’s best.

While a part of me says you can stick your technology, another part of me is thankful for it because my son has autism and it’s proved invaluable to us.

It’s a myth that people with autism don’t have imagination. Some of the most creative and imaginative people have Aspergers Syndrome. Hans Christian Anderson, for example, is thought to have had it.

S has an elaborate inner world. It may be very different from the way his peers see the world it but in my opinion the autistic mind is a beautiful mind.

He has obsessions, the latest being Lego, or Legouch as I call it because I keep standing on the sodding stuff. Every day is about Lego, specifically Ninjago (Masters of Spinjitzu) have to give it the full title or he tells me off. He watches the cartoons then reenacts what he’s seen. He lives and breathes the stuff in the obsessive way that is a common of autistic children. I may be crippled from constantly standing on the stuff but at least he’s over his obsession with serial arsonist, Norman Price of Pontypandy. Small mercies, folks.

S is happy in his world. Technology helps him to cope with the real one a little bit more by providing a distraction from the overwhelming stimulus. However, there was a simplicity in the era of my childhood that no longer exists. We are living in a digital age where children choose to stay indoors over playing outside. I already find technology to be totally overwhelming and I fear that with each technological advance humanity will take one step closer to becoming disposable. A sobering thought, no?

Yes, the 70’s was a naff-fest in fashion, decor and, well, everything but children climbed trees and tired themselves out playing. In those days, most children knew how to play.

Image Credit by JD Hancock via Creative Commons

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The Flip-Flop Saga

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The car was packed with the usual 1970’s beach paraphernalia – picnic hamper, deck chairs, blanket and windbreaker. We, that is Mum, Dad my brother and I were on our way to the beach. We were almost at our destination when I happened to glance down at Ma’s feet and saw black fur.

There were a couple of possibilities..

a) She’d bought along a cat, though this was unlikely as she’d gone off cats since one had the audacity to use the dining room table leg as a scratching post.

b) Her toe-hair was seriously out of control.

Also unlikely as Ma was posh and didn’t do toe-hair. In the end I went with the most obvious conclusion that she’d unknowingly committed a most heinous fashion faux pas.

‘Mum, why are you wearing your slippers?’ I piped up from the back seat.

Ma looked down, said a word totally forbidden to us kids, then had a go at us for doing her head in – thus making her forget to change into her sandals.

When I say slippers, I mean 1970’s slippers.

Like these only in black.

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I look at these slippers and I’m instantly transported back to the 70’s and Barry White making sweaty lurve to Ma via Dad’s HiFi speakers.

After giving us a bollocking she ordered Dad to do an about turn – which he wasn’t having any of as we were almost there. He told her she’d have to buy a pair of flip-flops from one of the seafront shops.

Now for us kids.. flip-flops were part of the holiday experience. We had a bucket, spade, a pair of flip-flops and the promise of an ice-cream if we behaved. Tall order as were were little gits, but it gave us the incentive to try.

I loved the flick-flacking sound they made as I flipped across the sand.  I did Ma’s head in with my incessant flick-flacking. Once they were on they stayed on for the rest of the holiday. They always seemed to go missing once back home. Bit mysterious, that. Or not.

Ma wasn’t a flip-flop kind of woman. She worshipped Dr Scholl – only they were back in the caravan..

Despite the risk of amputation via the toe-post, I’d always preferred flip-flops. A lot of the girls at school had Scholl’s. I’d tried Ma’s once when she was distracted by Corrie but they felt heavy and didn’t have the same satisfying tone of flick-flack as the flops.

So Dad was dispatched into a shop and he came out with a pair of canary yellow flip-flops. By the look on Ma’s face you’d think she’d been asked to clean out the gent’s bogs without Marigolds. She flung her slippers in the boot and put the flip-flops on.

After we’d set up camp on the beach she had a cup of tea – chained her way through a few Silk Cut’s and after a while she finally stopped glaring at the flip-flops. And us.

In those days deck chairs were for the oldies. No fancy kiddie chairs like we have today, I should coco! If we were lucky we had a blanket to sit on or an old towel but no trip to the seaside was complete without taking half the beach back in the gusset of our swimwear. Add to that a cup of lukewarm squash, a cheese sandwich (literally) and some soggy crisps because some div (probably me) had knocked their drink over.

At some point Dad had given into our relentless mithering to be taken for a walk along the beach. Ma and her flip-flops came along too.

It was all going well – a proper picture postcard moment – until we came across some quick sand. To cut a long story short, Ma got stuck and Dad had to haul her out in a most undignified fashion. After a couple of tugs Ma’s feet were freed but they came out minus a flip-flop.

The beach had claimed it in an act of retribution.

Obviously, saying  ‘As soon as we get back, these sodding things are goin in the bin!’ invoked the god of flip-flop’s wrath. So let my mother’s lesson be a warning to you. Never diss the flops!

We probably shouldn’t have laughed as hard as we did but kids tend to laugh at stuff like that. She wasn’t in any real danger and in any case, Dad was on it faster than Usain Bolt off the starting blocks. The only real danger was that I might actually have wet myself laughing!

Of all the holidays we’ve had that day has always stayed with me. My childhood, as far as my family was concerned, was a happy time. As the years went by and after a few glasses of wine I’d remind Ma of the day she went to the beach wearing her fluffy slippers and she’d laugh after giving me the obligatory playful slap on the wrist for being a cheeky cow.

Now she’s gone and the memory is bittersweet. It never fails to make me smile. I’ve tried to it justice in this post but you really had to be there.

I feel sad because she can no longer share it with me.

Ultimately I feel blessed to have memories like this and there are plenty more where this came from. Ma may be gone but her legacy is one of love and laughter. I can’t look at a yellow flip-flop or mule slipper without smiling.

My mother was a comedy writers wet dream.  I often wonder if Roy Clarke, the writer of Keeping Up Appearances, came across my mother somewhere along the way because she was a real life Hyacinth Bucket. Sorry, Bouquet!

The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose. Garrison Keillor

Image Credit Flip Flop

Photo of 1970’s mule slippers used with the kind permission off a bloke from Ebay.

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