Category Archives: Life

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)

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – gordon is a moron.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*

Diary

Friday 15th March 1974 – (aged 15 – towards end of 4th Year)

I think I’m in love!

I don’t mean some forlorn schoolboy crush like for Miss Hunter – no, this is proper breathing onto the palm of my hand for traces of halitosis type of ‘in love.’ And liberal applications of Valderma ointment.

Valderma – for effective treatment of plooks!

Her name is Pilar. That’s Spanish, by the way. For ‘pillar.’ Though I don’t suppose you’d have to be a language teacher to work that one out.  In Catholic tradition it refers to a ‘marble pillar connected with an appearance of the Virgin Mary.’ I know. I looked it up.

Pilar and her family came to Scotland from Chile. They left their homeland when General Pinochet took over the country in a military coup. Things are looking bad over there. People are being murdered in the streets by the army.

It’ll be about six weeks since we first chatted – her first day in school. She’s quiet spoken and pretty shy. In fact, just pretty, full stop. Demure. I got that word from the Jane Austen books we have to read in English. Yeah, ‘demure.’ That’s Pilar. And pretty. Did I say ‘pretty?’

I have no idea why she seems to like me. Maybe because I was one of the first to welcome her? Her English isn’t great so maybe because I’ve borrowed my parent’s BBC ‘Zarabanda’ LP and try to speak her lingo? Maybe it’s because I make her laugh?

Zarabanda – BBC Records.

I seem able to do these last two at the same time: today I thought I was complimenting her wavy, light brown hair (pelo) but told her I loved her money (pela.) She laughed, in a kindly, sympathetic kind of way.

We’re not ‘going out’ or anything – just hang out at break / lunch. She comes to watch me play football – even just ‘playground football.’  (Being from South America, she’ll know a good football player when she sees one!)

I got pulled up by Miss Fisher for not concentrating in Maths class and looking out the window to the classroom below where Pilar was sat by the window smiling and waving to me. I got such a beamer’ when the teacher realised why my attention was not on my books and then told the class! It was one of those ‘reading-glasses-steam-up’ and ‘shirt-sticks-to-your-back,’ types of brassneck!

Wednesday 10th April 1974 – (still aged 15 – closer to end of 4th Year.)

I’m an idiot! A complete and utter choob!

I’ve been so wrapped up in my athletics and football, I simply didn’t see this coming. Practicing keepie-uppie this evening, I noticed a couple walking slowly and in silence through the woods at the back of my garden. It was Gordon. In his stupid, long, blue, ex-RAF Great Coat type thing! He probably had a poxy Gentle Giant album tucked under his free arm, I didn’t notice. My gaze didn’t stray past his other arm – he was holding hands with …. with ….. Pilar!

How could she be so cruel and heartless? To pack me for Gordon? (OK, technically, as I said, we weren’t ‘going out.’ But even so! I mean – I know I’m not exactly cool and trendy, but he’s a moron!

At least they weren’t laughing at me. Far from it. Gordon just stared straight ahead. Couldn’t look me in the eye. The git!

Pilar though … dearest Pilar. She noticed me alright and keeping her free hand by her side, gave a wee discreet wave. As she passed she turned her head, her luxuriant brown locks swirling over her opposite shoulder like a model in a Harmony Hairspray advert. She smiled sweetly.

Harmony hairspray.

Without their usual sparkle, though, her brown eyes belied the happiness of her lips.

She looked sad. I’m sad.

I’m devastated actually – not least because I was within reach of my keepie-uppie personal best of 957 when I dropped the ball.

This is all my own stupid fault, though. You know the expression: ‘You snooze, you lose.’ Well I slept – and I wept.

(Nah, not really. I didn’t actually cry – that would‘ve been a bit pathetic and melodramatic, wouldn’t it?  Anyway there’s no chip shop close by.)

Thursday 25th April 1974 – (still aged 15, but it’s been a long two weeks. O’Levels looming.)

Pilar and I have remained friends Why not? She continues to melt my heart. She still seeks me out in the playground. Yet, despite all the positive, almost pleading signs, I’ve still not worked up the courage to ask her ‘out’ out. What the hell is wrong with me?!  – That must truly be 8th Dan Black Belt in Stupidity, right there! What an absolute pillock!

You’d think I’d have learned from my first Lesson in Love.

This is Pimply Kid.
Pimply Kid is a dork.
Pimply Kid bottled asking just one simple question.
Just ask the goddamned question!
Don’t be a dork.
Don’t be like Pimply Kid!

FOOTNOTE #1: Pilar and her family only remained in Scotland for a few months and by summer, she’d moved on again.

FOOTNOTE #2: About thirty years later, while writing for a music magazine, I became friendly with a couple of bands from Chile. I asked them about Pilar. They’d never heard of her. Seems Chile is a pretty big place.

FOOTNOTE #3: Because of Pilar; because of the bands Spiral Vortex and Follkzoid, and because I was playing with the Chile Subbuteo team when I first heard a Rory Gallagher record : for those very three reasons, I feel an affinity and love for the country and fly their flag above the turret on the east wing of the house.*

*This last bit may be slightly made up.  

Pilar, ella fue mi primer amor. Viva Chile!

when i’m sixty-four

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

Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles were one of the most celebrated and prolific song writing duo of the last century. Theirs is the best known and most successful musical collaboration ever by records sold.

Unlike many songwriting partnerships that comprise a separate lyricist and composer, such as George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein or Elton John and Bernie Taupin, both Lennon and McCartney wrote lyrics and music.

To single out just one exemplar from their vast catalogue of popular hits would be extremely onerous………………………………. but they did write some absolute crap !

Yellow Submarine, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and Maxwell’s Silver Hammer are some prime examples of the shit that they could produce.

But right up there must be When I’m Sixty Four.

Like my fellow ‘born in 58’ followers of this fine blog, I turn that age at the end of this month.

When I’m Sixty Four was released on the 26th of May, 1967 on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. To give John Lennon credit, his only contribution to the song was the addition of the lines ‘grand children on your knee’ and ‘Vera, Chuck and Dave’.

McCartney claims he wrote the song when he was 14 in 1956. Rock and Roll was just on the periphery of his life and this was a ‘cabaret minded’ ditty.

To put thing in perspective, here are a few fellow alumni of le club soixante-quatre.

 Musicians Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Andrea Bocelli and Kate Bush. Actors Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone and Peter Capaldi.

Those turning 64 when the song was released where actors Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Claudette Colbert. Writers George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh. Musicians Earl Hines and Bic Beiderbecke and Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home.

And 64 when the song was apparently written – Basil Rathbone, Oliver Hardy, Margaret Rutherford, Mary Pickford, Eddie Cantor, Jack L. Warner, Gummo Marx and a couple of world leaders/dictators Francisco Franco and Josip Broz Tito !

And for the record :

  • I’m not losing my hair.
  • I don’t and never have received Valentines.
  • I do celebrate birthdays with bottles of wine as well as anniversaries, Christmas, Easter, special occasions and any other day with the letter ‘D’ in it !
  • I’m barely still up at midnight.
  • We don’t lock the door anyway.
  • Mrs A still needs me (for retrieving things off high shelves and opening jam jars mainly)
  • She still feeds me – a bit too well if I’m honest.
  • I think I could probably still mend a fuse.
  • Mrs A doesn’t knit
  • I don’t wear sweaters anyway.
  • Any Sunday morning rides are on my motor scooter.
  • I can still manage a bit of gardening if my back isn’t playing up.
  • Never got to the Isle of Wight.
  • I do live in a cottage though.
  • Scrimp and save ? Don’t get me started !
  • No grandchildren on my knee.
  • Vera, Chuck and Dave didn’t materialise.
  • What’s a postcard ?
  • I’m not filling in any forms !
  • Yes I’m 64 – now FUCK OFF !!!

life with dad:”say what, bub?”

Life with Dad : “Say What, Bub?”

(Sketches from a 1970s family)

by Andrea Burn

This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, places, events and incidents in this work are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. 

1972

A typical 1930s semi at the end of a cul-de-sac in Birmingham West Midlands, where a gauche American family from the Deep South have recently moved in their pursuit of Merry England.

Meet the Family

Dougie Puckett – early 40s: all-American Dad,  husband and teacher. Hapless DIY enthusiast with a propensity for profanity,which he tries in vain to disguise from the kids.

Martha Puckett – 38: genteel Southern Belle, wife and mother with expectations beyond her means.

Melvin – 17:  ‘A’ Level Maths student; into classical music. 

Randy – 15: typical teenager;  into The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, basketball and teasing his sister.

Phoebe – 12: teenybopper and annoying kid sister.

Piddle – Randy’s German Shepherd dog

Frisky – Phoebe’s cat.                                                                                

***

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

5pm one weekday afternoon. Dougie is painting the old, dark upright piano in the dining room with magnolia gloss. There is paint splattered everywhere – especially on Dougie.  Randy has just come home from school. He throws back the dining room door and chucks his satchel on the floor.  Incredulous, he gapes at Dougie.

“Dad – you’ve painted the piano white.” 
“That’s not white boy – that’s cream. Now it won’t stick out in the room so far.” 
“ Yeah right – you’ll never notice it.”    

Martha glides into the room. She looks thoughtfully at Dougie holding the paintbrush.        

“Shame you can’t paint the vomit coloured tiles on that old fireplace. I feel nauseous just looking at them.”


“Good one, Mom! Vomit coloured tiles!” 
“I’m going to put my mother’s sliver candelabra on top of that piano.” 
“The silver candelabra! Well, bust my buttons! Soon we’ll be livin’ high-on-the-hawg! I’ll just dust down my dinner tux.”

 Dougie dances a little jig in the doorway. Phoebe interrupts as she stomps into the room, teetering on platform shoes.

“Dad – what have you done to my piano? You can’t just paint it! Mom – tell him! If the wood can’t breathe, it will drop its tone and then I can’t practise and then I’ll fail my Grade 3 piano exam!”
 “Mom, tell him! It’ll drop its tone.” Randy mimics his kid sister with great delight. 
 “Shut up Randy!” 
“Make me!” Randy creases up laughing. 
 “Mom!” 

 Martha intervenes with one of her ‘looks’ at Randy, who in turn smirks at Phoebe and makes a swipe at her.

“Alright you two, cut it out. Scoot and do your homework before dinner.”
“I don’t have any; Mr. Chopra said.” Phoebe shoots a smug look at her brother.
“Sure – like the time Mr. Chopra told you that the Hagley Road has a tidal wave that ripples under the tarmac twice a day from Five Ways to the Holly Bush.  And you believed him.” Randy laughs and taunts Phoebe.
“I did not so believe him!”
“Did.” 
“Did not too.”
“Did so. You LOVE Mr. Chopra!”“Do not! Dad – tell Randy to stop it! He’s being gross.” 

Dougie is admiring his paintwork. He hasn’t been listening.

“I’m going to start in the hallway. Son, go into the garage and get me the can of magnolia emulsion. It’s in there somewhere.”

“What are you gonna paint now Dad?”

“I’m gonna paint over that ugly son-of-a-gun wallpaper. Who in their right mind would put purple wallpaper with brown and orange triangles on it on the dog-gone walls?”

Randy goes in search of the paint. Martha is now gawping at the hallway wallpaper as she smooths her apron.

 “That sure is THE ugliest wallpaper I ever saw in my life. I declare, it’s just tacky.  My mother would have a conniption fit if she could see it.”
“Your mother? What in tarnation has she got to do with the wallpaper?”

Martha pulls a frown.

“Well – you would never see anything so tasteless in a real Southern home.” 
“Honey, I can’t turn this crock-of-bull, 1930s semi into a Southern home with a dad-gum front porch and chandelier; but I’m doin’ my level best to put a hell-ova  tonne of gloss on it.”

Randy returns with the can of paint and gives it to Dougie, who opens it and gets straight down to work; splashing paint straight over the wallpaper – no preparation.  Martha looks on.

“Don’t you need to take the old wallpaper off first honey?”
 “Nah – just painting straight over the top; a couple of coats ought-a do it.”

Piddle trots past; getting dog hair stuck in the fresh paint.

 “Son-of-a-gun! I swear – that hound…”
 “Now Dougie – not in front of the children.”
“Well, dad-blasted! One day that dawg will listen to me!” 

Phoebe stomps upstairs and slams her bedroom door.  Soon strains of David Cassidy can be heard seeping from her room on her transistor radio.  Randy puts Led Zeppelin 11: Whole Lotta Love on the record player in the dining room.  He takes school books out of his satchel and sits at the table.  Dougie whistles in the hallway while he continues smothering the wall with paint as Melvin descends half-way downstairs with a pained expression.

“Dad – can you get Randy to turn that crappy music down? I’m trying to describe Newton’s method for obtaining successive approximations to the root of an equation!”

 Melvin troops back upstairs and pounds his fist on Phoebe’s bedroom door.

“Hey Phoebe – turn that crap off!  I’m trying to study!”
“Son – we’ll have less of that goddam language.” 

 Melvin rolls his eyes as he slams his bedroom door. The can of paint is nearly knocked over by Piddle, who tears through the hallway as she chases Frisky upstairs.

 “Cheesus Randy! Come get your son-of-a-gun dawg and put her outside! And turn that dad-gum wah-wah music off! Melvin’s right – a man can’t have any peace around here.”
“It helps me concentrate, Dad.”

Dougie sticks his head into the dining room, jabbing the air with his dripping paintbrush.

“In my day, we had REAL music – the greats: Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington.”  

 Randy sings under his breath.


“Doo-be-doo-be-doo.”
 “I’ll give you doo-be-doo-be-doo if you don’t get that S.O.B dawg outta here.”

Martha calls from the kitchen.


 “Dinner’s ready!”

Piddle thunders downstairs, skids past the freshly painted wall and lands at Martha’s feet. She pats the dog’s head,

“Good girl.”

 She puts a bowl of food down for the dog, washes her hands and calmly wipes them on her apron as Dougie shakes his dripping paintbrush at the dog. Martha wags her finger at Dougie,

“Don’t say it! I declare – what a mess. Go and get cleaned up. And DON’T come down in your under-shirt for supper!”
“Yes Ma’am!”

Dougie kisses Martha playfully on her cheek and winks at Randy. He whistles as he trots upstairs to get changed for dinner. 

***

Martha is in the kitchen, serving plates of spaghetti bolognaise to each family member in turn.

  “Here Phoebe – use both hands honey. Don’t spill it.”
  “Oh Mom, I can do it.” 

Phoebe snatches her dinner plate, turns swiftly into the hallway and watches with horror as the spaghetti slides off.  As if in slow motion, the spaghetti is suspended in mid-air for a moment before splatting on the white carpet. Dougie, who has come downstairs in a clean shirt, dances an exaggerated jig in the hallway as he chants, 

“It’s one step forward and two steps back for this family. One step forward and two steps back!”

Martha looks on in horror at the splattered spaghetti.

“Not my white carpet!” 
“Sorry Mom.”
“Dadgummit Phoebe, hand me the Ajax.”  

 Dougie rolls back his sleeves and begins scrubbing on his hands and knees. Piddle barges between him and the stairs and begins ravenously eating the spaghetti on the carpet.

 “Randy! How many times have I gotta tell ya to come get your filthy dawg outta here before I send her dad-gum butt to kingdom come!”  


Randy sneaks a string of spaghetti to Piddle before dragging her by the collar into the dining room.

“Not near the goddam piano son! Cheesus H!” 

Melvin takes his plate of dinner with a look of disdain and turns to his sister.

 “Phoebe, you’re such a child.”
 “Am not! I’m nearly thirteen!”
 “Yea, Pheeb; such a dweeb.” Randy grins. 

 Phoebe sulks as Martha gives her another plate of food.

“I know, I know. Don’t spill it! As if…”
“Don’t speak to me like that young lady, or I’ll…”

Dougie interjects. 

“Or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap. That’s what your grandfather used to do to me and by God it worked.” 

Phoebe stomps off into the dining room, sits at the table and sulks; her chin cupped in her hands.

“Why does everyone in this family hate me?” 


 Melvin leans across his plate.

“Because you’re a brat.”

The family sit down to dinner when the cat saunters backwards down the hallway, retching as it goes. It passes the dining room door, slowly vomiting up an entire large bird. Dougie recoils in disgust. 

“Cheesus H! Son-of-a-bitch cat! I’ve just washed my hands!”                                                                                

Martha is distraught.

 “Not on my white carpet!”
“Phoebe – come get your goddam cat and put it outside! Son-of-a-gun, lousy, good-for-nothing… someone get me the rubber gloves and some newspaper, would ya? Dadgummit! –  is it too much to ask to eat dinner without one of these sons-of-bitches ruining it?” 

  Dougie’s face is starting to turn red. 

“Now honey, I know you’re upset but please watch your language in front of the children. I declare!” 

Dougie ignores the remark and rolls his sleeves back again, ready for action. He stands up from the table, throws down his napkin and walks purposefully into the hallway where he kneels to begin cleaning up the regurgitated bird. The kids leave the dinner table too and stand around gawping as Dougie mutters.

“One step forward and two steps back.”

diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – Focus on the Trees.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)

Diary

Wednesday 31st May 1972 – (aged 13, end of 2nd year)

Everyone today is talking about a band from Holland called Focus. They were on the Old Grey Whistle Test last night. Most in the Smokers Union shelter say how amazing that yodeling guy was. Some though, those I see wearing the ex-RAF great coats with an LP by the band stuck under their armpit, have a smug ‘told you’ smile and ignore our conversation.

Focus on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

It was very wet at PE time. Old Boot (gym teacher) decided it was too wet to play football. What?! This is Glasgow. Rangers, Celtic, Thistle, Clyde and Queens Park all manage to play ok.

Anyway – PE was switched indoors to the gym. Everyone has football boots – only a few also brought gym shoes. Those of us who hadn’t were lined up to get two of the belt! Old Boot got more exercise than any of us.

The tawse / belt / Lochgelly

Buses were late to pick us up at 4 o’clock. Had to stand out in the rain till they arrived. Trip home was a bit smelly.

Woods clearing ‘football pitch.’

Rain stops but did some studying for exams till teatime then out to the clearing in the woods for a game of football. Get chased by Mr McIlwham who says we shouldn’t be using trees as goalposts because they can feel the ball hitting against them. (Cuckoo!)  

Lucky we weren’t using a Mitre Mouldmaster, then is all I can say.

Mitre Mouldmaster

Well, that’s it – game’s a bogey! We tell Mr McIlwham that we’re off now to break some windows and scrawl graffiti.

See us kids, eh?!

Broken window
Graffiti

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – March 2022)

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diary of a pimply kid: memories of the late 60s & 70s – ‘Big’ School.

(*a little bit fact; a bit more fiction; much exaggerated.*)

Diary

Monday 10th August 1970 (aged 12 – only just.)

Didn’t finish my Ready Brek this morning – first day at big school, so tummy churning a bit. Been told all sorts of stories of what the 2nd Years would do to welcome us.

Excited about getting a bus to school. (You can read Paul’s wonderful account of this, here.)
Met pals at The Cooperative Shop in the village. Lots of the older boys from the village gang were there. I know several of them so it was ok even though they were a bit boisterous.

Bus – Alexander Midland

Tried to get on the top deck of the bus but seems there is some kind of hyer highera order about where you are meant to sit. Got bundled down to the lower deck. The conductress seemed a bit stressed.
“Sit down! No standing upstairs! Keep away from the open platform! Have you tickets and bus passes ready! I SAID NO STANDING UPSTAIRS!”

Stood around the main entrance with my pals until we were put into our classes. A few from my primary school are also in 1A. Boys and girls from four other schools are in my class. They look OK.

Bearsden Academy

In class, we have to copy down our timetable. When did I sign up for Latin?! Mum! Dad! What?!

It could be worse, I suppose – double English to start the week on a Monday morning. And double PE on Wednesday afternoon to finish – that’s good.

I am in Endrick House – I have to go to the annex for registration each morning before class.

Break-time and many pals are welcomed into Bearsden Academy by having their heads stuck down the toilet pan which is then flushed. There are some fights. Most just give in. I escape attention until afternoon break for some reason. The suspense is terrible.

School toilet

Eventually, I’m picked out, but my captors don’t drag me to the toilets. Instead, I’m carried to a drinking fountain and held over it by my arms and legs. I then had my trousers soaked, front and back, before a teacher chased the boys away.

First Latin lesson next – infectum bum I think is the translation.

Trousers still damp when I get home, so place them over the clothes horse in front of the fire.

Electric fire
Clothes horse.
Pilchards

Pilchards on toast for tea. Blech!  Out to play and swap footy cards with pals and tales of first day at big school.

It’ll be alright. I think.  

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what’s the glory, bedtime story?

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

I realise that in many of the articles I have produced for this fine blog Once upon a time in the 70s, I have been quite disparaging about my father. You could say ours was a fractious adult relationship. Even though I left the family home in my early 20s and the country 7 years later, the friction was always palpable.

A 6 week visit by my parents to Australia in the 90s was, to say the least, traumatic. My poor wife Pauline was almost driven to the point of breakdown and my mother the reluctant peacekeeper between her belligerent son and husband. Lets just say it didn’t end well and leave it at that.

Bare with me if you will while I give you a brief run down of my family. 

I’m the third of three sons – heir, spare and ……………..mistake or surprise as my dear old mum quickly corrected herself.

I’m named after my two grandfathers. John on my father’s side and Alwyn (pronounced Ol-win) on my mother’s. His full title was Walter Alwyn Cole-Adams. It was fashionable in the early 1900s to hyphenate names in England. My mother’s maiden name was Bernard-Smith, her father being Bernard Alphege Bernard-Smith. What a pretentious bunch of ass………ancestors !

My brothers got Michael and Murray and I was lumped with Alwyn !

I suppose it could have been worse. I could have been named Walter ! ‘Johnny Wally Allan’ – sounds like a rag doll.

I’m a bit of an amateur genealogist and nowhere can I find the name Alwyn in my family tree except Grandpa and I. My G-Gs must have picked it up on a holiday in Wales that lovely time the day they went to Bangor!

I don’t know why but as a schoolboy I was really embarrassed and ashamed by that name and kids being kids tormented me when they found out.

Although I’ve portrayed Pater in a fairly negative light, one thing I will say is he was a good father to me as a small child. Funny although embarrassing as he would recite great stanzas of poetry in a melodramatic, if not camp, way “The boy stood on the burning deck…” to much eye rolling. He was an English teacher after all!

Seeing my irrational stress at the taunting of my middle name, he would sit on the side of my bed and relate ‘The Adventures of Alwyn Alterplatz’. Completely unscripted he would launch into these wondrous tales until, totally relaxed, I would drift in to a peaceful slumber.

I don’t actually remember any of the story lines more the sense of warmth and security lulling me to sleep.

Many years later in a moment of truce he recalled these times and wondered what life would have been like if he had jotted down the stories with a view to it being published as children’s literature.

You probably would have been a lot more chilled out, wealthy perhaps and a hell of a lot easier to live with I thought to myself !

Time moves on, people pass and we all get that bit older, wiser and more comfortable with one’s moniker. The kindest thing to say about people is that they were a product of their time. I haven’t fathered children (that I’m aware of) so can’t speak of the parent/child relationship from that perspective.

I have often thought what it would be like to try and resurrect ‘Alwyn Alterplatz’ and whether I could do it justice. I’m not sure what young kids connect with these days. We’ve had wizard schoolboys, chocolate factories and the like or have i-phones and i-pads usurped the story telling role? I hope not.

So, dear reader, sit down with your grandchild (or even great grandchild) and start from the beginning.

‘Once upon a time……………..’

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girl scout

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

Girls Scouts parade.

I  joined the Junior Girl Scouts in the summer of ’69  mainly to eat their cookies and wear their uniform.  I had seen the Girl Scouts in parades: they looked so neat with badges and patches worn with pride on their sashes; their white gloves echoing their Southern mothers who still wore white gloves to formal events.  But it was those cookies that finally tempted me to join. They came in different varieties: Shortbread, Peanut Butter Sandwich and, my favourite, Chocolate Mint (like Viscount Creams). 

Girl Scouts – Cookie Sale.

I took three dozen cookies home to sell, “Sure – no problem!” I grew up on a college campus in Virginia where I could sell them to the students and earn a Girl Scout badge.  Trouble was, I liked them so much I ate all of the cookies; all sixty. My poor mother had to pay for them, so in a bid to help teach me the rules of the Girl Scout Law:

“I will do my best to be honest an fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong,
and responsible for what I say and do,
and to respect myself and others, respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place,
and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

..she  packed me off to Girl Scout camp.

The campsite was only about fifteen miles away in the back woods of the fabled Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia (near the trail of that lonesome pine) but remote enough for a group of  ten-year-olds to feel like we were really out in the wild! 

Scout camp – USA

Mom drove me and my good  friend Suzy to the camp and left us there with our small suitcases and sleeping bags. A hale and hearty woman greeted us and took us to our hut, where we would sleep with six other girls. But no time now for resting; all the girls met together beneath the open-sided barn, where we we shared hot dog duty to feed the troop, which involved standing in a line of girls as we each helped dole out hot dogs, coleslaw and potato salad. I decided that camp life wasn’t too bad after all. 

Later that evening after a couple of rounds of  camp fire songs and toasting marshmallows, we settled into our cabins and so to sleep; well, that’s what the hale and hearty scout leader assumed. 

Our camp beds were laid out around the perimeter of the wooden hut and amidst shrieks of giggles we all tried each bed until we had ‘claimed’ our own. I unrolled my new sleeping bag which my parents had given me recently for my ninth birthday. It was so cool: covered in ‘Love and Peace’ signs and slogans like ‘Make Love Not War’. I noticed with glee that none of the other girls had such an outstanding sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags. Andrea’s had a hippy-look pattern, similar to that below.

After dark, once we had begun to settle down, I needed to visit the ladies room, which was a hole in the ground inside a small wooden outhouse back in the woods.  Our counsellor insisted we always visit the outhouse in twos  for safety and to remember the girl scout motto: ‘Be Prepared.’ Prepared for what? There were rumours of grizzly bears in the woods – and snakes. As Suzy and I traipsed out into the night in our pyjamas and bathrobes with a flash-light, we twitched at the sound of our own footsteps.

 “Shh! What was that? Oh Jeepers Creepers and Jiminy Cricket!” 

 We took it in turns to tackle the outhouse while the other one propped the rickety door shut with a foot.  I hardly dared crouch in the shed for fear of snakes, black widow spiders and ants.

Suddenly Suzy screamed! “There – over there – a shadow!” I screamed too and soon our little troop of girl scouts tumbled out of the hut as they came to investigate. Head mischief-maker, Patsy, sneaked around behind the outhouse and gave it a shove; causing it to wobble and Suzy to lose her foothold. The outhouse door swung open and I scrambled out pulling up my pyjama bottoms.  Up ahead came the hale and hearty scout leader, who escorted us  back to our hut and told us firmly to go to sleep! Not so hale and  hearty now.

Back in the hut as we pushed our camp beds together to form a circle, I decided that we should hold a séance. Not that I knew much about them other than watching B movies on TV. Huddled together with only our flash-lights shining upwards into our faces (very ghostly), I asked the question: 

Girl with face lit by torchlight.

 “Is there anybody there?”   

 “Noooo,” came a muffled voice from beneath a sleeping bag. 

“Someone tell Tanya to shut up!”  I threw my pillow at Tanya.

 “You tell her!” 

 A pillow fight ensued with lots of shouting, more shrieks of laughter and feathers flying. The scout leader suddenly poked her head through the hut door.

  “Girls! Get to sleep!” 

 “Wait! Lets levitate Suzy!” I whispered. (My scant knowledge of levitation was gleaned from a pyjama party at a friend’s house, where her big sister got us all to try and levitate each other.) When each girl (except for Darlene) had placed two fingers underneath Suzy, who lay stretched out on the floor, we counted “one, two, three” and tried to levitate her. Nothing happened.

 Darlene, in a tremulous tone,  said we “shouldn’t be messin’ with such thangs” and that “we was goin’ against the Good Lord – AND the Girl Scout Promise.” She stood and proceeded to recite the promise to the rest of us:

 “On my honour, I will try:
To serve God and my country.
To help people at all times,
and to live by the Girl Scout law.”

We ignored her. “One, two three…” Suzy was a dead weight.  As we collapsed into a heap: snorting and trying to stifle our giggles, Darlene suddenly took it upon herself to bring us to heel right there in the middle of the hut to somehow make amends for this blasphemous prank.

 “Awl right girls; I’m gonna’ ask you to tell me when you first found Our Lord Jesus.” She shot me a look. “Andrea – you go first. When ‘zaclty did you become a Christian?”

I looked blankly at Darlene. What on earth?  I couldn’t think; when did I become a Christian? Jeeze, I don’t know. I was beginning to sweat now: although I had been baptised as a baby I had only ever helped in the crèche at church on Sunday mornings while my parents attended the service.  I liked to look after the babies because the sweet lady who ran the crèche was our babysitter, Mrs. Johnson, and would give me candy.  What if God knew this?

 “Well,” I stammered, “ I was baptised as a baby. Does that count?”

 “Yes, Praise Be!   Your soul has been saved by the Awl-mighty! Hallelujah!”

 Without warning, the Scout Leader stuck her head into the hut again. 

 “What is going on in here?” She eyed us suspiciously.

Darlene spoke up: “Andrea was holdin’ a séance and tryin’ to git us to levitate Suzy!” Darlene looked smug. “ I was tryin’ to save her soul.”

“Levitate Suzy? A seance? Oh my!”  The scout leader ordered me and Suzy out of the hut, told us we were a disgrace to our troop and not fit to be Girl Scouts. We were  EXPELLED forthwith (well, after that night) from the Girl Scouts for immoral behaviour! She would be informing our mothers at first light! (How, without mobile phones, I’m not sure.)   Before I left, I put a daddy long-legs in Darlene’s sleeping bag. 

As Suzy and I sat in the back of her mother’s station wagon on the drive home through the mountains, we had ample opportunity to “consider our behaviour”.  Although we were sad that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to go sailing, swimming and horse riding and earn all those badges, we were  relieved that we would never have to tackle the outhouse again. 

Andrea, age 9, at Scout Camp.
Girls Scouts USA – badges.

When I got home  Mom and I had the ‘talk’ in the kitchen as I enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. 

 “And what are you sorry for honey?” Mom was always gentle.

 I was sorry that I would never now be able to wear my sash and white gloves.

Mom sent me to my room. What she didn’t know was that I had hidden a secret small stash of those delicious, Chocolate Mint, Girl Scout cookies…

( Copyright: Andrea Burn -21st February 2022)

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