Category Archives: Hobbies

Anyone For ……

John Allan, Bridgetown WA, July 2021

I always associated Wimbledon with school summer holidays.
I never played tennis. There was what I assumed an ancient tennis racket hanging up in my Dad’s garage (it could have been a snow shoe come to think of it.).
We would dislodge it from it’s rusty nail and blow off the cobwebs.
As there was only one (from a one legged Inuit perhaps ?) we were more likely to use it in our improvised interpretation of rounders than tennis. It was also too heavy to lift above our heads (unleashing the huskies might have helped !)

Tennis wasn’t for the likes of us anyway. It was for posh Laurel Bank girls called Catriona and Ffiona who wouldn’t look at comprehensive school adolescent boys sideways. There was a tennis club hidden in a leafy lane near Bearsden Cross but they would set the dogs on you if they thought you were an outsider from Courthill or Castlehill.

Tennis was the telly for us so in the summer in 1971 I sat there watching as two Australians were competing in the Wimbledon ladies final.
One was the dour faced Margaret Court (now Pentecostal minister and public homophobe) and the other, 19 year old Aboriginal girl Evonne Goolagong.

I wasn’t sure what an ‘Aboriginal’ was back then but I thought she looked quite cute and I must admit, had a bit of a teenage crush on her. The rest is history and ‘my girl’ took the trophy.


She was prominent in finals and semifinals for the rest of the decade and won her second Wimbledon in 1980.
Six years later I was to land in the country of Ms Goolagong’s ancestors and I’ve lived here ever since.

This week Australians celebrate NAIDOC. For those of you north of Darwin, it stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week long event in 1975. If I was cynical I would say it’s a week were privileged white folk pretend to be concerned about the plight of the first nations’ people and then ignore their issues for the next 51 weeks but the official line is it celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.

It’s fitting that Ash Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman should pick up the mantle from Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a proud Wikadjuri woman, some fifty years later.

……….and haven’t snow shoes improved over the last half century !

making a hash of things.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021

Silence.

Our parents would often demand it, but soon as they got it, they became suspicious. Worried, maybe.

And so it would be. I’d be playing quietly and thoughtfully in my bedroom on a wet and miserable day, and Mum would poke her around the door:

“You’re awful quiet,” she’d say, the distrust in her tone strikingly obvious even to a ten year old. “What are you doing?”

“Building a fort,” I’d reply in all innocence, draping a bedsheet over the two stools I’d earlier hauled up from the kitchen. Another blanket would be hanging over a couple of empty boxes, retrieved from the garage. “So’s I can repel the hordes of marauding raiders who are trying to steal my pots of gold.”

My vocabulary and imagination were infinitely better than my construction skills.

“That sounds like fun, dear.”

And it was.

For that’s how we rolled in the late Sixties and Seventies. It was the era of making our own fun.

It was the era for making everything.

From a very early age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to become involved with tending the garden.’ Modern day slavery,’ is how I think it’s now referred to.

We’d each be allocated a little plot to tend. We’d have to plant seeds, grow flowers and vegetables and learn the ethos and rewards of hard work.

I hated it! Rona’s plot always looked way tidier than mine. ‘Outside’ was for playing in, not working, was how I looked at it. I was rubbish.

Our garden wasn’t all that big, but my dad had it organised to maximise the space, and so we had a few rows of redcurrant bushes. These produced loads of fruit every year and of course my sister and I would be roped into the ‘harvest.’

With the berries collected, mum would then boil them and add ‘stuff’ then pour the mix into what looked like an old sock hung from the washing pulley in the kitchen. The smell was so sickly sweet, I wanted to barf for days on end.  Gradually though, over the next day or so, the liquid would drip into a bowl, then scooped into jars onto which a handwritten sticker was adhered.

‘Redcurrent jelly’ it said – as if we needed reminding.

To get away from the smell, I’d try to spend as much time as possible in the living room. But that wasn’t easy either. I’d have to tip toe through acres of tracing paper spread over the floor. And listening to the television was well nigh impossible. The volume controls back then barely went to ‘five’ never mind ‘eleven’ and so offered no competition to the constant ‘takka takka takka’ of the Singer sewing machine as mum rattled out another bloody home-made trouser suit for wearing to the neighbour’s Pot Luck / fondue party that coming weekend.

Crimplene was the favoured material, I believe.

I think I’m right in saying that girls at my school were offered sewing, if not dress making as part of their Home Economics course. Us blokes weren’t given the option – just as at that time, girls were not thought to be interested in woodwork and metalwork.

My four year old cousin, Karen, certainly wasn’t interested in my woodwork, that’s for sure. I made her a boat, all lovingly painted and everything. It sank in her bath. Sank! It was made of balsa wood for goodness sake!

It takes a special type of cretin to make a balsa wood boat that sinks.

And metalwork! Whose whizz-bang idea was it to have several classes of fourteen year old boys make metal hammers to take home at the end of term? The playground crowds quickly scattered that afternoon, I can tell you.

My effort was dismal.  

“Thanks very much,” said my dad, in a voice just a little too condescending for my liking as I presented it to him. But that was okay. We both knew I was total pants at making things.

Having evidenced my cack-handed attempts at simply gluing together several pieces of labelled and numbered bits of plastic to form the shape of a Lancaster Bomber, his expectations were naturally low.

I know – how hard can it be to assemble an Airfix model? To be honest, while I enjoyed looking at those my dad made on my behalf, I had more fun from letting the glue harden on my fingers and then spend ages peeling it back off to examine my fingerprints.

Yup – THAT’S how much I enjoyed making things.

It came as no surprise then, that Santa never brought me a Meccano set. By the age of ten, it had become obvious spanners and me would never get along – no need for me to screw the nut.  

For a while, I did consider there was something wrong with me. Every other kid I knew was into making stuff. It was The Seventies – it’s what children did; it’s what they (I’d say ‘we’ but I’d be lying) were actively encouraged to do.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

I tried that once. A Christmas decoration it was. A decoration to hang over the Christmas table; made from coat-hangers; and candles. And you’d light the candles. It would be joyous.

“Hark!” The herald angels would sing.

“FIRE!” The herald angels actually screamed.

I know NOW I should have used fire-proof tinsel. I’m almost sixty-three. I’m not stupid. But then I was ten. And impatient. Ten year old boys cut corners. And anyway, how was I supposed to make a surprise for the family if I was to give the game away by asking my folks if they had / could get some fire retardant tinsel?

At least they still got a surprise of sorts.

Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves had a lot to answer for.

Other than pyrotechnic Christmas decorations, they encouraged us to make models with Lego; less structured and more wobbly ones with plasticine; scrap books; hammocks for dolls; cakes for birds; puppets from old socks; pencil cases from washing up liquid bottles and even cat beds from washing-up bowls.

I did try, truly I did. But I was hopeless. A lost cause. Never has anyone said to me,

“Wow! That’s awesome!” when I’ve showcased my handiwork.

Just the other day, I prepared a meal. I threw some leftover corned beef, potatoes and onions into a pan and fried them through. I didn’t think it was burnt as such, but my wife screwed up her face and stared at it rather disapprovingly.

Without even the merest hint of irony she looked up and said …. well, I think you probably know what she said!



**********

Road To Nowhere

John Allan: Bridgetown WA, June 2021

After the 1821 census, Glasgow’s population was greater than Edinburgh and so it appointed itself the moniker “Second City of the Empire”.
Statements of it’s great power, wealth and confidence could be seen all over the city in it’s fine Georgian and Victorian architecture. No more so than at Charing Cross, about a mile from the city centre.

In the 1960s the wise men of the Glasgow City Council and/or the Roads department thought it would be prudent to obliterate the Grand Hotel to the left and all the buildings to the right to dig a gigantic pit so that a major roadway could plough it’s way through the centre of the city. Thankfully Charing Cross Mansions (circa 1891) and the fountain were spared and are still standing today (below).

Fools to the left of me, jokers to the right…
Thank Christ they left this untouched!

In the mid 1970s, I would stroll up Sauchiehall Street from my workplace at Cuthbertsons in Cambridge Street to visit a school chum of mine, Colin, who worked in a hi-fi shop. This wasn’t your cheap and cheery discount warehouse sort of place. This was a top end salon for the discerning of supreme sound quality who had big spondulix to throw around. All woofers and tweeters and I’m not talking nature lovers. Think Bang & Olufsen and the like. This meant that Colin only saw one or two customers a day and welcomed my visits and wee chats. We might even slip out for a pint of real ale at the Bon Accord along the road. A warm and cosy little hostelry until you staggered outside to look down into the abyss as six lanes of motorway trundled by under your feet.

What were the planners thinking ?
Surely some sort of ring road around the city centre like other UK towns and cities would be preferable to the near destruction of an architectural gem a mere mile from the city’s heart ! “All those in favour of changing the motto from ‘dear green place’ to ‘trust in tarmac’ say aye.”

They even constructed an overpass which just halted mid air in front of some tenement buildings. Decades later ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’ was converted into offices but it still doesn’t disguise the folly.

Now you see it…
Now you don’t!

Compare that to another of my 70s haunts about 10 miles away (and less than 5 from the family home) on the A809 to Drymen.
The Carbeth Inn stood alone by the road in what I suppose was the gateway to rural Scotland even being that close to the city. Opened in 1816 and mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Rob Roy’ in 1817 it was a favourite with both bikers and hill walkers.

Every weekend it was wall to wall leathers or cagoules. Abercrombie and Kent versus Harley Davidson. A juke box tussle between ‘Get your motor runnin’….’ and ‘I love to go a wandering….’. I think I fitted into the latter category – I certainly wasn’t a biker as I couldn’t drive back then.

When I say bikers, it wasn’t gangs of tattooed knuckle dragging mouth breathers with matching sleeveless denim jackets…. no, it was more quantity surveyors and tax accountants called Torquil and Farquhar who squeezed themselves into tight leathers and revved up for the weekend. As some sort of right of passage motorbikes would scream pass the pub, some doing wheelies, before back tracking to the car park. There would be a lot of engine envy going on. I remember one poser running alongside his bike, hands on handle bar about to jump on when the bike stalled and he flipped over his machine much to the cheers and laughs of those congregated. He ‘tummled his wilkies’ as they may say in these parts.

Many years later as a student nurse in orthopaedics, I looked after a lad who took the bike bravado a bit too far and mistimed a corner near Carbeth. He carried a macabre folder of photographs and x-rays taken whilst in casualty. If you think part of a femur can’t pierce leather and stick out at 90° from the hip then I can assure you I’ve seen the grizzly evidence. And that was the leg the doctors managed to save. The other was amputated just below the knee.

I think I was part of the Venture Scouts although I don’t remember any initiation ceremony or sewing patches onto any uniforms. We did various activities including hill walking and sailing but inevitably ended up 6 to 8 of us crushed into the back of expedition leader Alan’s Jaguar XJ screaming along the A809 at breakneck speed (maybe that was the initiation ceremony). I remember the nervous laughter as I watched the trail of sparks as Alan launched his Jag over yet another bump in the road and the feeling of relief as we cruised into the Carbeth to take our place among the throng.

There were another group who mainly kept to themselves. The Hutters. After WW1 the local landowner Allan Barnes Graham permitted campers to set up on his land. Huts were developed after WW2 mainly for displaced people after the Clydebank Blitz and these were passed down to family members. Although very basic without electricity or running water these must have been havens for the working people of Glasgow and surrounds. I wonder what they thought of this intrusion to their local.

Meet the Hutters…

I hear now that the Carbeth Inn is no longer and has been replaced by a drive thru coffee shop. What with a clamp down on drink driving it was inevitable that such an iconic country pub would be a casualty.

I continued my walking into the 80s and would often traverse close to Carbeth. I’d like to think my love for the countryside (and real ale) was fostered on some of those walks now that I’ve got my own little bit of acreage far from the madding crowd – and a lifetime away from any motorway !

Born to be mild

careful! you’ll have someone’s eye out with that!

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)

“MUM! I’M GOING OUT TO PLAY!”

“Hold on dear,” the call would come back down the stairs.

So you’d wait, sat on the bottom step, fretting your pals outside wouldn’t be so patient and have moved on before you got out.

You’re not going out like that, are you?” your mum would ask when she finally appeared. “It’s far too cold, and it might rain later. Go to your room and put on a sweater. You’ll catch your death ….”

You’d sigh. Resistance would be futile, and time was critical if you were to catch your friends. Humour her – it can be tied around your waist soon as you’re around the corner, or used as a goalpost when you play football later, as you inevitably will.

“And remember to be back before it gets dark. And don’t talk to any strangers.”

“Yes mum. No mum.”

“What are you playing today?”

“Cowboys and Indians.”

“That’s nice. Let’s hope the Indians win, then,” she’d say with a smile.

“Of course they will,” you’d reply with the knowing, evil smirk of a James Bond villain.

“Just be careful, though, you could have someone’s eye out with that,” she’d casually offer as you picked up the home-made bow and arrows from the porch floor.

Perhaps she wasn’t unduly worried because you’d be an ‘Indian’ for the day. Being targeted by a ‘Cowboy’s cap-loaded pistol was not going to cause her little darling any grief. Maybe the mothers of those designated ‘cowboys,’ would have been more concerned.

But I doubt it.

The bow and arrows would have been made, very possibly, with the help and advice of your dad. From experience, he’d have known where to find the best, the sturdiest and yet the most willowy kind of stick to use for the bow; he’d have known the most durable twine to use and how best to thread and knot it onto the carefully selected twig or branch; he’s have known the optimum length of garden cane to use as arrows; he’d have known how to notch one end of the cane, without accidentally splitting it full length, so that it could be nocked onto the bow, ready for loosing.

Boy, could those canes fly! Swift and true, they were capable of travelling quite some distance, and leaving a mark on any unwary ‘cowboy.’

In truth though, the bow and arrow just looked more likely to cause human harm than they generally did.

Catapults, however …

Contrary to the romantic notion of Oor Wullie knocking PC Murdoch’s hat off with a well-aimed stone then scampering away, these things were properly dangerous!

Looking back, I have no idea how these could be sold as ‘toys.’ But they were, and when the little newsagent type shop in our village took in a supply during the late Sixties, there was a race down the hill from the primary school at lunchtime to get hold of one. The dining hall was a lonely place that afternoon.

The fad didn’t last long though, as the ensuing battles and damage to property (accidental or otherwise) led to Headmaster Thomson banning them from school and Janitor ‘Janny’ Mckay confiscating any he could get hold of.

Of course, by reverting to your dad’s impeccable knowledge of trees and twigs, and raiding your mum’s sewing basket for a length of elastic, you could still make a pretty effective one at home.

I don’t recollect Valerie Singleton or John Noakes giving any advice on this subject, though.

It wasn’t just boys who risked life and limb in pursuit of entertainment. How many young girls skinned their knees and elbows after falling to the pavement, ankles entangled in linked elastic bands, having attempted to jump some impossible height while playing Chinese Ropes?

Neither was it just dads who encouraged dangerous play. Mothers were at it too. They’d dig out an old stocking and suggest their daughter place a tennis ball or the like in the closed end and tie the other around an ankle. They could then spend endless hours of fun rotating the ball like a helicopter blade and hopping / jumping over it.

Endless hours at A&E, more like. I can’t believe this was actually fashioned into a proper toy

I’d be really interested in the A&E stats for the late Sixties and Seventies, regards children being treated for ankle injuries. How many times did you fall off these?

They may only be a few inches in height, but if you weren’t so good coordinating lifting the string and your foot at the same time (more difficult than it sounds if I remember correctly) you’d happily settle for a twist rather than a break.

In fact, the cans were really just a training aid to wooden stilts. I had a pair made for me by my Grandfather. I eventually mastered them, but not after slipping and impaling my ribs on them several times.

And our parents allowed, nay, actively encouraged all this?

Cans had infinitely more dangerous uses, though. Especially those like Cremola Foam that had press-on lids. Our parents, in all fairness, may have been a bit suspicious and wary had we asked if there was any spare petrol, or more likely, paraffin, lying about the shed. So a little bit subterfuge was required if we fancied experimenting with our own firebomb.

It wasn’t exactly rocket science, though it may have ultimately given that impression – fill the can with paraffin; replace the tin lid; draw straws to see what muppet was going to place the tin in the bonfire; retreat and wait.

And run like Gump when you heard the sound of sirens.

I know – fire. It holds some weird, primitive fascination for blokes, I have no idea why. But just watch at the next barbeque you attend. It’s sad, really.

Cars and DIY command similar allure in the male psyche. (Well, I discount myself from that assertion – I’m not like other guys, as Michael Jackson said in the video for ‘Thriller.’)  

“Darling, don’t you think we should clear out the garage, so we can get the car in? That pram can go for a start – Junior’s eight years old now!”

“No, no no! We can’t get rid of the pram! He’ll need the wheels for his first bogey.”

“’He’ll need them? Or you? OK – but the stroller can go then.”

“Most definitely not – everyone knows that a class bogey has smaller wheels at the front than the back!”

“Yes, dear…..” Sigh!

Bogey racing. You were sat in a seat, less than a foot off the ground, and steered the wooden contraption with your feet in the front axle. Or maybe you tied a bit of plastic washing line to the axle instead and pulled on it for direction change.

You’d swear you were travelling at ‘a hundred miles an hour’ and your ‘brake’ was whatever immoveable object lay in your path.

And our parents encouraged this?!

I was never very good at stopping, hence my bogeys would always have a very short shelf life. It was the same with roller skates – several neighbours’ garden hedges had small, boy-sized holes in them!

The most fearsome toy though, has to be these.

What idiot thought it’d be a wizard idea to fit heavy springs to a base of metal and expect some daft kid who’d been reading too many Beano comics, strap their feet onto them, believing they could jump high enough to see over the wall and watch the football match for free?

Mine didn’t even have a wooden base as shown in the picture. The metal springs contacted directly onto the tarmac of the pavement.

Spring-heeled Jackson? I don’t think so.

There was only ever going to be one outcome. However the spirit and determination of youth meant it was two boxes of Band Aid and a tube of Germoline before it dawned there was no point fighting the un-fightable.

None of the above struck me at the time as being dangerous or a hazard to health – well, maybe the firebomb. But then neither did my parents. Unless of course, the just didn’t actually care.

Yet, I’ll wager most, if not all, those activities are either barred or at best actively discouraged nowadays.

*****

 “MUM! I’M GOING ONLINE NOW!”

“That’s nice dear – what are you playing?

“Apocalypse of Hate.”

 “You know your dad has an old bow, arrows and catapult you can play with ….?”

*****

badgers

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)

A badger prepares to secret his stash of buttons, pins and patches.

Did you know that collectors of badges are called badgers?

Probably not – because they aren’t. I just made that up because it was a quick, rather obvious and, most likely, futile attempt at raising a smile.

No – collectors of patches or badges are actually called ‘scutelliphiles.’ This is distinct from those whose collections lean more to pin and button badges, and are referred to as ‘falerists.’

Who knew? Who cares?

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who, as kid in the mid to late Sixties was excited to wear badge that defined a love of something. It was a case of wearing your heart on your lapel.

Or perhaps the badges worn were a display of pride; acknowledgement of some achievement or other.

Whether we pinned them on, or peeled off the paper and stuck them on; whether our Mums sewed them on, or ironed them on, badges were a reflection of our personality.  

They were talking points – conversation starters. And as we grew older and bolder and into the mid-Seventies, they became funny. Cheeky. And ultimately with the Punk revolution, they became controversial, political and offensive.

Whether it proved you could ride a bike, had joined the Brownies or sought anarchy and chaos, a simple badge became a cheap, colourful fashion accessory that could possibly lead to a date … or get your head kicked in.

Oh how we loved our buttons, pins, patches and stickers.

*****

I think this would have been the first button badge I owned.

It was given to Primary One pupils, along with a toothbrush, by the local Health Authority, sponsored by a leading toothpaste brand . (I’m guessing Colgate judging by the colour scheme on the badge.)

Then again, perhaps this was first. I don’t know how I cam about the badge, but apparently the Tingha and Tucker Club at one point had over 750,000 members and ultimately had to close down because it was unable to cope with the demand!

The show ran from 1962 through the decade until 1970.

This Tufty Club badge, I’ll bet, will be the one most readers will have been awarded early on in their Primary education.

Watching the video below took me right back to the dining hall at Westerton Primary, with throw-down zebra crossings and little pedal cars.

Book-ending The Tufty Club, in our mid to late primary years, we were awarded this enamel badge of honour if we could ride our bike with no hands and while lighting a fag.

No?

Ah – maybe that’s why I never got one of these little beauties.

This one is the antithesis of the Happy Smile Club! Bazooka Joe Bubblegum – and wrapped in a waxed paper cartoon, that also advertised some amazing American toys … in dollars, even here in UK.

If you joined Club (I think you sent away so many wrappers in an SAE – stamped, addressed envelope) you were rewarded with the badge and some, on the face of it, extra special offers.

This was another popular one from my schooldays. I remember loads of kids wearing these.

These next two were most definitely among my childhood favourites:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was one of my favourite TV series, without a doubt.

Though I was a fan of the Ilya Kuryakin character, I preferred this badge – the one that identified Napoleon Solo.

“Holy Button Badge, Batman!” I still watch the DVDs and buy the books to this day. I think there were variants of this badge, some featuring the characters from the TV series. I just wish I’d kept hold of them.

Between them, Brownies, Guides, Cubs and Scouts pretty much covered al bases when it came to ‘award badges.’ Collecting; dancing; cooking; painting; first aid; camping; performing; football; netball; map reading ….

I was hopeless. I think I must have had the least decorated arms in the pack / troop. I remember having the Fireman’s badge and …. yeah, the Fireman’s badge.

Television programmes aimed specifically at children became an increasingly influential part of our lives and these three badges, which need no introduction were very prominent on lapels and jumpers up and down the country:

ButtonMakers Pattern Template

By the time I arrived at secondary school, music was vying with sport for my time and attention, as it was for many others. In the early Seventies, I’d say from memory that girls sported more badges than boys, displaying their ‘teenybopper,’ devotion to heartthrob popstars, these badges, and hundreds of similar nature, being the most prominent:

At the other end of the musical spectrum, older rockers of both sexes opted for the sew-on / iron-on patches that adorned their denim jackets and jeans:

… and then it became very exciting indeed, as far as the fashion of badges was concerned. The advent of Punk spawned innovation in music and dress, and accessories.

Bands and fans alike embraced the whole DIY culture, and small button badges were produced in their thousands to show allegiance to groups big and small. Many focused on political views and others simply set out to annoy and agitate the older generation.

So there you have it. Our lives in the late Sixties and through the Seventies can be tracked by the badges we displayed and collected.

Badges these days don’t seem quite so exciting. Badgers still exist, of course, But perhaps they are more sett in their ways than back in my day.

The next badge I’m likely to display, will be a blue parking one.

*****

running through the ’70s with garscube harriers.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021)

“Well done … how would you like to come and train with our athletics club?”

I looked over my shoulder to see who the tall, lean blonde haired and bespectacled gentleman was talking to. There was nobody close by. He was indeed talking to me and my three similarly aged, fourteen year old school friends.

We had just been beaten in the schools 4 x 100m relay race at the 1972 local Highland Games. Soundly beaten, as I recall. So why would anyone ask us to join their Club, I wondered?

This was actually the second invitation we’d had since the race ended ten minutes previous. I could only think the coach from Clydesdale Harriers and the gentleman before us now had missed out on signing the race winners and didn’t want to go back to their committees empty handed.

“I think you’re better than that. I’d like to see you lads come down and train with us at Garscube Harriers.”

As a ten / eleven year old, wearing the regulation, no-tech, basic, slip-on gym shoes, I’d enjoyed racing my pals ‘around the block.’ Like many kids my age in West of Scotland though, I was obsessed with football and never gave a second thought to taking up running as a hobby. Then again, never had two football coaches asked me to join their team. Ever.

Athletics it was, then.

I knew of Garscube Harriers. They were a long established club, well known for producing quality athletes … and had their headquarters in my village of Westerton, part of the leafy Glasgow suburb of Bearsden.

But I’ll come back to that!

Advert for Garscube Harriers back in 1947.

*****

I learned a lot in my early times with Garscube Harriers, much of which remains with me to this day.

My school relay pal, Ronnie, bailed out on that planned initial session, so I had to walk into a large group of kids, mainly older, definitely taller, and introduce myself. While I was made to feel welcome, it was at the cost of having the pure ‘proverbial’ ripped out of me.!

Perhaps some of what went on would be frowned upon these days, but it did me no harm at all that first night. I just had to knuckle down and prove myself to the existing members.

I remember finding the training hard, as I’d never done anything like it before. But I don’t recall struggling too badly.

And I loved it! Even the mickey taking. I was the butt of it all that night and the following few … until Ronnie eventually decided to show up one evening.

I was no longer ‘new boy.’

I was a Garscube Harrier.

Little did I know that evening, but most of these guys would be like a ‘band of brothers’ some forty-nine years later.

I would learn the value of friendship.

We were quick on our feet, once upon a time! (The class of ’72 & beyond at our last reunion in The Bon Accord pub – a week before Lockdown, March 2020)

*****

The Club’s summer base was not their clubhouse in my village. It was a red blaes (shale) track at Blairdardie. Taking the direct route via the canal underpass and following the towpath, it was a two mile cycle or run away. Of course, it being summer, those not given to sporting pursuit would congregate along the canal bank with cans of cider, lager and spray paint.

Changing rooms and sports hall at Blairdardie athletics track.

In the four summers of track training before I could drive, I had several eventful journeys to / from training, I can tell you.

I kind of looked upon it as a non-chargeable add-on to that evening’s training session.

I learned that a good turn of speed and stamina were useful physical attributes to nurture.

*****

Although I knew next to nothing about athletics as such, I was aware that I was joining a ‘famous’ club – one of tradition and a reputation for producing not only international, but World Class athletes. And right on my doorstep.

I would discover that the coach who had initially invited me to the club, Donnie McDonald, was a former Scottish 880yds champion and international. My other coach when I first started, Gordon Dunn, had represented Scotland at the World Cross Country Championships.

Only a few years before I joined, ‘Ming’ Campbell (the Lib Dem politician) had been a member and represented Great Britain and Scotland in the sprint events. And over the summer I first trained with the club, another sprinter, Les Piggot, was representing Great Britain at his second Olympic Games, this time in Munich.

Garscube Harriers at that time also had a sprinkling of others who had attracted national attention at various age levels. Thinking back, none of us youngsters being were struck in the slightest. Everyone was completely grounded and subjected to the same mickey taking as the next person.

Ours was a humble club.

And I learned the value of humility.

Taken at a reunion to mark Coach Donnie’s birthday in 2018. Donnie, who sadly passed away a couple years ago is fourth from the left. Double Olympian Les Piggot is on Donnie’s left.

*****

Track training was hard. Very hard. Our coaches, I’d say, were even then and in the nicest sense, ‘old school.’ Their methods I’m reasonably sure, did not come from any text book. Rather, they passed on the benefits of their experiences. And because they had our utmost respect, we appreciated that.

The drove us hard. Ten x 200m in 26 seconds with a 200m jog recovery is one session I remember vividly. It would frequently result in me scraping a hole in the red blaes with my spikes, puking into it, covering it back up, and running to rejoin the pack.

Time and Garscube Harriers wait for no man.

I learned the mantra ‘no pain, no gain.’

*****

My first race for the Club came at Westerlands, home track of Glasgow University. I hadn’t yet received my club vest, so checked in for my invitational 800m race wearing my favourite dog-chewed mustard coloured vest. I surveyed the opposition as we warmed up and decided the two taller lads who looked well sharp in their neat track suits and top range spikes, were the ones to tag on to. They’d pull me through to a good finish.

Did they heck, as like! I sat with them for the first lap. They had the style; they had the gear. What they didn’t have was either pace or stamina.  I waited for them to make their move, but of course it never came.

It quickly dawned I’d made a bit of a schoolboy error and a fast last two hundred metres brought me home to a mid-field placing.

I learned never to judge a book by its cover. Don’t pre-judge people one way or another.

Westerlands athletics track.

*****

During the late Seventies, the Club suffered a dip in membership as the ‘old guard’ moved away from the area for various family, work or study reasons. I don’t know why, but we were unable to draft in replacements. There just didn’t seem to be any interest.

Those athletes that remained were still good, but we now lacked the depth in our squad. This meant several of us would run various distances at the National Track and Field League meetings. It wasn’t unknown for a middle distance runner to compete not only in the 1500m, but also the 110m hurdles and possibly the shot put.

Once at Meadowbank, I ran 200m, 400m and then very rashly, entered the 5000m. The distance itself was not the issue, as I’d train over 5 – 10 miles. But the concentration was. As was the quality of opposition, with some of Scotland’s best in the field. I was lapped twice by the leaders, and though I was mortified I persevered. In doing so, I managed to finish a few from the back.

I learned to never give in. One point is better than none. Something is better than nothing.

*****

Throughout the ‘70s, athletics was strictly amateur. The rules were vigorously enforced. No cash or ‘cash exchangeable’ prizes could be awarded. Not even book / record tokens as I recall.

No, no, no. On a couple occasions I travelled all the way to London (representing Bank of Scotland) won my race, and returned home the proud owner of a butter dish or something equally crass.!

The Highland Games circuit was no better. We would win the likes of salt and pepper cruet sets; cake stands; crappy framed pictures and plastic ice buckets (one of which was donated to the Club raffle, only for the raffle winner to re-donate it the following year.)

I learned that success need not be measured in monetary value.

******

Ah yes … the ‘headquarters.’ How could I forget.

Our base up until the mid-Eighties was ‘The Hut.’ A corrugated iron construction that was unbearably hot in the summer months and unbelievably cold in winter.

It was used predominately during the road racing / cross country months of autumn and winter, when we’d meet twice / three times a week to go on pack runs varying from 1.5 to 10 miles.

Over the years it became more and more dilapidated, and a health and safety hazard.

To say it was spartan would be an understatement, but to many of us it was a second home.

And I learned that indeed, ‘home’ is where the heart is.

*****

My active years in athletics spanned only ten years. I never took it too seriously. I trained hard, of course. And I competed hard. But I took very few photographs; I didn’t formally record my Personal Bests. It was an excuse to go for a beer!

At the time, I also played football – to an adequate-not-spectacular standard. This meant for a few years around age nineteen to twenty-one, I was unavailable for many races on the roads and over the country – the latter being my best and favoured.

Of the two, athletics would have been my stronger sport, but I was young and had plenty years of running ahead of me. Play football now when you can, concentrate on running later.

It didn’t work that way, did it?

Injury at age twenty-two put paid to both sports!

I learned to live for today and take nothing for granted.

*****

Just before my injury, I went on holiday to the South of France with a couple of the Garscube team. It was there that I met our Diane, my wife of thirty-nine years. (Thirty-nine years tomorrow, 5th June, as it happens.)

I learned Fate dealt me a pretty good hand!

Garscube Harriers on tour. Biot, Antibes – 1980
(I’m the short-arse between Billy Cassidy and Stevie Cullen.)
Our first ‘date.’ Biot, Antibes – 1980

*****

I sometimes wonder how my life would have been shaped, had my school relay team actually won that race all these years ago?

The value of friendship; speed and stamina are handy; humility; no pain, no gain; don’t pre-judge; never give in; success needn’t equate to monetary value; home is where the heart is; take nothing for granted and yeah, overall, I’ve done alright.

Joining Garscube Harriers has certainly taught me a lot over the years, possibly the most important being that sometimes you don’t actually have to be a winner to win.

1975 – Wow! I won three beer glasses!
My 60th – with Davie, Alan and Jim Mac.

*****

Oh yeah – I learned how to run quite fast, too.

show & tell – John Allan

My show and tell is my silver plated alto saxophone. The Selmer Paris Balanced Action model from 1935-36. I realise that 99.99% of the population don’t know or care about this icon of the woodwind world but to us anorak train spotters of vintage saxes, a little bit of wee just came out at the mere mentioning of it’s name.

I bought it in around 1976 from a friend of a friend of my brothers called ‘Pete Tchaikovsky’ for ₤50. Considering big bro hung around with guys called Bev, Mod, Grimy and Fred Lawnmower, I’m guessing PT was a nickname or nom de plume. He could feasibly be related to Pyotr Ilyich but his accent was more east end Glasgow than central European. The Russian composer was also not known as a family man. I could say he was more Sugar Plum Fairy but that would be crass.

In it’s case, when I bought it, was a torn fragment of a football pools coupon from 1946 which I have unfortunately misplaced.

I’ve had the instrument serviced twice since owning it. Once in 1979 by my McCormacks’ colleague woodwind repairman and tenor sax legend Bobby Thomson who valued it at around ₤400 and more recently by a chap in Perth WA who put a price tag of about $4,000 about 15 years ago.

Sadly, the last time I played it live was about 15 years ago at various venues around the area including the annual Blues at Bridgetown festival

I was in a 6 piece jazz band then but became disheartened by being the acoustic wallpaper for the blue rinse set. Maybe, one day, it will rise again Phoenix like from the mausoleum (former music room).

There you have it. My 85 year old alto saxophone.

the games people play

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

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

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

A pack of cards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We of course were stumped. After another lengthy delay,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone for a game of cards ?

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

corr!! look-in, readers! sounds like jackie has got a beezer, here.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)

As we grow older, it can be all too easy to dismiss or forget the excitement of youth.

Actually, it’s easy enough to forget just why you went upstairs, never mind how you felt as a kid some fifty-plus years back.

Knowing what I’m about to write about, however, has rekindled that feeling of anticipation; of expectation and fulfilment.

Comics.

Comics nowadays are big business. Huge. The proliferation of Comic-con exhibitions around the world is quite staggering, attended by millions of devotees not only of traditional comics, but of movies that then spawned hand-drawn story versions. And vice versa.

We now also have the massive popularity of anime / manga.

Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it was a different story

‘Oh, can it be that it was all so simple then?’

Well – probably not, for by that time, thirty years on from popularisation of comics, there were new worlds and universes being created and populated by heroes and villains from both Detective Comics (D.C.) and Marvel.

Those comics and characters though, were generally outwith easy access by us here in UK, unless we had kindly relatives living across the Atlantic who would post the occasional Batman or Superman issue.

No, within the restricted world that small boys and girls inhabit until they turn into teenage monsters, the magazine section of the local newsagent was universe enough.

I’d have been seven years old when my dad brought me my first comic. It was issue #1 of TV21. Published in the style of a newspaper from the future, it was the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and featured stories from all my favourite television programmes: Fireball XL5; Stingray; Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.

Issue #1 – TV21

I built up quite a collection, but parents do that ‘clear-out’ thing, don’t they, and unfortunately I now have no copies to reflect upon.

However, I did recently manage to buy a hardback covered collection of stories that featured in the original comic, so, happy days!

The excitement of youth I mentioned is no better highlighted than the year I was given a shilling (that’s 5p for any young whipper-snappers reading this) as a birthday treat. I dare say I was also given some other kind of presents, but it’s the monetary treat that remains foremost in my memory.

With this grand sum clasped firmly in my hand, I recall running up Monreith Avenue to Jamieson’s the Newsagent, various budget permutations filling my head.

Spent wisely, I’d be able to buy a Beano AND a Dandy for 4d each (1969 prices) and still have 4d left for sweets. That’d be sixteen Blackjacks / Fruit salad chews …. or maybe I’d buy a couple huge gobstoppers.

My parents weren’t fans of either these two comics and did their best to discourage me.

(That went well, I don’t think! To this day, I treat myself each Christmas with that year’s annual.)

We did though come to a compromise in that I was allowed to read such ‘rubbish’ comics if I also read Look and Learn, which they would buy for me. It was actually a very enjoyable read, and the predictions of life in the future (2001) as detailed in this edition from August 1971, weren’t too far from the truth …. apart from nuclear reactors in the basements of houses and the envisaged postal system!

I think on this occasion, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan were more credible.

The importance of this deal, however, was not that I’d be more educationally equipped for secondary school, but that it gave a green light to both sets of grandparents to treat my sister and myself with comics whenever we visited.

For me, it was the Beezer from one and Hotspur or Victor from the other. These covered all bases; humour and mischief, to action-packed deeds of heroism and killing Johnny Foreigner. For a while around 1971, I’d be given copies of Tiger, which combined all of the above and threw in some football related strips. (Comic strips – not football strips. The free gifts were often pretty impressive, but didn’t extend to that level of generosity.)

 My young sister would look forward to her copies of Twinkle and when a little older, Bunty and Judy. I can remember her faithfully cutting out the image of the young girl on the back page, and then ‘dressing’ her in the similarly cut-out items of clothing.

We were easy amused in those days.

Another favourite for me, though I didn’t actually buy many copies, was Scorcher. This was very football-centric with a combination of comic strips and magazine type articles on the sport. It was a bit more ‘grown up’ in its presentation than the more conventional comics.  

Scorcher first hit the newsstands in January 1970, four months after I started spending my pocket money on Shoot! the first issue of which was in August the previous year. Choices had to be made. Shoot! won.

SHOOT! Issue #1

I still have a box with seventy- six copies stacked away in the loft. I just counted them.

In the early to mid-Seventies, as a stepping stone towards the more credible music magazines, I’d occasionally shell out a whole 5p on Disco 45, just so I could learn the words of ‘Run Run Run’ by Jo Jo Gunne. (Duh!)

My sister, Rona, was by now besotted with Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, so naturally Jackie magazine was delivered to our house each week.  (I’ll bet I’m not the only bloke who sneaked a read of the photo stories!)

It wasn’t all about Donny and David and Bay City Rollers, though. I can remember articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.

I mean … Rona told me about there being articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.

I wouldn’t admit it then, but almost fifty years later, the Jackie inspired CD collections are never far away from my player.

And then it was the big-hitting music papers. Everyone had their favourite. Some would swear by Melody Maker, others would go with NME (New Musical Express.) For me though, it was Sounds. Perhaps because of the colour poster that would be the centrespread of each issue, but just as much for the bands and genres it covered.

At the same time, I was heavily into my running, so Athletics Weekly became a regular. I still love the look and feel of that magazine. Much of it consisted of results from meetings throughout the UK, but there were always a few really interesting interviews and features.

In the early / mid Seventies, athletics was still considered a bit of a minority sport. I well remember, then, feeling well chuffed to see the Crossroads character (Stan Harvey?) frequently having a copy of the magazine protruding from the breast pocket of his work overalls.

I haven’t counted the number of copies, but I still have two boxfuls in the loft!

In the four decades that have followed The Seventies, my love / obsession with magazines has not diminished. Thankfully, for the sake of preserving the eaves of the house, much of my reading is now online. Only Record Collector arrives via the letterbox these days.  

This may be practical, but I also find it sad. Perhaps I’m slightly odd, but I miss the feel of the paper; the attraction of the vivid colour, and the sexiness of the artwork. I miss the physical side of reading magazines and comics as I missed playing vinyl records.

I also miss the smell. Surely you must also hanker after that dusty, mixed aroma of newsprint and ink in a paper shop?

OK – so just me, then.

More than anything though, I miss the excitement I felt as a kid on new issue day.

I can see another rummage in the loft looming.

the HE-LP

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

The LP (from “long playing” or “long play”) is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterised by: a speed of 33 and a third rpm, a 12 or 10-inch (30- or 25-cm) diameter; use of the “microgroove” groove specification; and a vinyl composition disk. Introduced by Columbia in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from a few relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound, it remained the standard format for record albums until its gradual replacement from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

(Wikipedia)

……………………….and it was the currency of cool in the 1970s.

What follows is a handy guide for the true devotee :-

Dos:

  • Always store LPs in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, preferably on display in alphabetical order on a dedicated shelving unit.
  • All LPs covers must be read on all sides including inner sleeves if applicable before or at least during first listening.
  • On removing LP from inner sleeve, album must be in the horizontal position. Gently tilt to no more than 30 degrees and allow vinyl to slowly slide towards dominant hand, thumb raised palm upward. Cradle with thumb on circumference, second and third finger on centre sticker arching the palm while bringing non dominant palm directly across the diameter. Manoeuvre dominant hand to mirror other hand. Carefully proceed to turntable in a stately manner, LP held at chest height between both palms.
  • WARNING: to not attempt to play disc unless an anti-static felt duster is within easy reach.
  • Place LP on spindle. Gently blow on stylus to: a) clear any dust or debris b) show respect.
  • When finished, reverse the steps of 3rd bullet point and return album to inner sleeve. Turn inner sleeve a full 90 degrees and return to album cover proper. Stand down.
  • Deny the existence of ‘The heLP’.
  • Kill all known DJs within your area.

Don’ts:

  • No family or friends must be present during first listening.
  • Never let anyone else touch a) the LP b) the turntable c) you.
  • NEVER be tempted to lay an unsheathed record on the shag pile carpet even for one nanosecond.
  • Never lend an album to anyone else unless a member of ‘The heLP’ and you’ve personally visualised their initiation scars.
  • Never leave an LP on the back seat of your mate Gavin’s Cortina on a hot summers day unless requiring a cool looking ash tray, even if he is ‘Grand Wizard’ of  ‘The heLP’.

So folks, keep those discs a spinning. – Are you a DJ ?