Category Archives: School

nightmare on spey road

By Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2021

We’re all creatures of habit and I think it starts at an early age.

I remember my after-school routine at Primary School, it consisted of having a snack and watching a bit of tv before attempting to do any homework and waiting for my Dad to get home from work to have my tea.

This was well before my Crossroads days mind, so Miss Diane was just a twinkle in my eye back then.

The after school viewing options were all targeted at primary school children although by this stage (Primary 3) I remember thinking Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men were getting a bit stale and hankering for Tom & Jerry which was shown a bit later.

The post-school programmes I remember watching from this era were….

 Watch with Mother – Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men, entry level stuff that was starting to get a bit tiresome.

Animal Magic – good old Johnny Morris and his hilarious talking animals

Vision On – Tony Hart and his art, we all thought he was a dull version of Rolf Harris, little did we know!

Crackerjack – on every Friday, my favourite! what you wouldn’t do for a Crackerjack pencil back then

This particular day didn’t seem much different to any other, we were learning our times-tables, I’d gagged on the lukewarm school milk as usual, I’d walked home from school with my pals as normal looking for anything we could use as a football.
On getting home I’d given my Mum a hug as she served my daily aperitif and snack, orange Creamola Foam and a Lyons chocolate cup cake, and I was ready for some well deserved R & R after another hard day at the coal face.

As I settled down to watch my daily helping of kids tv I didn’t recognise the title on our black & white DER television screen – ‘Tales from Europe’…. maybe Johnny Morris had gone to a zoo in Bavaria or perhaps Tony Hart was going to sketch Caravaggio’s gruesome – ‘Salome with the head of John the Baptist’?

Actually, what followed was a lot more traumatising than the Caravaggio masterpiece.

This is my summary of the anguish that followed, so for any of you that forget the actual storyline of this gruesome fairy-tale, here it is, in all its macabre glory….

It all started off well enough with a fanfare and a handsome Prince on a horse.

He was on his way to a big castle to sweep a beautiful Princess off her feet and to ask for her hand in marriage – a classic start, this looked promising.

The Princess wasn’t for sweeping though, and it turned out she was a bit of a brat, cascading the pearls he had gifted her to the floor she demanded a grand gesture, not expensive trinkets – “The Singing Ringing Tree – Bring it to me!”

The Kings court thought this was hilarious, she was sending the poor guy on a wild goose chase, but undeterred and in true fairy-tale fashion the Prince was determined to win her hand and off he went to fairyland to find the novelty tree.

So far so good, but then 10 minutes in, a dwarf appears, scuttling around, stalking the Prince and looking a bit menacing.

Now you have to remember, any experiences of small people in my young life up till now have been pretty positive, the fun-filled dwarves in Snow White, the playful munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, the vertically challenged Tom Thumb and all the fairytale Elves and Pixies.
And not forgetting of course my favourite little fella – Jimmy Clitheroe, a 4ft 2in comic genius.

Charming little guys, the lot of them – so nothing to be scared of here.

But there was something instantly menacing about this little guy, he didn’t appear very friendly, plus he had magical powers which was a bit disconcerting.
Jimmy Clitheroe was cool, but he couldn’t turn a horse into a concrete statue by waving his hands.

The Prince being a bit giddy makes a deal with the dwarf – if the dwarf gives him the tree he will ensure the Princess falls in love with him by sunset, enabling the tree to truly sing and ring.
If he doesn’t achieve this, he will gladly let the dwarf turn him into a bear, yes you read it correctly – A Bear!

And he actually volunteered this forfeit himself!
Not the brightest Prince – too much in-breeding obviously…

Off the Prince trots, back to the castle, tree in hand to present it to his betrothed, only she’s not very impressed, with either the tree (it’s not very special for a magic tree to be fair) or the fact that it’s not singing or ringing.
When Princey says it’s up to her to make the tree perform by showing the love, she goes full-blown Mariah Carey on his ass and kicks him out of the castle for a second time, in a tumultuous diva meltdown.

Being the fickle sort however she decides a few hours later she does want the tree after all and manipulates her father the King to go in search of it. (daughters twisting Dad’s round their little fingers – who’d have thought!)

By this point the handsome Prince has been turned into Yogi Bear and the dwarf is now openly mocking the Prince, suggesting he should try courting the Princess as a bear.

Not best pleased ‘The Bear formerly known as Prince’ confronts the King who’s come to Fairyland to claim the tree for his disgrace of a daughter and makes a deal with him.

The King can take the tree back to the castle as long as the bear takes ownership of the first person the King meets when he gets there (oh I wonder who that will be???).
The King agrees.

The impatient Princess waiting for his return sees her father coming back to the castle in the distance, shoves the footmen down the stairs, trips up her maid, kicks the dog out the way and guess what – is first there to greet her father in order to get her tree.

To say she’s not best pleased to hear the deal Daddy made to get the tree is an understatement and she persuades him to send the Captain of the guard instead of her, to kill the bear.

Great plan except this bear is indeed smarter than the average bear, and now he’s really pissed off, so he kidnaps the princess, avec tree, and takes her back to Fairyland (which if you’re wondering is quite close to Anniesland).

Then for no reason other than to demonstrate Eastern Bloc special effects in 1957 a giant goldfish appears in a lake and the Princess true to form acts all diva-like, enabling the dwarf to change her appearance to match her distasteful personality.
Bizarrely he gives her green hair, and she now looks like Billie Eilish.

Distraught at her appearance the Bear tells her she’ll need to change her ways to regain her beauty, so, stripped of her privileges and looks, she starts to become a nicer, more gracious person – she’s kind to animals, particularly the goldfish and a random giant reindeer who appears in a snowstorm and she’s even nice to Yogi now.

Through being charitable and thoughtful, the Princess magically regains her beauty and comes back looking a bit like Holly Willoughby.

But just when things are looking up, she encounters the dwarf for the first time who’s a bit pissed off that kindness and compassion are alive and well in his kingdom.
He tries to poison her mind against the bear, but to no avail, she professes her love for the bear.

Cue the singing ringing tree which is now singing and ringing to its little hearts content.

The dwarf ain’t having any of this though and duly creates a ring of fire around the tree, (sadly, without the accompanying Johnny Cash soundtrack).
Undeterred the Princess channels her inner Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and walks through the tinfoil, ahem flames, to embrace the tree, and by doing so, expels the Dwarves powers, which sends him plummeting underground (we’re assuming to the big fire).

All smiley and in love she duly jumps onto the back of the horse with the Prince who’s cast aside his bearish charms and now looks like Phillip Schofield and they ride off into the sunset together to host This Morning (except for Fridays).

Now as crazy as this all sounds, unless Mum sneakily infused some magic mushrooms into my cupcake (and I wouldn’t rule it out, I used to be given whisky for toothache!) then that’s what went down, I know this to be true, because I have YouTube and Google.

It all sounds very silly so why did it traumatise so many of us?

Well like I said we were used to little people being charming and friendly so the fact that this little imp was so nasty, and evil was kind of a game changer.

Also, he had no ulterior motives, he was just f*cking with everyone for the sake of it and the irrationality of this was bemusing to an 8-year-old in a world where everything kind of happened for a reason.

The show lasted for 72 minutes but was serialised in 3 episodes to ensure that children everywhere had three sleepless weeks instead of just the one.

I can vividly remember being freaked out by the little guy, had he really been killed off like the Wicked Witch of the West, who had evaporated into a kale smoothie at the touch of water, or could he come back to torment us?


That’s what kept me awake, that’s what made me continually check my cupboards and under the bed, and up in the loft – that’s what gave me the frickin’ heebie-jeebies!  

Like most of us I’ve watched thousands of hours of tv (the average in a lifetime is 78,000 hours apparently) and there are certain things you never forget –

Bowie’s first appearance on TOTP

The ending in The Sopranos

Basil thrashing the car in Fawlty Towers

Archie Gemmill’s goal v Holland in 1978

And I would have to add this show and the evil dwarf to the list as it’s been burned into my psyche since I saw it. 55 years ago.

As Rita Cruikshank rightly says – “you never forget trauma”

naughty boy

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

I will endeavour to present this article to you, the general public, without the use of quotes. Thank you.

“It’s !……………….” Ah, false start.

We kids of the 60s were brought up on a numbing TV diet of the crass and corny. Think “The Dick Emery Show”, “On The Buses” and “Steptoe & Son”. The bland – “Charlie Drake”, “Harry Worth”, “Hugh & I” and the innuendo strewn and mildly titillating “Carry On” films “Up Pompeii” and of course “The Benny Hill Show”. There were a few stand outs – “Dads Army”, “The Likely Lads” but on average our comedic viewing was……………………… well, average.

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” emerged from the ashes of “The Frost Report”, “At Last the 1948 Show” and “Do Not Adjust Your Set” in 1969 but didn’t come to my attention until a couple of years later. It continued the surreal elements of “Peter Cook and Dudley Moore” and Spike Milligan’s “Q”. It became an unexpected success.

“Nobody expects the Spanish…………………………….” No !

Five ‘Oxbridge’ dons and a Yank cartoonist wrote, created and performed a sketch show which stretched the boundaries of what we had previously known and witnessed. This was no traditional nor conventional comedy sketch show with a beginning, middle and end. Continuity was abandoned, chaos was unleashed and we teenagers lapped it up.

This was our generation’s comedy, our Beatles and Stones moment of hilarity and mirth and best of all……………………….our parents didn’t get it !

“Turn that rubbish off !”

“Isn’t there snooker on the other side ?”

I think the show went to air on a Thursday evening and on Friday morning, the registration class was a buzz with soliloquising falsetto voices. Come recess, a pit of 4th year Python prodigy would slither sideways across the playground in a great arc flicking it’s tail and baring it’s fangs at any stray juniors with a caustic Cleese like come down.

We would then curl up in a huddle to re-enact the previous evening’s episode. We must have looked like a convention of young Tourette sufferers with our silly walks and Gumby impressions. (Having a knitted tank top, I was half way there already !)

Cross country running was the staple of many a PE class. Off  twenty odd gangling teenagers would trot around Kilmardinny loch a few times, sufficient to fill a double period. A group of us would hang back and turn a sharp left up to Graeme’s basement for a few tracks of “Another Monty Python Record”, it’s cover a crude crayon scratching out of Beethoven 2nd Symphony in D Major, then rejoin the stragglers 15 minutes later in our Upper Class Twit of the Year personas.

“Simon-Zinc-Trumpet-Harris, married to a very attractive table lamp………..” Oops !

The 70s brought us the cinematic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the iconic “Life of Brian” with all it’s ridiculous accusations of blasphemy. What could be better publicity than rabbis and nuns protesting with placards !

Sadly the circus packed up and left town. Cleese to the equally iconic ‘Fawlty Towers’ then basically any film that required his cameo. Palin went off on his travels. Gilliam became one of the leading film directors of the time. Idle tried to revive some sketches on Broadway and Chapman and Jones left the stage altogether.

“’E’s expired and gone to meet…………………….”  Sorry !

The word pythonesque is now the standard bearer for anything deemed as ‘surreal comedy’.

Even today, when I pick up the axe to chop some fire wood, I can’t help humming to myself the first few lines of “I’m a Lumberjack”. Or maybe the smirk is because… 

“I cut down trees, I wear high heels

Suspendies and a bra

I wish I’d been a girlie, just like my dear Papa”…………………………..damn it !

Who can’t resist on hearing the final refrain of Sousa’s “Liberty Bell” blowing that squelching raspberry.

Or is it just me with my highfalutin ideas ?

Come on. I know you want to say it. In your best falsetto voice now……………

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy !”

all about that flute

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

I clearly remember the day my big brother brought home ‘the beast’. He was at ‘big’ school and had recently ditched the violin. And here it was. The double bass. Six mighty feet of curved sensuous shiny dark wood like the entrance to Narnia with strings. Bro would draw the bow across the lowest string and I would marvel at the deep sonorous rumble, the vibrations reaching down to the pit of my stomach. ‘Pluck’ like a stone in a well. I was mesmerised. This was the instrument for me.

Like anything in life there were drawbacks. It was 6 foot and I was barely 5. My brother strictly forbade me anywhere near it and I’d get a dead arm just for loitering outside his bedroom door.

Of course the problem’s in the name. Double. Twice as much. Double trouble. Try lugging that thing on and off a corporation bus ? In the mid 70s I would be standing at the bus stop with 2 saxophone cases in my hand. The skinny guy next to me had his guitar in a canvas bag. We were both going to our respective band practices. His was with Orange Juice. When the bus came, I would struggle on and deposit my cargo on the shelf at the front of the bus and sit in front of it only to be shooed away by some pensioner. The whole journey I’d be sitting at the back in a hot sweat staring at my cases thinking ‘some bastard’s going to half inch ma saxes!’

Try this. Put your left thumb in your left ear. Put your 2nd finger on the tip of your nose. Your 1st finger on your brow. 3rd on your lips and your pinky on your chin. That’s the basic first position of the bass. Has your hand cramped up yet?  

I’d really have to think this through.

I played a descent descant recorder in primary, (which was compulsory in all non- denominational schools in the west of Scotland) well enough to get an audition for a ‘real’ instrument. Clarinet or flute was on offer. All I knew of the clarinet was ‘Strangler On The Shore’ by Aker Boke which I thought pretty lame. Did you know Mr Bilk took out his false teeth to play – a big no no for reed players apparently. It buggers up the embouchure – and that is not a euphemism !

Flute was OK. Hadn’t Canned Heat being ‘Going Down The Country’, The Moody Blues been lamenting about ‘Knights In White Satin’ and Jethro Tull ‘Living In The Past’ with the help of the flute ? Flute it was then.

I passed the audition and so began 5 years of weekly flute lessons with a wonderful and patient teacher.

Playing an instrument in primary had a certain credibility about. Secondary ? Nah, not so much. It was now I realised that I had made the wise decision.

The flute fitted neatly into my canvas duffel bag and I thought about the humiliation my fellow musos were about to endure. You might be able to pass off a trumpet case as a small suitcase or trombone case as containing a bazooka but string players were doomed from the off. Which was probably a sort of natural selection thing as a certain number would have had to be culled anyway !

I persevered. Sometimes trying to emulate Jethro standing on one leg swinging the flute like a baton only to scuff the axminster and maim the Capodimonte figurines.

I even got into the Dunbartonshire Schools County Senior Orchestra. From The Vale of Leven to Lenzie, musical teens from across the county were let loose in a large Scottish baronial mansion near Drymen once or twice a year and were expected to make beautiful music together (and that’s not a euphemism though there were some Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark!)

Playing the flute led me to play the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, piccolo and various whistles (if you can’t be good be versatile) in part-time bands touring Scotland from the mid 70s onwards. Occasionally, I will still try and attempt ‘Syrinx’ by Debussy. One of the most hauntingly beautiful solo flute pieces ever written.

Do I wait eagerly for the double bass solo in the late night jazz club or hanker for the slap of the rockabilly or bluegrass bass fiddle ? You bet I do.

welcome to the unnatural history museum

(By George Cheyne – Glasgow, March 2021)

Traipsing round a stuffy museum on a school trip can’t be many people’s idea of fun – it certainly wasn’t mine.

I remember dragging my heels as we toured Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the Seventies for some history project or other. Yawn!

In and out of airless rooms with an interminable amount of portraits, old stones, suits of armour, stuffed animals and some painting of Jesus on the cross from above. At least I think it was Jesus…you couldn’t even see the guy’s face!

The trouble was not so much about what was in Kelvingrove, but what WASN’T in it. A wee bit of pzazz and a helluva lot of imagination and it could have been far more interesting.

So here are some alternative exhibits for the museum – a shrine to the 60s and 70s, if you will – with some of my own historical notes to go alongside.

Loch Ness Monster

The centuries-old Nessie mystery was finally solved in 1971 when a perfectly-formed skeleton of a 27-metre-long Spinosaurus was discovered on the shores of Loch Ness.

The discovery was hushed up because of national security but the bones have now been released under the 50-year rule and will take pride of place in Kelvingrove.

To give context, the diplodocus dinosaur that was the main exhibit at the entrance to London’s Natural History Museum until 2017 was 26 metres long. It is understood the diplodocus was moved out because the London museum knew Nessie would be a bigger attraction – in every way.

Secret soft-drink formula

This was found in a disused store cupboard at AG Barr’s plant in Cumbernauld. Dating from 1968, it was stuck to an iron girder after some Irn Bru had been spilled on it.

Barr’s donated the secret recipe – for a soft-drink called “ginger” – to the museum because it would be illegal to make these days given the high amount of sugar required.

The alchemist who came up with the formula did so in an attempt to avoid confusion in shops when kids would ask for “ginger” without actually knowing what flavour they wanted.

Robert Burns poem

An original work of the Bard – authenticated by a host of Burns experts – was recently discovered behind a false wall in an 18th-century house in Alloway, Ayrshire.

Historians have long since argued about the “Seventies” mentioned in the poem and, while it was originally thought to be the Bard’s look ahead to the 1870s, it is now widely accepted he was referring to the 1970s. 

Ode to a Haggis Supper

Ah could fair stuff my sonsie face,

Wi’ a chieftain o’ the puddin-race,

Dripping in batter and plunged intae hot fat,

Now that wid mak ye a man for a’ that,

Lying on the coonter, O what a glorious sight,

Served up wi’ chips so fluffy and light,

In the Seventies every groaning trencher,

Is bound to be droont in salt ‘n vinegar

Elvis Presley song

An unpublished Elvis Presley song – written on the back of a fag packet – has been donated to Kelvingrove by the late Senga McGlumphey’s family.

Senga was working as a cleaner at Prestwick Airport when Elvis flew in for a stopover in 1960 and got chatting to the legendary singer.

After asking her name, the King started scribbling on a fag packet that Senga had picked up and began humming a tune. A few minutes later Elvis had to leave the building and handed over the Embassy Regal packet with the lyrics to Return To Senga on it.

The song was never published, but it bears an uncanny resemblance to an Elvis smash hit which came out two years later.

Bay City Rollers tartan

This was commissioned in the late 1970s as Les, Eric and the lads tried to unify the tartan clobber they wore to maximise merchandising potential.

Rollers manager Tam Paton came up with the plan to design a new tartan, copyright it and then rake in the big bucks from the new-look merch.

Unfortunately, the band couldn’t agree on a design and the tartan swatches dropped out of sight – until now.

The World Cup trophy

Awarded to Scotland after a series of bizarre FIFA rulings. First, Willie Johnston was granted a free pardon after FIFA admitted it was their doctor who had prescribed the winger the banned tablets at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Then FIFA agreed to look at the results from the tournament retrospectively and considered Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland so good that it was decided Scotland should go through to the next round in their place.

The bigwigs further ruled that if Holland could beat Austria, draw with Germany and beat Italy, then surely Scotland could have – so they were automatically put into a final against Argentina.

This match was to be played in 2021 using the original squads from 43 years ago, but Covid restrictions prevented it taking place.

Under pressure to come up with a solution, FIFA then decided the final would be determined by a shots-drinking competition which, unsurprisingly, Scotland won.

But it wouldn’t be Scotland without some sort of problem and Argentina appealed on the grounds that legendary hardman defender Kenny Burns threatened five of their players during the live Zoom event.

However, the SFA put forward a rigorous defence to FIFA, insisting the player had become something of a philosopher in his old age. And they contested that Burns, when asked where he thought the game should be played, had merely said: “Bright views…ergo outside” instead of the widely-quoted “Right yous…square go outside.”

Do you believe that? Nope, me neither. Kenny Burns only threatening five of them? No chance.

The SFA, rightly thinking they had probably got away with one, decided not to organise a lap of honour round Hampden with the trophy for fear of further antagonising the Argentinians.

“In any case,” a spokesman said, “We already did one of those back in 1978 before the tournament started!” 

school daze

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

Andrea, aged ten, in Virginia.

Born and raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the early 1960s, I was on course to to live an all-American, Appalchian, apple-pie life with high school, hot dogs and homecoming queens; catching lightening bugs and eating watermellon on the back porch steps on humid, languid summer evenings and dodging icicles under the eaves that could take your eye out in winter. At the age of ten I knew that I would become a cheerleader with the high school football team, the Virginia Bearcats, and that one day my prom date would ‘look sharp’ in a plaid jacket, tan slacks with a crease, Brylcreem-ed hair and be called Brad.

My older brothers and I had idyllic, secure, happy childhoods with Mom and Dad, Friends, Good Neighbours, School, Church and the Great Outdoors; where we played with our ‘dawg’, climbed trees, skinned our knees and didn’t come home until Mother called, “Suppertime!” Life was good.

A bizarre twist of fate catapulted us into a grey 1930s semi in a cul-de-sac on the edge of the Black Country in Birmingham – Britian’s industrial heartland – in the autumn of 1970; just in time for three-day weeks, a national bread shortage and homework by candlelight. Like Dorothy Gale, I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

On the Trail of The Lonesome Pine: from this, The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia …
… to this – The Bull Ring Shopping Centre, Birmingham in the Seventies.

I failed the Eleven Plus as soon as we landed and was thus despatched to the God Awful School. Where I came from, money was in decimal units of ten, which made perfect ‘cents’. I sat at my wooden school desk in Maths at the ‘thick’ table faced with counting apparatus in units of twelve; pounds, shillings and pence. It was completely alien – what on earth a Threepenny-Bit? Halfpenny? Farthing? Half-a-crown? Ten-Bob? Two-and-six?

I was an alien in every sense – culturally and linguistically. I also had an exaggerated squint, which didn’t help the kids take to me straight away.

“Oi! What ch’ow lookin’ at Scarbra – me or the f***ing wall? (A regular playground chant as my surname was Scarboro.)

The Brummy accent and local idyioms were confounding, as exemplified by a large boy who farted a lot and sat with one foot under his backside on his classroom chair:

‘Sir! Sir! Can I goo? Can I goo to the toylit? Sir! Oi’m des –p – rit!”’

My mother would have said he was ‘vulgar’, for back in Virginia I was only allowed to use toilet words in the bathroom. If caught short in public, it was referred to in hushed tones as the restroom.

A group of boys with short trousers would regularly form a circle around me in the playground:

“Speak American.”

“I am.”

“Naw yam not – not loike on the tele. Goo on – I dare yer.”

“Who d’yow support?”

“Say what?”

“Who d’yow support?”

“What d’ya mean? My dad supports me.”

“Am yow yampee Bab? Yow know, loike the  Villa”?

“Villa? What’s a Villa?”

 “The Villa football tame!  Villa! Villa! Villa!”

I wondered whether the Villa had cheerleaders?

********

I was an instant hit with the gang of girls who terrorised the Lower School playground and corridors, led by Lisa Wentworth and Cheryl Cross:

“Yam dead, Scarbra!”

“Yea, dead! Yam gunna get it afta school!”

“Why d’ yow sit with yam knees apart? Slag.”

(I’m sure I kept my knees together at all times like my Southern Mama had taught me – and what was that word again?)

“Oi! Teacher’s Pet! Yam a scrubber, yam am!” I ran the gauntlet between lessons, ducking in and out of classroom doorways.

********

Miss Fanshaw, my French teacher, had a terrible time with Form 3B. The kids couldn’t care less about learning French (always useful on the cusp between Halesowen and Dudley). They would stand on their desks throwing rulers, shouting and swearing. Miss Fanshaw had no control over the class and no hope of ever achieving any. Sometimes she refused to enter the classroom at all, as missiles were launched towards the black board.  It became sport to goad her until we could see the veins in her neck bulge in the (vain) hope that one might actually pop. We watched her run along the corridor in tears to fetch the Head Master, who would come down to our form room with his cane. The same boys and girls were hauled out and thrashed daily but it had no effect. These were tough kids, from tough backgrounds who didn’t expect to finish school anyway. To be fair, all I remember of Science was singing the ‘Monster Mash’ around  the Bunsen burner with Caz and Julie,

“I was working in the lab, late one night.”

Andrea, aged 14, at school in Birmingham.

I witnessed a school fight once between Rachel and Jack on our way to Geography in the Fourth Year. They were flirting and playfully pushing each other until Rachel got accidentally pushed down a flight of concrete steps and broke her front tooth; whereupon her mother filed a complaint with the police against Jack and it ended up in the Juvenile Court. I had witnessed the whole thing and was prepared to say that it was not entirely Jack’s fault; they were as bad as each other.

 My statement at the Juvenile Court prevented Jack from being sent to Borstal. His parents held my hand with tears streaming down their faces.  Rachel’s mother sent me to Coventry.  While Dad and I were at the Court House we were evacuated by an IRA bomb threat. Dad was proud of me for “standing up for the truth, justice and the American way”.

“But Dad  – we’re in the West Midlands.”

“What the hell difference does that matter, kid?”

Sitting on the upper deck of the Number Nine bus on the way home, as we swung past the Bull Ring Market and the Rotunda, Dad wiped away tears of pride mingled with relief that we hadn’t been blown up.

Most of the kids at school left at fifteen to work because they could. Jobs were plentiful in Birmingham’s car factories so most of the boys walked straight into apprenticeships, where they donned ovealls over their flares and traded platform shoes for steel-cap boots. Caz and Julie traipsed into typing pools with Farrah Fawcette flicks perfected on their mum’s Carmen Rollers and a hint of Charlie.  I wanted an education and had the audacity to think that I could get one.  I got three O’Levels: two in English and one in History. Well, Dad was a History teacher!

The most impressive thing I learnt at school was that my Spanish teacher was friends with Ralph McTell. And I will never again wear big brown knickers after years of torment from the boys on the hockey pitch:

“Oi Scarbra! Did yow fall in a cow pat or ‘ave yam shat yamself?”

A few years ago I saw a headline splashed across a tabloid newspaper about my old God Awful School; its reputation had finally hit the headlines:

‘SEX, DRUGS AND ALCHOHOL’

… the only thing missing was Rock n’ Roll.

********

Ironically, thirty years later when I was teaching Primary School, I became the Sex Education and Drug Awareness Co-Ordinator. 

Oh yeah – here’s one for the boys in the playground: a few years later, when I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, I met Villa football player Andy Gray.

Villa! Villa! Villa!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 27/02.21)

stuff like that

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, London – February 2021)

A big part of growing up was having stuff, but it had to be the right stuff otherwise you wouldn’t be part of the gang.

It usually started off at junior Primary school with things like airfix models, stamps or miniature toy soldiers and I’m reliably informed, dolls and scraps (the picture scraps not the type you get from the chippy) for girls.

So this is what die cut Scraps look like?

I’m sure it was the same for most generations – I remember my poor wife going from shop to shop to procure ‘The New‘ Beanie Baby to add to the collection for our daughter.

A collection that’s been gathering dust in the loft for 20 years now, but that can’t be thrown out because one of them might be rare and valuable!

I can also remember her jumping out of moving cars to acquire Pokémon Cards from shady street corner hustlers for our sons.

We had all been mentally scarred before, so come hell or high water those kids were gonna get their stuff…..

Typically the stuff we craved was nothing life-changing just stuff that other kids at school had, the only difference was timing – a favoured few would get their stuff at the start of the craze (they normally had older siblings), most of us followed and an unfortunate few would be at the tail end or miss out all together.

The first ‘craze’ I remember at school for us boys was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. badges

T.M.F. U. was a TV programme that hit our screens c.1965, about a two-man spy team consisting of an American and a Russian.
Everybody at school watched it and before you knew it we were awash with merchandise, including badges with designated numbers.
Badge #11 was Napoleon Solo and #2 was Illya Kuryakin, the mild mannered Russian.

A bit like football teams you had to choose a side and that choice defined you as you strutted around the playground pretending to be a secret agent.

The next cab off the rank was also inspired by another American TV show which exploded onto the scene with requisite merchandise in abundance.

However, despite the groovy merchandise available to us – the Monkees dolls, the toy guitars and the far-out 60s clothes, the must-have item in Glasgow’s leafy suburbs for the class of 1967 was a bobble hat!

The inspiration for this wooly headwear of choice turned out to be Michael Nesmith, the quiet, unassuming one in The Monkees.

The Monkees at the time was a tv show, featuring a 4-piece band that mimicked the Beatles in almost every way apart from talent and Scouse accents.

Inspired by the movie A Hard Days Night, Hollywood execs put together the first boy band comprising of actors (Dolenz), musicians (Tork), ex-jockeys (Jones), and the heir to the Tippex empire (Nesmith), and anointed them The Monkees.

To be fair, the show was entertaining, and at the time, with only three channels available to us poor waifs it was must-watch TV.

The Monkees also had some catchy tunes written by heavyweight composers like Neil Diamond plus the best session musicians money could buy, namely the legendary Wrecking Crew who were the house band for a lot of 60’s hits including Phil Spector’s wall of sound. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wrecking_Crew_(music)

Anyway, for some reason that I’ve never been able to fathom, the simple bobble hat, later sported by that fashion icon Benny from Crossroads, became the thing we all latched onto and we implored our bemused parents to get us one.

They were stuck to our heads for a while before they were surgically removed.

We even tried to play football in them, but trying to communicate with your team mates or take instructions from the coach with your ears covered or attempting to head the ball with a tea-cosy on your head wasn’t easy, so we soon saw sense.

As is the case in such things, the bobble hat makers and retailers of the world weren’t expecting such an uplift in demand, so being ever resourceful the majority of us turned to our dear old Grannies & Nana’s and there was a boom in wool sales instead.

Fast forward to 1970 and the de rigueur was the Esso coin collection for the 1970 Mexico World Cup.

The Holy Grail in All its Glory

The coins, containing no more than a passing likeness to England’s world cup stars, could only be collected at Esso petrol stations, so there were strict instructions for parents everywhere to exclusively purchase Esso fuel.

It must have been irritating for parents back then with kids constantly reminding them from the back seat that they needed to fill-up even when the tank was three quarters full.

Or badgering them when they came home from work, to ask whether they had got petrol that day.

Or making them trundle past the Shell or Texaco petrol station with an empty tank, in search of an Esso stronghold.

Or suggesting every weekend that we go for ‘a wee run in the car’ when normally you wouldn’t be seen dead in the family saloon if you could help it.

The coins quite aptly became currency in the school playground where a Bobby Charlton or a Colin Bell could bring instant credibility, but as always with these things, everyone had heaps of the unwanted coins to swap – in this case the Keith Newton’s and Tommy Wright’s (no not that one!).

It’s strange looking back in todays jingoistic times, to realise that the collection we were prepared to burn the ozone layer for, was restricted to England footballers only…. fast forward to today and I’m not sure anyone north of the border would be quite as bothered.

We were all Bobby Moore in 1970

As we progressed through the years our tastes became more sophisticated of course and we progressed from woolly hats and trinkets to some serious hardware – SEGS

Again, I’ve no idea where the trend originated from but basically if you could walk round the playground like a Firestarter creating sparks by scuffing your feet whilst making a noise like Steptoe’s horse, then you were part of the in crowd.

Ironically what we failed to realise, was that instead of looking like the cool, flame heeled Jets from West Side Story we resembled a chorus-line of inebriated tap-dancers.

We all became amateur cobblers in 1972!

Also, and very inconveniently, it didn’t tell you in the small print but SEGS were really only meant to protect proper shoes or boots, the type hardy men wore to work. They weren’t meant for flimsy imitation leather numbers with plastic soles from Freeman Hardy & Willis.

Invariably the SEGS fell out of these poor excuses for footwear and within no time there was a mountains worth of scrap metal clogging up the playground, puncturing bicycle tyres.

Spare a thought for the kid in our year though who got very excited about the holy union of SEGS with his cherished oxblood Doc Martens, with their specialised ‘AirWair’ soles – a marriage that didn’t end well at all…

Other ‘must haves’ came and went through the school years, and inevitably we were hostage to the buying frenzy.

I swear at one point 75% of the pupils at our school were wearing airforce blue Gloverall style Duffle Coats and sporting Tartan scarves.

In retrospect maybe we should all have taken the advice of Graham Chapman’s Brian, in The Life of Brian –

“We are all individuals”, “We are all different”…….

world – swallow me up, now!

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

I’m no psychologist, but I reckon that of all the emotions a human being can experience, embarrassment must rank one of the worst. For a start, you can’t control it. It happens. Usually because you’ve made a right klutz of yourself. Though it’s not simply the act of being dolt-like that triggers the reaction.

It’s more down to where you perpetrated this act of idiocy.

You see – In Your Home, No One Can Hear You Being A Klutz.  It’s the presence of witnesses to the lummox-like behaviour that activates the adrenaline rush, speeding up your heart rate and dilating the blood vessels to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery. Blushing, in other words. Or word.

In effect, the emotion of embarrassment is controlled by others’ perceptions of your action.

Obviously, as we get older, we care less of what people think of us. (Oh, sorry – just me then…?)

 However, having to put on your first pair of reading glasses in full view of an unsuspecting class of twelve year olds, while conscious of the communal hushed intake of breath – that’s embarrassing.

As a thirteen year old lad getting his first knock-back when asking for date from a girl you fancied? That’s embarrassing.

“How did you get on?” your eager friends would ask.
“Oh, she can’t make it this week because she’s got to wash her hair,” you’d reply, genuinely believing it. And you did – until you plucked up the nerve to ask again and had to report the same excuse to your pals once over. Now that was embarrassing.

As a half asleep and bored pupil, calling the Maths teacher ‘Mum,’ would have been embarrassing enough. But Mr Blair was not one to let these things go and for the next thirty minutes he certainly made the most of your discomfort.

You certainly didn’t fall asleep in his class again, that’s for sure. But, yeah – that was embarrassing.

Nothing, though, and I mean absolutely nothing, comes close to the sheer indignity and embarrassment of one incident in Year 5 at Westerton Primary. I’m actually cringing as I write this.

I should first explain that the three brothers who lived across the road from me went to a private school. When I was bugging my parents to take me to see the latest Man from UNCLE film, they were looking to extend their intellectual knowledge by going to museums and art galleries. They knew crazy shit, like Vincent Van Gogh, Rudolph Nuryev and Tchaikovski.

So one morning, Miss Wotherspoon rolled the school TV into class and we had a lesson about the people and traditions of some exotic Indonesian island. I say ‘some’ island because truth be known, I was sorting out the ‘swaps’ from my Batman bubblegum cards under the desk. I hadn’t a clue.

When the film ended, teacher asked the class, “Now children, where is Bali?”

I instantly perked up. I’d just been speaking to my neighbours at the weekend. I knew this. I thrust my hand in the air.

“Miss! Miss! Miss!” I grunted as only an over enthusiastic ten year old can.

“Colin?”

“It’s at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow,” I blurted.

I can still sense about thirty young heads turning my way. Then the laughter. Oh, the laughter! But it WAS at the Theatre Royal, wasn’t it?

Even Miss Wotherspoon was knotting herself.

“Colin – that’s the ballet! Not Bali, the island. Now, who was paying attention?”

Billy Elliot wasn’t a thing back then, thank goodness. But have you ANY idea what it feels like to be a ten year old, West of Scotland lad, in the mid-Sixties, whose football obsessed peers think you’re into ballet? My ‘beamer’ turned puce. My shirt became plastered to my body. I was almost in tears.

And come playtime, nobody was interested in my Batman ‘swaps.’ They only wanted to see my cabrioles and pirouettes.

God, I hated my neighbours.

you thistle from partick!

(Post by Russ Stewart from London)

At the dawn of the 70s I was a moderate Partick Thistle fan (and a less than moderate footie player). The school seemed to be awash with Rangers, and to a lesser extent, Celtic fans. 

For me it was Firhill for thrills, Johnston’s for rolls and trying to scoff a hot mutton pie during the game,  before the fat congealed down your arm like candle grease.

Some young fans wore builders ‘hard hats’ painted in the club colours. Particularly useful when opposing fans threw spent beer cans filled with pish.

During the 71/72 season two magical results rewarded perpetually disappointed Jags fans: a 3-2 win over Rangers in a league game and a 4-1 mauling of Celtic in the league cup.  To give some perspective:  Celtic were European Cup finalists the previous season, and Rangers were European Cup Winners Cup that season.

During that period at school, I sensed a flowering of support for Thistle.  Not sure if it was closet fans openly declaring their allegiance, or glory-hunting Old Firm fans moving their support.

Messrs McQuade, Bone and Rough leading the celebrations on 23rd October 1971

A few years later I encountered some of the players from that era. 

In 1979 I had a job interview for an insurance company, the interviewer being Thistle legend Dennis McQuade.  I did not get the job and subsequently joined the Royal Hong Kong Police. 

Hong Kong seemed to be a magnet for ex-players at the time.

Charlie George the Arsenal legend and Scotland’s 1974 World Cup hero Tommy Hutchison were neighbours at my Kowloon apartment block as was ex-Ger Derek Parlane, who was a personable chap. 

Regrettably, Jimmy Bone a favourite of the Thistle loyal, and a regular at my local pub, turned out to be less than charming.

Perhaps the saying ‘ you should never meet your heroes’ rings true after all.

However, what is undeniable, is that nobody can take away that special day in 1971 when the “Maryhill Magyars’ lorded it over our city rivals.

teenage mating rituals in the ’70s.

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, of London – February 2021)

I’m not sure how younger people hook-up now but in the days before swiping left or right or Instagram profiles or tic-tac or WhatsApp or whatever the latest platform is, there was no alternative but face-to-face contact. (I’m discounting love letters here because the writing, spelling and grammar of most 70s schoolboys was not particularly good).

To get things in perspective though, this face-to-face caper was normally between your best mate/trusted messenger’s plooky kisser and your intended belle’s angelic coupon – with your pal uttering the immortal words “my mate fancies you” or if they were feeling particularly articulate – “hey, will you go out with my pal”.

This wasn’t one-way traffic of course, but as normal, girls were always a lot smarter & cuter. They’d build up a valuable database of information first and then devise a plan before any approaches were made:

“are you going to the party/disco?”

“is there anyone you fancy at the moment?”

“do you like girls with feather cuts”

“do you think Senga’s nice?”

… lots of insightful, savvy questions building up knowledge and acumen so that they could make smart, informed decisions.

In fact, leading barristers would do well to study this craftmanship.

As boys we were a monosyllabic bunch back then, particularly when taken out of our natural habitat, with grunts regularly replacing diction.

I often think that ‘the art of conversation & small talk’ would have been a better subject for many of us as opposed to Algebra and the like, and as Billy Connolly said, “why should I learn Algebra, I’m never going to go there!”

In hindsight I’ve realised that although I went to a co-ed school and would regularly exchange pleasantries, I never really spoke to girls there.

We’d play football at breaks and the girls would do their thing. We’d sit together as boys on the school bus and so would the girls, and the rest of the time we were in class, just trying to keep up with them.

The bizarre thing is – that at some point we started to go to local discos and parties to basically try and engage with the same people we were in effect ignoring every day.

Even at discos we’d stay in our little groups though. The girls socialising and dancing, the guys being fascinated for the umpteenth time by the ultra-violet lights making everything look whiter (apart from our teeth), trying to look cool whilst shouting to be heard over Silver Machine by Hawkwind.

Every now and then though a strange occurrence took place, and us boys would actually make an effort to dance and interact.

Well, I call it dancing and interacting, it was actually a strange ritual that consisted of tapping a girl on the shoulder, awkwardly wriggling about in front of her for 3 minutes, whilst trying to avoid stamping on her handbag, and then walking away, without a word being uttered.

I’m not even sure how this counts as human interaction, but it sort of did, back then.

There was always a critical point of the evening though, when decisions had to be made. At parties it was normally 15 minutes before you were due to get chucked out and someone would conveniently switch the lights off so lips could meet, and at discos, it was the slow dances at the end of the evening.

The Moonie.

The slow dances or moonies as we called them were a ritual in themselves and the best DJ’s would usually play three of them which gave everyone three opportunities to get a lumber (Glasgow colloquialism for a ‘partner for the evening’).

One moonie just wasn’t enough, there was too much pressure and besides it took some lads one, even two moonies to strike up the courage to ask a girl for a slow dance.

Also, someone might have zipped in ahead of you to get to your intended partner first, but if you knew there were still two moonies to come, you could bide your time to see how that all panned out.

This was a complex and sophisticated procedure crammed into 12 action-packed minutes, but it was usually the most important 12 minutes of the evening.

It was a strange procession indeed…

Guys who had been playing Joe Cool all night were suddenly flustered and flapping around.

Discerning music lovers who would only shake their tail feathers to certain ‘cool’ songs, or selected, favourite artists, were now happily swooning to David Cassidy’s latest schmaltzy ballad.

If you could take a snapshot, you would see all sorts of weird and wonderful images, everything from – snogging couples conjoined by the lips, in the early throes of passion to girls ducking and weaving like Mike Tyson in order to avoid the slobbery advances of the guy with WHT (wandering hand trouble) who up until that point had been ignoring them all night.

Severe case of WHT

Mostly what you’d see however is a lot of young people wanting to fit in and be accepted. The majority wearing the same clothes, sporting the same haircuts, doing the same dance moves, and going along with the crowd, as that was always the safest thing to do.

Getting a lumber at the end of the evening wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but it sure felt like it at the time. A badge of honour or a box ticked.

After the event you’d invariably walk home with your buddies recounting the highlights of the evening, making your wee night in a church hall sound like a New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Studio 54.


Looking back, it was all one big ritual; preparing and looking forward to the event, deciding what you were going to wear, the pre-disco formalities (travel, refreshments), the event itself and of course the aftermath, where the evening’s events would be the topic of conversation for the next few days.

They were good days though, lots of fun, and all part of navigating your way through those awkward teenage years.

As always, I connect memories to music so here’s a link to my 70s Moonie playlist.

You can use this to slow-dance in the kitchen with the guy/gal you lumbered 40 odd years ago at the local disco, and haven’t been able to shake off yet 😁

p.s. and yes, even I know a tic-tac is a refreshing mint!

game of phones.

(Post by George Cheyne, of Glasgow – February 2021)

Another glance at my watch, an anxious look around to see if the coast was clear, wipe my clammy hands on my school trousers, take a deep breath…it’s time to make that call.

Phoning a girl for the first time from your house was a nerve-wracking experience in the Seventies. You had to get an alignment-of-the-planets moment for things to go smoothly.

Sure, you may have arranged to call her at 7pm, but that didn’t mean everything would go as planned. There were too many imponderables for that.

First, from your end, you had to secure the rights to the phone. This usually meant pacing around the area where it was situated in the minutes before the agreed time. In my case our phone was in the hall, presumably put there for maximum embarrassment as the rest of the family walked past when you were trying to hold one of those deep, meaningful conversations that teenage boys have.

Also, you had to rely on not being gazumped by your mum or dad choosing that particular moment to make a call. Even worse, because you had no control over it, you had to hope no-one picked that exact time to call your house because that would make you well late for your big phone date.

Then, of course, there was the other end. You were making that all-important first call with no real intel to go on.

Where was the phone in her house? Would there be an older brother hovering over her? What was her dad like? How big was he? All important questions which, sadly, you wouldn’t find answers to before you made the call.

So you took that deep breath, dialled that number and tried to ignore the stomach churns. It was a lottery, of course, because you didn’t know who would answer. It could be the angry 6ft 5in dad, the sneering older brother, the sympathetic mum or the girl you were calling.

Even the most confident, cocky kids could crumble when faced with such a pure beamer. But you had to grapple with your innermost fears otherwise you didn’t get the girl. Simple as.

You had to front up whether you were getting the girl or splitting up with her. Teenagers in the Seventies didn’t have the luxury of being able to swipe right or ghost someone from the safety of a bedroom bunker.

It had to be done face to face and could be pretty brutal. I remember walking in the playground with a pal one day when his long-term girlfriend – well, they had been going out for at least a month – approached with a grim expression on her face.

She ignored my presence, looked my pal straight in the eye and blurted: “I don’t want to go out any more.”

“What do you mean,” he mumbled, looking as if he’d rather be anywhere else than in such a public place.

“You’re chucked!” she replied with barely a glimmer of emotion.

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. I felt his pain…and still do if I can remember it so clearly after all these years. 

That humiliation wouldn’t have happened to my pal if he was a Generation Z teenager instead of a Baby Boomer. A simple unfriending on Facebook and he would be history. No real harm done.

Today’s teens may think they have first dibs on all the gadgetry that helps shape relationships these days – but they’d be wrong. The Seventies kids were pioneers when it came to things like:

MOBILE PHONES 

Not exactly mobile, of course, but everyone back then knew where the nearest working phone box was in their neighbourhood. Could be used to make and receive calls and so avoid the pure beamer scenario as described above. Texting was still in its infancy, however, and was restricted to cards, graffiti and messages left in the phone box

GOOGLE

This was covered off by two platforms – encyclopedias and the Yellow Pages. If you wanted to help your girlfriend/boyfriend with their homework you would bone up on any subject by scouring the myriad of sections in Encyclopedia Brittanica. If you wanted to check out the latest music, shops, bars or restaurants, all you had to was let your fingers do the walking – and look them up in Yellow Pages, a streamlined version of the old phone book.

GOOGLE MAPS

No need to punch in postcodes in the Seventies. If you didn’t know where you were going on that first date all you had to do was dig out the A to Z, memorise the route and drive.

TIK TOK

The Super 8mm cine cameras of the day were perfect to capture all those carefully-rehearsed zany dances and songs. Just point the camera at family and friends and watch them perform. Ideal for those with short attention span because the film only lasted about two minutes.

SNAPCHAT

This was when scribbled notes were passed about the classroom covering such in-depth subjects like who fancies who, playtime football games, help with homework or what was for school dinners. If the teacher turned round, those bits of paper soon disappeared.

SPOTIFY

Seventies kids could amass loads of music to listen to – without having to pay any fees. All you did was get together with other music lovers catering for all tastes and swap over albums for listening and recording purposes. This was probably the first What’s App group of its time.

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

Mix tapes were put together with loving care and attention to detail. Specific song choices – usually singles or individual album tracks – were recorded on cassettes and handed over to girlfriends/boyfriends.

INSTAGRAM

The Seventies version of this was a Polaroid Instamatic camera. You lined up your picture, clicked the button and out popped an instant photo. Ideal for teenage parties and, just like its modern-day equivalent, the compromising evidence soon vanished. Nothing to do with any algorithm, the prints just faded in time.

All of which goes to show that us Seventies kids were pretty tech savvy and way ahead of our time…we just didn’t know it!