Category Archives: School

1974 – The Summer Of Roary, Dennis and Jinky

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, June 2021

As I look forward to tonights match between Scotland and England I realise that some years just seem to stick in your memory more than others.
It’s probably no coincidence therefore that some of my most vivid memories come from years when the football World Cup was being held.

As a kid the first football match I ever watched on TV was the 1966 World Cup Final.

By the time the next World Cup rocked up in Mexico 1970 I was a football obsessive spending all my spare time kicking a ball around with my mates.

By 1974 I was training a couple of times a week, playing Saturday mornings for the school, Saturday afternoons for the local boys-club and Sundays for the youth club.

Truth be told my club allegiances in those days were probably secondary to my support for the national team.
I watched Scotland religiously in my youth, but I had never seen us beat England.

That was all about to change in 1974.

1974 is one of those years that’s etched in my memory….
Apart from leaving school, starting work and going on my first ‘lads holiday’… 74 was the year that Scotland were making their first World Cup appearance since the year I was born (1958).

A big part of social life back then was the Youth Club….. a bi-weekly haven of sport, music and social interaction.
Approaching 16 I was now old enough to go on some of the organised youth club trips, the first one being a day trip to Butlins in Ayr on Saturday May 18th, 1974.

I remember the date because it was the day I finally got to see Scotland beat England and oh yeah, the day I got chased by a bam-pot with a sword and beat Alberto Juantorena’s 800 metre record.

The day started off well enough with an early morning coach ride to Ayr and was followed by time spent at the Butlins amusement park, a mini-pleasure beach, before we followed some of the older lads into the spectacular Beachcomber Bar.

The Beachcomber Bar at Butlins was probably the most exotic and glamorous place I’d ever seen, it was like something from South Pacific.
Of course, looking back now it was a mishmash of bamboo furniture and plastic plants with a few paper lanterns, paper-mache artefacts and hanging baskets thrown in for good measure, however it seemed very avant garde in 1974.

The game was being shown on a tv in the bar and even allowing for the watered-down lager…. the combination of event, location and community spirit, made for an intoxicating atmosphere.

Every year we approached the big game against the auld enemy with ambition and hope, usually to be left in despair, but in 74 there was cause for optimism. Unlike England we had qualified for the 74 World Cup plus our team was full of top players and big personalities.  

One of those big personalities was wee Jimmy (Jinky) Johnstone fresh from his ‘Largs Boat Incident’.

For those that don’t know… wee Jinky and a few teammates went out for a refreshment in Largs three days before the England game and whilst staggering back to the team hotel wee Jinky decided to jump in a boat that got pushed out to sea by Sandy Jardine for a laugh, there was only one problem, there were no oars on the boat.
Knowing Jinky couldn’t swim, Davie Hay a teammate tried to help by setting sail on another boat, which duly sprung a leak and sank!

Jinky reliving the moment

With Jimmy sailing into the distance and heading for the North Star the coastguards were called by his beleaguered teammates and Jinky’s exploits were splashed all over the front pages of the Scottish press, with most pundits calling for him to be sanctioned and dropped.

In the end Jinky had the last laugh.
95,000 fans watched Scotland win 2-0 that day.
Jinky gave a man of the match performance and famously gave the V sign to the press after the game.

The punters in the Beachcomber went mental at the final whistle and nobody wanted to leave that bar except the coach driver.

On the way home I sat beside a girl I’d known since I was 7 years old who was not in the best form as she was having major boyfriend trouble.
He was a few years older than us and a renowned psycho.
As far as her friends and family were concerned she’d finally come to her senses as she wanted to break up with him, but she knew it wouldn’t be that simple.
I tried to take her mind off things, talking about goofy stuff from our past 8 years as friends and classmates, however, when we got back to Westerton the guy was waiting and her face just dropped.

On a high from the day’s events I hung out with my mates for a bit, reliving the highlights of the day before I decided to head home, I was about half a mile from my house when I heard this guy shouting and running towards me, he was about 200 yards away but I could still see the huge blade he was brandishing, it was the mental boyfriend…. I’ve never ran so fast in my life.

My friend had attempted to split up with him again that night, which he didn’t take well. He’d heard that I’d spent the coach journey home with her, put 2 and 2 together… and decided I was dead!

Cut forward 6 weeks…. Scotland had been knocked out of the World Cup in Germany despite their valiant effort in remaining unbeaten during the tournament.

Scotland team at 74 World Cup

With the World Cup over, and proof if needed that German efficiency trumps everything…. even Johan Cruyff and total football, I headed off on holiday with my family to Majorca.

We were staying at a quiet part of the island so I thought I was seeing things, when on the beach, I spotted Dennis Law, one of my footballing hero’s, fresh from his participation in the World Cup with Scotland.

King Dennis

Law was footballing royalty; he’d been a member of the all-conquering Man United team along with George Best and Bobby Charlton and was jokingly referred to as having the reflexes of a mongoose, ‘and the haircut to match’.
Indeed, with his spiky feather cut and gallus approach Law was footballs answer to Rod Stewart… who also idolised the ‘Lawman’.

Dennis & Rod


I had never asked anyone for an autograph before, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass, no matter how starstruck I was

Before I approached the Lawman however I had to do one thing… I nipped back to my room and in the absence of a Scotland top I put on my ‘Roary Super Scot’ t-shirt, like some weird fanboy.
Roary, for the uninitiated was the rather juvenile mascot of the Scotland 74 World Cup team.

Looking back now I’m embarrassed that I disturbed the guy on his holiday when he was probably just looking for a bit of peace and quiet after a tough season, but he was really friendly and approachable and made a point of coming over to talk to me and my Dad whenever he saw us.
He was staying in the hotel next door to ours, and even asked me to mind his son on the beach a few times whilst him and his missus went for lunch.

Getting the great mans autograph

Despite being an Aberdonian he was a good tipper and always gave me a couple of hundred Pesetas, which in 74 was enough for a couple of beers and a few plays on the jukebox where Santana’s Samba Pa Ti and Oye Como Va were on heavy rotation….. unfortunately or perhaps fortunately the 1974 Scotland World Cup song wasn’t on there .

I remember a lot about 1974 as I do with 1978 and 1982, something big always happened for me in those World Cup years, 2021 isn’t a World Cup year but I hope I can remember it as the year we beat England and got through to the group stages of the Euros for the first time (along with our English cousins of course).

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 ….?”

*****

The Summer of 69

George Hunter: Glasgow, June 2021

I left school after sitting 5 o’levels, in fact I can even remember my last day at school it was 14th June 1969.

I had a job lined up in an office in Charing Cross after the Glasgow Fair so I was looking forward to the summer holidays with six weeks of long-lie-ins and footie in the park.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself at the family dinner table that day teasing my brothers David and Joe (below) about how they had to go back to school whilst I was finished with all that…. but I shouldn’t have spoken so soon.

Unbeknown to me my Dad had nipped out to the local phone box to make a quick call and when he came back he duly informed me that I was to report to the local farm owned by Jim Paul at 4am the following morning to start my summer job, no lazy summer lie-ins for me then, but at least I’d finish work in time to play a bit of footie in the afternoon!

My passion back then was football and it has been ever since.
I was obsessed, and if I wasn’t playing football for the school or the Boys Brigade or with my mates in the park, I was watching it or thinking about it, so in the summer of 69 when I read in the evening paper that the 3 main Glasgow teams were inviting players for trials for their youth teams for the 69-70 season, I couldn’t apply quick enough.

Celtic were first to respond with a trial date, it was to be held at St Anthony Junior’s ground in the south side of Glasgow near Ibrox.
On arrival I was filtered into a group of trialists for the Under 16 team along with 40 or 50 other lads, we were then told that we’d all get 30 minutes to make an impact and that it was up to us to impress the coaches.

I couldn’t wait to get started.
I played in my favoured midfield position but for the next 30 minutes I watched the ball sail over my head from our defence to the oppositions, I was lucky if I touched the ball 10 times and 6 of those were throw-ins!

I remember Brian Thistle (of this parish) was also there trying out for the under 14’s, he did well and unlike me he was invited back.
I couldn’t help but feel that I had let myself down but it was a tough environment, not knowing anyone and not really getting the chance to show what I could do.
The 30 minutes seemed to go by in a flash and I had a sore neck into the bargain, looking up at the sky trying to see where the bloody ball was!

Next up was Rangers and the local trials were being held in Drumchapel. At least there were a couple of familiar faces in my age group this time, lads who I had played against previously, good players who went on to become pro’s, like Gordon Smith  (St Johnstone  Aston villa & Spurs ) and Phil Bonnyman (Rangers, Hamilton, Chesterfield  & Dunfermline), unfortunately for me however the end result was the same as the Celtic trial. I just couldn’t impose myself in the limited time I had and I sloped off in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be getting a call-back.

The Teddy Bears in 1969

Last but certainly not least was a trial with the mighty Jags from Firhill.
The trial was being held at Sighthill Park and I was a bit more relaxed this time as I was accompanied by a couple of pals, Stuart Millan & Ian lamb who were also trying out. There were also a few ‘well-kent’ faces amongst the other trialists, again, lads I knew from School and Boys club football so I felt a lot more at ease.

Davie McParland

SEASON 1971/1972 Partick Thistle manager Davie McParland with the League Cup.

As I took to the pitch I noticed that the Thistle manager (and a hero of mine) Davie McParland was standing on the touchline.
I was more determined than ever to make the most of this opportunity.
I lined up in midfield and told the guys taking the centre to knock the ball back to me from the kick off so I could get an early touch, however the ball hit a massive divot, ricocheted off my shin and deflected to my midfield opponent,  who I missed with a lunging tackle, and watched from the deck as he went on to score the opening goal.

I could see the coaches scribbling away in their notepads from the corner of my eye and I knew I’d blown it. I actually went on to play pretty well but the damage was already done and unsurprisingly I was not asked to come back unlike my two mates Ian and Stuart.

To make matters worse that day I had arranged to go to the park when I got home to let my mates know how I had got on, most of the boys were sympathetic but I remember one lad called Davie Jenkins who called me a donkey and said I was wasting my time.
We had a wee game of football after that (first to 15) and I made sure Davie was in the other team. I also made sure that he was on the end of my first tackle, and I definitely made sure he knew donkeys had some kick on them!

I also decided that it would be best for me to keep any future trials to myself!

My next trial was with a team from Knightswood – Everton Boys Club who were a top youth team. This time my big brother Brian took me and stayed to watch me play.
The manager and the lads were really welcoming and I had a great game. So good in fact that the team manager asked me to join the club as soon as I came off the park, which I gladly did and with Brian in attendance he was able to sign the forms as my guardian on the spot.

To round off a great day, heading back to my brothers car I bumped into Davie McParland who’d watched the game. He was kind enough to say that his coaches would have signed me based on todays performance and would I still like to come and train with them?
At this point the Everton manager saw what was happening and shouted over “Hey, hands off, he’s ours now Davie”.

I went on to have a great season with Everton, met some brilliant guys and made friends for life with guys like Frank Murphy who went on to become a football agent and John Cairns who’s son I went on to coach at Lennox (see pic below).

I may not have signed for any of the big Glasgow clubs but I had a fantastic time at Everton Boys Club and as the song so aptly says….
“These were the best days of my life”

fully booked.

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

Other than vinyl records and CDs, there is nothing in our house that number more than books. In my office – well, man-cave: books. In the spare room: books. In our bedroom: books. In the loft: boxes of books!

I can’t say our Diane’s happy about it. Because she’s certainly not, feeling she holds the moral high ground as one of those who goes in for all this e-Book, downloading malarkey.

Sacrilege!

Books are sacrosanct. Inviolable – especially dictionaries, from where I found that word.

I blame the schools, me. From the age of four or five, we’re taught that the ‘Three Rs’ are what’s required for our future. Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. Though not Spelling, apparently.

Reading in primary school was, as I remember it, pretty entertaining. The class library had lots of colourful books with pictures, like Herge’s, ‘Adventures of Tin Tin’ and others by Dr Seuss, featuring some Cat in a Hat.

I enjoyed reading those. I must have adapted reasonably well to the Riting and Rithmetic stuff too, as I won an end-of-year prize for something or other, in Primary Six or Seven. Chances are it probably wasn’t for memorising detail.

The prize, as were all such awards, was a book token, to be spent at a designated shop in town, who would send the chosen book direct to the school. The Headmaster and teacher would then sign a pre-printed sticky label, stating how wonderful I had been at whatever it was, and I’d be presented with my book in front of the whole school and proud parents, at the annual Prize-giving.

Actually, having been brought up on ‘yellow label’ food, even at that early age, I appreciated the ethos of value for money, and managed to stretch my prize allowance to two books. I can remember being ever so excited as I trailed my mother around the shop umpteen times before settling upon, ‘Treasure Island,’ and ‘Biggles of 266.’

That was me – hooked. I loved my comics, of course, but books, especially for reading in my room at bedtime and early morning became a passion. (God! I hate that expression … it’s not like I’m on some music or baking reality show, is it? I loved reading books. That’s it. I really did love reading.)

The family summer holiday was a great time for reading. For several years, we’d pack the rickety car to the gunnels and head off from Glasgow down to Sussex or Cornwall for a couple of weeks. Boredom on long, tedious car journeys such as those, was alleviated by reading the latest adventure of William, or Jennings and Darbishire, interspersed by the Beano and Dandy Summer Specials bought at Forton and Charnock Richard service stations on the M6 South.

Actually, in the interest of research, I recently bought copies of the ‘Just – William’ book by Richmal Compton and also ‘Jennings and Darbishire’ by Anthony Buckeridge. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them again, almost fifty years after the first time.

I think I may have related to the ‘Jennings’ series of books (I owned and read them all, as with the ‘William’ collection too) because neighbours went to a public school, though not boarding, and I could envisage them using language such as the exclamation ”Wacko!” or calling someone a little hard of understanding, a “clodpoll.”

The language was all so frightfully posh, which I still thinks adds to the humour.

I wasn’t aware at the time, but the ‘William’ series was written by a woman, Richmal Compton, who taught at an all-girls school, and published the initial ‘Just – William,’ book in 1922. Re-reading the book this year, I was amazed at some of the words and descriptions Ms Compton used, and even more so that I understood them:

 ‘”It’s eating it,” cried Douglas in shrill excitement. After thoroughly masticating it, however, the baby repented of its condescension and ejected the mouthful in several instalments.’

By the time the Seventies came around, the twelve year old me was likely polishing off those two book series. I would join the Boy Scouts in 1971, and by collecting ‘junk’ for our Jumble Sales, I’d be given first dibs on the second hand paperback books.

This was how I first discovered the intrigue and excitement of Alistair Maclean novels and I embarked upon reading most of those.

Our Scout troop was always a good source of reading material. Being away on camp several times in the year made it easy to smuggle what were then considered ‘books of bad influence’ into my rucksack and read without fear of confiscation and grounding. Gritty books like ‘Skinhead,’ ‘Suedehead’ and of that ilk were very popular at that time.

It was also while in the Scouts that the first novel by Sven Hassel, ‘Wheels of Terror’ found its way into my possession. The author was a Dane who fought in the Second World War for Germany, in the Panzer tank regiment. Now, where Alistair MacLean let scenes of battle play out in the readers’ minds, Hassel was much. much more graphic. He related the horrors of war in a manner I had never seen in any film or read in books. So much so, in fact, that many now consider his books to be ‘anti-war’ rather than of the ‘war’ genre.

By the mid-Seventies I needed some respite from all these tales of horror and killing. I had recently found a new favourite TV show, and so when heading off on holiday one year, I bought the first of my M.A.S.H. books. (Yeah, I know … it was kind of ironic, I suppose.)  

A little ‘aside,’ here: being a fan of the television version of M.A.S.H. actually worked well when it subsequently came to reading the books. I already had a clear visualisation of the characters, their accents and their little foibles, so all that simply uploaded to my mind as I read. My imagination could put its feet up for a while.

This of course does not work the other way around, does it?

Over the past fifteen / twenty years, I have read over thirty of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld ‘novels. Each and every character occupies a little bit real-estate in my head. They are like neighbours and we’ve always gotten on pretty well.

Then, in recent years, television hijacked the popularity of these tales and served up various watery versions of the books. The viewer is dictated to in so far as character portrayal is concerned. Rather than put its feet up a while, ‘imagination’ could head down the pub for a few beers.

It’s the start of the slippery slope, I tells ya!

To this day, I resolutely refuse to watch a television adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel.

Sorry, I digress as some other wee short-arse used to say.

In 1975 / 1976, I was in my final year at school and studying for a Sixth Year Studies certificate in English. I was allowed pretty much a free rein in choosing what my dissertation was about. I entitled mine: ‘Life and Death as portrayed by Ernest Hemingway.’

Cheery little sod, wasn’t I?

The downside though, was that I also had to study various Jane Austen novels and plays by Bertolt Brecht. And that Shakespeare dude, too.

So, all in all, that was my reading pretty much tied up for the best part of a year.

Strangely, I have no recollection of what I read in the three and a half years left of the decade after leaving school. I went straight into work, and evening study for Banking exams. I assume, between that, my sporting commitments, nightclubbing, dating and drinking beer there was little time to read anything other than my weekly editions of Sounds magazine and Athletics Weekly.

As The Seventies wound down and the Eighties beckoned, it seemed the time was right to turn the page on a new chapter of my life.

Television!



***********

A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Fang

Paul Fitzpatrick: Transylvania, May 1897

I remember the evening like it was 50 years ago…. an evening that would change my life….

My Dad had just brought home a film projector….
A slice of Hollywood was coming to our humble suburban abode and life, surely, would never be the same again.

I had visions of Mum serving up choc ices and Kia-ora as I sat on the family sofa with my chums watching all the new releases… Planet of the Apes, The Graduate, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…. there would be a blockbuster every week.

Deveron Road was about to turn into Hollywood Boulevard… all we needed was a red carpet and a popcorn machine.

Setting the contraption up, my Dad explained that he’d got it from a friend who had kindly included a couple of reels of film to get us started.

The first reel was a home movie featuring the family who’d previously owned the projector, frolicking in the Clyde at Wemyss Bay where they lived.
Not exactly The Poseiden Adventure but we had to start somewhere and at least it helped us to get all the settings aligned.

We sat in eager anticipation as he set up the next reel and to give us a clue he mentioned that the upcoming feature was a ‘classic black & white movie’.

“Laurel & Hardy?” I suggested…. “It’s a Wonderful Life?” my Mum volunteered….

I’m sure I spotted a wee smirk on his face as he turned the lights off and pressed start.

The room and the screen were in complete darkness before the title appeared, accompanied by the eeriest church organ music known to man……

The opening title

WTF….

I repeat….

WTAF!!

There were to be no kind-hearted Angels earning their wings in this horrendous feature….
Nosferatu, was a terrifying German-Expressionist horror movie, made in 1922….. the first film ever in fact, to be based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.

Nosferatu – Count Orlok

The protagonist, Count Orlok wasn’t your run of the mill, tall-dark & handsome gigolo of a vampire with slicked back hair either…. ala Christopher Lee or Vincent Price… he was the spookiest, creepiest, most chilling looking dude I’d ever laid eyes on in my young life.

I was transfixed with fear…. I didn’t want to watch it, but I wasn’t going upstairs to bed on my own either… lying there in the dark, listening to that horrific organ music, allowing my vivid imagination to run amok!

I always thought of myself as a pretty robust kid….
True, the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT) had given me a few sleepless nights when I was 7 or 8 but this was a whole new ball game…. the SRT was like Andy Pandy compared to this carnage!

I don’t recall getting much sleep that night.

In fact for what seemed like the next couple of years, I had a pathological and (admittedly) illogical fear of vampires.

Vampires were supposed to be a myth, but not to me… and I went to extreme lengths to protect myself from them… I wasn’t taking any chances.

I kept a bible on my bedside table.
I ‘borrowed’ a silver Cross from my Mum’s jewellery box, that I wore at night.
I ‘borrowed’ a little vassal of holy water from an Aunt which I kept under my pillow.
And the piece d’resistance…….
A wooden stake (carved then ‘borrowed’ from the school woodwork lab) kept under my bed, in case I had to go full Van Helsing on the Count’s ass.

I should also add that I tried my best to acquire some garlic but every time I added it to the weekly shopping list, I got the strangest looks.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I dreaded night time… daybreak just couldn’t come fast enough.

Looking back, I fully related to George Clooney’s character in the excellent From Dusk till Dawn when he said….

And I don’t want to hear anything about not believing in vampires.
Because I don’t f***ing believe in vampires!
But I believe in my own two eyes!
And what I saw is f***ing vampires!

(it’s funnier when he says it, watch clip below)

George Clooney Scene

If there was a Hammer House of Horror movie on, (and there seemed to be one every Friday night) I’d creep downstairs and covertly sit on the bottom step of the landing, to listen to it.
I knew I was tormenting myself, but at least I wasn’t upstairs on my own, thinking the worst.

My Dad, (a non-believer!) thought this was all a big joke so one Friday night when I’d been chased from the bottom step back up to my room, he thought that it would be a jolly jape to throw pebbles up at my bedroom window from the back garden.

Thinking, quite reasonably, that it was a Vampire (in the form of a bat) trying to get into my room I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs quicker than you could say “I have crossed oceans of time to find you“, only to find my Dad pissing himself laughing and my Mum chastising him…
you’ll give the poor lad a heart attack Joe!

Reflecting on my ‘wimpish past’… apart from the Singing Ringing Tree the only other thing that had given me the heebie- jeebies prior to this monstrosity of a movie was an episode of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ called Final Escape, about John, a convicted bank robber.

Determined to escape his sentence, John befriends an inmate named Doc, who’s in charge of the prison infirmary.

They hatch a plan to hide John inside the coffin of the next inmate who dies.

The coffin will then be buried and dug up by Doc after the gravediggers and guards leave.

It all goes according to plan, until Doc fails to dig John up.
A terrified John learns why, when the shroud slips off the face of the corpse sharing the coffin with him: It’s Doc, who died of a heart attack the night before….Ahhhh!

I’m not sure when I ‘grew out’ of my Vampire phobia, I think it probably just got ‘trumped’ by The Exorcist which was much scarier and even more realistic.

I remember at the time you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about some poor sod being possessed…. ‘an exorcism being performed in a town near you’…. or some other form of paranormal activity.

Fast forward a couple of years when the movie Jaws was breaking box office records and guess what? From nowhere, shark attacks started to be tabloid front page news with shocking regularity.
Great White seen at Helensburgh pier

Life imitating art or just a way to sell more papers?

Of course Vampires are uber cool now so no one’s stocking up on bibles, or wooden stakes anymore… instead, windows are left wide open and saucer’s of blood are left on the ledge to beckon the undead….

Yesterdays persona non grata has become today’s big poster boy.

Anyway, give me the old-school ghouls any day of the week, at least Count Orlok was a scary looking mo-fo… not like these pretty boys below!

An ‘L’ of a Journey (part 1)

George Cheyne: Glasgow, May 2021

The day my son waltzed into the house after passing his driving test goes down as one of the proudest of proud dad moments.

Well, when I say waltzed…it was more of a slow shuffle as he went all Bob de Niro-style method actor on me with a fairly-convincing performance that he’d failed.

It took far too many angst-ridden seconds before his poker face finally folded to reveal a beaming smile.

Cue some manly hugging and back-slapping along with some girlie whooping and hollering thrown in for good measure.

And why not? It had been, literally and metaphorically, an amazing journey for him ever since he’d first slapped the L plates on the car and sat in the driver’s seat.

The feeling of pride didn’t come from any sense of reflected glory on my part. I’d helped him – or at least I think I did – steer his way through all the trials and tribulations of being a learner driver.

I’d sat alongside him for hours on end and felt his pain and pent-up frustration during all those “kangaroo petrol” moments, the crunching gear changes, the stalling at traffic lights with a queue of cars behind us and the teenage tantrums. Oh, yes, the tantrums.

So, yeah, I was proud he’d come out the other side.

And in keeping with the ways of the 21st Century, there was a picture to be taken with his pass certificate so it could be circulated to the immediate family.

It turned out to be his second photo shoot of the day as the driving instructor had snaffled him at the test centre straight after he’d passed to take a picture of him and the car.

First-time pass, nice cheesy smile and the driving school logo front and central…that’s your ringing endorsement right there.

It was probably up on the driving school website before my son had the chance to rehearse his Bob de Niro act.

If you ever needed a snapshot of how things have changed since the 1970s then this was it.

As my son’s phone started pinging with several messages responding to the news that he’d passed his test, I took a moment to think back to when I’d passed mine.

This was in 1976, so I sat the test, came home, told my mum, dad and brothers the news and, err, that was it.

No photo shoots, no ringing endorsements, no phone calls, faxes, telegrams or whatever sent out to a waiting world.
It took weeks before all my family and friends found out.

Just because there was no big song and dance about passing your test back then, it doesn’t lessen the achievement.

It was still teenager versus machine, a nerve-shredding World Cup final of a contest which often went to extra time and penalties.

Like a lot of Seventies kids coming up to their 17th birthday, I’d asked my mum and dad for driving lessons as a present.

And presumably because they were looking for a chauffeur in the future, I was handed an L plate birthday card with a note inside.

No bells and whistles, no gold-embossed business card, this was a hand-written blue biro message scribbled on a page torn out a lined notebook.

It read: “The bearer of this note shall be entitled to 7 x 1hour driving lessons. Graham GYSOM”

The tone seemed a bit pompous given it was scrawled on a bit of torn-out paper and I figured Graham must have had a background in banking or something.

No matter, the important part of this scrawl was “7 x 1hr driving lessons” and I was entitled to them. Why 7? Turns out Graham had an introductory offer of buy-six-get-one-free.

It also turned out that the Graham Young School of Motoring – the GYSOM at the foot of the note – was more of a solitary classroom than a school.

And the domino effect of him being a one-man band, his introductory offer taking off in a big way and so many teenagers clamouring to drive meant my seven lessons were spread over 14 weeks.

A fortnight was too long in between and progress was pretty slow as I spent the first 20 minutes of each lesson going over what we’d done in the previous one.

I tried to persuade my mum and dad to put me on their insurance for the family car so I could get some extra hours in, but the exorbitant cost of adding a 17-year-old male to the policy made that a non-starter.

So I diverted most of my hard-earned wages – originally earmarked for such necessities as alcohol and music – to invest in more lessons with Graham.

I managed to swing the introductory offer again – which was probably a reflection on how little progress I’d made – and got back behind the wheel of his Morris Marina 1.3 saloon.

We traipsed up and down the streets near the Anniesland test centre in Glasgow trying to keep the car straight and avoid crashing into my fellow learner drivers.

Anniesland Test Centre

And after four lessons of this second batch something finally clicked. The gear changes were smoother, the driving got easier, the traffic awareness heightened and the confidence flowed.

No-one was more surprised than me. Well, apart from my instructor, that is.

Graham, a man in his early thirties who wore a shirt and tie like he meant it, sat across from me after that lesson ended looking slightly incredulous.

“When did you learn to drive like that?”, he asked.

The question seemed to suggest that he didn’t have much faith in (a) my driving ability or (b) his instructing skills. But I let that slide as he began talking about sending away for a test date.

Now it was my turn to be incredulous as I realised there was to be no turning back. Well, not unless I was carrying out a textbook three-point turn, of course.

To be continued…

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)

these boots were made for …

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

… well, not exactly. Let me explain:

I’m no trend setter, I think it’s safe to say. I mean, I don’t see many other blokes my age roaming the not so mean streets of Houston, following my lead by rocking a similar hairstyle. 

Neither am I one to blindly fall into the wake of whatever’s considered the current ‘new wave.’

However, the young me, the very young me, was a bit more impressionable.

I’d have been aged eight or nine when these babies made their appearance in the mid-Sixties. I doubt I’d even reached the dizzy responsibilities of Seconder in the Cub Scouts when I first noticed some of the other boys proudly sporting them during Inspection. Actually, I wouldn’t have noticed them at all if it wasn’t for the continuous bragging of those little smart a****!

You see, the uppers bore no real difference to any other run of the mill shoe.  It was what lay beneath that made these shoes ‘to die for.’ (Sorry – that sounds just a tad too ‘cub scout camp.’)

Yes, the magic all happened below. Out of sight. On, and wait for it, IN the sole of the shoe. How radical was that?

True, some of the magic was dependent on certain geographical and meteorological conditions being met. It may have proved different for kids living in the more arid regions of southern England, but here in West of Scotland, we didn’t generally have to worry about a dearth of puddles, claggy mud and even snow.

However, the main attraction of these shoes was the small compass, secreted in a special compartment of the right foot’s heel. Genius!

Actually, the real genius here was not so much the design or designer, but the dude who by tapping into the sheer gullibility of eight year old lads, successfully marketed these inherently pointless yet novelty shoes to reluctant parents.

Wait, thinking of it, with thirty-two points on a compass, Wayfinders were anything but ‘pointless,’ but you get my drift.

I mean, seriously, what use was a compass to an eight year old? Unless your mother, in addition to your name, had sewn in the DMS (degrees, minutes and seconds) coordinates of your home address into the collar of your jumper, you’d be stuffed if you became lost.

What could you do? Even had you been awarded the Navigator Activity badge, without your home coordinates, you had only a one in thirty-two chance of stumbling back into your street. And the danger for those who hadn’t paid proper attention during the Pioneering Badge session, was they’d only retain two words: magnetic and north.

I count myself here as one of the stupid ones who would have ended up in Inverness or somewhere cold and bleak that was not really my intention.

But worse! What self-respecting young lad does not carry a bar magnet in their pocket? And that’s not a euphemism. You’d end up in Portsmouth, in a very confused state for goodness sake.

Another thing – what’s the point of animal tracks moulded onto the sole of your shoe? Should Bear Grylls come across an unfamiliar track when out in the wilds, I’m reasonably confident in suggesting he’d use a pocket manual or something to help him identify it – not take off his shoe to compare the muddy imprint.

I did, and still do, enjoy the thought however, of a trail of these prints being left in a snow covered country lane – and the befuddled look on a hungry fox’s little face when he finally realises he hasn’t actually won the lottery and chanced upon a whole winter larder’s supply of food.

Anyway, the concept of individuality was alien to me at such a young age, and like a sheep, I followed the trend. I did actually manage to badger my folks into buying me a pair of these stoaters, even though they were quite dear at the time.

(Sorry – my hands made me type that last paragraph.)

Over the next few years, my head was too full of football and nonsense to bother about fashion of any sorts. In 1971, though through my first winter at secondary school, leather, zipped ankle boots became de rigeur.

Surprisingly, considering the expense, my parents offered negligible resistance to my request for a pair. I was now part of the cool set at school. Deep puddles and wet snow – I laugh in your face.

If puddles and wet snow did indeed have a face, and they could laugh out loud, they would have been in stitches a few days later when they had exacted retribution for my callous disregard of their existence.

Somehow soaked through to my socks when I arrived home from school, my Mum placed the boots in front of the two-bar electric fire. Within minutes there was an acrid, burning smell. And it wasn’t the usual overcooked burning cauliflower scent I had become so used to. (Sorry, Mum.)

I rushed to the rescue of my beloved leather boots and was aghast to see a lava-like rivulet spread down the front of the left one.

Yup! These ‘leather’ boots were made of plastic. These Boots Were Made For Melting.

With a renewed respect for puddles and wet snow, I returned to school the following morning, ready to be slaughtered for unfashionable, fashionable boots. I wasn’t disappointed. Kids can be so cruel, you know.

My final foray into the world of fashion came a year or so later. Inspired by Glam Rock in general, the band, Sweet, in particular, and a distinct lack of personal height, platform shoes were my next ‘got to have.’ Purple ones. Or ox blood, I think was the delightful, correct description. Two toned ox blood ones, in fact.

Now I totally loved these. I looked well sharp and felt five feet tall.

But what is it with shoes, winter and me? Having worn these through the months of autumn, it had escaped my attention that the soles and more so, the heels had worn thin as the first snows began to fall. In fact, the heel rubber was non-existent. Well, what would I know … I hadn’t looked at the soles of my shoes since my last pair of Wayfinders.

Sat in double History, I was conscious of some surreptitious whispers and giggling from those sat behind me. To my horror, I noticed a puddle of water under my seat, just where I’d crossed my ankles for comfort.

The more I frantically pleaded that this was not the result of excitement at the prospect of reading about the French Revolution for the next hour, the more the mirth intensified. Even the teacher cast me some alarmed glances.

It was only at the end of class when I slipped and staggered out the room, leaving behind what remained of two, three inch, heel shaped blocks of compacted ice and snow, that my innocence was proved, and incontinence debunked.

Looking back then, perhaps I should have learned how to make better use the Wayfiinders compass. At least I would have determined at an early stage that my attempt at becoming a style icon would head in one direction only – and that was south.

let the children play

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

Look at you, sitting there staring down at your crotch, pawing and fiddling about. It’s disgusting ! You should be outside getting some fresh air. You can’t use the lockdown excuse for ever. How many games of Candy Crush have you played anyway ?

How did we amuse ourselves back in the 60s and 70s ? We played games.

On that hallowed patch of blaes, Primary 7 boys utilised the full pitch and goalposts with a regulation rubber football. Primaries 6 and 5s played either side, piled up jumpers and schoolbags marking the goal line, kicking a deflated bladder. Primaries 4 and 3 played across field with anything from a tennis ball to a smooth stone. In this mixed melee of minions every boy was focused on their own particular game.

Meanwhile the girls did girlie stuff on the playground.

Truth be told, what the girls played at was far more complicated than any boy could ever comprehend. The mathematical complexity of peevers (or hopscotch) or the secret knowledge of rhyme when skipping.

 “A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,

To see what he could see, see, see

But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.”

These sacred songs must be handed down in ancient rituals by wizened old maidens of knowledge from secret covens far from the meddling of mere men.

Very occasionally boys would be allowed to enter the world of swirling jute and caw the rope – that is hold the end of the skipping rope. A great responsibility only given to a few –  and a fixed point on a solid structure. Tie it tae a waw an it’s jist yin ye need tae caw the rope. Many a skipper has been garroted ankle high as a sensitive wee lad has abandoned the game full flight by the taunt of “Ya big Jessie” from fellow male classmates. Gender fluidity wasn’t even a fizzy drink back in the 60s and 70s.

Then there were Chinese ropes. I’m sure throughout the ages of the many dynasties of the Chinese Empire through to the formation of the People’s Republic, progress wasn’t reliant on interlocking rubber bands. Anyway, another hopelessly complex game purely a spectator sport for the young hormonal boy as skirts were shortened and eventually tucked into knickers as the elastic rope heightened.

Tig (your het) and all it’s variants was a popular playtime pursuit. There was the brutish British Bulldogs or when the girls joined in it morphed into catch & kiss or kissy chasey. Then there were those parties where the guys put their car keys in a fruit bowl and……………. wait a minute. I seemed to have fast forwarded a few decades. Forget that last bit !

Indoor versions and the mainstay for kid’s parties were Blind Man’s Bluff or What’s The Time Mr Wolf ? (Marco Polo as it is known in the US I believe.)

A more sedate activity were marbles and jacks. I don’t think I ever got beyond a foursie (What! You don’t remember ? Google it). For the child with the sadistic bent there were conkers. Clackers for the masochists. What could be more fun than the deafening rat-a-tat echoing around the school corridor before the blood curdling scream, as knuckles and wrists were shattered by wayward spiraling hard acrylic balls on string ?

For the more creative among us there were cat’s cradle and the origami fortune teller (several steps up from the humble paper plane). A combination of numbers and colours that could make you the Uri Geller of your time (although a bit of spoon bending would really seal the deal).

The world of the 60s and 79s seemed to have a rubber fetish. Superballs were small hard rubberised balls with an incredible bounce. Similar but more solid than those used in squash (which only over 40s men in tight shorts played). Many a time I would throw the projectile into the school shed only for it to ricochet off various surfaces before returning at twice the speed, smashing me in the face. And I thought clackers were fun !

If you wanted to lose all dignity you could get yourself a space hopper. The sort of fad that had your attention for all of about 3 minutes. The best thing was to leave them around for adults to surreptitiously jump on and end up either flat on their backs, legs akimbo, or sliding down the wall face first. You think they would have learnt with pogo sticks.

Not all play was confined to the playground. There was always the street. Next door Frankie had a cool looking bike with cow horn handlebars and a long banana seat. He could do all sorts of tricks on it, bouncing and balancing on either front or back wheel. I had the family heirloom that moved forward in one direction. An ex Royal Mail 3 speed beast of a contraption dating back to the early 50s. If Frankie had a mustang, mine was a cart horse. Barely able to start on level ground it slowly built up speed over a long weekend. Give me a slight decline and I swear there was a sonic boom. I lost several fillings from the G-force alone. Braking wasn’t an option so I usually ended up miles from home pushing the monster up hill.

There were also attempts at assembling bogeys and go karts but these were lucky to survive more than an afternoon’s test drive.

A Winter flurry brought out the old trusty sled (another family heirloom) which travelled a few feet before sinking into the snow with only a couple of embarrassing rusty skid marks to show for it. Frankie’s aluminium framed sleigh swooshed by. My brother came up with the idea of using a discarded plastic toilet seat which glided over the ice at warp speed before splitting in two and up ending big bro in a ditch.

“But someone could have been seriously hurt !”

That’s it. Game’s a bogie. Back to the safety of the sofa and an afternoon of Freecell on the mobile (with only 2 cushions for protection though !)

my 1970s teen-angst diary (part 2)

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

Revisit Part 1 of ‘My 1970s Teen Angst Diary’ here.

INTRODUCTION RE-CAP

First crush, unrequited love, friendships, breaking-up, making-up, chicken in the brick, going to the flicks, grey tights, the disco, ponies, clogs, orchestra practice, sexism, a court case and Col’s wooden ‘Andie Block’…it was all going on in 1974!

In those far off pre-digital days of my youth – the 1970s – there were no bloggers, no tweeters, no Instagram or Facebook opportunities to express or comment on whatever thought popped into our heads. And wasn’t it great! The notion that other people might be remotely interested in our inner thoughts was alien; I grew up hearing that old chestnut, “you know what thought did,” even though I had no idea what it meant.

On my ninth birthday in 1969, my mother gave me a five year diary; encouraging me to “keep all my secrets” within this little blue leather book with a lock and key; as she had done in her youth. I kept it sporadically.  It is only in the past two years that I have begun writing a journal once more and it is considerably less entertaining than my teenage diary!

June 2nd, 1974

 “Saw a film called ‘300 Spartans.” Hollywood, violins,  corny but quite good. For lunch, cooked chicken in brick with garlic, also potatoes, peas, fruit salad, milk, gravy & dry cake. Yum!

 Went to Col’s to see rabbits. We just missed DARRYL SMITH! Col was in a towel as he was getting ready for a bath. Couldn’t see rabbits. Went for a walk round the block with Zoo.”

 June 13th, 1974

 “Didn’t go to orchestra practice. I’ll get Mom to write a note. I might (well, probably will) have to testify about accident which Julie and John had (fight). Help! I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!

Went to piano lesson. Playing Fur Elise. NOT going to disco Saturday night as sold out of tickets. Going to TOP RANK Saturday morning.”

NB: I had witnessed a school fight between Julie and John, which had begun as a flirtatious game but ended with Julie falling down stairs and knocking out a tooth. Her mother reported it to the police and it ended up in the Juvenile Court. My testament prevented John from being sent to Borstal.

June 17th, 1974

“At school today Kim said that Pamela had told her that Darryl Smith had told her to tell Kim that he HATES ME!  (Boo Hoo.) I don’t know why, except that he thinks I’m dependent on him, so at next disco I’m going to dance with other boys (not that I’ve ever danced with Darryl, though I’d love to!!). This might make him see that I don’t need him, so he might like me again. I HOPE SO!! 

Still, as my pals say, “there are more fish in the sea,” though I still like Darryl as much as before.

Saw TV programme on SLEEP – very interesting.”

June 20th, 1974

“Nothing much went on today. Got pen friends, I will write to a few more.  It is EXTREEMLY hot today & tonight!! So hot, I might not use sheets!!

I have just heard a cat scream. Zoo is in heat. Made fudge – turned out like caramel – very nice!

 Julie’s mum doesn’t want her to come to m y house again. She said “you know who your pals are in these cases.” GOOD NIGHT!

June 22nd, 1974

 “Went to Halesowen to Sainsbury’s with Mom and Dad. Dad got sick ’cause they went to a party night before. Gave Shaz a birthday present – Elton John, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.” Went to disco tonight. Alright but a lot of kids there about 17 – some about 15. They stuck pins in you. Spent night at Shaz’s house.” (WTF – STUCK PINS IN YOU?)

July 16th, 1974

 “Tonight went to Carnival (in the States, a Fun Fair is called a Carnival) in Shenley (near Bartley Green Reservoir). Went on ‘WALTZER JOY-BOUNCE’, ‘SCRAMBLER’, & ‘ROCKETS’. 2nd time on WALTZER man spun me, Shaz & Becky round so I was nearly sick, skirt went back, couldn’t move or lean forward.  ROCKET handle moved up or down but ours didn’t work so we were up in the air all the time – I screamed & held on to Shaz. Scrambler man said to Shaz that I had white knickers on. When we went by him he patted Shaz’s knee. Went on stalls. Shaz won a furry toy on stick.”

July 17th, 1974  

“Had Summer Fair at school tonight. Ii did Pony Rides with Georgina & Jean. Georgina brought their  ponies, FELLA & JUPITER. I think we raised around £5.00. Georgina gave me 20p for my ‘hard work’ (cough cough!) I went in my jodhpurs & riding boots & several boys laughed at me. I got a coke & as I picked it up, I spilled Mr. Gupta’s (History teacher) coffee right in front of Mrs. Carter.” (Head Teacher) Oh well. Went to Georgina’s for an hour. Got home about 10.00pm.”

Andrea, aged 14, on one of her favourite ponies.

July 18th, 1974

“Last day of school this year! GREAT!  I’ll be 4th Year next year! Help! Tonight I am at Becky’s. We have just had an omelette. (Yum!) Tomorrow we are going to town early then going skating.  That should be funny! I’ll write about that tomorrow!

There are some Spanish girls at school. One of them did hand-stands at break on playground & 2 did piggy-backs. They are popular with the boys here. One boy said, “ Can I tickle your fancy?”  She didn’t know what it meant.

 Sang ‘School’s Out’  (Alice Cooper) as we walked home!”

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 11th April, 2021)