Category Archives: Holidays

the holiday

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

As the nation crawls steadily towards a brighter horizon with the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme, we can’t be blamed for turning our collective thoughts towards a much-needed holiday. My family have twice postponed our long-awaited week in Cornwall to celebrate several BIG birthdays but that’s OK; Cornwall isn’t going anywhere.

The term ‘staycation’ hadn’t been invented in the 70s. And since when did the British use the term ‘vacation’ anyway? That’s what it’s called in the USA but surely, the British say ‘holiday’? We didn’t know anyone in Birmingham who had vacations, apart from one or two academic types in kagouls who forced their poor families to ’embrace the great outdoors’ and went camping in muddy fields in damp tents. Their kids were called Rufus and Martha.  My parents didn’t go in for camping. In fact, any vacation – especially a ‘foreign’ one – never occurred to Mom and Dad. Having emigrated here from the States in 1970, Dad always said,

 “We live in a foreign country, for Pete’s Sake!” 

Cambrian Mountains – Wales.

However in October 1970, a twist of fate set us on a legendary road trip into deepest Wales when a teaching colleague of Dad’s invited us to spend half term at his ruin of an old, rustic shepherd’s cottage in the Cambrian Mountains. We’d only been in England for a month. Mom envisaged a cosy cottage with mullion windows.

The reality was a dilapidated pile of stones which stood atop a steep hillside overlooking a deep valley. The ‘ruin’ boasted no heat or running water, an outside ‘toilet’ (hole in a lean-to with a hook of squares of Izal) and a well in the garden. Dad was full of the American spirit of adventure:

“Why, kids – we’ll have FUN! Hell – we’ll make our own fun!

Mom was less enthusiastic about the prospect of a holiday without a bathroom.

Ahead of the one hundred or so mile drive from Brum, we had to sedate our German Shepherd, Zoo, who suffered greatly with travel sickness. Concealing a pill in a Mars Bar (we obviously had no idea that chocolate was bad for dogs), she swallowed it whole and soon became drowsy as we loaded up the little bright red Citroen 2CV with half a ton of luggage. Once on the road, Zoo slept scrunched up on the small back seat between me and my two older brothers as Mom drove west from Stourbridge, through the beautiful old town of Bridgenorth and on to Much Wenlock, before heading into Wales.

Dad, who was a terrible driver, took advantage of his role as passenger in the front to point out places of historical interest to us as we tootled along. 

“See those caves? Why – they’re where Charles the First’s army hid their gunpowder when they were under siege from Cromwell.”

“The Cliff Railway is the steepest in England, kids… now we’re on Watling Street, the old Roman Road.” 

In his element as storyteller and history teacher, Dad revelled in being able to see some of the places he had only read of in his youth in Atlanta, Georgia.

 After an hour in the car Zoo roused from her drug induced slumber and began retching. Sensing what was to come, Dad shouted ,

 “GODDAMN IT HONEY – THE DAWG’S GOING TO VOMIT!! STOP THE CAR!” He stood up and peeled back the roof canvas.

“I can’t stop honey – we’re on a steep hill!”

Zoo stood on the back seat with her head sticking out of the roof, drooling and panting in the breeze as her slobber whipped back onto our faces. Mom began the ascent at the front of a long line of cars. Being only two horse power, the Citroen struggled to advance up the incline with our added weight.

Suddenly a car tried to overtake the on-coming traffic down the hill, heading straight for us at speed. Mom screamed and Dad, red faced and apoplectic, stood up again and  shook his fist out of the roof with the dog as he shouted a string of obscenities at the driver which are probably still hanging in the ether,

“GODDAMN SON-OF-A-BITCH! WE’RE GOING TO CRASH! DADGUMMIT! GET OVER – YOU DAD-BLAST-IT STUIPD ROAD HAWG!” 

Zoo suddenly puked a ball of mucus and Mars Bar which splatted the sun roof and Dad. 

“GODAMMIT!” 

 Somehow Mom kept her cool and control of the car, which swayed and rocked like a pram as we veered sideways onto the hard shoulder; bobbing up and down like nine pins.

**********

In Brummy speak, to ‘Go Round the Wrekin’ means to go the long way around on a journey. The Wrekin is a huge hill in Shropshire which can be seen for miles – but not by us. We ‘stumbled’ upon it on our epic journey, prompting Dad to explain about the Wrekin’s ancient volcanic origin. I still laugh to think that we literally drove ‘around the Wrekin’.

 The approach to the cottage took us along a winding unmade lane that gradually became barely one car wide. We bumped along with Zoo’s head lurching in and out of the roof as she gagged, until we reached the final stretch. Zoo was by now fully awake and becoming boisterous on the back seat. She spotted the sheep grazing nearby and began to salivate.  Mom struggled to get the little car up the hill; prompting Dad to jump out:

“Come on everyone – PUSH! Goddammit – why is this car so heavy? Honey, what on earth have you packed? PUSH! At-a-girl Kid! Mother, keep her in first and give her some throttle!”

If we could have seen Mom’s face at this point, I’m sure we would have recognised one of her ‘looks’, although her serene demeanour gave nothing away.   We finally arrived and piled out into a field full of sheep.

“Andrea – get that dawg back here! Dadgummit!”

Grabbing armfuls of luggage, we teetered along a narrow, ancient footpath forged by millennia of sheep, where we found the ‘ruin’ perched on the precipice of a sheer drop to a ravine. 

“Well, this is it!” said Mom, breezily.  “Have you got the key honey?” 

“The key? Sure – why of course I’ve got the key – it’s here in my pocket somewhere. Must be in my jacket – hold on, Dadgummit!”  

Fumbling in his pockets, Dad realised to his horror that he had left the key on the dressing table in their bedroom. 

“Well for Pete’s Sake, I’ll just go back and get it!” 

Dad rolled up his shirt sleeves and strode purposefully back to the car and drove the two hundred miles round trip to get the key. We all stood outside the ‘ruin’ on the precipice with Zoo for the next five hours.  No mobile phones in those days. No nothing except sheep and bracken. What is staggering is that none of us had the presence of mind to try the back door or see if a window was open. We accepted our fate without question. Eventually Dad reappeared: 

“I have it now! It’s OK - here’s the key honey! Don’t worry kids – your old man’s here! Yes-Siree-Bob!”

Mom asked: “Honey – did I unplug the iron?”

**********

That first night as Dad lit the log fire with great ceremony we huddled around to hear his glorious rendition of the ‘Hound of the Baskerville’s’ as Zoo drooled on the rug. Within seconds, great clouds of smoke billowed into the room, until we were all choking and rubbing our eyes.  Mother calmly opened the front door. 

“DON’T LET THE DAWG OUT HONEY! DADGUMMIT – SHE’LL CHASE THE SHEEP AND GET SHOT!” Dad lit his pipe.     

I shivered in bed that night as I lay listening to the wind howling through the chinks of daylight in the old stone walls – or was it the Hound? 

**********


My childhood diary entry reads: 

October 30th, 1970

“We went to our friend’s little cottage in Wales It was a very beautiful drive all the way. The cottage doesn’t have a toilet. They have a out house (clean).  They drink purified (spelt: ‘purofied’) water from a well. You wash up with rain water. Today we are coming home. I am glad to be back!” 

With no TV or radio, we made our own entertainment, which I groaned about at the time.  Now at a distance of fifty years, I miss those simpler times and I miss my parents.   Zoo lived a long and happy life but never got over her travel sickness.  

Dad.
Andrea – aged ten.
Mom.


(Copyright: Andrea Burn March 27th 2021) 

Blackpool (owes the charmer under me)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2021


There’s always been something about Blackpool…. a bit like the Kelvin Hall or The University Café, or more recently BJ’s Beach Bar in the Algarve… it’s been a ‘happy place’ of mine.

My earliest memories of the Lancashire Riviera are a mixture of great memories and trauma, however.

My first visit was in the summer of 1963, I was 5 years old and perhaps the only reason I remember anything about my inaugural trip is because of one incident that has stayed with me ever since.


Cliff Richard was mega then, even as a 5 year old I’d already seen one of his movies – Summer Holiday, dragged along to the La Scala in Sauchiehall St, to see it by my Mum & Dad.

What wasn’t there to like about Cliff – he was clean cut, he could sing, he seemed like a nice guy, he could reverse park a double decker bus and navigate it all the way to Athens, whilst singing and dancing, and not a single hair out of place!

We’d got tickets to see his summer show at the ABC in Blackpool during our stay in 1963.
I don’t remember too much about the performance, just a communal feeling of excitement, and a collective sense of awe that we were all in the presence of this matinee idol.

What I do remember is that at some point during the performance I needed to go to the loo and being a big boy, I was happy to do this on my own….. plus Mum was transfixed by the Bachelor Boy and Dad by the scantily clad dancers.

It was all going well until I made a wrong turn and exited a fire escape door into an enclosed courtyard rather than heading back into the auditorium.

The fire door slammed shut behind me and I was locked out of the theatre with no means of getting back in OR getting out of the enclosed courtyard, I remember shouting for my Dad in vain and it felt like I was there for hours but he was clearly oblivious to the empty seat beside him…. having too good a time.
My Mum I could forgive; it was Cliff for god sake, but my Dad was in big trouble…

HANGING OUT WITH MY MUM IN 1963

Indignation quickly turned to panic, and I remember thinking I would be stuck there on my own forever before a nice lady who lived in one of the flats overlooking the courtyard intervened. Telling me from her 3rd floor balcony, not to worry and that everything would be okay.

Eventually, my Dad tore himself away from the can-can girls, and by tracking my steps, figured out my rookie error.

He thought the whole episode was hilarious, I thought it was extremely poor parenting!

Cut forward a couple of years to our next visit and the big summer show was Morecambe & Wise; I can’t profess to being a fan as a 7-year-old, but I do remember the guy with the glasses was funny.

By age 7, I was dazzled by the bright lights and the goodies on display at Blackpool, there were toys and treats everywhere.
I had also discovered the Pleasure Beach and wanted to go on all the rides, particularly the Waltzers which remained a big favourite, but once again it was a traumatic experience that holds my memories.

On the last day of the holiday, we were due to go to the Pleasure Beach for a last hurrah before heading up the road and I was so excited to be going on all the rides again.

I can’t remember what I was doing (or thinking!) exactly, but at some point before breakfast I got one of my Dad’s lead fishing weights lodged up my nose and presumably swallowed it, as it disappeared when I sniffed, instead of blowing my nose as instructed.

This resulted in a quick exit from Blackpool and a dash back to Glasgow to visit our doctor in Stonedyke, who for those of you who remember, used to be on the corner of Spey Rd & Canniesburn Rd, opposite the shops.

Why we couldn’t have gone to a local hospital in Blackpool (via the Pleasure Beach!) I don’t know, but I do remember a long, tense, silent journey back to Glasgow, feeling both sheepish yet sorry for myself.

I’m guessing the lead content of the fishing weight is what would have caused the panic, but the Doc said there was nothing to worry about and the lead weight would pop out in my next poop, pretty promptly.

Two trips to Blackpool, two traumas.

I can’t remember how many times we returned to Blackpool before I went back there again in 1974 with my mates.

I do recall seeing the brilliant Tommy Cooper one summer c.1968 but there was no associated trauma to remember the trip by, hence the lack of any further recall about the visit.

Fast forward to July 1974 and my pals had just came back from a Glasgow Fair spent in Blackpool regaling tales of high jinks and romance.

One of the lads even had a penpal from Preston now, and he had a letter and present waiting for him at home on his return…..

The Three Degrees – When Will I See You Again, ahhhh.

I had been unable to go with them in July because of a family holiday but I couldn’t wait for the next 8 weeks to fly by so that I could get to this Mecca of fun for the fabled ‘September Weekend’ break.

We set off from Buchanan St bus station at midnight, which looking back seems strange as Blackpool is only 3 hours by car from Glasgow, but for whatever reason it took us 8 hours to get there.

The bus had been organised by Clouds Disco (later to become the Apollo) and there was a party atmosphere on the bus as most of us knew each other, or at least recognised the faces.

On arrival, we made the rookie mistake of hitting Jenks Bar as soon as it opened.

Day time drinking was a new concept to me, but alcohol was probably the last thing I needed, I was already as high as a kite on adrenaline and buzzing with anticipation for the weekend to come.

We were hammered by early afternoon and that first day became a bit of a blur if I’m honest, culminating in some very strange headwear choices and photographs.

Most of us had turned 16 in the summer of 74 so getting into pubs and clubs wasn’t something we took for granted but there seemed to be no barriers in Blackpool as well as a wealth of choice.

Our preferred venue as it was for a lot of Glaswegians was Mama & Papa Jenks, a big sprawling pub with waitress service…. so you didn’t even have to take the risk of going to the bar to get served.
Jenks had three levels, a bar at ground level, a nightclub above it, and a gay bar in the basement.
The set-up was marvellous but a bit of a shock to the system, particularly when you were used to sneaking into traditional working man’s pubs & saloons in Glasgow and hiding in the corner.

The nightclub at Jenks was pretty good if you wanted to spend the whole evening on-site but we found a great little Soul club nearby with a brilliant DJ that just nailed the music.

To be fair there were a lot of great soul artists/records in the charts at that time – George McCrae, Barry White, Don Covay, Johnny Bristol, The Tymes, The Commodores and The Hues Corporation, etc.
The DJ was playing all that stuff plus a load of imports and remixes we had never heard before.

Learning from our first day we paced ourselves over the rest of the trip, spending time on the Pleasure Beach and leaving the pubs till the evening.

I know Blackpool may not have the best image, but we were having a ball and when it came time to contemplate leaving, a few of the lads said they wanted to stay on… as it transpired some did through no choice of their own.

It seemed half of Glasgow was in Blackpool that weekend which contributed towards a great atmosphere, but the place wasn’t without its tensions.

Come the last night, we were in Jenks having a farewell drink and killing time before catching the bus home, and a massive fight broke out, between the Possil boys and the Calton boys…. and when I say massive, I mean chairs, tables, glasses, bottles, the lot.
The fight spilled outside onto the street like one of those bar room brawls you see in Westerns and it wasn’t long before the police weighed in.

A lad we knew, Hughie Kinnaird, was sharp enough to spot the trouble early-doors and encouraged a few of us to follow him and get out of Dodge before it escalated.
We managed to catch the bus back to Glasgow with minutes to spare but a few of our group got caught up in the rammy and ended up spending an extra couple of days in Blackpool… by necessity rather than design.
The return journey home was a bit more sombre than the party-bus we’d arrived on, but it still took 8 hours!

Another Blackpool trip another drama…

I’ve been back to Blackpool several times since 1974 for fleeting visits but mainly to watch my brother Barry compete in dancing competitions and represent Scotland at the Tower Ballroom in the late 70s and early 80s.

The last time I was there was about 20 years ago when I was up in the North West from London for a meeting in Manchester and persuaded a colleague to stay in Blackpool during the Blackpool Illuminations.

He’d never been or wanted to go to Blackpool, so I was excited to introduce him to the delights of my favourite English coastal town and to change his perception of the place, but it was a losing battle…. the place looked tired and run down and the bright lights didn’t seem so bright anymore.

I’ve not been back since then, and I’m not sure I ever will now.

I think I’d prefer to remember the old place the way it was….. bright, lively, invigorating and full of drama…..



pure dead brazilliant

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

**Disclaimer: no body hair was removed in the writing of this article.**

Mark, a friend on social media asked me to name my top ten sporting heroes in ten days. No ! I can do better than that. I can name 11 in one day !

Félix, Brito, Piazza, Carlos Alberto, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostao, Pele, Rivelino. The 1970 football World Cup winners, Brazil played the beautiful game with an elegant style and swagger known as Ginga or sway, with agility and grace.

It is one among many reasons why I’m a Brasilófilo, a lover of all things Brazilian.

How cool to be known by just one name. Pelé’s real name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento (which, come to think of it, would look a bit busy on the back of his shirt, so I can see the point). My name would be  Alanso if a) I was Brazilian b) I could play football. Dream on.

I can’t really pinpoint my first love for the Terra do Brasil. Was it Maxwell House coffee telling me “They’ve got an awful lot of coffee…..” or more likely being seduced by “The Girl From Ipanema”.

Admittedly sometimes a bit cheesy and cruelly classed as elevator muzak by some, Bossa Nova still has a place in my heart. To me an Antônio Carlos Jobim song is like a warm embrace. “Corcovado”, “Wave”, “How Insensitive”, “Desafinado”, “One Note Samba”, “Dindi”. The list is endless.

I remember in the late 70s a dedicated band of us would congregate at a flat in Rio de Partick and work through the vast library of Bossa tunes by Jobim and his ilk, including guitarist Baden Powell – scouts honour ! John Muir aka Fred Lawnmower (something to do with his smokable hydroponics set up perhaps ?)  played a very fine acoustic guitar and had an array of latin percussion instruments, many hand made.   

One that took my eye was the cúica, named after the grey four eyed opossum (philander opossum). A drum with a rod up the middle which, when rubbed gave you a ‘laughing monkey’ effect used in Samba. Think the “Austin Powers” theme tune “Soul Bossa Nova”.

I later discovered that washing the food processor bowl in the sink made a similar sound. Add a clave beat on the wok with a spatula and you’d swear it was carnival time – apart from the soap suds splattered across every kitchen surface and the glare from Mrs. A !

Another Brazilian instrument that fascinates me is the berimbau. Get a big stick, a piece of wire (usually from a car tyre), a gourd, a stone and a wee stick. In Glasgow that would become a weapon of torture but the Brazilians make beautiful rhythm with it. It is used to accompany the capoiera, part martial arts part acrobatics where art meets sport. Quintessentially the Brazilian psyche.

Black, white, mestizo and mulatto seem to effortlessly blend in a great big melting pot producing a collective that just wants to PAR-TEE for the nation.

Look, I know Brazil is no utopia. Just look at the despot they’ve got running the country now, the poverty and the devastation happening in the Amazon rain forests.

I know for one, this up tight middle class white kid growing up in the 70s would gladly swap his safe and comfortable life in the suburbs for a fraction of fiesta time in the favelas.

Favela da Rocinha

And one last thing about Brazil. I love its nuts !

What !

Stop sniggering !!

Really ?

You didn’t read the disclaimer, did you ?

***********************************

on the road again

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

It’s 1979 and you’ve just turned 21. You’ve got a bit of cash in your pocket from working and still have your redundancy money from your previous job. Your mate Russ has finished his degree in Psychology, Philosophy, Podiatry or some such thing. What do you do ? Go west young man, go west !

And so, after a month of visiting Russ’ relatives in Vancouver and Vancouver Island and friends in Alberta, we find ourselves on the outskirts of Calgary, LA bound.

With thumbs up these two ‘Jock’ Kerouacs were on the road. Our first two rides took us about 10 miles short of the Canadian/US border so a 3 hour hike was required to get to the border crossing. Nobody walks into the United States especially brazenly down the main highway with rucksacks on their backs. At least we brightened the immigration guys’ day.

Our first night was spent in a wooded area in St Mary, Montana. Nature’s alarm clock were some furry critters throwing nuts at us. Squirrels, chipmunks, ewoks who knows, but it was time to roll up the sleeping bags and look for some sustenance.

One of the greatest institutions in the US of  A is the diner and to quote those scallywag supertrampers “Breakfast In America” is a real treat for a weary wanderer. Many a morn we’d pick the detritus from our hair, brush ourselves down and enter the warm and welcoming world of the fresh fry up.

As you sat down at your table you were presented with a glass of icy water, a cup of coffee and a menu that unfolded like a road map. Eggs any which way – scrambled, poached, sunny side up, dark side of the moon down. Bacon with pancakes and maple syrup and hash browns. Never quite figured out what a hash brown was but gobbled it up anyway. Then off to the rest room for a shite and a shave, back for more coffee and as it was approaching noon, reluctantly back out on the road.

St. Mary (Montana) to Couer D’Alene (Idaho)

One of our longer rides was from a guy called Rick who had all these carpentry tools in the back of his pickup truck. He explained how he had been in the military, honourably discharged for being a conscientious objector (Vietnam I suspect) and had studied carpentry on his GI bill. He took us to his house on a lake – a converted bus – and offered us mint tea as if we were old friends.

I related this encounter with Rick to our next driver who had picked us up assuming we were military with our short haircuts and moustaches. Our host was a Spencer Tracy doppelganger in a suit and hat whose head appeared not to rotate, staring straight ahead as we sedately motored along at 50mph. Just as I was getting to the ‘conshi’ bit of our tale about Rick, Spencer slammed on the brakes and launched into a diatribe about how Jimmy Carter was a commie, how Thatcher would be great for our country and how virtuous the John Birch Society was. (Russ had to explain to me later that the JBS was a far right anti communist organisation – well he did have a degree in Pedagogy !)

Four trees and a piece of cardboard 200 yards from the road was that night’s accommodation.

Red Bluff to Stockton (California)

After drinking too may beers and convincing ourselves there were rattle snakes on the ground, we spent the night in the back of a stationary pickup truck in a car lot.

Our next ride took us about 200 miles to the town of Lodi, San Joaquin County. It must have been almost 40° C and we were desperate for a beer. We stumbled on a hostelry and ordered our drinks. The drinking age in California is 21 so we had to whip out our passports for proof. That perked up the interest of the few locals and they graciously stood us several rounds. I noticed the barman on the phone who then presented us with another 2 beers. “These are from Don. He’ll be here in a minute” Sounded ominous but hey, if the beers keep coming.

A well heeled couple appeared, him with crew cut and gaudy sports jacket and her dripping in jewellery. They greeted us like long lost family which I think they thought they were as they shared the same surname as Russ (but I doubt they had degrees in Philately !) Before we know it we’re having cocktails with their friends at a huge lakeside mansion, going for boat rides and swimming. We were then whisked off to Don’s place with it’s copper bar, tartan carpet and coat of arms. After devouring huge steaks were then tucked into our warm comfy beds.

Next day with my least creased and relatively clean T-shirt on, we were given a personal tour of the Bank of Stockton by it’s president, Don. There we were sitting in the boardroom with all these suits while an anxious looking dusky gentleman was remonstrating with a secretary outside the door.

“Mr Abdul would like to speak to you Don”

“Tell that f**king camel jockey I’m busy with my Scottish friends !”

Then it’s back to Don’s mansion and a dinner party with building company owners, architects and the who’s who of the county with snippets of conversation buzzing about:

“Buy me a Rolls Royce, please, you promised……………”

“Out at my ranch………………..”

and the best one,

“Did you have to learn English to come here ?”

Too much. We have to move on.

“You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway”

(Coyote by Joni Mitchell)

John & Russ – USA roadtrip, 1979

summer of 1973 – ship ahoy

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

1973 in Scotland – Radio Clyde starts broadcasting; Queen support Mott the Hoople at the Apollo in Glasgow; Billy Connolly Live is released.

There are certain things in life that you realise are entirely out of your hands.

Small things – like the weather

Big things – like your genetic gene pool

Monumental things – like were you one of the fortunate few who was going to get picked out of the hat to go on the annual school cruise.

It’s at this point in your life that you comprehend whether you are one of life’s ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ or at least that’s what it felt like at the time.

Were you a Charlie Bucket with a golden ticket to the chocolate factory, or a Costas Mitsotakis, the only person out of 240 in the village of Sodeto not to contribute towards a winning lottery ticket with a pay-out of $950 million?

As we assembled in the school hall and the names were read out, the tension was palpable and at the end of the session the Charlie’s could not contain their joy whilst the Costas’s did their best to put a brave face on things.

Particularly Jackie, my partner in crime on this blog, who missed out and has been in FOMO therapy now for 48 years!

The school cruise was an annual lottery reserved mainly for third years on the SS Uganda, a steamship built on the Clyde and launched in 1952 as a luxury 300 berth cruise liner, sailing mainly from the UK to East Africa.

The SS Uganda’s original purpose was reviewed in 1967 after aviation took over as the prime means of intercontinental travel and she was subsequently transformed into a 1250 berth, educational cruise ship, sailing primarily in Mediterranean or Scandinavian waters, presumably powered by testosterone.

All aboard SS Uganda.

After the initial excitement the details of the cruise were duly released, and we were scheduled to set sail in May from the Clyde and berth at La Rochelle, Casablanca, Malaga, Vigo and Oporto.

I seem to remember we boarded on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Greenock and the first thing that struck me was the size of the thing. I’d been on many a Clyde steamer as my Grandpa worked on the boats, but this was a different proposition, it was humungous.

As we settled into our berths, we were gathered together by the Captain who told us all how privileged we were, what a great adventure we were embarking on and reassured us that there would be a very smooth start to our journey.

Fast forward 12 hours and two thirds of the ship were hanging over the railings hurling-up for Scotland.

Suffice to say breakfast that morning was very quiet.

Life onboard was generally fun, despite the obvious tribalism with so many schools involved, and there were lots of activities to keep us occupied like the  

prestigious tug of war competition which our school won, much to the delight of one of our teachers, but more on him later.

Our first stop was La Rochelle in France, there’s not much I can tell you about the place, but I do know that the takings in the little backstreet bars must have gone through the roof that day.

Everywhere you went you’d see peely-wally Scottish kids with rubber legs staggering along the cobbled paving, trying to work out why the rocket fuel they served as beer was scrambling their 14–15-year-old brains in a way that good old Harp, Skol or Tennent’s lager never did.

If I’m honest the cruise is all a bit of a blur which is remarkable considering some of the sights we visited. For instance, I’m reliably informed we visited the stunning Alhambra Palace in Andalusia, but I’m ashamed to say that I have no recollection of this whatsoever, which is ironic, as this is exactly the type of landmark that I will spend a fortune on, to go and visit now.

The Alhambra Palace.

There were a few teachers from our school acting as chaperones including a PE teacher who went every year and if truth be told, was getting on a bit. If I had to do an identikit picture of him, you’d swear it was Jack from Still Game, he was an ex-military guy and very old school, the type you didn’t mess with.

There was one difficult moment when I thought for sure I’d feel his wrath.

Me and a couple of lads had been invited into the girl’s dorm one night to listen to music and partake of some of their contraband, and we got caught.

We were going to get hammered for entering the girl’s dorms anyway which was strictly prohibited, so we took the rap for the contraband (Rum – aptly!).

The teacher who caught us was unknown to us and pretty irate and I distinctly remember her using the phrase ‘foxes in a hen house’ which despite the obvious symbolism went straight over my 14-year-old head, she also said we’d be flown home from the next port as this was the most serious of rule-breaks and that our respective teachers were on their way to deal with us.

I remember thinking that this was all a bit OTT and that surely mutiny is a more serious ‘rule-break’ aboard a sea-going vessel?  As opposed to listening to Rod Stewart (no not Sailing, that wasn’t released yet, thank god) and drinking Bacardi & Coke.

Knowing my guy was a strict disciplinarian, I feared the worst, but to my amazement he was very calm, told me to keep my head down and to be a wee bit smarter in future; before sauntering off, presumably to enjoy another wee dram and to crow further about his teams resounding tug of war victory, at the Captains Table.

He treated us like adults, and it was appreciated, it was also a bit of an eye-opener for me to realise that teachers weren’t one dimensional and had an off-duty persona as well, and it was all plain sailing for the rest of the trip.

As always, a lot of my memories are linked to music and I took a little tape recorder (the one where you had to hold down record and play to record the charts from the radio) with a couple of C60 mixtapes of my favourite songs.

I tried to recreate it from memory recently on Spotify; Bowie, Lou Reed Roxy Music were all on a loop back then and I had forgotten how many great songs were around that year, I’ve shared a playlist if you want to transport yourself back to the Spring of 1973.

Standard ’70s kit.

I often look back on the cruise now and wonder if I made the most of the opportunity….

Did I fully appreciate the souks of Casablanca, the aforementioned Alhambra Palace built by the Moors over a thousand years ago and the baroque architecture in Oporto where great explorers set sail to discover new lands?

The great port of Oporto, but we were looking for a different type of port.


All these great cities and sights, did I really make the most of the opportunity and did I pay them the respect they deserved, or was I just on a jolly?

Of course, I don’t have to think about it too hard, I already know the answer.

Just like some of the Golden Ticket winners who got eliminated on the tour of the chocolate factory, some of us didn’t quite see the ‘big picture’ back then.

Some of the ‘Pink Ladies’ on board SS Uganda.
Is there such a thing as fez hair?

summer 1972 – School’s out.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

1972 in Scotland – The Eurovision Song contest is held in Edinburgh (New Seekers, Beg, Steal or Borrow comes 4th); The Average White Band are formed.

I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night, but I can remember watching Top of the Pops nearly 50 years ago in the summer of 1972.

The summer had already got off to a great start when it was announced that the summer school holidays had been extended by two weeks to align the school leaving age in Scotland to 16 with the rest of the UK.

On top of that I had been invited to go on a camping holiday to Ayr by a good mate Alan McGuire and his family, so five of us and a dog made our way down the old A77 to join the other happy campers at Ayr Racecourse in August 1972.

The next 10 days were among the best of my young life.

Ayr racecourse was closed for the summer and being utilised as a camping site that year.

We were a 20-minute walk from the beach & harbour, a 20-minute walk from the town centre and there were great facilities on site.

Every day was an adventure, and we’d literally collapse into our sleeping bags at night exhausted from the day’s events which included nightly footie matches between the Scottish and the English, all ages and abilities welcome. Matches that went on for ever with the cry of ‘next goal the winner’ never being adhered to.

The sun was shining, there were no midges, everybody was really friendly, and the days seemed to last forever, right up until it got dark at what seemed 10pm most nights.

And if that wasn’t enough, there was the most unbelievable soundtrack being played in the background on the radios and on TV.

I usually missed Top of the Pops (TOTP) because it clashed with football training on a Thursday, but I always made an effort to watch it during the holidays, and I was glad I did that summer, as there were so many memorable moments.

Leading up to our holiday, TOTP was getting interesting; first there was Bowie who had come from nowhere, I’d never heard of him, and the song he was playing (Starman) wasn’t one I’d heard before.

I wasn’t even sure what I was watching, he was strange but cool at the same time, the rest of the band were pretty weird as well, apart from the guitarist who looked reasonably normal, (in a ‘glam-rock normal’ sort of way), but there was no mistaking the quality of the music, it was incredible, and I rushed out to buy the single from Woolies the next day.

The following week Alice Cooper exploded onto our screens for the first time, all menacing in black with ghoulish eye makeup and a sword. It was all theatre of course but we didn’t know it at the time, and we were suitably shocked.

During his performance I remember a girl in a pink smock innocently dancing on stage beside him and thinking ‘you need to be careful hen; he could have your eye out with that sword’.

During his performance I remember a girl in a pink smock innocently dancing on stage beside him and thinking ‘you need to be careful darling; he could have your eye out with that sword’.

Once again Woolies duly received my hard-earned paper-round money.

Cooper with his cutlass on TOTP 1972

So, the hits kept on coming and the following week another band I’d never heard of dropped into my orbit. They were called Mott the Hoople and they rocked up with the anthemic All The Young Dudes, another jaw dropper, which we discovered came from the pen of Bowie.

Woolies, here I come!

We arrived in Ayr on a Thursday, settled in and happily realised that watching TOTP was a communal, must-do activity, so a large group of teenagers including my pal’s older sister Elaine gathered round the TV in the racecourse clubhouse to see who would be appearing that week.

It would be fair to say that the majority of the assembled audience were female and were there in anticipation that their current crushes – David Cassidy or Donny Osmond would be making an appearance on screen.

Unfortunately for the girls there would be no Donny or David that week but they weren’t disappointed as it was the evening that You Wear it Well was performed by Rod Stewart with The Faces in tow. Everybody seemed to love Rod back then and he was back on form larking around, presumably bevvied, which was The Faces de-facto state in those days.

I found a record shop in Ayr the next day.

The following Thursday, our last in Ayr, would be no let down in form as we gathered round the TV to watch the unfortunate Jimmy Saville introduce another new band, called Roxy Music, who were like aliens from another planet.

This bunch of misfits had a vocalist who looked like an Elvis impersonator, and an androgynous silver glove wearing character with a Max Wall haircut playing some sort of box/keyboard, that made weird but wonderful sounds.

The rest of the band looked like extras from Star Trek, but like Bowie and Mott, they jumped out of the screen demanding your attention and the music was captivating. As soon as I got home, I was heading to Woolies for sure.

There were so many highlights on that holiday, I even went to my first gig, to see a band called Chicory Tip. Although we only knew one of their songs, their number one hit Son of my Father.

Little did we know at the time that this one hit wonder would be a precursor to Donna Summer’s I feel Love and all her 70’s disco hits, as it was written and produced by the legendary Giorgio Moroder. On reflection the little moog synthesiser hook is a giveaway.

Our days at Ayr Racecourse raced by and sadly the adventure came to a close, but the memories of that holiday didn’t end there.

My pal’s family dropped me off at my house on our return and I rang the doorbell to be met by a perfect stranger, we both stood there looking at each other for a minute, him wondering who the hell I was, me thinking the same, but with a look of panic etched on my face.

The man broke the deadlock by very reasonably asking what it was I wanted and looked confused when I blurted out, “where’s my Mum”?

He replied that he didn’t know where my Mum was, which was a bit disconcerting, and it was at this point that the penny must have dropped for the bemused chap, when he saw my holdall, sleeping bag and crushed look and said “Ah, we just moved in here a few days ago, you must be the son of the people we bought the house from”.

Yep, my family had moved and had forgotten to tell me.

Having moved myself a few times over the years now, I know it’s stressful and I know there’s a long to-do list, but we usually remember to take the kids with us.

I remembered there had been talk of moving as I had been told to keep my room tidy for people viewing the house, but the fine details and timelines had not been important to a 14-year-old who expected to be packed and transported with the Tupperware, plus like I said, I never got the memo!

The new house was only half a mile away and as I made my way there, I got excited about the prospect of my new home and all that that entailed and reflected on the great holiday I had just experienced.

I had spent time away from my loved ones for the first time but with people who had welcomed me into their family with open arms.

I had experienced much independence, went to my first gig, kissed a girl, had an amazing time and on top of all that, I had all these great songs washing around in my head.

Further grown-up adventures obviously lay in wait, but for my 14-year-old self, this was the perfect summer holiday.