I always associated Wimbledon with school summer holidays. I never played tennis. There was what I assumed an ancient tennis racket hanging up in my Dad’s garage (it could have been a snow shoe come to think of it.). We would dislodge it from it’s rusty nail and blow off the cobwebs. As there was only one (from a one legged Inuit perhaps ?) we were more likely to use it in our improvised interpretation of rounders than tennis. It was also too heavy to lift above our heads (unleashing the huskies might have helped !)
Tennis wasn’t for the likes of us anyway. It was for posh Laurel Bank girls called Catriona and Ffiona who wouldn’t look at comprehensive school adolescent boys sideways. There was a tennis club hidden in a leafy lane near Bearsden Cross but they would set the dogs on you if they thought you were an outsider from Courthill or Castlehill.
Tennis was the telly for us so in the summer in 1971 I sat there watching as two Australians were competing in the Wimbledon ladies final. One was the dour faced Margaret Court (now Pentecostal minister and public homophobe) and the other, 19 year old Aboriginal girl Evonne Goolagong.
I wasn’t sure what an ‘Aboriginal’ was back then but I thought she looked quite cute and I must admit, had a bit of a teenage crush on her. The rest is history and ‘my girl’ took the trophy.
She was prominent in finals and semifinals for the rest of the decade and won her second Wimbledon in 1980. Six years later I was to land in the country of Ms Goolagong’s ancestors and I’ve lived here ever since.
This week Australians celebrate NAIDOC. For those of you north of Darwin, it stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week long event in 1975. If I was cynical I would say it’s a week were privileged white folk pretend to be concerned about the plight of the first nations’ people and then ignore their issues for the next 51 weeks but the official line is it celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.
It’s fitting that Ash Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman should pick up the mantle from Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a proud Wikadjuri woman, some fifty years later.
……….and haven’t snow shoes improved over the last half century !
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021
Our parents would often demand it, but soon as they got it, they became suspicious. Worried, maybe.
And so it would be. I’d be playing quietly and thoughtfully in my bedroom on a wet and miserable day, and Mum would poke her around the door:
“You’re awful quiet,” she’d say, the distrust in her tone strikingly obvious even to a ten year old. “What are you doing?”
“Building a fort,” I’d reply in all innocence, draping a bedsheet over the two stools I’d earlier hauled up from the kitchen. Another blanket would be hanging over a couple of empty boxes, retrieved from the garage. “So’s I can repel the hordes of marauding raiders who are trying to steal my pots of gold.”
My vocabulary and imagination were infinitely better than my construction skills.
“That sounds like fun, dear.”
And it was.
For that’s how we rolled in the late Sixties and Seventies. It was the era of making our own fun.
It was the era for making everything.
From a very early age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to become involved with tending the garden.’ Modern day slavery,’ is how I think it’s now referred to.
We’d each be allocated a little plot to tend. We’d have to plant seeds, grow flowers and vegetables and learn the ethos and rewards of hard work.
I hated it! Rona’s plot always looked way tidier than mine. ‘Outside’ was for playing in, not working, was how I looked at it. I was rubbish.
Our garden wasn’t all that big, but my dad had it organised to maximise the space, and so we had a few rows of redcurrant bushes. These produced loads of fruit every year and of course my sister and I would be roped into the ‘harvest.’
With the berries collected, mum would then boil them and add ‘stuff’ then pour the mix into what looked like an old sock hung from the washing pulley in the kitchen. The smell was so sickly sweet, I wanted to barf for days on end. Gradually though, over the next day or so, the liquid would drip into a bowl, then scooped into jars onto which a handwritten sticker was adhered.
‘Redcurrent jelly’ it said – as if we needed reminding.
To get away from the smell, I’d try to spend as much time as possible in the living room. But that wasn’t easy either. I’d have to tip toe through acres of tracing paper spread over the floor. And listening to the television was well nigh impossible. The volume controls back then barely went to ‘five’ never mind ‘eleven’ and so offered no competition to the constant ‘takka takka takka’ of the Singer sewing machine as mum rattled out another bloody home-made trouser suit for wearing to the neighbour’s Pot Luck / fondue party that coming weekend.
Crimplene was the favoured material, I believe.
I think I’m right in saying that girls at my school were offered sewing, if not dress making as part of their Home Economics course. Us blokes weren’t given the option – just as at that time, girls were not thought to be interested in woodwork and metalwork.
My four year old cousin, Karen, certainly wasn’t interested in my woodwork, that’s for sure. I made her a boat, all lovingly painted and everything. It sank in her bath. Sank! It was made of balsa wood for goodness sake!
It takes a special type of cretin to make a balsa wood boat that sinks.
And metalwork! Whose whizz-bang idea was it to have several classes of fourteen year old boys make metal hammers to take home at the end of term? The playground crowds quickly scattered that afternoon, I can tell you.
My effort was dismal.
“Thanks very much,” said my dad, in a voice just a little too condescending for my liking as I presented it to him. But that was okay. We both knew I was total pants at making things.
Having evidenced my cack-handed attempts at simply gluing together several pieces of labelled and numbered bits of plastic to form the shape of a Lancaster Bomber, his expectations were naturally low.
I know – how hard can it be to assemble an Airfix model? To be honest, while I enjoyed looking at those my dad made on my behalf, I had more fun from letting the glue harden on my fingers and then spend ages peeling it back off to examine my fingerprints.
Yup – THAT’S how much I enjoyed making things.
It came as no surprise then, that Santa never brought me a Meccano set. By the age of ten, it had become obvious spanners and me would never get along – no need for me to screw the nut.
For a while, I did consider there was something wrong with me. Every other kid I knew was into making stuff. It was The Seventies – it’s what children did; it’s what they (I’d say ‘we’ but I’d be lying) were actively encouraged to do.
The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.
The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.
I tried that once. A Christmas decoration it was. A decoration to hang over the Christmas table; made from coat-hangers; and candles. And you’d light the candles. It would be joyous.
“Hark!” The herald angels would sing.
“FIRE!” The herald angels actually screamed.
I know NOW I should have used fire-proof tinsel. I’m almost sixty-three. I’m not stupid. But then I was ten. And impatient. Ten year old boys cut corners. And anyway, how was I supposed to make a surprise for the family if I was to give the game away by asking my folks if they had / could get some fire retardant tinsel?
At least they still got a surprise of sorts.
Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves had a lot to answer for.
Other than pyrotechnic Christmas decorations, they encouraged us to make models with Lego; less structured and more wobbly ones with plasticine; scrap books; hammocks for dolls; cakes for birds; puppets from old socks; pencil cases from washing up liquid bottles and even cat beds from washing-up bowls.
I did try, truly I did. But I was hopeless. A lost cause. Never has anyone said to me,
“Wow! That’s awesome!” when I’ve showcased my handiwork.
Just the other day, I prepared a meal. I threw some leftover corned beef, potatoes and onions into a pan and fried them through. I didn’t think it was burnt as such, but my wife screwed up her face and stared at it rather disapprovingly.
Without even the merest hint of irony she looked up and said …. well, I think you probably know what she said!
The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Batman, Dorothy… fictional characters I grant you, but all universally feted and admired.
But they didn’t do it alone, and although we all know who their sidekicks were, no one talks much about them, because at the end of the day, they’re the flunky’s, and who’s really interested in the support act? Unless its Queen supporting Mott the Hoople at the Apollo…. and that was nearly 50 years ago!
The sidekick’s are the perennial betas to the main event’s alpha’s… the show-stoppers who always seem to have greater powers, more charisma, and most importantly, bigger ego’s, than the supporting cast. Like a beloved pet the sidekick’s greatest attributes are typically noted as being devotion and loyalty.
Spare a thought then for the Tonto’s, Doctor Watson’s, Robin boy wonder’s and Scarecrow’s. In other words, the Diddy Kong’s of the world…..
There’s an old (and now probably, un-PC) saying that ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman’ and the same can be said with sidekick’s, think about it for a second…. as great as he was, would Bowie have been as good and as cocksure in the Ziggy era without Mick Ronson? Likewise, would Ricardo Montalban’s, Mr Roarke have been as suave and sophisticated without Herve Villechaize’s Tattoo ringing the bell tower whilst bellowing “The Plane, The Plane!” in Fantasy Island?
As this is predominantly a 70s blog the aim of the exercise is to identify the most impressive 70s sidekick, fictional or otherwise, so I’ve listed 5 nominees below which you can vote for on our Facebook page as well as putting forward any of your own nominations….. https://www.facebook.com/groups/onceuponatimeinthe70s
1) Kenickie Murdoch (Jeff Conaway) –Grease, (sidekick to Danny Zuko)
In Grease, the movie, Kenickie was played by Jeff Conaway of Taxi fame and was part of the original Broadway cast of Grease – where incidentally he played the lead role of Danny Zuko whilst his good mate Travolta played Doody, one of the putzy T-Birds.
Although Kenickie was cast as the sidekick it could be argued that he was cooler than Zuko… borne by the fact that not only was he the proud owner of Greased Lightnin’, but he also didn’t mope about a kids swing-park greeting about getting chucked by someone who must have repeated 4th year 5 times!
Plus with a name like Murdoch he obviously came from good Scottish stock!
2) Igor (Marty Feldman)– Young Frankenstein (sidekick to Dr Frederick Von Frankenstein)
Played by the brilliant Marty Feldman, Igor was the hunchbacked, bug-eyed servant who when asked by the good doctor why his hump kept changing sides, answered “what hump?”.
‘Eye-gore’ as he liked to be known was Dr ‘Fronkenshteen’s’ hapless assistant and was responsible for the mayhem that ensued by collecting a brain labelled ‘Abnormal’ rather than the brain of the revered and brilliant historian, he was sent to secure.
If his star turn in one of the funniest movies of the 70s wasn’t enough, Feldman’s further claim to fame was that his ‘Walk this way’ line from the film was adopted by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who saw the movie, went back to the studio and wrote a song…. the rest as they say is history.
3) John Oates– Singer/musician in Hall & Oates (sidekick to Daryl Hall)
Hall & Oates were often described as….. ‘the tall, blonde, good looking one with the unbelievable vocal range and the wee guy with the curly hair and moustache’.
There’s no doubt then that Oates played second fiddle to Daryl Hall, but as sidekick’s go it was a pretty decent fiddle.
Oates wrote or co-wrote many of the pairs big hits including She’s Gone, Sara Smile, You Make my Dreams and I Can’t Go for That, and whilst he didn’t have Hall’s vocal range or stage presence, his harmonies, co-vocals and guitar playing were key to the band’s success (see clip below).
Hall & Oates may not have been equals in terms of talent and their partnership wasn’t as egalitarian as Lennon & McCartney, but Oates was certainly no Art Garfunkel.
4) Dennis Waterman– Perennial sidekick: to Jack Regan in The Sweeney and Arthur Daley in Minder.
A seasoned thespian who performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company at 13. Waterman was 27 when he appeared in The Sweeney as Detective George Carter, the hard-drinking, brawling, womanising, good-cop to John Thaw’s caustic Regan.
Waterman’s next big role in Minder, as a brawling, womanising ex-con who becomes a personal bodyguard wasn’t too much of a stretch then.
In a cruel twist of fate, Minder was actually devised post-Sweeney as a star vehicle for Waterman who relished the chance to shine after three seasons of playing the sidekick in The Sweeney. Cole’s part as Arthur Daly was meant to be a secondary/supporting role, however after a few episodes it was evident that Daly’s character was playing big with the audience, so the scripts and storylines were revised, leaving poor Dennis to fall back into his customary role as a sidekick once again.
5) Chewbacca– Wookie (sidekick to Han Solo)
Enforcer, body guard and loyal soldier, Chewie is Han Solo’s co-pilot and best buddy.
The character was inspired by George Lucas’ dog so it’s no surprise that one of Chewie’s greatest attributes is the talent most associated with sidekick’s – loyalty. Although he enjoys bringing the cocksure Solo down a peg or two every now and then, prompting the “Laugh it up fuzzball” retort, he is a faithful companion and would lay down his life for Solo…. a true sidekick!
Why are there no female sidekicks on the list?? I tried really hard to think of some but in almost all cases…. Sonny & Cher, Ike & Tina Turner, The Krankies, it was the bloke who was the sidekick!
I did think of one….. Peter Pan’s Tinker Bell but that was made in 1924.
(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 ….?”
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – May 2021)
A look now at this week’s Smells of the Seventies Top Twelve.
Coming straight in at number 12, we have:
MILK MONITOR HANDS:
The primary school position of ‘milk monitor’ was one of honour. Only the trusted and well behaved were granted the privilege of carting the perpetually cold, heavy, milk bottle laden, metal crates around the numerous classrooms.
Being conferred this position of prestige effectively gave permission to skip class for a while each day. Result!
There was a downside though – there always is. When you returned to your classroom, milk round duties completed, and rested your weary head in your hands …..
Boak! Blech! Eeeuuuww!
The smell of sour milk is one that lingers. It would seep into the fabric of your clothing and you’d notice the kid in the next seat inching towards the edge of their desk. And retching.
Playtime couldn’t come fast enough and you’d rush to the toilets and wash your hands clean. But a state of freshness is only a state of utopia.
The combined scent of sour milk and carbolic soap is not the most attractive.
Jumping three places from last week’s number 14, is:
FRESHLY CUT GRASS:
Not only back in the day, but even now, this is the smell of freedom.
On hot summer days at primary school, we’d often be taken outside for lessons. No matter the subject, the grassy aroma would relax the mind and even a half hour discussion on Oliver Cromwell became bearable.
At secondary school, balmy summer breezes would waft the fragrant scent into the science labs through the opened fanlight windows. Accompanied by the muffled sound of a tractor pulling the grass cutter, it hinted towards the end of term.
It was a time of change: the football pitch was being shorn, soon to be lined as a six lane athletics track; national grade exams beckoned; summer holidays were around the corner.
The smell of freshly cut grass meant exciting times ahead.
Falling from a peak position of 8, this week’s number 10 is:
I still have no idea why these sweets were so popular. Perhaps because they were cheap?
From Swizzel, the makers of Fizzers (which were decent sweets) Parma violets were / are hard sweets based on some aniseed based confectionery in India which are used to freshen the mouth after a spicy meal.
The smell of violets may be a half decent base for perfume, or toilet cleaner, but surely not for human breath?
I mean, I love the smell of garlic, but I’m not so sure it should be used as a mouth-wash.
Making a bit splash this week we have a joint number 9:
CHARLIE / BRUT 33:
In 1973, Faberge launched their ‘33’ everyday cologne. In the same year, Revlon launched their ‘sharp flowery’ fragrance, ‘Charlie.’
I know both are now regarded with a little bit disdain; as ’cheap.’ And certainly the Brut 33 splash-on gave that impression, coming as it did in a plastic bottle no less.
However, for naïve young schoolkids, living on paper round and baby-sitting incomes, these fragrances met our budgets while making us feel sophisticated; classy.
I very much doubt there were any dates between school pupils that didn’t involve a dab or two of either these scents.
Henry Cooper / Barry Sheene and Shelley Hack can feel well pleased with their influence on the match-making process.
Coming from nowhere, at 8 with a bullet, we have:
No – not the little peaked efforts we sometimes wore to primary school – these caps.
Principally for using in toy guns, we would stamp on them to ignite the tiny dots of what we always believed to be gunpowder. However, I think I’m right in saying old fashioned gunpowder is not shock sensitive and has to be ignited. So it may be a mercury based compound that actually forms the black dot on the roll of paper. (Who says I didn’t pay attention in Chemistry class?) Anyway – who gives a tu’upenny one for the science? We’d place lines of these on the inner ledge of our school desk and brusquely bring down the lid to create an almighty (as we heard it) bang.
The residual smell of spent gunpowder or whatever, and burnt paper was just tops! It was also exciting as we felt we were doing something just that wee bit naughty.
Making its annual assault on the charts and debuting this week at number 7, it’s, erm, comic annuals.
ANNUALS AT CHRISTMAS:
Every Christmas night, I’d head to bed with several new ‘annuals’ as reading material. Excited as I was to read the exploits of Alf Tupper (Tough of the Track) or Desperate Dan, my abiding memory of childhood Christmases, is the smell of these books.
I have to confess, that even at the age of sixty-two, I attract some weird looks from shoppers in Asda through the month of December, as with the books close to my face, I fan through the pages of the Beano / Dandy annuals.
With a ‘tree-mendous’ jump of fourteen places to number 6 this week, we have:
Back in the day before plastic was invented (well, almost) we always had real Christmas trees.
There is nothing in this world, I’m quite certain, can evoke such sense of sheer excitement in a young kid than the smell that permeates home when a real Christmas tree is placed in the corner of the living room.
Falling two places to number 5 after an amazing thirty-three weeks in the charts, is:
‘WET’ SCHOOL LUNCHES:
Every day, by playtime, (or was it ‘break’ when we were at secondary school?) you could tell what would be on the menu for lunch.
My heart would sink when I could detect the putrid odour of a ‘wet’ lunch. Invariably, these would be ‘wet’ days weather wise as well; days when the dining room windows would run rivers of condensation.
A ‘wet’ lunch could be expected when the stench of stewed cabbage would mingle with the cheap, Bisto substitute gravy used to smother the rather odious looking beef olives.
There would be no silver lining either, as in general, the Head of Kitchen would dictate it be better to get all the crap out in one go, and subject us to pink custard (Devil’s Spew) and prunes for desert.
Where there’s a Ying, there’s a Yang, and making a comeback at this week’s number 4, is:
‘DRY’ SCHOOL LUNCHES:
Ah! Now you’re talking. There was something so comforting when from the sanctuary of the bike shed opposite the kitchen, you could smell the roast of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish fingers, and chips deep fried in blocks of melted lard.
You could also bet your treasured Lynyrd Skynyrd album on there being rhubarb crumble and custard on offer for second course.
Matching Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album for continuous weeks on the chart and remaining this week at number 3, comes:
DOG POO ON YOUR SHOE:
Maybe, as a society, we are better educated these days. Or maybe dogs are genetically just constipated now. But there’s thankfully not as much dog dirt lying in the streets these days.
There was nothing worse than the smell that followed you home when you’d stepped in a pile of poo hidden in a tuft of grass. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
Or worse, if you’d perfected a slide tackle while playing football, only to ….. well, you know. Yeuch!
Having it ingrained in the tread of you bike tyre was no fun either. More so if it were the front one. Think.
Going around and around in the chart is this week’s number 2, climbing again after a steady fall in recent times:
GOLDFISH BOWL / TADPOLE JAR:
How many of us pestered our parents for a goldfish when we were young? Or ‘won’ a sad little specimen in a poly bag when the carnival came to town?
Our parents, realising how lucky they were we’d not asked for a pony, or even a dog, jumped right on their good fortune and readily agreed … on the condition you looked after it.
“It’ll teach junior about life and death and responsibility” they stupidly thought.
Yeah – that went well … for all of about a week, until the magnitude off the task took its toll. What? Clean out its bowl as well as feed it? Every four days? Why is that water cloudy/ Where is Goldie? What are these wee stringy bits of stuff suspended mid bowl? What’s that Goddamned smell for crying out loud?!
The same, though worse, would happen with the tadpole jar.
You’d plead to be allowed to keep the frog spawn you’d shovelled into an outsize and cleaned out malt jar.
“It’ll teach junior about life and evolution and transformation and responsibility” your parents stupidly thought.
Wow! Did that jar severely honk! Worse still – when the spawn had released tadpoles, and the tadpoles grew wee legs, they had to be transferred into a basin of sorts. With rocks, and weeds and stuff.
After that, you couldn’t really change the water. So while the little frogs developed, the water became stagnant. And stank to high heaven.
And nobody would come play with you unless their name combined the words David and Attenborough.
We have new Number One this week … and it’s getting personal, not ‘arf! PERNOD & LEMONADE:
Summer 1976. I’d just left school and had a job lined up in Banking. It was time to celebrate – time to get away and let my hair down. (I did have some, back then.)
It had been decided I wasn’t clever enough at Maths and Physics to go to University, so this would be my ‘gap week.’ Off I headed for a caravan in St Andrews with several pals.
You know, I casually say, ‘several pals,’ because in truth, the week is a total haze and I can recall only my mates Derek, Graham and Kenny being there. Jack may also have been. But I honestly can’t remember much at all, which is quite scary.
(I do recall coming back from the pub one night and throwing bits of bread onto the roof of a neighbouring caravan so the occupants would be awakened the following morning by hungry seagulls pecking the crusts above them.)
The only other recollection I have is of a night on Pernod and lemonade. Or rather, I recollect the next morning! And afternoon! And evening! And the next morning again!
I don’t think I’ve ever been so ill.
To this day, I cannot stand the smell of Pernod. If somebody close by drinks it, I have to move away.
*** It’s Smells of the Seventies … It’s Number One … It’s Pernod & Lemonade.
My show and tell is my silver plated alto saxophone. The Selmer Paris Balanced Action model from 1935-36. I realise that 99.99% of the population don’t know or care about this icon of the woodwind world but to us anorak train spotters of vintage saxes, a little bit of wee just came out at the mere mentioning of it’s name.
I bought it in around 1976 from a friend of a friend of my brothers called ‘Pete Tchaikovsky’ for ₤50. Considering big bro hung around with guys called Bev, Mod, Grimy and Fred Lawnmower, I’m guessing PT was a nickname or nom de plume. He could feasibly be related to Pyotr Ilyich but his accent was more east end Glasgow than central European. The Russian composer was also not known as a family man. I could say he was more Sugar Plum Fairy but that would be crass.
In it’s case, when I bought it, was a torn fragment of a football pools coupon from 1946 which I have unfortunately misplaced.
I’ve had the instrument serviced twice since owning it. Once in 1979 by my McCormacks’ colleague woodwind repairman and tenor sax legend Bobby Thomson who valued it at around ₤400 and more recently by a chap in Perth WA who put a price tag of about $4,000 about 15 years ago.
I was in a 6 piece jazz band then but became disheartened by being the acoustic wallpaper for the blue rinse set. Maybe, one day, it will rise again Phoenix like from the mausoleum (former music room).
Hi everyone – I’ve brought along some of my old record collection for Show & Tell today; pretty cool, huh?
I kept most of my old 45’s from the ’70s as well as a few of my brother’s singles from the late ’60s: an eclectic hoard including everything from ‘In the Year 2525’ by Zager and Evans to ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’ by Andy Fairweather Low.
For my ninth birthday in 1969, my parents bought me a white clock radio, which I covered in ‘Peace’ and ‘Love’ stickers; well, America was in the grip of Flower Power! I put it on my bedside table, where I drifted off to sleep to some of the best music ever written – Motown!
It was the moment of my musical awakening. This is where I first heard ‘Love Child’ by The Supremes. I went around the house glibly singing it – not understanding the lyrics, of course – causing my mother to shoot me one of her looks and say, “Honey, I don’t think you outta be listenin’ to that.”
It was here that I heard Freda Payne’s ‘Band of Gold’, Bobbi Gentry‘s version of ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again’, ‘Aquarius’ by The 5th Dimension, ”I heard it Through the Grapevine’ by Marvin Gaye and the first single I ever bought – ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ by B.J. Thomas for the giddy price of 50 cents.
My big brother David came home one Saturday afternoon with ‘Sugar, Sugar’, by TheArchies tucked under his arm, but he soon tired of it and decided to sell it. My middle brother Dale and I both wanted it but David refused, saying he would “still have to listen to it!” He sold it to a friend. I bought an equally annoying single called ‘Dizzy’ by Tommy Roe and would jump up and down on the sofa until I felt sick while listening to it: life imitating art.
My parents had a 1950s stereogram in the living room on which we could drop stack 45’s. As my brother’s record collection grew, we could listen to four or five singles at a time. A typical selection might include ‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson, ‘Hawaii Five-O’ by The Ventures, Simon and Garfunkel‘s ‘Cecilia’, ‘Classical Gas’ by Mason Williams and the comic record ‘Gitarzan’ by Ray Stevens – which still makes me howl with laughter! Mom and Dad played their own small selection of LPs which favoured Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and The Sound Of Music soundtrack.
Mom got so carried away with this ‘hip’ new music, she made Dale a blue corduroy shirt with a gold braid Nehru collar and paid a dance instructor to come to the house and teach us all to do the Twist, the Hitch-hiker and the Watusi.
As we moved to the UK and throughout the 1970s, my musical tastes grew and changed – as any teenager’s do. I ran the gamut of chart singles, getting ‘lost in music’ with my friend Denise; spending countless weekends sprawled across the dining room floor swooning to David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and The Carpenters – even Morris Albert! But Motown, Philly and disco stole my heart and still have it.
So please take a moment to enjoy my little collection of 45s – I hope they make you want to get dancin’!