Tag Archives: 70

the royal scam

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

On the 6th of November 1999, I, along with 5,273,023 fellow citizens, voted for Australia to become a Republic in a National referendum. Unfortunately 54.87% of the population disagreed and the status quo remained. It was also verified that any further talk of a Republic would not be entertained whilst the current monarch remained.

A world away and 3 decades before, little me was being prepared for a special day.

A Royal visit.

I’m not sure if 5 year old me grasped the importance of the event but it did mean the afternoon away from the classroom. Hair brylcreemed into submission, freshly ironed grey shirt, blazer brushed and of course clean underpants in case I was involved in an accident…

“Base. Do you copy ? RTA involving 5 year old male. Vital signs show 1st degree skid marks and multiple pee stains. Poor kid. He never stood a chance. I blame the parents   !”

So there I was with my classmates, spruced up to the nines, waiving my Union Jack, standing at the side of the road on a fresh spring day, waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally, the crowd seemed unsettled. Murmurs became shouts of elation. Two police motorbikes with flashing blue lights sped by shortly followed by a shiny black limousine with a small pink clad figure waving from the back seat and blink, they were gone. That was Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s cousin apparently. I’m not in any way questioning her lineage but I did wait patiently for several hours just for a pink handed drive by. It could have been anyone. I didn’t expect her entourage to screech to a halt and for her to jump out and high 5 me ( mainly because 5 year old white boys – and presumably Princesses – didn’t do that sort of thing in 1963) but I would have settled for a patronising pat on the head or a scuff up of the hair.

Princess Alexandria

I had gone to a lot of effort.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Royal visit = day off school.

Similarly the Queen high tailed it on the way to naming a boat after her self in Clydebank in 1967. It could have been anyone really in a duck green coat, hat and gloves as she sped by.

I gave up on royal roadside vigils soon after that.

I think we got the day off for Prince Charles’ Investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969 because I remember watching some of it on TV. All that pomp and ceremony is as dull as dishwater in my opinion. You only watch it in the hope someone trips on their robes or drops their crown and swears.

I went to that castle on a scout trip a few years later and remember sitting on a bench on the ramparts when a seagull deposited a large shit into my open packet of crisps and all over my hand. I was offered a piece of tissue paper but I said the seagull will be miles away by now ! Now that would have certainly brightened up Charlie boy’s investiture for me !

Princess Anne marrying a toy soldier was another day off school in 1973 slumped in front of the telly wondering when she was going to stamp her foot on the ground until someone gave her a lump of sugar.

Princess Anne

Celebrations for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 for my friend Russ and myself started early with toasts to her Majesty at Kilmardinny Loch. In fact the loch kept our 4 litre cask of Chateau Cardboard quite cool for the endless “God save the queer old Deans !” Such a pity we forgot the canapes. The next few hours were a blank to me but I ‘came to’ with pint in hand at the Amphora in the city. Russ assured me I didn’t desecrate any Union Jacks or threaten any Royalists with ‘up against the wall, comrade’.

I have nothing against the whole monarchy circus. It’s a good tourist attraction, but I know which box I’ll be ticking next referendum.

Sorry Charlie, mate !

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the games people play

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

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

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

A pack of cards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We of course were stumped. After another lengthy delay,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone for a game of cards ?

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saturday night at the movies.

(Paul Fitzpatrick: London – April 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minors of the ABC anthem

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cinematic landscape has changed a lot since then.



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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