Category Archives: Life

What’s In a Nickname?

Image minimised for obvious reasons – read on!

I guess it’s fair to say I’ve been called many things over my time – probably more so behind my back than to my face.

Jackie; Beaky; Ceejay; Wee Man, A few people have also referred to me as ‘Jacko,’ but their bodies lie in shallow graves in my parents’ garden.

Jackie,’ is the easiest to justify, given my surname is Jackson. This is how I was known at school, from Primary right through Secondary. Some of my teachers would even refer to me as such.

At the age of fourteen, I joined my Athletics Club – Garscube Harriers. Here, for the first time, I was mixing with lads from outwith my school and immediate locale. Here, for the first time, I was ‘re-christened.’ Two slightly older lads, started referring to me as ‘Beaky.’ The reason is plain as the nose on my face.

A bit harsh, I thought, but boy’s will be boys, I suppose.

Perhaps surprisingly, Davie and Stevie remain amongst my closest friends, fifty years down the line.

By 1977, and still within the athletics community, I was representing Bank of Scotland on the track / cross country / roads in a small team comprising runners from different clubs across the country. As the new boy, when we first met up, nobody knew me as Colin, Jackie or even Beaky. Another ‘re-branding’ was required.

The TV series ‘The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin’ first aired the previous year and had become immensely popular. The boss of main character Reggie Perrin, Charles Jefferson, was known by his initials and so, rather predicably, I (Colin Jackson) was also given this ‘Ceejay’ moniker. No matter what I did, it invariably prompted cries of:

“I didn’t get where I am today by .. not training hard / not finishing my beer / eating my breakfast“ etc, etc..

C.J. from ‘The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin.’

Any wishful thoughts of ‘Beaky’ being completely replaced by ‘Ceejay’ were quickly dashed, however. Although it didn’t become a chart hit until January 1980 when it reached #5, THIS was initially released as a vinyl single in 1977, and as I recall, played most days by the Noel Edmonds Breakfast Show on Radio 1.

Captain Beaky.

This, of course, was manna from heaven to Davie and Stevie (the bastards!)

Ah well – as Primal Scream would sing many years later ‘Don’t Fight It – Feel It.’  I now answered to: Colin to my family; Jackie to my old, school friends; Beaky to my athletics club and Ceejay to most anybody else.

The latter two remain the most used today.

Anyway, all this got me thinking how generally DULL and lazy we were with regard to nicknames at school.

In most cases, a Christian or surname would simply be elongated by adding a ‘y.’ ‘Burnsy,’ for instance. ‘Smithy.’ ‘Jonesy.

Obviously, this method can’t be deployed in all instances, and there were occasions when a surname required shortening before the ‘dropped letters’ could be replaced with the ‘y.’

Cruickshank would become ‘Cruiky’; Gilmour, ‘Gilly.’ Your blog co-host Paul Fitzpatrick became ‘Fitzy,’ and of course I became known as ‘Jackie.’

(Yeah, I know … obstreperous and cantankerous little sod, I was. Punk before ‘Punk.’ I insisted in ‘ie’ being added rather than ‘y’ because I didn’t want to carry a girl’s name like the singer of the 1968 chart hit and theme tune to the children’s TV programme, ‘White Horses.’ It was only a few years ago that I learned ‘Jacky’ as she was known on that song, was actually named Jackie Lee. I wasn’t quite the smart-ass little punk I thought I was, as it turned out.)

(Any excuse … I still love this song, soppy old git that I am!)

Some nicknames were inevitably attributed to appearance. I can’t remember any being too unkind – and I’d have to say that in the vast majority of cases, a kid was given a nickname only because they were liked. That said, although we had a ‘Speedy’ who was a very fast and very good football player, we also had a ‘Tubby’ and ‘Jumbo,’ both of whom would play either as goalkeeper or formidable centre half.

There was also a ‘Teeny’ – slightly smaller than myself and, bordering on the cruel side, a ‘Lugsy.’ And a ‘Mouse.

Then there was another lad called Colin who was deemed to look like a Mexican and carried the name ‘Mex’ at least until the day he left school. It was all pretty much straight forward and sadly lacking invention.

When I was a kid I loved reading the ‘Jennings and Darbyshire’ series of books. These boarding school kids knew how to contrive a decent nickname. Sharing Dorm 4 with them was a boy named Charles A Temple. Using schoolboy logic, they took his initials to form CAT. This they changed by association, to DOG. That somehow became DOGSBODY which was then abbreviated to BOD.

And this was how he became known. Simple, really!

The only boy I recall having a manufactured nickname as such, was my pal Derek.

 When playing football in the Primary School playground in the late Sixties, we’d all pick teams we’d imagine playing for. While most kids would go for Rangers / Celtic / Partick Thistle etc, Derek and I opted for Blackpool! Not so much for the fact they’d had some world class players over the years (Matthews, Mortensen and Armfield to name a few) but because we believed Blackpool was a town associated with attractive, scantily clad showgirls … snigger, snigger! (Hey, we were nine / ten years old – cut us some slack, eh?)

I could see myself as the next Tony Green and Derek was Henry Mowbray.

Derek to Henry. In the mind of a child, it all made perfect sense For the remaining  seven years of his school life and beyond, he would be known as Henry. Which kind of puzzled and freaked-out his parents in equal measure.

BLACKPOOL FC – 1968 / 69
Henry Mowbray, far right, middle row

Now, maybe I’m wrong with this, and I’m happy to be corrected, but the giving of nicknames was mainly a boy thing. I’m aware of only one girl in our school being afforded one … and that wasn’t until Sixth Year, when we were all about seventeen / eighteen years old.

Marian joined our school from one we believed, a bit more exclusive than ours, when her parents moved into a very affluent area of the town. To preserve relative anonymity, I’ll not divulge too much. It’s sufficient to say she was of an ‘arty’ nature, very talented in that field, and also very attractive. She had a, let’s say, ‘zany’ demeanour. In the Sixties she’d have been described as a ‘free spirit.’ Nowadays, she’d be ‘extrovert.’

This was the Seventies though, and we just regarded her as a loveable hippie ‘loony!’ An amalgam of Seventies Kate Bush and Eighties Bjork, perhaps.

She was known as ‘Mad Marian.’ It was badge she accepted with pride, I think.

The only other girl I know to be given a nickname is Kate Pye. You may actually know her -she was, still is, in Class 2B – of Bash Street School. For some reason, she’s known as ‘Toots.’ Her twin Sidney is just plain old young Sidney.)

Toots from The Bash Street Kids

Of the seven kids featured as being in this ‘gang’ only Toots and two others were called by nicknames. And Toots is the only one to retain her moniker. It seems writers and publishers alike feared a backlash from the Woke Brigade (were they a rival school gang?) and in 2021 re-named ‘Fatty’ as Freddie, and ‘Spotty’ as Scotty.

(Plug, was given this name, not as I’d always considered, because of his unattractive, OK, ugly, looks. Apparently, when he was briefly awarded the recognition of a whole comic in his own name in 1977, it was revealed that his full name was Percival Proudfoot Plugsey.)

Believe that if you will … I sense some very early back-pedaling here.

Fatty
Spotty
Plug

Teachers, of course, were fair game.

We had two brothers who taught at our school. Both had prominent noses, so shared the endearing name of ‘Pin.’ And rather appropriately, as a means of distinguishing between them, the Art teacher was referred to as ‘Drawing Pin.’

We also had a ‘Pancho ‘(what was it with the Mexican look in our wee town?); a ‘Horsey’ (girls’ Sports teacher); ‘Boot’ (boys’ Sports teacher); Numph – I have no idea where that came from, but boy, could he dish out the belt! There was also an elderly English teacher called Mr Lyle, who was affectionately known as ‘Papa’ Lyle.

_____

It’s been a pleasant surprise to recall just how generally kind and inoffensive most nicknames have been, in my experience.

A nickname is fun, and while it may emanate from and focus upon a physical or personality trait, it’s often simply a kind and gentle representation of someone’s character. It changes nothing. Not normally.

Credit to Papa Lyle, in Sixth Year English class, for highlighting the following idea from that Shakespeare dude’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’:

“What’s in a (nick)name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

___________________

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie Beaky Ceejay’ Jackson from Glasgow – December 2022)

Career Expectations in 60s & 70s

Russ Stewart: London, December 2022

To date I have had four different careers, none of which featured in my childhood expectations. 

Aged about seven I was keen on being a bus conductor. 
The manual ticket machine, strapped to the conductor, looked like fun and would have kept me amused for at least forty years.  Who would guess that technology would crush that dream?

I quite liked the peaked cap look too.

Then, when I was about ten years old I was captivated by the Apollo space programme (and the preceding Mercury and Gemini programmes). 
I could recall the crews of every US space mission in the same manner that school pals recounted football line ups from Scottish Cup finals.

Astronaut was my next career aspiration. 

I was reasonably good at, and interested in, maths and science-oriented subjects and was confident that I would remember the names of my space crew.
However, the British Interplanetary Association was short on spacecraft (seemed limited to Patrick Moore and some other dodgy quiffed astronomers).  

Around fourteen I started playing guitar and taking double bass lessons at school. 
Thankfully “Skunk” Baxter quashed any idea of a musical career. 
Hearing him play on Steely Dan’s debut album, “Cant Buy a Thrill” brought me down to earth. 

However, I am getting 100 quid and free drinks playing a pub, with a band, in Twickenham this new year’s eve (7th year in a row).

Graduated in 1979. 

Missed my graduation ceremony as I skipped off to travel the summer, with John Allan, around western Canada and USA. 
To placate my parents I did some job hunting before travelling.   I got into the last four, from about one hundred applicants, for a trainee manager job with J&B Whisky. 

Did not get job.

November 1979, sitting in pub off Charing Cross in Glasgow, avoiding the rain, I read the appointment page in the Guardian. 
Colour newspaper printing was a recent innovation. 

Quarter page ad for recruitment of trainee police inspectors in Hong Kong. Featured an upright chap in khaki uniform and peaked cap (box ticked). However, it was the bright blue sky in the background that convinced me to apply.
Three months later I left 10 degree London for 5 degree Hong Kong.

POSTSCRIPT

Early 1982 I attend a briefing at Seung Kwai Cheung police station. 
It was just before night shift so just me and duty officer involved.  Scottish chap (lots of us were in RHKP). 

Turns out he got the job I failed to get at J&B Whisky.

He quit after six months and joined the Royal Hong Kong Police.

The rigours of the RHKP training….

dib dib dob – we’ll do our best

(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – July 2022)

Woggle

Let me offer (my first) full disclosure….

I loved being in the Cubs! 

I loved the uniform, the cap and badge covered sweater. I even liked ironing my neckerchief every week and hunting for my woggle (Ooer Matron!

Wolf Cubs Badge

I was part of The 7th Clydebank Wolf Cub Scout Pack who met each week in the local school hall.

(Be Prepared!…I obviously didn’t get the 
‘Wear dark shorts’ memo)

I enjoyed the singing and the games and all the rough and tumble. It wasn’t all harmless fun though as I saw one cub accidently crash his hand through the swing glass door of the hall….and pull it back out causing horrendous lacerations and a lot of blood!

I also really enjoyed the annual sports day and playing football against the other local Cub Packs. The only time we went ‘camping’ we slept in wooden huts with real beds!….Result!

Boy Scouts badge

However,  I certainly didn’t enjoy waiting in the rain with hundreds of fellow cubs, scouts and girl guides to ‘see’ the Queen at Glasgow Green! After two hours of sitting on the wet grass a large black limo sped past and we saw a tiny gloved hand wave briefly from the window! WTF!

But I digress…..

I also mostly enjoyed the annual Bob-A-Job week. Every year we visited local houses and offered to do household jobs for them for payment of a Bob…One Shilling….Five Shiny New Pence!

One bob – a shilling.

Myself and my pal Michael had been knocking on doors for about 4 hours and had been pretty successful. Most of my neighbours were friendly and happily gave their Bob and sometimes more,  and maybe even a biscuit, then gave us an easy to perform.
In return they got a ‘Job Done’ sticker for their front window.

We decided we’d try the ‘big house’ at the top of the street. It had a large gate and grounds leading to an imposing dwelling.

Our confidence was high so we marched up to the front door and rang the bell.

Our chirpy ‘Bob-A-Job!’ stuck in our throats as a very tall, Rees Mogg like, figure opened the door and glowered at us!…….’Bob-A-Job’ I squeaked……

‘Aaah Yesssss. Verree well then’ the tall man said and led us through the porch into a dark square hall. 

Michael and I exchanged an ‘Anaw whit huv we dun!?’ look as the tall man pointed to the open door of a very large living room and said ‘Clean out the fire ashes and then fetch coal and wood to build a fresh one. Then I’ll see what else can be done!’

Eager to escape his looming presence we half ran towards the fire place. ‘The quicker we do this the quicker we can get away’ whispered Michael.

We didn’t have a clue what to do, then I spotted an old metal bucket and decided that’s where the ashes should go. 

We made a hell of a mess which of course we had to clean up then we were shown outside to collect the coal and wood.
We worked there for well over an hour and at the end we were tired, sweaty and very dirty!


Rees Mogg finally dipped into his leather purse and gave us a shilling each and I gave him a sticker for his front window. 

To ensure no other unsuspecting Cubs would approach this slave driver’s house I stuck a few more on the outer storm door as we left!

Full disclosure Number Two….

When I was 10/11 I had a massive crush on our Akela, the leader of the Wolf Cub pack. She was probably in her early thirties and worshipped her from afar!

When I was promoted to a Sixer (there were 6 Sixers in the pack of 36) and then to flag bearer I was overjoyed as it meant I was ‘closer’ to her.

My older brother Paul was the flag bearer the previous year.

One Cubs’ night, just as we were finishing, Akela asked me if I could come to her house on the following Saturday!

WHAAAT??? 

I was to cook breakfast for Akela and her Mum as part of my Home Proficiency Badge or something……I wasn’t really listening after she said ‘Come to my house!’

I couldn’t sleep for three nights and I badgered my Mum into a crash course on how to fry eggs, bacon and sausage! And how to make tea! I’d never even boiled a kettle!

Saturday morning arrived and wearing my Cub uniform, I nervously walked the half mile to her house.

Akela and her Mum were very nice to me and I kinda overcame my fear and nervousness. They didn’t even complain that I burst the fried eggs’ yolks, undercooked the bacon and ‘stewed’ the tea.

After I’d washed the breakfast dishes Akela told me I had attained my merit badge and I was ecstatic as I
floated home on cloud nine. Or…..

‘Riding Along On The Crest Of A Wave’ 

if you prefer.

I left the Cubs a few months later but the wonderful memories remain with me even after 50+ years

_____________

look who’s talking.

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – June 2022.)

On many a suburban sixties afternoon mother and I would retire to the dining room. Let’s face it, the library was too stuffy, the conservatory too draughty and the billiards room reeked of cigar smoke and brandy. Well maybe not quite. The dining room was where mother could set up her sewing machine or the ironing board.

Laundry

While Papa toiled away tirelessly on the golf course, Mama would spend her time on such frivolous activities as clothes alterations and laundry. The dining room was also where the wireless lived. Not one of those newfangled transistor thingummies it was a proper hard plastic lime green radio with a circular dial and glowing valves at the back. Sometimes we would listen to plays which were a bit boring and would put me off my colouring in, other times it would be just music.

Radio

One such afternoon mother stopped her ironing/sewing and turned up the radio.

“You’ll enjoy this”. On came the tale of Sparky’s Magic Piano, the story of a reluctant piano student and his magical piano. After a couple of minutes of annoyingly whining  child’s dialogue the piano spoke.

WHAT WAS THAT ?

It was the freakiest thing I’d ever heard in my entire 6 years ! I thought Mum had slipped some hallucinogenics into my cordial or I’d accidentally supped on her early afternoon gin and orange (Mummy’s little secret !) I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was quite a wonderful sonic surprise but a bit disconcerting. Mickey Mouse on acid !

Sparky’s Magic Piano was first released back in October, 1947. The effect used for the talking piano was a Sonovox invented by Gilbert Wright in 1939. It was a microphone attached to the throat probably similar to the devices used by people who have undergone laryngectomies.

It was a precursor to the talk box highlighted in Peter Frampton’s Show Me The Way back in 1975. I remember we had one in the music shop where I worked and had hours of fun with it. It’s basically a gizmo that channels the sound of your guitar/keyboard back into your mouth via plastic tubing. I think we ran out of tubing as everyone and their dog was chewing on that thing and we had to continuously chop bits off it.

Talk Box

Some people said your teeth would fall out but Frampton still seems to have all his pearly whites.

A better example of the magic piano sound is ELO’s 1978 hit Mr Blue Sky. In among the Bee Gees like vocals and the Beatlesque arrangement you’ll hear the title through a vocoder – a category of speech coding that analyses and synthesises the human voice signal for audio data compression, multiplexing, voice encryption or voice transformation – but you knew all that !

My personal favourite though is Herbie Hancock’s I Thought It Was You released in late 1978 reaching number 15 and spending 9 weeks in the charts. He ‘sings’ using a Sennheiser VSM-201 (what else) vocoder.

Great tune from a highly innovative performer from his very underrated album Sunlight. The only problem is, I have these Pavlovian sensations of the whirring of the Singer and the fragrance of freshly ironed laundry.

Singer Sewing Machine

framed

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – June 2022.)

When I was young my mother would knit various items of clothing for me. Mainly jumpers, beanies (woollen hats) gloves and scarfs. Unfortunately many of the items on completion would be a bit on the small side as Mummy hadn’t anticipated my growth spurts nor the time taken to create the garments. The lack of a comprehensive time, motion and cost analysis greatly impeded productivity – but mothers didn’t talk like that in the 60s as they weren’t pretentious middle manager wankers in competitive industry.

In my middle primary school years she got it just right. She produced a perfectly fitted royal blue sweater with a tiny silvery white speck through it. Most kids moped about in grey jumpers or navy blue cardigans. This was a thing of beauty. Leave that technicolour coat back on the peg Joseph. There I was in my shimmering azure outfit looking absolutely gorgeous. It was the bees knees. The dogs bollocks (as they say in these parts). I was pleased as punch. Happy as Larry (where do we get these phrases from ?) Mum had really come up with the goods this time. How was I to know it would lead to my downfall.

One day I was taken aside by Mrs. Cullen who was not my classroom teacher at the time. She (wrongfully) claimed that I had been observed (by a cleaner I think) rifling through the desks of another classroom after school hours. The culprit had a distinctive blue jumper. She accused and berated me for some time and dismissed my pleas of innocence through trembling bottom lip. “It wasn’t me, Miss !”

When I got home I burst into inconsolable sobbing at the injustice of it all. I knew there was a lad a few years my senior that had a similar styled and coloured jumper (not as fabulous as mine of course) who was a bit shifty. My mother comforted me as mothers do but she didn’t storm down to the school and demand an apology for the wrongful accusation. Was there a seed of doubt that her youngest and dearest could be a petty thief ? This was too much for an 8 year old to bare. I stripped off the bespoke jumper and threw it into the bottom drawer with all the other discarded woollens never to see the light of day again.

I will wear grey from this day forth. I will not stand out from the crowd.

(Fast forward five years and I’m wearing a mauve floppy collared shirt and a multi-coloured tank top !)

Did you know that they call a jersey a ‘Guernsey’ in Australia ? No, I don’t know why either !

I don’t know if this incident shaped my views of fighting for the underdog. Righting the wrongs. Standing up for the dispossessed.

When I was a student nurse in the 80s doing my placement at Drumchapel Hospital I was stopped by a solitary picket at the gates. Most people walked straight by him but I heard him out. He was an Orderly striking for a reasonable wage. He was from the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) as was I so I didn’t cross his line. I was summoned by my lecturers and told I was the first ever student to go on strike. ‘AND ?’ I replied. Stony silence. Chalk that one up for the little guy.

I became a job representative for the Australian Nurses Federation and took industrial action for over a week along with thousands of others for better pay and conditions in the early nineties.

I have led a relatively blameless existence in the eyes of the law bar a few traffic infringements including a fine for not having lights on my bicycle in which an aggressive young officer screamed in my face. “Where’s your f**king drivers licence ?” His colleague had to restrain him when I pointed out you don’t need a licence for a bike. The bastard still gave me a $200 fine.

A few late library books and that’s it. My wrongful primary school accusation has not led me into a life of spiraling crime – YET !

I do miss that jumper though !

free-range kids.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – June 2022)

(Header image from ‘Stuff Dutch People Like’ website.)

(Image from the Global Influences website.)

Growing up throughout the 1960s and ’70s my brothers and I were free-range children, 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 tea.

Running barefoot through seemingly endless hot Virginia summers, climbing trees with skinned knees, riding our bikes and make-believe, we played-out our childhoods in the limitless landscape of our imaginations. We were free to negotiate and establish our own play rules with our friends. Through the liberty of play we took risks, established our own boundaries, solved problems and developed social, emotional and physical skills: life skills. We didn’t know it at the time but we were the lucky ones. 

(Andrea doing a handstand in her Virginia back yard, 1970)

On rainy days, Mom would tell me to ‘go play’ which opened up countless possibilities: making paper dolls from old magazines; dressing-up; playing make-believe as I flew into space inside an upturned kitchen stool (this was, after-all, the Space Age of  Apollo 11). After school clubs and activities didn’t exist and the notion of ‘quality time’ hadn’t been invented yet:  my brothers and I were rich in our parents love and our family life. We ate dinner together and talked to each other.

My parents read, told stories and sang to us but pretty much left us alone to play.  If I said, “I’m bored!” Mom would say, “Good! Children should be bored at least once a day. Use your imagination.”  Without a PC, tablet, mobile phone or social media, I had to look inside myself for adventures.

(Mmnnn! Mud pies for dolly!)

I made mud pies for my dolls; sat on the driveway and burst tar bubbles in the searing heat with a stick and watched the tar ooze; made a jewellery box for my mother with matchsticks; sailed the high seas from a sail boat in the dining-room with two chairs and an old sheet. I did cart-wheels, handstands and backflips; played ‘tag’ with my friends; looked for fairies in the pine glades and inhabited the Magic Faraway Tree.  I was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking my heels together three times before rolling down a grass bank to go ‘home’ to Kansas.

My bed served as a covered wagon where I’d sit with my feet hitched on the footboard and “gee-up” my team of horses as I headed west across the great prairies in search of gold. Wearing an imaginary calico dress and bonnet, I fought off wild critters including howling coyotes and Grizzly ‘bahrs’ with my bare hands and sang songs beneath the stars around a campfire in the middle of my bedroom floor. Why – there wasn’t a more feared hunter in all the west!

(Pioneer wagon.)

In 1970 when I was ten, my family left behind my small-town American childhood idyll and moved to Birmingham, West Midlands where I encountered not only a strange new dialogue called Brummie but a wholly new culture to draw from in my playground games: ‘tag’ became ‘tig’; ‘British Bulldog’ replaced ‘King of the Hill’; ‘Red-Light, Green-Light’ became ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf’ and ‘Conkers’ became a playground favourite. Suddenly I was thrust into a Betjeman-esque land of 1930s suburban streets, cul-de-sacs, alleyways and gulleys to explore with my new best friends Denise and Becky.

(What’s the time, Mr Woolf?)

Mom used to say that ‘if a child isn’t filthy by teatime, they haven’t had a good day’ and we didn’t disappoint; revelling in street games,  making dens, clapping rhymes, ‘Dolly Bobbin’, ‘Cat’s Cradle’, ‘French Skipping’ and  rhymes:

‘George, Paul, Ringo, John

Next-door neighbour follow on…’

as we skipped in and out of a large rope.

‘Mother’s in the kitchen, doing a bit of stitching

In comes a burglar and out she runs

(Girls skipping – pic from British Library)

 We quickly established ‘The Gang’ with neighbourhood kids whose overriding mission was to own our own ponies. I asked my beleaguered dad every day if I could have a pony and scoured the livestock ads of Pony Magazine. I entered the annual WH Smith ‘Win a Pony Competition’ regardless of the fact that we lived in a semi with a small back garden. (I did once win a runner-up mention when I designed a sew-on badge in a competition. It said, “An apple a day keeps the vet away” with a picture of a horse’s head. )  Becky and I both kept grooming kits under our beds “just in case.”

When one of the girls in The Gang, Sam, really did get a pony, we became obsessed with trying to get a free ride. An hour’s riding lesson was £1.50 in 1972 and my pocket money was 25 new pence per week. Sam finally allowed us to sit on her pony Jet – “Just sit, mind!” – and we were thrilled.

(Andrea almost gets her wish, 1972)

Becky and I made horse jumps in my back garden out of old orange crates and bits of wood and held gymkhanas on our space hoppers, which took on the names and personalities of our favourite ponies.

(Space Hopper)

Mine was ‘Fred’ (in real life a bony old grey pony who took a shine to nibbling my jumper) and Becky rode ‘Firefly’ – a strawberry roan mare with a shaggy mane. Becky’s mum made us ribbon rosettes and as we flew over our jumps against the clock, we imagined we heard the roar of the crowd at the Horse of the Year Show. We cantered around the ring for a victory lap before our glory faded as mum hauled me indoors to do my homework and Becky had to go home. I watched through the net curtains as she bounced away down the grass verge, before tackling my History project on Neanderthal Man.

At weekends The Gang would take to the Clent Hills on our bikes; our saddlebags stuffed with cheese spread sandwiches and beakers of orange squash which leaked. We were gone all day without phones (imagine), safety helmets or a care in the world. Our parents had no idea where we were but trusted us to be home in time for tea.

(Clent Hills)

I played with dolls until I was at least twelve or thirteen (imagine kids today taking time out from their devices to play with dolls).  I had a doll house my dad made me which absorbed my imagination for hours-on-end; baby dolls, ‘Barbie’ dolls and a ‘Tressy’ doll whose hair grew out of the top of her head and could be pulled back in a chord on her back. Our dog chewed her hair off on Christmas Eve.

(Tressy)

I even had a go at making a ‘Sindy’ doll settee from a cereal box and sticky-back plastic as seen on Blue Peter; along with an Advent candle holder from two wire coat hangers and a bit of tinsel; neither of which were successful but kept me occupied on those long boring wet weekends.

(I bet there’s not ONE reader whose attempt looked ANYTHING like this!)

Young people today wouldn’t believe it; attached to their virtual worlds and virtual friends, where gratification is instant and the pressure is on to grow up too quickly. I told you we were the lucky ones.

(Copyright Andrea Burn – June 2022)

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London

After a bit of prompting from one of my kids I visited an Everyman Cinema recently, and it was quite the experience.

On entering the cinema I was greeted warmly by staff who explained the set up and asked if I wanted anything from the bar (beer, cocktails, wine, soft drinks), or from the kitchen (tapas, burgers, pizza, snacks) which they could serve to my seat in the cinema, (there are trays attached to the armrests).

The cinema itself is a lesson in tasteful opulence where luxurious armchairs, and sofas that are dangerously comfortable, replace the standard cinema layout, the screen is the perfect size and the sound system is impressive.

Everyman Cinema

Before the film starts, a member of staff introduces the movie and reminds the audience that the team are available to serve any further refreshments to your seat during the film.

As it turned out, the movie I went to see (Everything, Everywhere All At Once) was a bit weird, as most movies about the multiverse tend to be, however the overall experience was such that I can’t wait to go back.

The level of service, the comfort factor and the food and drink were all ten out of ten, and it was probably the best cinema experience since my first trip to the ABC minors as a 10 year old.

I did ponder afterwards though…. ‘was this a glimpse of the future, or a nod to the past?

Have we been so conditioned to accept mediocre service now, that it’s a shock to the system when we actually receive some decent service?

Do we realise just how much we’ve been trained into doing things ourselves these days, even basic tasks that used to be part of the service?

I guess a classic example of this is self-service Petrol Stations.
It used to be the norm to get your petrol served, your oil checked, your windscreen wiped and your tyres looked over without leaving your car.
Nowadays you’re expected to do it all yourself then stand in line to pay whilst being subjected to the temptation of a ‘Ginster Pasty‘ or ‘three Mars bars for the price of two‘.

I often wonder if there’s still a place today for those old style petrol stations.
I completely get that it would be a niche operation, in the same way that Everyman Cinemas aren’t going to take over from multiplexes, but I’m sure some people would happily pay for that extra level of service (my missus for one!).

This self-service mentality also extends to shopping now, especially supermarkets where we’re herded to unmanned, self-checkouts, even though in most cases we know we’re probably going to require the support of shop staff who are now thin on the ground as they’ve been replaced by machines…..
It happens all the time – something won’t scan, or the till doesn’t recognise something in your basket, or you’ve bought something which requires proof of age, or you’ve used your own plastic bag, or you’ve purchased something with an electronic tag that requires removing.

Any number of reasons can trigger that wee red light that pings above your self-checkout station to alert staff that you need assistance, except when you look around there’s no staff to be found, or if you’re lucky, there’s one poor person dashing from checkout to checkout like a blue-arsed fly.

It’s a perfect example of a purported time-saving initiative actually adding time (and stress) to what should be a pretty mundane task.

Perhaps Don Henley had Sainsbury’s in mind when he sang…
“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”

Similarly, in department stores, you can now find yourself wandering about like a zombie looking for assistance, unlike the old days when you were swatting them away like flies.

The irony of this, is that compared to the 70s a lot of electrical items and household goods are now so complex that you require a degree in quantum mechanics to switch them on.
So, in an era where we really, really need access to knowledgeable staff who know their stuff, they’re scarce.

The whole self-service philosophy is based on spartan virtue: You make do with less, pay less and settle for adequacy rather than true satisfaction, but the frustration for most of us is, that the reduction in retail overheads and the stated improvement in efficiencies haven’t reduced retail prices.

Air travel is another example… we’re now conditioned to make our own bookings, action our own check-ins and print or download our own tickets, all for the privilege of getting to the airport 2 hours before take-off, so we can pay £5 to get dropped off, £6 for a pint and join numerous queues before boarding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology and for anything that saves time, but in lots of cases there’s no benefit, instead, it just feels like manipulation, and a sneaky transfer in responsibilities has resulted in the customer taking on all the heavy lifting.

I’m also reminded of the services that used to come to our doorsteps in the 60s and 70s, the Ascot or Bilsland Bakery vans that would navigate their way around the various West of Scotland housing schemes, offering cakes, bread, biscuits, milk and soft drinks.
Similarly, local farms would load up weekly and take their vans round the estates offering fresh produce, and of course there were the popular Garvies or Alpine vans that offered multiple flavours of fizzy pop direct to your door.

Retailing used to be based on convenience and service, but I guess it all got a bit Americanised, which meant we traded in ‘small and local‘ for ‘big and out of the way’, ‘two-for-one‘ offers, ‘meal deals’ and a free packet of Percy Pigs every once in a while.

So perhaps this Everyman Cinema model isn’t new or revolutionary after all, it’s simply a return to the halcyon days of being customer focused.

It certainly seems to be working for those guys.
Despite the multiplexes, despite the fact that it’s not the cheap option, Everyman now have 35 cinemas and are growing rapidly.




running on empty.

(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – May 2022)

(Clydebank in the late ’50s.)
(Opposite angle of the same street in Clydebank, taken in the early ’70s)

These two photographs were posted to a Facebook page devoted to the town of Clydebank .

They immediately stirred up a few memories of myself and friends playing around this area in the late sixties.

The area beyond the building on the far right hand side was a bomb site left by The Clydebank Blitz in March 1941. We used to play in it when I was about 10 years old.

The stone foundations of the long gone tenements were still there and we used to jump on and off them reenacting scenes from a cowboy or space adventure film we’d watched at the ABC Minors the previous Saturday.

I slipped and fell on a shard of glass. One of our group said that it was the actual window glass from the 1941 bombing….but it was more likely a smashed Eldorado bottle!  

Anyway I got a deep cut on my left palm and there was a lot of blood. 

It added realism to our games for a while but eventually I had to go home to get it seen to……and I still have the scar!

On the left of the pic where the van is parked was Branks General Store. I was rarely in it but I do vividly remember the story about a man, that lived in one of the tenements close by, that had flashed/molested/ abducted/a young girl!!!….. everytime the story was told it was exaggerated and embellished!

It was probably an urban myth but we always ran past it anyway just in case!

My last memory also involves running…..A LOT of running!

There was a local guy, Joe, with learning difficulties, who lived in the local Children’s Home. 

One hot summer’s morning our 5 strong group were gathered on the corner deciding how to spend our day when we spotted Joe about 200 yards away at the top of the road. 

Someone shouted  at Joe….It would’ve been something innocuous like ‘Whit ur ye daein’ oot?’

Joe was about 14/15, small but very powerfully built!
He started to run towards us like a bull charging with his head down! 

We all took off down the road towards the school.

We reached the bus stop, in the pic, and still Joe chased us! Maybe he just wanted to join in with us but we weren’t taking any chances. So we ran!

We were hoping the bus would come but no such luck!

We continued to run up Second Avenue past Branks shop and still Joe gained on us!

We were all really struggling now with ‘stitches’ and shin splints…..the curse of growing 10/11 year olds ….and still Joe came! 

Eventually we risked a glance back and Joe had stopped about 50 yards behind us and had turned around and was walking back towards the shop! 

Had he continued he’d have caught us in the next minute or two! We were all exhausted and vowed never to taunt Joe again!

But we never saw him again…maybe he was moved to another home?

He was some runner!!! 


saturday night special

“‘Cause Saturday night’s the night I like

Saturday night’s alright, alright, alright, ooh”

Saturday nights, are the best of the week; always have been – always will be. But although still special, as grumpy, cynical old grown-ups, we know what to expect. What we do in 2030 will be much the same as we did in 2020 albeit probably a lot slower and involving more aches, pains, groans and complaining.

Growing up in the ‘70s, though, it was all that bit more exciting:

1970 (aged 12):
Saturday nights would be special for parents too. My sister and I would often be dropped off at grandparents for the night while mum and dad went to some fancy-dan Dinner Dance at the Albany Hotel. Suited us: a Beano comic; a Lucky Bag; Dr Who and Dixon of Dock Green on TV; home-made (powdered) ice cream and a glass of Lucozade – even if we weren’t feeling poorly.

Beano – 7th February 1970

1971 (aged 13):
Dad would treat us all to his tea-time speciality – spam and beetroot fritters! Mmmmnn! Yummy!

The ice-cream van would pass down our street and we’d get a copy of the Pink Times which carried all that day’s football results. I’d then spend ages meticulously updating my Shoot! League Ladders, copying the positions from the evening paper. It was a pretty pointless exercise, I’ll grant you, but that’s just what we did for entertainment back then. With hindsight though, it’s perhaps easy to see why I struggled to find a girlfriend!

SHOOT! League Ladders 1971 / 1972

1972 (aged 14):
At 5pm, my dad and I would gather round the radio, waiting for the tune that still excites me to this day.

James Alexander Gordon would read the Classified Football Results and we’d always try to guess the away team’s score from the intonation in his voice.

(I’d then get my bloody Shoot! League ladders ready, in anticipation of the ice-cream van’s chimes.)

Really though, not a lot changed from 1971. Still too young for even under-aged drinking in the tunnel under the railway at the back of our house, I’d settle for dad’s new Saturday tea-time treat – mashed corned beef and beetroot toasties. Mmmmnn! Yummy!

(Beetroot to our family were as turnips would be to Baldrick in Blackadder, some eleven years later.)

1973 (aged 15):
I enjoyed going to watch football with my pals – not so much for the sport, as my team had been a bit sporadic in their success those past eight years, but because I had an excuse to pass on the ‘something and beetroot,’ Saturday Special! My pals and I would stop off at the chippy outside the Underground station and I’d have just the best black pudding supper and a couple of pickled onions the size of golf balls.

“Oh Dad – I’d love to try one, but really, honestly … I’m stuffed.”

And that’s about as exciting as it got. Saturday nights for fifteen year olds in Boresville, Suburbia could be a bit on the mundane side.

Black pudding supper.

1974 (aged 16):
Now Saturdays became a bit more exciting. We’d somehow blag copious amounts of beer and fortified wine from unscrupulous Off Sales proprietors and stash it in the local woods. Later that evening, we’d retrieve it, neck it, and quickly head off to the local disco.

It now all became a bit of a race against time. We’d have to time our arrival (often at the town’s Ski Club) before the alcohol got the better of us and we’d be refused entry – which did happen from time to time, I’m afraid to say.

Add another of these and a couple bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.

1975 (aged 17):
1975 called for a bit of consolidation before we turned 18. We were however, sufficiently confident to blag a beer or two at the local hostelry – The Burnbrae.

We had become bored with the stale local disco scene though, and would instead venture into Glasgow’s fashionable West End to crash the disco nights held by some of the city’s private schools.

The all-girl schools were pretty discerning about who they let in, so we generally stuck to the all-boys schools. These events were hosted by the schools’ rugby clubs and so there were plenty of burly bouncers to evade / deceive before entry.

And the students of these schools didn’t take too kindly to us usurpers from Comprehensive schools chatting up their girlfriends. Frequently the evening would end in fights – and a girl’s false phone number scribbled onto your arm.

(Oh – just me, then?)

1976 (aged 18):
By August ’76, I may still have been a daft wee boy, but I’d left school, turned eighteen and started my first job. I dared bar staff in town to question my age. Which they did, of course – for the next five years or so. See, that’s the trouble with being a daft wee boy!

Naturally, Saturday nights became pub centric. Generally they’d be spent with old school pals at Macintosh’s Bar in Glasgow, followed by a few hours at The White Elephant discotheque.

Macintosh’s Bar.
Flyer for The White Elephant

1977 (aged 19):
I was now dating a girl I’d met at The White Elephant, so most Saturdays were still being spent in there – maybe with a pre-disco Stakis Steakhouse meal thrown in. Boy, I knew how to show the ladies a real good time!

Some Saturdays though, my mate, Derek, would sign me in to the Strathclyde University Students’ Union Bar. The beer was so much cheaper in there than the standard 38p pub pint, and bands were booked every week. One of the best, and one I had to pester him to get me in to, was The Ramones. Yeah, The Ramones! 21st May 1977 it was, and they co-headlined with another little known band of the time, Talking Heads.

Not a bad night for, I reckon, about a fiver all in!

The Ramones – 1977

1978 (aged 20):
I had met another girl in the autumn of the previous year – we’d be together two years – and her best pal was going out with my best mate. (They had introduced us on a blind date.) We would still head uptown from time to time, but the girls weren’t that keen. Looking back, we had almost instantly morphed into two boring ‘married’ couples, sitting around one of our homes listening to records and watching crap television with a Chinese takeaway meal on our laps.

Yawn.

Chinese Takeaway Meal.

1979 (aged 21):
This was much the same as the previous year until after our second holiday away together, my girlfriend and I decided enough was enough. Come September, Saturday nights were then mainly spent in the company of my athletics club pals, either in the bars or Indian / Greek restaurants of Glasgow’s Kelvinbridge area, or at The Peel pub in Drumchapel, playing darts, Space Invaders, Galaxian and Asteroids.

We would also enjoy playing ‘the puggy’ – until it was stolen! Yes, really!

Galaxian arcade game.

Six months into the next decade and I’d go on holiday to the South of France with some of those athletics pals. There, I’d meet our Diane, a Geordie lass. Saturday evenings for the next couple of years would be spent at her local Social Club, playing bingo, watching some really ropey ‘turn’ and drinking warm, flat lager (Hansa?)

Social Club

Either that, or with pals and their partners, we’d revisit some of those old, Glasgow haunts from the late ‘70s.

And so the excitement of Saturday nights continue into my sixty-fifth year – at the beginning of June, Diane and I have organised a big party to celebrate our 40th Anniversary! (But not before I’ve updated my end-of-season Shoot! League Ladders.)

“Gonna keep on dancing
To the rock and roll
On Saturday night, Saturday night.”

(Post by Coin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2022)

from hair to eternity.

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2022)

It’s funny how hair styles can define an era and popular culture. 

The war-time 1940s were synonymous with austerity: pin-curls, victory rolls and snoods for women which kept their hair out of harm’s way when they worked in munitions factories.

The 1950s saw a younger, more rebellious generation sweep away utilitarian styles in favour of more glamour: from bouffant to the poodle-cut  made popular by film stars such as Lucille Ball. Men kept their hair short throughout the post-war era until the 1950s, when rock and roll introduced more textured styles such as the quiff and pompadour.

Then came the ’60s with its Flower Power, anything-goes zeitgeist; but not at my house.

Mom

My parents were far more conventional when I was growing up in America’s Deep South in the ’60s.  Not one to “let it all hang out” my mother kept her long, black hair scraped up in a large bun rolled over a foam doughnut-shaped hair form; held aloft by hundreds of hair pins and a cloud of Elnet hairspray which seemed to follow her around; like the cloud of dust around Pig-Pen in the Peanuts cartoon. 

I can still smell it.  As for that hair form – it had a life of its own and seemed to crop up in unexpected places. I was scared of it.

Dad was old-school and favoured short back and sides, slicked down with a dab of Brylcreem, which gave it a high glossy sheen and controlled his unruly, curly forelock. He looked like Frank Sinatra (his musical hero), or one of those guys in Madmen.

Dad in The Sixties

Dad and I would sing along to the Brylcreem ad on TV,  “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya,” which became our special song for the rest of his life.

My grandmother kept  her beautiful white hair in a permanent wave during her weekly trips to the beauty parlour and sometimes her hair changed colour from white to mauve, which kept us all on our toes.

When my brother was about twelve and hitting new pubescent strides, he did something radical and grew out his crew-cut which my dad had insisted on, into a longer style inspired by the Beatles. My grandmother gave him five dollars to “get a decent hair cut” which he spent on records and came home with his mop intact.  Having survived our grandmother’s scorn, he had a narrow escape outside the local ice-cream parlour when some kid threatened to cut his hair off with a  knife! Life in Appalachia could be tough.

If we were going to church, Mom would slick our hair down with a dash of spit on the palm of her hand; she was even known to wheel out the Elnet for that perfect, sleek finish. I can see my brother now, ducking and diving with a mischievous grin as he tried to dodge the spit.

As a very young child, my mother kept my hair short with a fringe but as I grew, Mom let my hair grow and had fun styling it. I had low bunches, high bunches, ponytails, pigtails, plaits across my head or rolled in coils above my ears like Heidi – and buns for ballet!  And don’t get me started on French Braids! They HAD to be just like Dorothy Gale’s in The Wizard of Oz (MGM 1939).

Andrea had a feeling she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. (She never was.)

When Mom washed my hair she would twist it – stiff with shampoo – into ‘sheep horns’, ‘dog ears’, ‘rabbit ears’, ‘kitten ears’ and ‘unicorn horns,’ which I thought was funny but I’m sure was a ploy to get me to sit still long enough to have my hair washed.

 My grandpa used to say, “Why sugar – you look just like Minnie Pearl with your hair in pigtails.” Minnie Pearl was a comedienne and star of the Grand Ol’ Opry; who to my knowledge did not wear her hair in plaits. Mom insisted that I  looked nothing like Minnie Pearl, despite the fact that we were vaguely related to her. Minnie Pearl (real name Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon) was my mother’s father’s brother’s wife’s niece. Work that one out!

By the time I was nine, my hair was waist length and to my mother’s despair, “tangled at the drop of a hat.” She called them “rat’s tails.” Exasperated with my fine, knotted hair, she once took me to her hairdresser, where he held the crown of my head with one hand (getting a purchase on my scalp) and raked a fine comb through the wet tangles, at which point I screamed and Mom marched me out, telling him that he had “absolutely no understanding whatever of how to tackle tangles – or children!”

Andrea age nine with hair that provided endless hours of fun for her mum! (Who needed a Tressy doll when their daughter grew hair this long?)

The point was, my hair was in my mother’s hands, quite literally. The length and style were her choice. She even rinsed my hair in warm vinegar to make it squeaky clean, but boy did it stink! The only hair conditioner you could buy then was Creme Rinse which Mom considered an extravagance.

One of the first records I bought was ‘Hair’ by The Cowsills (1969), written by Galt MacDermot with lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni; a cover of the original song from the musical ‘Hair’. I thought it was really “groovy” and “far out man”, as I sang along swinging my “shining, gleaming, flaxen, waxen” locks. It was the dawning of the age Aquarius and my first and only foray into psychedelia. Cool.

As the ’60s gave way to the ’70s and my family moved to Birmingham, West Midlands, I became aware,  for the first time, of how hair could get you noticed. Watching Top of the Pops one Thursday evening in 1971, I was mesmerised by Rod Stewart’s feather-cut as he strutted around on stage singing Maggie May. Dad said Rod’s hair looked like a cockerel: well, that was the whole point!  And we all knew that David Essex’s trademark dark, shaggy curls were going to make him a star.

I begged Mom to let me have a feather cut – or a Lion Cut, like Jayne Bolton’s  at school –  but I was met with near hysteria from my mother who said these “fancy hair-dos were just plain ugly.” Good job she had a set of Carmen rollers; I spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror trying to perfect the Farrah Fawcett flick a la Charlie’s Angels – and half a canister of Elnet. My flick was nothing compared to Rachel Sadler’s, whose blonde tresses were sprayed into magnificent, solid waves.

One day, aged fifteen, I decided to take matters into my own hands and get my hair cut – only shoulder-length mind – but it was a significant moment. My dad greeted me in the hallway and burst into tears, “My little girl has cut off her beautiful hair! She’s all grown up!” Embarrassed beyond belief, I marched through the house swinging my new shiny bob tied back with a cotton bandana.

“Oh Dad, of course I’m grown up! Duh!”

A trip to the cinema in 1976 to see ‘A Star is Born’ starring Barbra Streisand changed my hairstyle for the next decade. In the film, she wore her blonde tresses in a soft curly-perm which I thought was the most exciting, sexy looking hair I’d ever seen. Luckily for me, Steiner hair salon in Birmingham city centre were advertising for perm models, so I took a seat, lit a cigarette and strutted out four hours later with a halo of tight curls and an afro comb.  I looked perfectly ridiculous and nothing like beautiful Barbra.

On a trip back to the States with my dad to visit my grandparents in the summer of ’78, I stepped from the plane in my high-heeled sandals and perm, which immediately caught the attention of my conservative, Southern grandmother.

Dad, Andrea …and perm.

“Your shoes are just tacky and your hair – well, there’s nothin’ I can do about your hair!”

She had a point.

As disco stirred-up a veritable Night Fever on dance floors in the late ’70s, my curly-perm took on even greater, pretentious proportions; it even had its own routine! Beneath the mirror balls and strobing lights of Birmingham’s clubs and wine bars, my hair held centre stage, glistening with gold  spray. As I sashayed along Corporation Street one afternoon to the bus stop – my perm radiating sophistication – I was approached by a sleazy photographer offering me work as a model for ladies underwear. My perm bubble was burst.

Andrea’s True Disco Connection.

The ’70s gave way to the ’80s, heralding my Liza Minelli era with a short crop which went to my head and announced my arrival at university to study Performance Arts, where I felt emboldened to take to the stage as a jazz singer with a new, sassy confidence.

Andrea – Life is a Cabarellnet.

By the mid 1980s trends were changing as the age of BIG hair arrived, influenced by TV shows such as Dynasty and executed with a tonne of mousse and attitude.  With hair as wide as my huge shoulder pads, I strutted around the office in power suits and towering heels  that Alexis Carrington Colby would have been proud of; until my hair caught fire as I lit a cigarette.

A pixie crop followed –  it was a lot safer.

These days, I keep my fine, grey hair short and think of my mother as it still tangles at the drop of a hat.                                                               

(Copyright: Andrea Burn)