Category Archives: Family life

talking at cross purposes.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – June 2021)

I was lucky to grow up in 1960s America during the space age where technology was developing fast and some household gadgets embodied futuristic designs.

Take the humble telephone, for instance. One of my early childhood memories was being in my next door neighbour’s kitchen, where my friend’s mum had a white wall-mounted telephone, with a curly flex. I wasn’t yet tall enough to reach the phone (nor would have been allowed to use it) but I remember clearly thinking that this was the very by-word in modernity. Better still, I had a friend whose older sister had a telephone in her bedroom!

Of course Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise had ‘communicators’ which looked just like modern flip phones. My first mobile phone was a pink Motorola flip phone in the mid 2000s which made me feel uber futuristic. It got nicked at a party and I mourned its loss for weeks.

When I was nine years old in 1969, I heard about a swanky space-age phone that also had a screen where you could actually see the person you were talking to – just like they had in the Jetsons! Dad thought it was merely science fiction but I fantasised about having one so that I could see and talk to my cousin who lived three hundred miles away near Atlanta, GA.

It only took another thirty years before Skype technology was invented. (Dad never got to grips with technology.)

As an aside – I walked into our study one evening back in about 2003, where our son was listening to iTunes (or so I thought.). Harry looked up at me and said,

“Mum, you know my friend can see you in your dressing gown.” 

I was horrified and dropped to the floor, thinking he must have a friend secreted under the desk! Harry laughed and said,

“No mum, he’s not in the room – he’s on the Skype camera on the PC!”

I didn’t even know we had a camera on the computer – never mind one which allowed my son’s friends to see me in my own home.    

By 1970, my neighbour’s mum had a cream Ericsson Ericofon ‘Cobra’ phone that was ultra cool: it had one plastic handpiece which stood upright with the dial on the bottom. I longed for my parents to get one but they were ‘old school’ and had a standard black shiny phone with a rotary dial.

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Other than hand written letters, the phone was central to sharing family information during my childhood. It is where my twelve year old brother sat for two agonising hours in the hallway one Saturday afternoon in 1969, trying to pluck up the courage to ask Loretta Hart on a date. Each time he reached for the phone, he would practice what he would say, then hang up. I got into trouble with Mom for spying on him from behind the bathroom door at the end of the hall and teasing him,

“Ooh Loretta, I love you,” followed by peals of laughter and sniggering.

He finally asked her on a date, where they sat in the living room on the sofa together listening to records and holding hands.  Loretta’s kid sister Stella and I hid behind the sofa and kept up a running commentary before being found out.

After we moved to the UK in 1970, my parents had an old Bakelite phone in the narrow hallway of our semi. It sat on a small Half Moon ‘telephone’ table which only had three legs. The telephone book and Yellow Pages were placed reverentially next to it, with well-worn pages and thumb marks on the cover from the countless times my dad had to find the number for an electrician or plumber.

Remember, there was no internet and as far back as 1962 in America you were encouraged to “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.” These days we still do via swiping and scrolling.  Phone books had other useful functions, such as propping up wobbly tables or balancing the ‘rabbit ear’ antennae on top of the TV.

Mom and Dad would only allow us to make phone calls after six o’clock in the evening when the call rate was cheaper. I used to ring the Speaking Clock just for the fun of hearing the person say, “At the first stroke, it will be eleven fifty- four and thirty seconds…”  but even more fun was listening-in on the shared party line.  I would regularly hear a neighbourhood woman chatting with a friend:

“And I said to ‘im, I said, I won’t ‘ave ‘is mother telling me ‘ow to roast a joint of pork. I’ve been married twenty-six years so I think I know sommat about it. “

“Goo on Bab – what did she say?”

“Well, she said she didn’t mean no offence so I said none taken.”

If I really wanted to have a laugh, I’d interject into their conversation:

“Hello!”

“Who’s that?”

“Hello!”

“Goo on – clear off!”

One of the happy side effects of the move between Virginia and Birmingham, West Midlands were the often hilarious long distance phone calls we would occasionally receive from my grandfather, Papa.  Remember, this was before the digital age, so a long distance call had to be put through an operator. Papa  never did get used to the time difference of some five or six hours between Georgia and the UK, so he would phone us at two or three in the morning, which would have been between eight or nine o’clock in the evening for him – probably after he and my grandmother had just finished their dinner.

 Dad would jump out of bed, startled by the “ring, ring” from the hall downstairs. Standing in his BVDs in the cold hallway, I would hear him shouting down the receiver: 

“Who? Yes, I am Dewey Scarboro. SCARBORO – B.O.R.O. No – not Scraberry!” 

The operator would ask for a Mr D.D. Scraberry, Scarburgh, Scarry-Dewborough – anyone but Scarboro. Once Dad had established who he was and to whom he was speaking, the conversation would commence, complete with time-lag. Both Papa and Dad shouted (well, it was long distance) which made it all the more enthralling as a listener. 

 “Hey there Dewey!” 

“Dad? Hello!” 

“Son. is that you?” 

“Yes Dad, it’s me, Dewey.” 

“Hey there Son!” 

“How are you Dad?” 

“Dewey, I want you to know that I love you Son.” 

“I love you too Dad; how’s Mother?” 

“Your Mother? Hello? Dewey? I’ve lost you Son!” 

“Dad? Hello, Dad? I say, how’s Mother?” 

At this point, the operator might say: 

 “You have one minute remaining Mr Scarberry.” 

“I know it! Dadgummit! Dad? Give Mother my love!” 

  “I love you too Son. How’s the family?” 

 “Dad – you’re breaking up!” 

By now Dad had woken the whole house.

“Click, click, click”.

The one occasion when Papa telephoned me was on my eighteenth birthday in 1978. 

“Hey there, Honey!” 

 “Hi Papa!” 

“You’ll be getting married soon Sugar!” 

“No, Papa, I won’t be getting married soon!” 

“Sure you will Honey! Why, your grandmother married me when she was just nineteen!” 

“Well, I won’t.” 

“He he he , sure you will Honey, he he. You precious thing. You know I love you Andrea.” 

Time lag pause…

 “I love you too Papa.”

  “Click, click, click.”

Amongst the plethora of ’60s and ’70s songs which featured telephones – Wilson Pickett’ s “634-5789”, City Boy‘s “5-7-0-5” and E.L.O’s ‘Telephone Line’ to name but three –  Meri Wilson‘s 1978 hit ‘Telephone Man’, which reached Number 6 in the UK charts, sent me and my school friends into paroxysms of laughter with its double entendre. Naturally we would burst into the chorus every time we walked past a person in a public phone box:

“Hey baby I’m your telephone man

You just show me where you want it

And I’ll put it where I can…”

It took the dream team of composer Jimmy Webb and singer-guitarist Glen Campbell to produce two of the era’s greatest, most beautifully crafted songs (in my humble opinion) which used phones to convey the drama of their poignant love stories: ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ in 1967 and ‘Wichita Lineman’ in 1968.  Webb’s lyrics still make me cry when I think of my grandparents who we left behind in America; I didn’t see them for eight years and when I did – aged eighteen – they didn’t recognise me and walked straight past me at the airport.

“By the time I make Albuquerque she’ll be working

She’ll prob’ly stop at lunch and give me a call –

But she’ll just hear that phone keep on ringin’

Off the wall that’s all….

Albuquerque may as well have been Atlanta, GA.

One evening as I was doing my homework, Dad was watching the Western movie ‘Shane’ on TV. ‘Shane’ happened to be Papa’s favourite movie and Dad was reminiscing;

“Boy, I sure wish I could watch ‘Shane’ with Papa, honey. You know it’s his favourite movie.”

Suddenly, the phone rang, but as it was at a normal time during the evening, neither of us suspected that it could be Papa. The operator told me that she had a “person to person long distance call for a Mr. D.D.Scraberry.”   Dad was dumbstruck. He and Papa shared tears down the wire. 

Dad never forgot that ‘uncanny’ occurrence; or the time when he was listening to Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia On My Mind’ on the radio; one of his favourite songs. Once again, Papa phoned in the middle of the song which sent Dad reaching for the Kleenex. Maybe there was more to it than coincidence?      

Today I’m surrounded by technology: smart phones that do everything and AI technology smart assistant in the kitchen which can tell me recipes, weather forecasts, the news, play music and provide me with a shopping  list – all the futuristic features I never dreamed I could realise – and yet nothing can replace the anticipation and thrill of that sudden long distance phone call  from Papa.

(Copyright: Andrea Burn June 8th 2021)

the games people play

(Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia –May 2021)

There was a time Angry Birds was the squabble for peanuts in the feeder hanging from the washing line and Super Mario was the compliment you gave the waiter as he waltzed from table to table with his oversized pepper grinder at your favourite Italian restaurant.

Every camping holiday the Allan family had in the late 60s and early 70s was accompanied by that Scottish summer dependable – rain and lots of it. As the constant drumming of water on canvas lulled you into a near stupor, Mum would bring out the entertainment.

A pack of cards.

Rummy, Vingt-et-un, Trump (long before any insurrectionist US president) and if no-one would play with you Patience. I don’t know if these names were genuine or if we made them up but Solitaire, the game lurking behind the main screen of many an office worker’s computer, is the same deal (pun intended).

Another family outing to a cottage on the bleak east coast, where the rain off the sea was horizontal, the only saving grace was a copy of The Beatles white album and a well thumbed box of Scrabble. While George’s guitar was gently weeping we were holding back tears of desperation as my Dad, openly scoffing at our 3 and 4 word attempts, would place his 7 letter blockbuster utilising both J and X on a triple word score. He always won. He was a former English teacher, we had no dictionary and he was the self appointed adjudicator. I didn’t know there was a specific word for a Moroccan goat herder’s assistant.

Joint holidays with my cousins brought out the more mathematical puzzles like  Yahtzee. 5 dice and a scorecard basically. The more cerebral Mastermind tested the code breaking skills of the potential Turing’s among us (Enigma at Bletchley Park where my Mum worked during the war and couldn’t talk about until the 90s !)

Various school chums had convoluted puzzles like Mousetrap where you built up the contraption as you went along or Operation where removing tiny objects from an electrically charged cadaver with tiny tweezers was the macabre objective.

My brother, who was in his school’s chess team, tried to introduce me to the noble game. I figured out how all the pieces moved but struggled beyond that. Bro, much to my annoyance, could stare at the board for minutes on end before making a move. A skill he perfected a decade later playing Trivial Pursuit. As fellow participants we sighed and shuffled in our seats at big brother’s slowness. He eventually picked up a card and proclaimed, 

“Just to be different I’m going to tell you the answer and you have to give me the question. OK, the answer is ‘cock robin’ ”

We of course were stumped. After another lengthy delay,

“What’s that up my arse Batman ?” You had to be there !

My uncle claimed that when he took the bus to work he sat next to a gentleman and they would exchange instructions like ‘bishop to queen 4’ to which my uncle would reply ‘knight to kings 3’. On arriving at his office, he would set up a small chess set and periodically phone up his opponent, who presumably had a similar arrangement, with his next move. This was how he spent his day as a professor at one of Scotland’s most prestigious universities. That’s were your hard earned taxes went if you are to believe him !

There were always dominoes to hand in their custom made wooden box courtesy of No.2 brother’s woodwork project. In later years I never plucked up the courage to gate crash the old regulars playing at my local with all their secretive masonic tapping of tables going on.

I obtained travelling sets of both cribbage and backgammon in my later teens. One late evening in a Parisian hotel room I was playing backgammon with my girlfriend (well, what else would you be doing at that time in the city of love ?) who in her excitement mistook her rum and coke glass for the dice tumbler. Luckily she stopped herself casting the contents over the board.

Then there was the game that launched a thousand capitalists Monopoly. My game plan was to get the motor car or the Scottie dog and not suffer the indignity of the iron or the thimble before passing go and collecting ₤200.

A sailing weekend in Lochgilphead turned into a game of  Risk  in the boat shed as conditions outside were not navigable. This is a game of world domination which brings out the megalomaniac in anyone. I’m sure Hitler gave this the thumbs up before invading Poland.

The only domination now is from the onslaught of mindless adverts while flicking through the myriad of games apps on your mobile.

Anyone for a game of cards ?

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A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Fang

Paul Fitzpatrick: Transylvania, May 1897

I remember the evening like it was 50 years ago…. an evening that would change my life….

My Dad had just brought home a film projector….
A slice of Hollywood was coming to our humble suburban abode and life, surely, would never be the same again.

I had visions of Mum serving up choc ices and Kia-ora as I sat on the family sofa with my chums watching all the new releases… Planet of the Apes, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…. there would be a blockbuster every week.

Deveron Road was about to turn into Hollywood Boulevard… all we needed was a red carpet and a popcorn machine.

Setting the contraption up, my Dad explained that he’d got it from a friend who had kindly included a couple of reels of film to get us started.

The first reel was a home movie featuring the family who’d previously owned the projector, frolicking in the Clyde at Wemyss Bay where they lived.
Not exactly The Poseiden Adventure but we had to start somewhere and at least it helped us to get all the settings aligned.

We sat in eager anticipation as he set up the next reel and to give us a clue he mentioned that the upcoming feature was a ‘classic black & white movie’.

“Laurel & Hardy?” I suggested…. “It’s a Wonderful Life?” my Mum volunteered….

I’m sure I spotted a wee smirk on his face as he turned the lights off and pressed start.

The room and the screen were in complete darkness before the title appeared, accompanied by the eeriest church organ music known to man……

The opening title

WTF….

I repeat….

WTAF!!

There were to be no kind-hearted Angels earning their wings in this horrendous feature….
Nosferatu, was a terrifying German-Expressionist horror movie, made in 1922….. the first film ever in fact, to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.

Nosferatu – Count Orlok

The protagonist, Count Orlok wasn’t your run of the mill, tall-dark & handsome gigolo of a vampire with slicked back hair either…. ala Christopher Lee or Vincent Price… he was the spookiest, creepiest, most chilling looking dude I’d ever laid eyes on in my young life.

I was transfixed with fear…. I didn’t want to watch it, but I wasn’t going upstairs to bed on my own either… lying there in the dark, listening to that horrific organ music, allowing my vivid imagination to run amok!

I always thought of myself as a pretty robust kid….
True, the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) had given me a few sleepless nights when I was 7 or 8 but this was a whole new ball game…. the SRT was like Andy Pandy compared to this carnage!

I don’t recall getting much sleep that night.

In fact for what seemed like the next couple of years, I had a pathological and (admittedly) illogical fear of vampires.

Vampires were supposed to be a myth, but not to me… and I went to extreme lengths to protect myself from them… I wasn’t taking any chances.

I kept a bible on my bedside table.
I ‘borrowed’ a silver Cross from my Mum’s jewellery box, that I wore at night.
I ‘borrowed’ a little vassal of holy water from an Aunt which I kept under my pillow.
And the piece d’resistance…….
A wooden stake (carved then ‘borrowed’ from the school woodwork lab) kept under my bed, in case I had to go full Van Helsing on the Count’s ass.

I should also add that I tried my best to acquire some garlic but every time I added it to the weekly shopping list, I got the strangest looks.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I dreaded night time… daybreak just couldn’t come fast enough.

Looking back, I fully related to George Clooney’s character in the excellent From Dusk till Dawn when he said….

And I don’t want to hear anything about not believing in vampires.
Because I don’t f***ing believe in vampires!
But I believe in my own two eyes!
And what I saw is f***ing vampires!

(it’s funnier when he says it, watch clip below)

George Clooney Scene

If there was a Hammer House of Horror movie on, (and there seemed to be one every Friday night) I’d creep downstairs and covertly sit on the bottom step of the landing, to listen to it.
I knew I was tormenting myself, but at least I wasn’t upstairs on my own, thinking the worst.

My Dad, (a non-believer!) thought this was all a big joke so one Friday night when I’d been chased from the bottom step back up to my room, he thought that it would be a jolly jape to throw pebbles up at my bedroom window from the back garden.

Thinking, quite reasonably, that it was a Vampire (in the form of a bat) trying to get into my room I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs quicker than you could say “I have crossed oceans of time to find you“, only to find my Dad pissing himself laughing and my Mum chastising him…
you’ll give the poor lad a heart attack Joe!

Reflecting on my ‘wimpish past’… apart from the Singing Ringing Tree the only other thing that had given me the heebie- jeebies prior to this monstrosity of a movie was an episode of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ called Final Escape, about John, a convicted bank robber.

Determined to escape his sentence, John befriends an inmate named Doc, who’s in charge of the prison infirmary.

They hatch a plan to hide John inside the coffin of the next inmate who dies.

The coffin will then be buried and dug up by Doc after the gravediggers and guards leave.

It all goes according to plan, until Doc fails to dig John up.
A terrified John learns why, when the shroud slips off the face of the corpse sharing the coffin with him: It’s Doc, who died of a heart attack the night before….Ahhhh!

I’m not sure when I ‘grew out’ of my Vampire phobia, I think it probably just got ‘trumped’ by The Exorcist which was much scarier and even more realistic.

I remember at the time you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about some poor sod being possessed…. ‘an exorcism being performed in a town near you’…. or some other form of paranormal activity.

Fast forward a couple of years when the movie Jaws was breaking box office records and guess what? From nowhere, shark attacks started to be tabloid front page news with shocking regularity.
Great White seen at Helensburgh pier

Life imitating art or just a way to sell more papers?

Of course Vampires are uber cool now so no one’s stocking up on bibles, or wooden stakes anymore… instead, windows are left wide open and saucer’s of blood are left on the ledge to beckon the undead….

Yesterdays persona non grata has become today’s big poster boy.

Anyway, give me the old-school ghouls any day of the week, at least Count Orlok was a scary looking mo-fo… not like these pretty boys below!

what have the romans ever done for us?

Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia –May 2021)

If you look at a map of Great Britain there is a narrow bit about half way up where it’s as if you’ve sucked your stomach in for a family photo. In AD 122, Emperor Hadrian of Rome decided to build a 73 mile wall from east to west (or west to east if you prefer metric) to separate Roman Britannia from Caledonia.

If you go about a hundred miles north to an even narrower bit (the belt buckle must have been really straining at this point) there is another lesser known wall built by Hadrian’s successor, Emperor Antonine in AD 142 .

It is 39 miles long and runs from Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire to Carriden on the Firth of Forth. It took 12 years to build which is not surprising as my Dad had to wait months to get permission from the East Dunbartonshire Council just to build a small porch over the back steps.

By my calculations the house I lived in in the 60s and 70s was bang on top of the wall. Not that our house was precariously balanced on a solid structure, the wall was pretty much flattened long before we got there.

Across the road from us was a wooded area known locally as “The Woods” where sometime in the late 60s Tony Robinson and the Time Team excavated a section of Antonine’s wall. (Not 100% sure it was TT but some archaeologist unearthed it)

To a young kid it was just a heap of stones and a ditch but there was an iron railing fence around it that made it an ideal football goal. There were also concrete markers about a goal’s width dotted along the length of the large grassed area, ideal for numerous games of the national sport. Inevitably the football would sail over the railings and one of us smaller kids would squeeze through the widened gap to retrieve the ball. Never did it occur to me that I was traipsing on the same ground some Roman centurion’s sandal might have tread some 1,800 years ago – although I doubt he would be looking for a Mitre Mouldmaster.

Many Roman coins were dug up in the rhubarb patch and I would compare them with my mates haul. They must have ended up in museums at some point. We lived in Castlehill but I could never figure what hill it referred to never mind find any trace of a castle.

History was fun at primary school as it seemed to involve making things and dressing up, usually as a Roman soldier looking like a right Biggus Dickus no doubt.

From ‘Life of Brian’ in case anyone didn’t know.

I won a prize for a history project about the Romans. I got W.E. Johns’ Biggles Flies Undone for my efforts. We also studied ancient Egypt I seem to remember as Tutankhamun was all the rage then. My Dad thought it was driving etiquette ‘Toot and come on ‘.

Secondary school history was a different experience. Certainly no colouring in and no fancy dress apart from the teacher Mr Brodie. He wore a kilt and a dishevelled jacket. He looked like a homeless gillie. His sporran was some indiscriminate dog like mammal with mange whose plastic beady eyes followed you around the room. All we ever got was Scottish history and tales of battles won against ‘those bastard English’. Truth be told I think there were far more massacres than victories but Brodie seemed to gloss over those bits. It was just endless essay writing and the subject quickly lost it’s appeal.

In 3rd year I had to choose between History and Geography and the latter won hands down. Our teacher Mr McCoach was previously a bus driver believe it or not and was quite ‘cool’ for a teacher in the 70s. He introduced me to The Band which remains one of my favourites to this day. One day he handed out photocopied sheets on the geological feature of ‘CLINTS’. Unfortunately the gap between the ‘L’ and the ‘I’ was indistinguishable. He couldn’t work out why the class of pubescent teenagers were giggling. History was never this much fun.

C l i n t s .

In the land that is now my home, 70s school kids were still being taught that Australia’s history started in 1788 with the arrival of the first fleet from Great Britain. That the land was terra nullius (nobody’s land) totally disregarding and disrespecting the first nation peoples’ continuous 60,000 year occupancy. They have been and continue to be guardians of this country.

‘History is the distillation of rumour’ …… Thomas Carlyle.

An ‘L’ of a Journey (part 1)

George Cheyne: Glasgow, May 2021

The day my son waltzed into the house after passing his driving test goes down as one of the proudest of proud dad moments.

Well, when I say waltzed…it was more of a slow shuffle as he went all Bob de Niro-style method actor on me with a fairly-convincing performance that he’d failed.

It took far too many angst-ridden seconds before his poker face finally folded to reveal a beaming smile.

Cue some manly hugging and back-slapping along with some girlie whooping and hollering thrown in for good measure.

And why not? It had been, literally and metaphorically, an amazing journey for him ever since he’d first slapped the L plates on the car and sat in the driver’s seat.

The feeling of pride didn’t come from any sense of reflected glory on my part. I’d helped him – or at least I think I did – steer his way through all the trials and tribulations of being a learner driver.

I’d sat alongside him for hours on end and felt his pain and pent-up frustration during all those “kangaroo petrol” moments, the crunching gear changes, the stalling at traffic lights with a queue of cars behind us and the teenage tantrums. Oh, yes, the tantrums.

So, yeah, I was proud he’d come out the other side.

And in keeping with the ways of the 21st Century, there was a picture to be taken with his pass certificate so it could be circulated to the immediate family.

It turned out to be his second photo shoot of the day as the driving instructor had snaffled him at the test centre straight after he’d passed to take a picture of him and the car.

First-time pass, nice cheesy smile and the driving school logo front and central…that’s your ringing endorsement right there.

It was probably up on the driving school website before my son had the chance to rehearse his Bob de Niro act.

If you ever needed a snapshot of how things have changed since the 1970s then this was it.

As my son’s phone started pinging with several messages responding to the news that he’d passed his test, I took a moment to think back to when I’d passed mine.

This was in 1976, so I sat the test, came home, told my mum, dad and brothers the news and, err, that was it.

No photo shoots, no ringing endorsements, no phone calls, faxes, telegrams or whatever sent out to a waiting world.
It took weeks before all my family and friends found out.

Just because there was no big song and dance about passing your test back then, it doesn’t lessen the achievement.

It was still teenager versus machine, a nerve-shredding World Cup final of a contest which often went to extra time and penalties.

Like a lot of Seventies kids coming up to their 17th birthday, I’d asked my mum and dad for driving lessons as a present.

And presumably because they were looking for a chauffeur in the future, I was handed an L plate birthday card with a note inside.

No bells and whistles, no gold-embossed business card, this was a hand-written blue biro message scribbled on a page torn out a lined notebook.

It read: “The bearer of this note shall be entitled to 7 x 1hour driving lessons. Graham GYSOM”

The tone seemed a bit pompous given it was scrawled on a bit of torn-out paper and I figured Graham must have had a background in banking or something.

No matter, the important part of this scrawl was “7 x 1hr driving lessons” and I was entitled to them. Why 7? Turns out Graham had an introductory offer of buy-six-get-one-free.

It also turned out that the Graham Young School of Motoring – the GYSOM at the foot of the note – was more of a solitary classroom than a school.

And the domino effect of him being a one-man band, his introductory offer taking off in a big way and so many teenagers clamouring to drive meant my seven lessons were spread over 14 weeks.

A fortnight was too long in between and progress was pretty slow as I spent the first 20 minutes of each lesson going over what we’d done in the previous one.

I tried to persuade my mum and dad to put me on their insurance for the family car so I could get some extra hours in, but the exorbitant cost of adding a 17-year-old male to the policy made that a non-starter.

So I diverted most of my hard-earned wages – originally earmarked for such necessities as alcohol and music – to invest in more lessons with Graham.

I managed to swing the introductory offer again – which was probably a reflection on how little progress I’d made – and got back behind the wheel of his Morris Marina 1.3 saloon.

We traipsed up and down the streets near the Anniesland test centre in Glasgow trying to keep the car straight and avoid crashing into my fellow learner drivers.

Anniesland Test Centre

And after four lessons of this second batch something finally clicked. The gear changes were smoother, the driving got easier, the traffic awareness heightened and the confidence flowed.

No-one was more surprised than me. Well, apart from my instructor, that is.

Graham, a man in his early thirties who wore a shirt and tie like he meant it, sat across from me after that lesson ended looking slightly incredulous.

“When did you learn to drive like that?”, he asked.

The question seemed to suggest that he didn’t have much faith in (a) my driving ability or (b) his instructing skills. But I let that slide as he began talking about sending away for a test date.

Now it was my turn to be incredulous as I realised there was to be no turning back. Well, not unless I was carrying out a textbook three-point turn, of course.

To be continued…

God Only Knows

John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia, May 2021

There is an elephant in the room and it is ginormous.
This blog has touched on just about every experience we all went through in the 1970s.
I myself have written on such diverse topics as flute playing to green-keeping.
There is one topic that I haven’t broached yet however…. 

Religion.

This is not going to be a critique on peoples beliefs and faiths.
A ‘my god is better than your god’ type of tussle, far from it.

Whatever floats your boat is my motto, just don’t try and pull me aboard yours.
I’m quite happy bobbing about here in my life jacket among the shark infested waters that I’ve just created.

Continuing the nautical theme let me nail my colours to the mast. I’m a card carrying atheist – a born again heathen.
My bookshelves groan with the weight of Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris and Grayling.
This is more to do with my experiences of religion around the late 60s and 70s.

My first recollection was the family getting all spruced up in their Sunday Best.
Dad in his good suit, Mum in hat and gloves and we three boys in matching McDonald of Clan Ranald tartan kilts and ties being paraded in front of the Bearsden South Church.
Competition was fierce.

The service from memory was a lot of standing up and sitting down, a bit of singing and some speeches.
Mercifully, after a while us children would form an orderly line and walk past the pulpit to a door that accessed the Sunday School. I thought, as a jolly jape, it would be fun to give Elaine Currie a playful kick in the bum in front of the whole congregation as we exited the kirk.

The slipper came out later that day and I was severely punished for besmirching the Allan family name in front of the whole parish.

The snooty Wright family (neighbours but not friends) were even more pompous and supercilious than usual, looking down their noses at us – which was hard as not one of them was over 5 foot.
I wonder how sanctimonious and judgemental they were when their son Gay Gordon came out a decade later!

Sunday school was all play, colouring in and listening to stories that featured a long haired Scandinavian looking bloke called Jesus a lot. When asked what God looked like, my mate Frankie described him as a big jolly old man with a beard who wore dungarees and sat on a cloud.
As a 5 year old it worked for me. He could be right but I can’t remember a reference in the Old Testament to denim.

I went on a summer camp a few years later with the Scripture Union thinking it would be all play and outdoor adventure, which it was during the day, but evenings were all Bible readings and discussions. (I guess the hint is in in the name) It was really intense, what I would now call indoctrination, so much so that on my return, I boldly announced to my parents I was now a Christian. “We’ll see how long that lasts” grumbled my father.

We were given diaries with specific Bible passages to read each night before we said our bedtime prayers. I was devoted – for almost a week.
I lasted until the Friday after our ‘conversion’.
Frankie had given up on Thursday when interrogated.

The next couple of years the Sunday family charade would shed numbers until it was just me and Mum.
One morning enjoying a lie in my mum shouted up to me

“Get up. It’s time to go to church “

“No ! I’m not going !”

“OK then”

That was a lot easier than I had thought. I was expecting major conflict.

Looking back my parents participation in the church, and hence mine, was more social than spiritual, with a hint of  ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ and the times.

Church services there after and to this day have been for marriages and funerals or musical events I’ve performed in. I was part of a flute trio that Mrs Mac the music teacher would ‘hire’ out our services to in various houses of God. I didn’t object too much as the acoustics were generally inspiring even when the services weren’t.

Religious Education at school was from a likeable chap called Josh.
I don’t remember if he was an ordained minister or not. When I attended his classes it wasn’t as dull and boring as I had anticipated.
He gave a broad glimpse of other religions and history without the fire and brimstone I had expected. Unfortunately 5th year double RE on a Friday afternoon clashed with our pub time. The brewers communion won that battle easily.

In my mid teens I skimmed through my brother’s books on Zen Buddhism but after Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance things got a bit heavy.

“You, the bow, the arrow and the target are one”…. Yeah, right. I’ll stick with my weekly TV dose of Kung Fu, Grasshopper.

I used to admire those gaudy colourful posters in Indian restaurants of all the Hindu gods and deities and thought of maybe researching it more. It may be Pavlovian but every time I pass a statue or picture of Ganesha or Krishna my mouth waters and I have an unhealthy craving for pakora and spicy onions.

To complicate matters at the end of the decade I was going out with a Catholic which in certain quarters of the West of Scotland was not looked upon favourably. Not always considered, by a small minded few, to be a marriage made in heaven.
They were wrong and it was and still is.

I’ve met a few priests in my time, mostly to do with the schools my wife worked in, and I’ve found them to be amiable company.
I remember being told a tale of the novice priest and the older priest in full regalia, traversing the nave, the novice swaying incense back and forth and the old priest whispers to him.

“Love the frock but do you know your hand bag’s on fire ?”

In the words of the late great comedian Dave Allen (my near namesake)

“May your god go with you”

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

John Allan: Bridgetown, Western Australia, April 2021

It must be over 20 years since I came to the realisation that it’s function over fashion, comfort over couture.

There are basically two seasons in this part of the world.
Summer… where I adorn fabulous floral Hawaiian shirts and shorts.
Winter…. when I rug up in sweatshirts and trackie dacks (tracksuit trousers).

My major dilemma is whether to have the elasticated waist below or above the beer gut.
Shitty nappy look versus camel toe look.

Thong (flip flop),
Croc,
Ugg,
Blundies (Blundstone or it’s competitor Rossi elastic sided boot)
and you’ve covered all known Australian footwear.

I haven’t laced up a shoe for over 5 years.

Our early ‘look’ was of course solely in the hands of our parents.

Any baby photos I’ve seen of myself, I seem to be wearing a dress.
More than that, there are layers upon layers of petticoats underneath.
Now there could be various reasons for this….

It could have been a christening or some other type of formal ceremony.
Or, perhaps after two boys, my Mum had prepared for a daughter.

Or lastly…. my parents were just taking the piss.

If I breathe in, I can just about squeeze into them today!

I can’t ever remember my parents holidaying in the Black Forest or being visited by any Tyrolean travellers but for some reason at an early and vulnerable age I was presented with a pair of lederhosen.

I was paraded in front of many a coffee morning to the oohs and aahs of neighbouring mothers.
Certainly they were hard wearing and tough and with the bib removed and a long t-shirt, nearly inconspicuous until one of your mates clocked them.
“What are you wearing ?”

Was this a continuation of the parental piss take ?

Ahead of their time, my parents would bundle 3 boys and assorted camping equipment into the family Cortina and head abroad.
The check list must have read like :- tent, ground sheet, sleeping bags, lilos, calor gas stove, 3 kilts and brylcreem.

National Lampoons European Vacation – Allan style…

There are numerous photographs of my two brothers and I standing in front of the famous buildings and monuments of Copenhagen with shirt, tie, matching v-neck jerseys, slicked back hair and kilts.

Even complete strangers queued up to take pictures of us.

We were pimped out like Caledonian Kardashians.
In fact as I write this there may be some demented Dane ogling at us on his mantelpiece as we pose in front of the Little Mermaid….

Photo opportunity or piss take ?

It wasn’t until the 70s that you were allowed to take charge of your own wardrobe…..No more man at C & A’s for  me!

The groovy mauve (rounded collared) shirt, with the red, yellow and black tank top.
Think Fair Isle Partick Thistle.

Loon pants so tight around the crutch that it lowered your sperm count. Indeed, most of the material was utilised around your ankles billowing atop of baseball boots.

For a jacket I had my Dad’s old RAF tunic sans original buttons (disrespectful otherwise).

Mum would give me a good look up and down.

“Are you taking the piss ?”

Most of my working life I was spared the noose of shirt and tie and wore uniform.
As a student nurse I had to endure the itchy starchy collars of the dentist shirt…. a straitjacket like garment that buttoned up over you right shoulder.

One day I had to accompany a District Nurse into the community, so adorned jumper and jacket. I noticed one client being very reverential to me and calling me Father.
I of course absolved her of her sins, told her to recite five Hail Marys and promised to christen her grandchild.

As a ‘Nurse Educator’ I had to supervise male medical students on several ‘work experience’ days.
First lesson was to secure their ties, although it was always amusing to watch some gormless would be Doctor with his tie traipsing in a full bedpan like a thirsty puppy.
A literal piss take.

Thankfully, common sense prevailed and nurses went about their business in scrubs.
Like wearing pyjamas in the daytime………………….which I’m doing now.

Call the fashion police. It’s an emergency !

Fashion! Turn to the left
Fashion! Turn to the right
Oooh, fashion!
We are the goon squad
And we’re coming to town
Beep-beep
Beep-beep

hound-dawgs

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2021)

Alfie and Millie (2010)

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound-dawg

Cryin’ all the time…

Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit

And you ain’t no friend of mine.”

(Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller)

The 1960s and ’70s were a great time to be a dog – and a child. My brothers and I were pretty much free-range kids; growing up on a rural college campus in Virginia where Dad lectured in History and Mom was at home for us. We were totally unencumbered by the pressures of an adult world. There were only two grown-up rules: don’t talk to strangers and be home in time for supper. Running barefoot through endless summers with our dog Shiloh, we were pack animals; our friends and their dogs ran with us – always at our side as we navigated our way through childhood. 

Nobody that we knew ever walked their dogs on a lead – what an absurd notion!4We simply opened the back door and let Shiloh out into our back yard and the wider campus. Shiloh would sit at the back door as Dad said, “Out? Out to bark?” whereupon she would race along the back porch and bark three times!

Attitudes towards dogs were different then  – nobody ever picked up dog shit. Our yard was full of it and in the long hot summers we would find chalky white deposits in the clumps of grass. We called it fossilised shit. Nobody cared or worried that we might get some terrible eye disease from it – we just ignored it – unless you were unlucky enough to step in it but that was your fault – you knew it was there!

Shiloh had her neighbourhood pack, including a Golden Retriever called Lanny and Old Jack, the black Labrador who would sleep in the middle of the road, forcing traffic to go around him – and they did! Even Joe the bus driver knew Old Jack and would give him a wide berth,  You can set your watch by him – -yes-siree-bob!”

Andrea & friends with Dale, in the back yard in Virginia – with Lanny the Golden Retriever and Shiloh (1970)

But Shiloh only had eyes for Nicky the Wolfhound; a well-known local bounder who had already sowed his wild oats with Doris the Dachshund in a secret tryst in her garage, producing unlikely looking puppies.

In the American South, a dog is a ‘dawg’. Troublesome ‘dawgs’ are ‘hound-dawgs’; not to be confused with ‘huntin’ dogs’ which are bred to run with the pack.  Shiloh was typical of the ‘hound-dawg’: a German Shepherd who chased small critters – rabbits, squirrels and the occasional rat – frequently puking them up on Mom’s orange velvet sofa.  Rumour had it that she killed a neighbour’s pet rabbit, but Mom refused to believe it. In a legendary show-down on the front porch with the afflicted rabbit’s owner – who had threatened to call the Sheriff – Mom rebuked the accusation and told the woman to get off her property or she would be the one calling the Sheriff!

Then there was the time that Shiloh chased the Dean of Faculty up one of our apple trees. He had the audacity to come to help himself to our apples with a ladder and buckets. Shiloh decided she was having none of his sass; keeping him up that tree for some time, snapping at his heels long enough to teach him a lesson – or until Dad called her off.  (Mom said “it served him right, as the apples were rotten and full of wasps anyway!”)  When still a young puppy, Shiloh nipped our neighbour, Mrs. Wyatt, on the calf, as she strolled past our house when we were playing in the front yard. “She was just defending her family,” said Mom. As I say, attitudes were different then. Oh sure, you had to have a dog licence but if your dog bit someone it was rarely reported. The Sheriff might mosey over to your house and give your parents a caution – then enjoy a cup of coffee with them on the front porch.

 My brother Dale once stepped out of the bathtub when he was a young boy, as Shiloh lay on the bathmat.  The young pup watched for a moment then pounced; nipping the poor boy where the sun doesn’t shine! Dale yelled and Dad could probably be heard clear across the campus:

 “GODDAMN SON-OF-A-BITCH DAWG! SON, GET ME THE MERCUROCHROME!”

The ‘hound-dawg’ pup slunk off and lay low until suppertime.

(NB/ Mercurochrome was a mercury based antiseptic, popular with mothers of the baby boom generation. It stained your skin pink and had a mighty sting on open cuts and grazes. It was finally. considered as unsafe and banned in 1998.)

Shiloh was finally caught red-handed one Christmas Day as she lay nonchalantly across the dining room table gorging on the turkey, which Mom had put their to ‘rest’ before carving. We had hamburgers that year.

Young Andrea with Shiloh, in Virginia – 1970

***

When we made the difficult move to the UK in 1970, we had to leave Shiloh behind with a neighbouring farmer, as quarantine laws were so strict then. We were heartbroken. To make us feel at home in Birmingham, Mom and Dad surprised us with a young rescue German Shepherd called Cleo. 

She was a gentle, beautiful dog who filled a great void in our lives. When my cat Brandy had her litter of kittens in an old packing crate in the garage, Cleo was on hand to help; perhaps sensing that this little cat wasn’t very strong. Cleo watched the birth, helped lick the kittens clean and carried them very tenderly in her mouth out onto the lawn to play with them. Sadly, Cleo became ill with a twisted bowel after only a few months and we had to have her put to sleep. My mother cried for a week. She had invested a lot of love and hope into Cleo, to help turn our dark days into bright ones.  Sadly, little Brandy died from a heart attack when she was being spayed but we kept one of her kittens, Frisky.

Frisky – 1975

After a campaign that lasted some weeks, Mom came home on the bus one dark winter evening with a bundle of fur under her coat. My brothers named her Zoo. She was another German Shepherd rescue puppy with huge ears that met in the middle and big paws which soon bounded their way into our hearts.  Her party piece was standing on her hind legs at the dining room window, farting as she watched life go by behind the net curtains – usually when Mom and Dad had company. Dad would just quietly strike a match – always worked.   Zoo took an instant dislike to Frisky, forcing the cat to live on the veranda roof.  Every now and then they would have a spectacular fight, with the cat holding her own. She lived up there for years.

Zoo in our back garden with scorched grass and remains of the Pampas grass – 1975

Our small, inordinately neat back garden in Birmingham, quickly became decimated.  Mom’s refusal to acknowledge dog shit meant that the grass turned yellow and Zoo shredded the flowers; tearing them by the roots from the borders and strewing them widely across the lawn. She was particularly fond of shredding the Pampas Grass. I can see Dad now – rake in hand – trying to put the Pampas grass back together so Mom wouldn’t notice.  Zoo used our small ornamental pond as a toilet, so Dad decided to fill it in. What Dad didn’t do was drain the pond first; he simply filled it with top soil – right on top of the pond weeds and tadpoles, which turned it into a quagmire. The neighbourhood cats loved it and we had frogs for ever more.

It was Zoo who found her way into the under-stairs cupboard  on Christmas Eve morning in 1970 and chewed up  the presents which our parents had carefully scrimped and saved for; leaving a pair of fluffy mule slippers missing a heel,  the Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’ album with a teeth marks on the corner, the ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ with a shredded spine and a bald Tressy doll. Mom was distraught and trudged back into Rackham’s on the Number Nine bus on Christmas Eve afternoon with the little money she had to replace what she could. Zoo was indeed a hound-dawg.  The ‘Long and Winding Road’  spun on the turn table after dinner as Mom cried silent tears over the dishes. 

***

And finally, my brother Dale and I still refer to the following incident in which a teenage friend of ours – I’ll call him Mike – was watching TV at our house one afternoon in 1977. He suddenly jumped up from the sofa to pop to the loo, startling Zoo who had been asleep at his feet. She jumped up and  nipped poor Mike in the nuts, causing him to leap higher and emit a piercing yell which reverberated down our road as he ran upstairs clutching his crotch. Dale said,

“She just nipped him in the bud.”

History repeating itself. We’ve always wondered whether he’s OK.

***

Our children grew up with two dogs: Alfie our beloved black Lab and Millie, our Springer Spaniel; each one a ‘hound-dawg’ in their own right with their own idiosyncrasies and characters. We have recently had to say one last ‘goodnight’ to Mille (aka ‘Mills’, ‘Mrs. Mills’, ‘Cruella Da Mills’ and ‘Miss Havisham’) after twelve years of crazy antics, unquestioning devotion and fierce loyalty. Letting go is the hardest part; Mills had my heart and the upper hand (or should I say upper-paw) until the end of her long and happy life.

We still have our four year old chocolate Labrador, Humphrey, who is proving to be a ‘hound-dawg’ and a half!

Dogs teach us compassion, help us laugh at ourselves and make us better humans – especially ‘hound-dawgs’.

Mills.

Done To A Turn

Pauline Allan: Bridgetown, Western Australia, April 2021

Nana O’Rourke was a formidable wee woman.

Tiny, tenacious and terrifying.
Mother of Joe, Jean, Charlie, Sheila, my dad Vincent and Francis.

A seamstress by trade, the house was adorned with evidence of her skills on the old treadle Singer sewing machine.


The 3 piece suite in the lounge with it’s floral printed covers and covers over the covers to protect the covers, particularly the arm rests and the backs of the furniture where there were antimacassars to guard against the mens Brylcreem. 

The area around the “big” light switch on the papered wall also had it’s protection, some sort of industrial heavy duty plastic to ward off sticky fingers. 

There were display cabinets for the good china and glasses and ornaments adorned the open fireplace, ivory elephant bookends among them.

The convex porthole mirror with brass trim made the whole room look twice as big as it was. 

I was only 6 and a half when Nana died but my grandfather Michael and family gathered for Christmas dinner every year, a tradition that was carried on into the early 1970’s by my equally formidable Aunt Jean.

Everyone has an Aunt Jean.
My Aunt Jean was a spinster who looked after Papa, bachelor Uncle Charlie and Uncle Francis, a priest, when he came to visit.

“No one ever dances in this house” she would say…..Hardly surprising.

She would pounce on my dad, leading in a waltz whenever we dropped in.


But she was an incredible cook, baker and more than ably took on the challenge of catering for the Christmas collective.

Nana’s décor in the living room had hardly changed.

The open fire may have been replaced by an even less efficient two bar electric one, complete with false coal.

There was the mirror and a sunburst clock but everything else remained the same, with that familiar aroma of freshly baked bread, jam, cakes and “infusing” tea.

With no formal dining room in the house, the living room was the venue for the sumptuous Christmas banquet.


Trestle tables, card tables and picnic tables were quickly disguised with Nana’s embroidered cloths and napkins and somehow miraculously places were set for 20.

From the small kitchen with it’s original Formica cabinet and clothes pulley came platters of turkey with stuffing, glazed ham dotted with cloves, Ruskoline crumbed potato croquettes, roast potatoes and gravy with brussel sprouts, none of which could be served without Sharwoods Green Mango Chutney. 

Home made trifle and cakes to finish.
The flies’ graveyard (a currant slice) and buttercream sponge were my favourites.
Warninks Advocaat and Harveys Bristol Cream sherry for the adults and non alcoholic ginger wine for us teenagers.
This was made weeks in advance by members of the family who had dutifully bought the essence from the local Co-Op turning it into a sweet concoction with sugar and water.
Potcheen without the punch! 

Advocaat, Eggnog, Snowball – a Xmas favourite

After our meal we retired to uncle Uncle Charlie’s bedroom waiting to do our turn.
Sounds pretty ominous I admit but it was a completely innocent get-together where everyone had to perform.
That also sounds rather risqué!

What followed was a well kent tradition, where various musical renditions were performed by family members.

Uncle Charlie’s room was chosen because that was where the piano was.
Uncle Francis ( Father Frank or uncle Father Frank when I was young then uncle Father Frank-in-law from John’s speech at our wedding reception) played Fur Elise and accompanied anyone who wanted to play Chopsticks, he was also the reel to reel tape recorder operator.

Uncle Charlie sang The Ink Spots Whispering Grass (later made famous by the dynamic Don Estelle & Windsor Davies) and uncle John, aunt Shelia’s husband recited his version of De Profundis.
“Out of the Depths – of my bronchial tubes” … and so it went on.

Mum had a beautiful singing voice which could have lent itself to any of the classics but she was never comfortable in front of the critcal family audience. Instead she chose to sing “Halfway Up A Wall”.

As I was Minstrelling one night, 

Upon a castle drear

Halfway up a wall, a plaque I saw

“Duke Frederick was born here”

I’ve travelled far, I’ve travelled wide

But never can recall

That I have heard about a Duke

Born halfway up a wall 

Tra la la la la la

Tra la la fiddle dee

Halfway up a wall.

And of course everyone joined in with the last Halfway up a wall.

As the Advocatt flowed, so did the confidence of others.

Cousin Barbara took centre carpet and before we had time to rush into the kitchen to help Aunt Jean with the washing up, were surrounded by a cacophony of cringeworthy crescendos.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker make me a match. Find me a fi……Too late, she was off.

We managed to gather up precious crystal glasses from the floor as Cousin Barbara spun like a tipsy Whirling Dervish, changing key with every line.
Would she sing Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof as well?
I hope not. 

To our great relief Aunt Jean announced coffee was being served back in the living room and we all made a swift exit. 

Christmas is a far simpler affair these days. Most of the assembled are sadly no longer with us, cousins are spread to all corners of the globe and a “turn” is more likely to be a Netflix, YouTube or Spotify selection.

But perhaps locked down in a small flat in the outskirts of Glasgow, two cats and a budgie are being entertained with a selection of show tunes by a 70+ spinster.

Wan singer, wan song.

Don’t worry Babs, the sun will come out tomorrow.  

ye canny shove yer grannie …

Colin Jackson: Glasgow, April 2021

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Naw ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Naw ye canny shove yer grannie

Cause she’s yer mammie’s mammie

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

Ye can shove yer other grannie

Cause she’s just yer daddie’s mammie

Shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

**********

CLAP! CLAP!

Can I have your attention, boys and girls!

Ok – so who remembers singing this little ditty when they were young?

Scandalous, isn’t it?

We can certainly do without that kind of criminal incitement in today’s society. 😉

Yeah, ok, so it’s kind of catchy – but even so, in these post music hall and woke days, I’m surprised The Singing Kettle and nursery schools all over the land are allowed to get away with it.

I suppose the first question to be asked, is did anyone actually take the lyrics literally, and second, did your Granny ever again share her Werthers Originals with you?

On the basis that the answer to question number one was a resounding ‘no,’ then my next question would be: who would even consider such a thing? Not me, for sure – I knew when I was onto a good thing, me.

I do wonder though, what effect this song may have had on one side of the Granny equation.

My two Grans were Gran Mary (my mum’s mother) and Gran Jackson (my dad’s mother.) They were both pretty similar characters, although being more sporty and having married a champion professional boxer, the former had more of an active and competitive nature.

My sister and I genuinely had no favourite and loved going to visit both as each would each spoil us with the decadent treats not on offer at home. I’m talking Creamola Foam, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and Oddfellows sweets. (Did you like me, break off the chocolate from the mallow dome before devouring the biscuit, flattening the foil wrapper and then folding it into as small a square as possible?)

As I grew older though, I did begin to notice one difference between the two Grans: Gran Mary would take me places. It was her and my Grandpa that took me to my first ever football match. The number fifteen Corporation bus took us directly from their home in Knightswood, Glasgow to Ibrox Stadium, for a League match between Rangers and Hibs.

They took me to many more matches before my Dad managed to get out of working on Saturdays and could take me himself. Each time, we travelled by bus.

My Gran was always so happy on the way across town. I had thought it was excitement at going to the match. On reflection though, there was a certain smugness about her contentment.

She was my ‘mammie’s mammie’ after all.

“In your face, Mrs J! Travelling with my darling grandson … on a bus! I’m even sitting on the seat that looks out onto the open platform. Look! I’m going to stand up. No hands! Woo hoo! Yep – still here!

My Gran Jackson, on the other hand …. well.

Occasionally, my parents would go to one of those ‘classy’ dinner dances at The Albany Hotel. Rather than ask a babysitter wait into the wee small hours for their return, we would be dropped at Gran Jackson’s for the bulk of the weekend.

We went through the same ritual each time:

“What shall we do this afternoon?” Gran Jackson would ask.
“Can we get the bus to go watch the football, please?”

My Gran was like:

Casanrdra on being awakened by young Damien, in ‘Only Fools & Horses

Wiping beads of sweat from her forehead with a shaking hand, she would suggest:

“Why don’t we stay home and watch the Wrestling on TV. I’ve got you some Creamola Foam and a Tunnocks tea Cake? And a packet of Oddfellows.”

Five miles away, in Knightswood and from behind a satisfied smile, the hushed words ‘one nil to the Mammie’s Mammie’ escaped into the ether.

Oh yeah – and so who was it taught me this song as a nipper? Why, of course, it was Gran Mary!

Aye – as those darned kids said, ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.’

Especially a competitive one.

(Don’t fret, I’ve subjected you to enough – anyway St Winifred’s School Choir’s big hit was in 1980 and therefore disqualified from this blog.)