Category Archives: Lifestyle

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.

Police Encounters in the 70s.

Russ Stewart: London, May 2021

I do not have any tattoos….
Resisted peer pressure whilst drunk in parlours. 
Witnessed too many pallid limbs celebrating non-existent Maori heritage.

Rationale: a tattoo might compromise any future capability to go off grid and anonymise.   
Now in my 60s that scenario is unlikely, having led a blameless life. 

However I have been subject to stop and subsequent questioning by the police, in the 70s in particular.

Typical scenario:  Aged 14 to 16 or so walking back home to Hillfoot, from Ray Norris parents’ house in the Switchback area, at about 1am, usually carrying a guitar case. 
Sober, fizzing with caffeine, (we  liked figuring out Humble Pie riffs whilst drinking coffee).
Milngavie Road seemed to be awash with cops in those days….. obviously on the lookout for guitar rustlers. 

No small talk.  Non negotiable attitude.  Did not bother me. 

Glasgow in the 70s had a much higher crime rate, particularly in relation to violent crime than it has now. 
Bearsden was deemed safe. 
As Ken Dodd would say “you could have a reign of terror with a balloon on a stick”.  

Well, almost, I was once mildly chibbed.

Not only was 70s policing more robust, the coppers were too. 
I recall being stopped a couple of times by a gigantic 6’ 6” sergeant who worked out of Milngavie nick. 

70s doctrine example 1:   
Mr Mac managed the RIO cinema at Canniesburn Toll. 
He was a great guy who let all his late son’s pals in for free to see any film.
One time the cops were called to deal with rowdy, rather simian of countenance, Maryhill neds in the foyer. 
Order restored… cops ask Mr Mac if he’s agreeable to the neds being taken to the rear of cinema for some moderate correction. 
Of course he declined.

70s doctrine example 2:  
The late Paul Murdoch was caught travelling on the blue train without a ticket. The cops were doing a planned sweep at Hillfoot station.  
Cop : “Have you anything to say?” 
Paul : “in future I’ll take the bus”.  
As a juvenile they let him off.  Actually all cops hate arresting juveniles as the paperwork is arduous and the waiting for social workers, parents etc. takes up a whole shift.

The noughties:
Police are very polite and approachable now.

A few years ago a pair visited to counsel me with respect to post burglary trauma.  A daytime “express”  burglary”  had occurred, the intent being  acquisition of cash and jewellery.
None of either in my gaff.   

The burglars did find my Katana (short Japanese sword),  my antique (legal) Adams Revolver and my souvenir handcuffs from a previous career.  They left these items on the floor.

I appreciated the officers cod psychology… however I would have preferred it if they had re-directed their efforts to the smiting of footpads with Taser and Baton.

smells of the seventies

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

PRESS PLAY BEFORE READING!

Greetings nosepickers!

A look now at this week’s Smells of the Seventies Top Twelve.

Coming straight in at number 12, we have:

MILK MONITOR HANDS:

The primary school position of ‘milk monitor’ was one of honour. Only the trusted and well behaved were granted the privilege of carting the perpetually cold, heavy, milk bottle laden, metal crates around the numerous classrooms.

Being conferred this position of prestige effectively gave permission to skip class for a while each day. Result!

There was a downside though – there always is. When you returned to your classroom, milk round duties completed, and rested your weary head in your hands …..

Boak! Blech! Eeeuuuww!

The smell of sour milk is one that lingers. It would seep into the fabric of your clothing and you’d notice the kid in the next seat inching towards the edge of their desk. And retching.

Playtime couldn’t come fast enough and you’d rush to the toilets and wash your hands clean. But a state of freshness is only a state of utopia.

The combined scent of sour milk and carbolic soap is not the most attractive.

***

Jumping three places from last week’s number 14, is:

FRESHLY CUT GRASS:

Not only back in the day, but even now, this is the smell of freedom.

On hot summer days at primary school, we’d often be taken outside for lessons. No matter the subject, the grassy aroma would relax the mind and even a half hour discussion on Oliver Cromwell became bearable.

At secondary school, balmy summer breezes would waft the fragrant scent into the science labs through the opened fanlight windows. Accompanied by the muffled sound of a tractor pulling the grass cutter, it hinted towards the end of term.

It was a time of change: the football pitch was being shorn, soon to be lined as a six lane athletics track; national grade exams beckoned; summer holidays were around the corner.

The smell of freshly cut grass meant exciting times ahead.

***

Falling from a peak position of 8, this week’s number 10 is:

PARMA VIOLETS:

I still have no idea why these sweets were so popular. Perhaps because they were cheap?

From Swizzel, the makers of Fizzers (which were decent sweets) Parma violets were / are hard sweets based on some aniseed based confectionery in India which are used to freshen the mouth after a spicy meal.

The smell of violets may be a half decent base for perfume, or toilet cleaner, but surely not for human breath?

I mean, I love the smell of garlic, but I’m not so sure it should be used as a mouth-wash.

***

Making a bit splash this week we have a joint number  9:

CHARLIE / BRUT 33:

In 1973, Faberge launched their ‘33’ everyday cologne. In the same year, Revlon launched their ‘sharp flowery’ fragrance, ‘Charlie.’

I know both are now regarded with a little bit disdain; as ’cheap.’ And certainly the Brut 33 splash-on gave that impression, coming as it did in a plastic bottle no less.

However, for naïve young schoolkids, living on paper round and baby-sitting incomes, these fragrances met our budgets while making us feel sophisticated; classy.

I very much doubt there were any dates between school pupils that didn’t involve a dab or two of either these scents.

Henry Cooper / Barry Sheene and Shelley Hack can feel well pleased with their influence on the match-making process.

***

Coming from nowhere, at 8 with a bullet, we have:

CAPS:

No – not the little peaked efforts we sometimes wore to primary school – these caps.

Principally for using in toy guns, we would stamp on them to ignite the tiny dots of what we always believed to be gunpowder. However, I think I’m right in saying old fashioned gunpowder is not shock sensitive and has to be ignited. So it may be a mercury based compound that actually forms the black dot on the roll of paper. (Who says I didn’t pay attention in Chemistry class?)
Anyway – who gives a tu’upenny one for the science? We’d place lines of these on the inner ledge of our school desk and brusquely bring down the lid to create an almighty (as we heard it) bang.

The residual smell of spent gunpowder or whatever, and burnt paper was just tops! It was also exciting as we felt we were doing something just that wee bit naughty.

***

Making its annual assault on the charts and debuting this week at number 7, it’s, erm, comic annuals.

ANNUALS AT CHRISTMAS:

Every Christmas night, I’d head to bed with several new ‘annuals’ as reading material. Excited as I was to read the exploits of Alf Tupper (Tough of the Track) or Desperate Dan, my abiding memory of childhood Christmases, is the smell of these books.

I have to confess, that even at the age of sixty-two, I attract some weird looks from shoppers in Asda through the month of December, as with the books close to my face, I fan through the pages of the Beano / Dandy annuals.

***

With a ‘tree-mendous’ jump of fourteen places to number 6 this week, we have:

CHRISTMAS TREES:

Back in the day before plastic was invented (well, almost) we always had real Christmas trees.

There is nothing in this world, I’m quite certain, can evoke such sense of sheer excitement in a young kid than the smell that permeates home when a real Christmas tree is placed in the corner of the living room.

***

Falling two places to number 5 after an amazing thirty-three weeks in the charts, is:

‘WET’ SCHOOL LUNCHES:

Every day, by playtime, (or was it ‘break’ when we were at secondary school?) you could tell what would be on the menu for lunch.

My heart would sink when I could detect the putrid odour of a ‘wet’ lunch. Invariably, these would be ‘wet’ days weather wise as well; days when the dining room windows would run rivers of condensation.

A ‘wet’ lunch could be expected when the stench of stewed cabbage would mingle with the cheap, Bisto substitute gravy used to smother the rather odious looking beef olives.

There would be no silver lining either, as in general, the Head of Kitchen would dictate it be better to get all the crap out in one go, and subject us to pink custard (Devil’s Spew) and prunes for desert.

***

Where there’s a Ying, there’s a Yang, and making a comeback at this week’s number 4, is:

‘DRY’ SCHOOL LUNCHES:

Ah! Now you’re talking. There was something so comforting when from the sanctuary of the bike shed opposite the kitchen, you could smell the roast of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish fingers, and chips deep fried in blocks of melted lard.

You could also bet your treasured Lynyrd Skynyrd album on there being rhubarb crumble and custard on offer for second course.

***

Matching Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album for continuous weeks on the chart and remaining this week at number 3, comes:

DOG POO ON YOUR SHOE:

Maybe, as a society, we are better educated these days. Or maybe dogs are genetically just constipated now. But there’s thankfully not as much dog dirt lying in the streets these days.

There was nothing worse than the smell that followed you home when you’d stepped in a pile of poo hidden in a tuft of grass. I’m sure we’ve all been there.

Or worse, if you’d perfected a slide tackle while playing football, only to ….. well, you know. Yeuch!

Having it ingrained in the tread of you bike tyre was no fun either. More so if it were the front one. Think.

***

Going around and around in the chart is this week’s number 2, climbing again after a steady fall in recent times:

GOLDFISH BOWL / TADPOLE JAR:

How many of us pestered our parents for a goldfish when we were young? Or ‘won’ a sad little specimen in a poly bag when the carnival came to town?

Our parents, realising how lucky they were we’d not asked for a pony, or even a dog, jumped right on their good fortune and readily agreed … on the condition you looked after it.

“It’ll teach junior about life and death and responsibility” they stupidly thought.

Yeah – that went well … for all of about a week, until the magnitude off the task took its toll. What? Clean out its bowl as well as feed it? Every four days? Why is that water cloudy/ Where is Goldie? What are these wee stringy bits of stuff suspended mid bowl? What’s that Goddamned smell for crying out loud?!

Mum!

Dad!

The same, though worse, would happen with the tadpole jar.

You’d plead to be allowed to keep the frog spawn you’d shovelled into an outsize and cleaned out malt jar.

“It’ll teach junior about life and evolution and transformation and responsibility” your parents stupidly thought.

Wow! Did that jar severely honk! Worse still – when the spawn had released tadpoles, and the tadpoles grew wee legs, they had to be transferred into a basin of sorts. With rocks, and weeds and stuff.

After that, you couldn’t really change the water. So while the little frogs developed, the water became stagnant. And stank to high heaven.

And nobody would come play with you unless their name combined the words David and Attenborough.

***

We have new Number One this week … and it’s getting personal, not ‘arf! PERNOD & LEMONADE:

Summer 1976. I’d just left school and had a job lined up in Banking. It was time to celebrate – time to get away and let my hair down. (I did have some, back then.)

It had been decided I wasn’t clever enough at Maths and Physics to go to University, so this would be my ‘gap week.’ Off I headed for a caravan in St Andrews with several pals.

You know, I casually say, ‘several pals,’ because in truth, the week is a total haze and I can recall only my mates Derek, Graham and Kenny being there. Jack may also have been. But I honestly can’t remember much at all, which is quite scary.

(I do recall coming back from the pub one night and throwing bits of bread onto the roof of a neighbouring caravan so the occupants would be awakened the following morning by hungry seagulls pecking the crusts above them.)

The only other recollection I have is of a night on Pernod and lemonade. Or rather, I recollect the next morning! And afternoon! And evening! And the next morning again!

I don’t think I’ve ever been so ill.

To this day, I cannot stand the smell of Pernod. If somebody close by drinks it, I have to move away.

***
It’s Smells of the Seventies …
It’s Number One …
It’s Pernod & Lemonade.

Until next time. …

Alright ..?
Tarra
!

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.

drama queen

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

Noel Coward’s advice to avoid putting your daughter on the stage should have rang alarm bells for me the summer I  left school in 1978. With Grade E  ‘A’ Levels in English and History, Mom was ecstatic that I had two paper certificates – heedless of the fact that they meant Jack.

Career’s Advice suggested I might try my hand in retail: “You could become a Buyer in Ladies’s Wear by the time you’re thirty-five.”

Thirty-five? I’d be an old woman by then!

Having trod the boards at school, I decided to give acting a serious whirl and enrolled at drama evening classes as I began the round of auditions to study drama full time. My teacher said I “should have been a blonde” because I was so “dizzy”. High praise indeed. 

With my new curly perm, a dash of Wild Musk and a lot of bravado, I headed for the ‘Big Smoke’ – London – where my eldest brother David met me at Euston Station and guided me across the city on the underground. I was scared to death!

I auditioned at all of London’s top drama schools as Blanche Dubois from Tennessee Williams’ play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’

Her character has a famous monologue, “He was a boy, just a boy. when I was a very young girl…” which I thought I had down pat. Despite an authentic Southern Belle accent, I had the distinction of being turned down by them all. Not before though, witnessing some spectacular feats of self-promotion from other hopefuls – including one guy who auditioned as Hamlet, wearing a gorilla suit. 

He got in.

I gave up in London.

As my dad once said to me, “Honey – I’m proud of you. If you’re going to fail – really fail!”

Closer to home, in March 1979, I received an invitation to audition at a drama school in the midlands. 

Living up to my ‘dizzy’ moniker, I turned up exactly one calendar month late for my audition and let myself into the office of a Miss Meade, who had been principal of the acting school in the year dot.

Her dark, cramped office in the basement was piled floor to ceiling with dusty old play scripts and seemingly hundreds of cats which peered down at me from a great height. Naturally Miss Meade was not expecting me.

I stared at old black and white photos of great Thespians which lined the high walls and suddenly felt very small – the bravado gone. Should I cough to announce I was here? Suddenly the door swung open and in bustled Miss Meade – an elderly lady with grey hair tied back in a bun, carrying a walking stick. We scared each other.

“ARGH!” 

“Good gracious Ducky! Who are you?” 

“I’m Andrea Scarboro. I’ve come to audition.” (I felt like saying, “I’m Dorothy Gale, from Kansas.”)

Miss Meade pored over her diary on her large, cluttered, desk with a lot of tutting.

“Well, well Ducky, wait here and I’ll see what I can do.” 

Miss Meade disappeared through a door, leaving me nervously stroking my Blanche Dubois. She finally reappeared with an elderly gentleman in an elegant, faded suit, marvelous set of whiskers and an old fashioned ear trumpet.

“This young lady has turned up for an AUDITION, one month LATE! Heh! Shall we SEE her?”

“WHAT? AUDITION? MOST IRREGULAR! I suppose so – why NOT?” shouted the bewhiskered gentleman. 

I was led into a small rehearsal room where a rostrum was hastily arranged in a far corner. Miss Meade pulled up two chairs, where she and the elderly gentleman sat side by side. She tapped her cane on the floor to command my attention.

“What are you going to perform for us Ducky?”

“Blanche Dubois…”

“Ahh, Tennessee Williams. Bold choice Ducky. When you’re ready…”

 I got through the piece as Miss Meade and the suited gentleman nodded and whispered to one another.

 “I’d like to look at your deportment, Ducky,” signalling to me to mount the rostrum with her cane. She gave me a book to balance on my head. 

(Not Andrea!)

“Walk around the stage, Ducky, let’s have a good look at you.” She nodded at the old gentleman, who clamped the trumpet tightly of his ear.

“Shall we see her WALK WITH A LIMP?” 

“A LIMP? Why NOT?” Miss Meade handed me her cane and told me to walk around the rostrum with it,.

“…as if you’ve broken your left leg Ducky.” 

I took the cane from her, trying to remember my left from my right. Propped up on the stick, I began to ‘limp’ around the stage. 

 “That’s it Ducky – clockwise.”Miss Meade and the old gentleman exchanged approving looks. 

Concentrating on limping on the correct foot, I failed to notice the edge of the rostrum and launched off the stage, landing spread-eagle on the floor at Miss Meade’s feet. Trying to maintain some semblance of dignity, I gathered myself up to my full height, dusted down my ruffled hem, picked up the cane and book  and hopped back up onto the little stage with the intention of ‘carrying on’. Instead, I got the giggles and turned to Miss Meade and the gentleman. 

“Well, that’s torn it! Now, where was I?” 

I resumed my limp around the rostrum, on the wrong foot now, but with head held high and book perfectly balanced. (“If you’re going to fail, really fail.”).  Miss Meade leaned towards the bewhiskered elderly gent and shouted: 

“I like the SPIRIT of the GEL – shall we TAKE her?” 

“Take WHAT?” shouted the old chap, leaning into his ear trumpet.

“Take the GEL!” Miss Meade banged her cane emphatically on the floor.

 “Do you KNOW – I think we SHALL!” shouted the bewhiskered one, allowing himself a wry smile. 

I bowed, jumped off the little platform and shook their hands.  Miss Meade offered  me a place at her drama school to commence the following September. How thrilling! 

However, a place at drama school didn’t cut any ice as far as the  Education Authority was concerned; I would have to audition for a grant and they only gave two discretionary grants per year. Over the next three years I auditioned for a little grey man in a grey suit in a stuffy office; we were almost on first name terms. Each year I pulled out my Blanche De Bois and the following conversation ensued

“Thank you Miss Scarboro; an interesting interpretation but you don’t have Maths ‘O’ Level, do you? So you can never teach drama, can you?” 

“Oh I’m never going to teach; I’m going to act, so it doesn’t matter, does it?” 

“Well, I’m afraid that you can’t have a grant because you live at home, so you won’t need any living expenses.”

You get the gist. 

After this third rejection, my mother  – now divorced from my dad – took matters into her own hands and arranged an extraordinary meeting with the man in the grey suit, accompanying me to his office.

Andrea and her mother, 1979.

In a scene reminiscent of ‘Gone With The Wind’ – when Scarlett visits Rhett in jail all dressed up in Miss Ellen’s green velvet drapes, to try and wheedle three hundred dollars out of him to pay the taxes on Tara – Mother looked stunning in a large brimmed, black straw hat with black lace veil, long black gloves and  black dress. She leaned seductively across the large desk between her and the little grey man; picking at the fingertips of her gloves with head bowed as she simpered in her languid Southern drawl: 

“Oh kind Sir, have pity! I am but a poor divorcée;” (fluttering her eyelashes with the back of her hand across her furrowed brow.) “I cannot support my daughter, livin’ on my own as I do. I beg you to give her this chayance – she is so talented.”

The man in the suit remained unmoved, so with huge regret I had to give up my place at the drama school. 

Undeterred, I whipped out Blanche Dubois for a final time – along with my two ‘A’ Level Certificates – when I auditioned at Polytechnic; where I was taught the following invaluable life lesson:

“Men lead from the crotch, women lead from the tits.” (Remember, this was the sexist 1970s)

I also managed to get a full grant and gained a BA Honours Degree in Performing Arts.

Mom purred, “You see honey? There’s more than one way to skin a cat!”

Andrea & fellow student Elle, on stage at Polytechnic.

(Copyright: Andrea Burn May 1st 2021)

saturday night at the movies.

(Paul Fitzpatrick: London – April 2021)

I think it was the author Ralph Waldo Emerson who said ‘life is a journey not a destination’, which is a quote that grows in relevance as the years roll on.

His quote is relatable to me in a few ways, one of them being how tastes and preferences change… take wine for instance, most of us started off thinking we were quite sophisticated when we cast aside the sweet taste of Blue Nun for the dryer more sophisticated Piesporter…. and when we started drinking Beaujolais, hell, we thought we were French!

Similar with music, similar with food, similar with books, similar with a lot of things – we grow, we evolve and our tastes develop,

Take going to the cinema as an example of changing times and tastes.

The first big transition was being able to go to the cinema on your own and for many of us I guess that meant Saturday mornings spent at the the ABC minors club.

Those weekly events were a big step towards your adolescent freedom… pure independence from the minute you left your house and hopped onto the bus or train with your mates until the minute you got back.

Minors of the ABC anthem

For those that remember, the ABC minors club was a feast of cartoons and old black and white movies like The Lone Ranger or The Three Stooges, with a few pop hits of the day thrown in at the intervals to allow you to fill your face with sugar and additives (unless they’ve changed the Kia-ora recipe?).

Jump forward a few years and the next stage of my cinematic journey involved going on dates… with chicks to the flicks.

Saturday night at eight o’clock
I know where I’m gonna go,
I’m gonna pick my baby up,
And take her to the picture show.


Saturday night at the movies,
Who cares what picture you see
When you’re huggin’ with your baby in
the last row in the balcony?

Sounds romantic doesn’t it, but it never quite worked out that way.
there was no pickin’ your baby up for a start, she was usually dropped off and collected outside The Rio cinema in Bearsden by an overprotective Dad, drawing daggers at you as you waited outside the cinema, drenched in Brut (with no charisma).


Looking back…. sitting in silence, side by side, in a large room with no lights was probably the perfect scenario for all involved, particularly when you were a 13/14-year-old monosyllabic boy with a bad haircut.

Back then, I hadn’t mastered the art of small-talk, (or banter, or bantz as it’s now called) or even basic conversation, so what could I chat to girls about when the only topics I could talk about with any authority were football and…. well actually nothing else, just football really.

It was clear therefore, that the perfect setting for this total lack of discourse was the dark silence of the local fleapit, regardless of what film was viewing.

Of course, what goes on in the back row stays in the back row so there’s going to be no juicy gossip shared here, but as most of you will remember, 75% of the film was spent contorting your arm around the shoulder of your date, 24.5% was spent fighting cramp and building up the courage to make that awkward next move…. and if you eventually overcame all your fears and anxieties, then you maybe got to share a wee snog for 90 seconds before the lights came on… realising you’d missed the conclusion to the film.

I was genuinely gutted to learn years later that General Custer did not survive the Battle of Little Bighorn, and that (spoiler alert) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde also perished in the dying embers of said movies.
No wonder there were no sequels!

Where The Drifters got it spot-on however, was that when you were that young it genuinely didn’t matter what film was on… the event was everything.

Within a couple of years however, it was a different story, you started to become a bit more discerning about the movies you wanted to see, and it’s at this stage X rated movies came onto the radar.

In your mid-teens gaining admission to an (18) was a badge of honour but as things transpired some of the best features at that time just happened to be X-rated.  

As an example, five of the best movies of that period were all (18) X-rated……

A Clockwork Orange, The Exorcist, Enter the Dragon The Godfather 2 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

A Clockwork Orange was a strange one, it was probably my least favourite of the five, but culturally it had a huge impact on us back then.

Within a couple of weeks of seeing it the impressionable ones amongst us were wearing Crombie coats, white sta-prest trousers and nicking our Dad’s umbrellas so we could be suede-heads and strut about like Malcolm McDowall’s character, even in the rare days that the sun was splitting the sky…
We must have looked like the numpties we undoubtedly were.

The cinematic landscape has changed a lot since then.



I can think of six cinemas that I used to go to regularly in that period, only one, The Grosvenor in Hillhead, remains open as a cinema, the rest are flats or in the case of The Salon, also in Hillhead, a trendy bar (Hillhead Bookclub) where patrons play ping-pong and drink concoctions called coconut firecrackers.

I have mixed emotions when I go there now, trying to work out where I used to sit, and remember who with.

It’s nostalgic to see the remnants of the great old cinema, but it’s also poignant to think of all the fantastic movies, the nervy first dates and the collective memories that the grand old building harbours.


Who knows what the old playhouse will be transformed into next but at least we still have access to it today…. which is a blessing.

Inside the Hillhead Book Club, Glasgow. Formerly the Salon cinema.

We all seem to be time-challenged these days but if you needed to kill 4 or 5 hours in the 70s there used to be some great double bills available to see…. a couple I remember with relish were Blazing Saddles + Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Midnight Express + Taxi Driver.

Thinking back… including intermissions each of those double bills accounted for approximately 5 hours’ worth of entertainment…. even the 70’s adverts were hilarious.

Is it any wonder then, that these old cinemas went out of business? Nowadays a blockbuster will be shown on a loop, five or six times a day on one screen in a multiplex that has 10 separate screens…. so up to 60 showings a day.
Compare this to two showings a day on one screen in the old style cinemas and do the maths…

I guess it’s just another example of changing and developing tastes…. we start off as impressionable kids thinking that nothing can beat these grainy old black and white movies on a Saturday morning…. that our local cinema is the most exotic place in the world, and before you know it, we’re watching computer animation in a 10-screen multiplex with queues a mile long waiting to buy rubber hotdogs, cardboard popcorn and a gallon of carbonated liquid for a small ransom…..

Sometimes, the ‘journey’ doesn’t always take you to a better destination!

For anyone who’s interested, here’s my top ten 70’s movies in no particular order, based on repeat viewings over the years…

  1. The Godfather
  2. The Godfather 2
  3. Blazing Saddles
  4. Monty Pythons The Life of Brian
  5. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  6. Young Frankenstein
  7. The Sting
  8. The Jerk
  9. Rocky
  10. Saturday Night Fever

As a p.s. here’s some of those classic cinema ads from the 70’s, they don’t make ’em like this anymore….

Pearl & Dean
Taste of India
Kiaora Leonard Rossiter ad.
Babycham ad

hound-dawgs

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

Alfie and Millie (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young Andrea with Shiloh, in Virginia – 1970

***

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

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

Frisky – 1975

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

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

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

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

***

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

“She just nipped him in the bud.”

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

***

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

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

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

Mills.

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Paul Fitzpatrick: London April 2021

If you’d told me 45 years ago that a DJ could be worth $300 million, I’d have said ‘away and boil your heid’.

But it stacks up when you learn that Calvin Harris can charge up to $400k per show… which will probably rule him out of spinning the discs at any 21st’s up The Muscular Arms this weekend.  

Not bad for a former shelf-stacker from Dumfries.

Like most of us, my introduction to DJ’s was via TOTP.
That first generation of Radio One DJ’s all looked like accountants trying a bit too hard to be trendy, apart from Jimmy Saville who always looked, well…. weird.

My favourite Radio One DJ in the early 70s was Johnnie Walker.

Walker famously got sacked by Radio One for calling The Bay City Rollers “Musical Garbage” at the height of their popularity (RIP – Les), he had a laid-back delivery and a great taste in music.

Johnnie Walker presenting his show on BBC Radio 1 in January 1975

He was the guy who championed the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album when everyone else had written them off, and his show is where I first heard Rhiannon as well as nuggets from Steely Dan and Little Feat that no one else was playing at that time.

Moving into the mid 70s I started to get into Soul & Funk which you could only hear in clubs back then until a London DJ called Robbie Vincent came along with his weekly Soul show on Radio One.
It was perfectly timed, early evening on a Saturday night as you were getting ready to go out, and would get you in the mood for the evening ahead.

The only other DJ’s we had contact with in our youth were the mobile variety at various youth club & school discos…. a bit like Ray Von and his ‘wheels of steel’ from Phoenix Nights…

When our crowd started going up to clubs in Glasgow we went to the aptly named Clouds, (atop The Apollo) later to become Satellite City.

Tiger Tim was the DJ most Friday nights and the whacky son-of-a-gun used to dress up as a teddy-boy… or a frog!
It was 1974 and he had just started at Radio Clyde with his… ‘The Aff its Heid Show’…. (ok I get the frog suit now!) and was fast becoming a local celebrity.

Up the toon c.1975

Going to Clouds …. walking round that amphitheatre of a dance floor (always anti-clockwise for some reason), and then avoiding the turf-war, gang fights at George Square where we had to wait to catch the last bus home, was a Friday night ritual for a while.

Thinking about the music, Tiger Tim had a pretty eclectic taste, he would play a bit of disco, a bit of chart stuff and then throw in curveballs from the 50’s like Dion’s – The Wanderer or Clarence (Frogman) Henry’s – I don’t know why I Love You But I Do… probably to support his Teddy Boy persona..

A new city centre club opened in competition to Clouds in 1974, called Shuffles which we went to a few times for a change of scene.

The highlight was when the legendary Emperor Rosko of Radio Luxembourg fame, rocked up with his roadshow… resplendent in chest-wig, medallion and of course armed with his trusty catchphrase…. ‘Have Mercy’

Bizarrely, Clouds and Shuffles were both unlicensed despite the fact you had to be 18 to gain entry.

As we got a bit more sophisticated and progressed to licensed premises, Craig Davis was a name that cropped up a lot.
‘Craigy Baby’ was the flamboyant DJ at the Burnbrae Hotel on a Sunday night, he also had a residency at the Normandy Hotel in Renfrew on a Thursday night and he was a regular at Maestros in Glasgow.

Craig may have been a superfly DJ by night but by day he worked for film distributors, helping cinemas to schedule their movies for the coming weeks.

I got to know Craig through a friend of my Dad’s and he was always good enough to get me movie posters if I asked for them, I remember he turned up once with a poster for an obscure Peter Fonda movie called Futureworld that he knew I liked (the follow up to Westworld)…. I wish I’d kept a few of those posters now.

Craig famously got pulled over and breathalysed by the police one evening after a festive period gig and was staggered to learn that he was over the limit as he was completely tea-total, and never drank.

Despite his protestations he got huckled and the officers took him back to the station for another test, which was borderline…. whereupon a befuddled Craig remembered that he’d scoffed a box of chocolate liqueurs during the course of the evening that a fan had gifted him.

Fortunately for Craig the police bought his story and released him without charge.

The next day, the bold Craig was plastered all over the Evening Times telling his story… his big cheery smile pictured next to a box of cherry liqueurs.

There were some other great DJ’s back in the day like Gary Moore and his crew at The Rooster and City Limits, and that’s where you’d first hear the soul/funk imports from the US, long before they got into the UK charts.

DJ’s of course, always got a lot of attention, and maybe like musicians some of them got into it to improve their chances of meeting the opposite sex.

The Argentinian dudes Joe Hunter and I saw DJ’ing at a club in Calella, near Barcelona in 1975 were certainly a case in point….

There was 3 of them and to be fair they looked like Latin gods… all over six-foot, perfect physiques and long flowing hair straight out of a L’Oréal shampoo commercial.

In fact, when I saw Mario Kempes play for Argentina in the 78 World Cup a few years later, I was sure he was one of the DJ’s…


It didn’t take long for us to work out why there were 3 of them – they would each take turns on the decks so that the other two could be freed up to strut around and meet their adoring public…

Not only did these guys look the part, they were also brilliant dancers and to top it off they were great DJ’s as well… (I hated the b*stards!).

I remember one of them always played a killer 3-song sequence of….
Sex Machine by James Brown, Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelin and Disco Stomp by Hamilton Bohannon… which brought the house down every night….

I always liked DJ’s like Gerry Kennedy, brother of my good mate Joe Kennedy from Clydebank who knew his stuff and just played great music with no fuss.
Gerry was the resident DJ at the Boulevard Hotel in Clydebank (the Bouli) on a Sunday night, a regular haunt for myself and buddies… Joe Hunter, Joe Kennedy, Billy Smith and Marty Roberts.

Getting ready to go up the Bouli with wee Billy Smith

Gerry wasn’t interested in being the centre of attention he just wanted to keep everyone up on the dance floor, and his splendid finale of three great moonies was always the perfect way to finish the evening…

Three times a lady
How deep is your love
Always and forever


Well it worked for me anyway… that’s how I met my wife Margo, in July 1978!

Some 70s tunes on the playlist below that remind me of those days….