(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.
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’!
(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.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – May 2021)
As we grow older, it can be all too easy to dismiss or forget the excitement of youth.
Actually, it’s easy enough to forget just why you went upstairs, never mind how you felt as a kid some fifty-plus years back.
Knowing what I’m about to write about, however, has rekindled that feeling of anticipation; of expectation and fulfilment.
Comics nowadays are big business. Huge. The proliferation of Comic-con exhibitions around the world is quite staggering, attended by millions of devotees not only of traditional comics, but of movies that then spawned hand-drawn story versions. And vice versa.
We now also have the massive popularity of anime / manga.
Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, it was a different story
‘Oh, can it be that it was all so simple then?’
Well – probably not, for by that time, thirty years on from popularisation of comics, there were new worlds and universes being created and populated by heroes and villains from both Detective Comics (D.C.) and Marvel.
Those comics and characters though, were generally outwith easy access by us here in UK, unless we had kindly relatives living across the Atlantic who would post the occasional Batman or Superman issue.
No, within the restricted world that small boys and girls inhabit until they turn into teenage monsters, the magazine section of the local newsagent was universe enough.
I’d have been seven years old when my dad brought me my first comic. It was issue #1 of TV21. Published in the style of a newspaper from the future, it was the creation of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and featured stories from all my favourite television programmes: Fireball XL5; Stingray; Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet.
I built up quite a collection, but parents do that ‘clear-out’ thing, don’t they, and unfortunately I now have no copies to reflect upon.
However, I did recently manage to buy a hardback covered collection of stories that featured in the original comic, so, happy days!
The excitement of youth I mentioned is no better highlighted than the year I was given a shilling (that’s 5p for any young whipper-snappers reading this) as a birthday treat. I dare say I was also given some other kind of presents, but it’s the monetary treat that remains foremost in my memory.
With this grand sum clasped firmly in my hand, I recall running up Monreith Avenue to Jamieson’s the Newsagent, various budget permutations filling my head.
Spent wisely, I’d be able to buy a Beano AND a Dandy for 4d each (1969 prices) and still have 4d left for sweets. That’d be sixteen Blackjacks / Fruit salad chews …. or maybe I’d buy a couple huge gobstoppers.
My parents weren’t fans of either these two comics and did their best to discourage me.
(That went well, I don’t think! To this day, I treat myself each Christmas with that year’s annual.)
We did though come to a compromise in that I was allowed to read such ‘rubbish’ comics if I also read Look and Learn, which they would buy for me. It was actually a very enjoyable read, and the predictions of life in the future (2001) as detailed in this edition from August 1971, weren’t too far from the truth …. apart from nuclear reactors in the basements of houses and the envisaged postal system!
I think on this occasion, Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan were more credible.
The importance of this deal, however, was not that I’d be more educationally equipped for secondary school, but that it gave a green light to both sets of grandparents to treat my sister and myself with comics whenever we visited.
For me, it was the Beezer from one and Hotspur or Victor from the other. These covered all bases; humour and mischief, to action-packed deeds of heroism and killing Johnny Foreigner. For a while around 1971, I’d be given copies of Tiger, which combined all of the above and threw in some football related strips. (Comic strips – not football strips. The free gifts were often pretty impressive, but didn’t extend to that level of generosity.)
My young sister would look forward to her copies of Twinkle and when a little older, Bunty and Judy. I can remember her faithfully cutting out the image of the young girl on the back page, and then ‘dressing’ her in the similarly cut-out items of clothing.
We were easy amused in those days.
Another favourite for me, though I didn’t actually buy many copies, was Scorcher. This was very football-centric with a combination of comic strips and magazine type articles on the sport. It was a bit more ‘grown up’ in its presentation than the more conventional comics.
Scorcher first hit the newsstands in January 1970, four months after I started spending my pocket money on Shoot! the first issue of which was in August the previous year. Choices had to be made. Shoot! won.
I still have a box with seventy- six copies stacked away in the loft. I just counted them.
In the early to mid-Seventies, as a stepping stone towards the more credible music magazines, I’d occasionally shell out a whole 5p on Disco 45, just so I could learn the words of ‘Run Run Run’ by Jo Jo Gunne. (Duh!)
My sister, Rona, was by now besotted with Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, so naturally Jackie magazine was delivered to our house each week. (I’ll bet I’m not the only bloke who sneaked a read of the photo stories!)
It wasn’t all about Donny and David and Bay City Rollers, though. I can remember articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.
I mean … Rona told me about there being articles and posters of Roxy Music, Sparks and Bowie.
I wouldn’t admit it then, but almost fifty years later, the Jackie inspired CD collections are never far away from my player.
And then it was the big-hitting music papers. Everyone had their favourite. Some would swear by Melody Maker, others would go with NME (New Musical Express.) For me though, it was Sounds. Perhaps because of the colour poster that would be the centrespread of each issue, but just as much for the bands and genres it covered.
At the same time, I was heavily into my running, so Athletics Weekly became a regular. I still love the look and feel of that magazine. Much of it consisted of results from meetings throughout the UK, but there were always a few really interesting interviews and features.
In the early / mid Seventies, athletics was still considered a bit of a minority sport. I well remember, then, feeling well chuffed to see the Crossroads character (Stan Harvey?) frequently having a copy of the magazine protruding from the breast pocket of his work overalls.
I haven’t counted the number of copies, but I still have two boxfuls in the loft!
In the four decades that have followed The Seventies, my love / obsession with magazines has not diminished. Thankfully, for the sake of preserving the eaves of the house, much of my reading is now online. Only Record Collector arrives via the letterbox these days.
This may be practical, but I also find it sad. Perhaps I’m slightly odd, but I miss the feel of the paper; the attraction of the vivid colour, and the sexiness of the artwork. I miss the physical side of reading magazines and comics as I missed playing vinyl records.
I also miss the smell. Surely you must also hanker after that dusty, mixed aroma of newsprint and ink in a paper shop?
OK – so just me, then.
More than anything though, I miss the excitement I felt as a kid on new issue day.
Today, I’ve brought with me, my Ken Dodd Fun Club Certificate and personalised, signed Ken Dodd photograph.
I was ten years old when in April 1969, my parents, little sister, Rona, and I waited at the stage door of the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow to meet my hero, Ken Dodd.
We didn’t have to wait too long before being invited in.
I vividly remember Doddy sitting behind a sort of counter, wearing a dressing gown, still in full make-up and hair all over the place.
I recall too, he was very gracious, and though offstage only a short while following a long performance, he was still incredibly funny and cracking jokes.
I told him I missed the Diddymen who hadn’t appeared in the show, and Ken took time to explain, more through my parents, that they couldn’t get the necessary permission from the Glasgow authorities for children to perform in the evenings.
He really was just how you hope your hero should be and chatted happily for several minutes, even politely replying to my asking why he had jokes written all over his hands and wrists!
Often referred to as the last of the Music Hall comedians, Ken Dodd appealed to adults and kids in equal measure. I really thought he was tattyfilarious, and laughed till my eyes streamed and my sides were sore.
(When I reminded my ninety-one year old dad of this the other day, his eyes lit up and confirmed what a fantastically funny night it was.)
I had thought I’d lost these two mementos but found them when searching for something else. I’m so glad I did, as they evoke such strong memories of a much more innocent and nonsensical style of humour.
Post by John Allan, from Bridgetown, Western Australia –May 2021)
If you look at a map of Great Britain there is a narrow bit about half way up where it’s as if you’ve sucked your stomach in for a family photo. In AD 122, Emperor Hadrian of Rome decided to build a 73 mile wall from east to west (or west to east if you prefer metric) to separate Roman Britannia from Caledonia.
If you go about a hundred miles north to an even narrower bit (the belt buckle must have been really straining at this point) there is another lesser known wall built by Hadrian’s successor, Emperor Antonine in AD 142 .
It is 39 miles long and runs from Old Kilpatrick in West Dunbartonshire to Carriden on the Firth of Forth. It took 12 years to build which is not surprising as my Dad had to wait months to get permission from the East Dunbartonshire Council just to build a small porch over the back steps.
By my calculations the house I lived in in the 60s and 70s was bang on top of the wall. Not that our house was precariously balanced on a solid structure, the wall was pretty much flattened long before we got there.
Across the road from us was a wooded area known locally as “The Woods” where sometime in the late 60s Tony Robinson and the Time Team excavated a section of Antonine’s wall. (Not 100% sure it was TT but some archaeologist unearthed it)
To a young kid it was just a heap of stones and a ditch but there was an iron railing fence around it that made it an ideal football goal. There were also concrete markers about a goal’s width dotted along the length of the large grassed area, ideal for numerous games of the national sport. Inevitably the football would sail over the railings and one of us smaller kids would squeeze through the widened gap to retrieve the ball. Never did it occur to me that I was traipsing on the same ground some Roman centurion’s sandal might have tread some 1,800 years ago – although I doubt he would be looking for a Mitre Mouldmaster.
Many Roman coins were dug up in the rhubarb patch and I would compare them with my mates haul. They must have ended up in museums at some point. We lived in Castlehill but I could never figure what hill it referred to never mind find any trace of a castle.
History was fun at primary school as it seemed to involve making things and dressing up, usually as a Roman soldier looking like a right Biggus Dickus no doubt.
I won a prize for a history project about the Romans. I got W.E. Johns’ Biggles Flies Undone for my efforts. We also studied ancient Egypt I seem to remember as Tutankhamun was all the rage then. My Dad thought it was driving etiquette ‘Toot and come on ‘.
Secondary school history was a different experience. Certainly no colouring in and no fancy dress apart from the teacher Mr Brodie. He wore a kilt and a dishevelled jacket. He looked like a homeless gillie. His sporran was some indiscriminate dog like mammal with mange whose plastic beady eyes followed you around the room. All we ever got was Scottish history and tales of battles won against ‘those bastard English’. Truth be told I think there were far more massacres than victories but Brodie seemed to gloss over those bits. It was just endless essay writing and the subject quickly lost it’s appeal.
In 3rd year I had to choose between History and Geography and the latter won hands down. Our teacher Mr McCoach was previously a bus driver believe it or not and was quite ‘cool’ for a teacher in the 70s. He introduced me to TheBand which remains one of my favourites to this day. One day he handed out photocopied sheets on the geological feature of ‘CLINTS’. Unfortunately the gap between the ‘L’ and the ‘I’ was indistinguishable. He couldn’t work out why the class of pubescent teenagers were giggling. History was never this much fun.
In the land that is now my home, 70s school kids were still being taught that Australia’s history started in 1788 with the arrival of the first fleet from Great Britain. That the land was terra nullius (nobody’s land) totally disregarding and disrespecting the first nation peoples’ continuous 60,000 year occupancy. They have been and continue to be guardians of this country.
‘History is the distillation of rumour’ …… Thomas Carlyle.
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – May 2021)
Noel Coward’s advice to avoid putting your daughter on the stage should have rang alarm bells for me the summer I left school in 1978. With Grade E ‘A’ Levels in English and History, Mom was ecstatic that I had two paper certificates – heedless of the fact that they meant Jack.
Career’s Advice suggested I might try my hand in retail: “You could become a Buyer in Ladies’s Wear by the time you’re thirty-five.”
Thirty-five? I’d be an old woman by then!
Having trod the boards at school, I decided to give acting a serious whirl and enrolled at drama evening classes as I began the round of auditions to study drama full time. My teacher said I “should have been a blonde” because I was so “dizzy”. High praise indeed.
With my new curly perm, a dash of Wild Musk and a lot of bravado, I headed for the ‘Big Smoke’ – London – where my eldest brother David met me at Euston Station and guided me across the city on the underground. I was scared to death!
I auditioned at all of London’s top drama schools as Blanche Dubois from Tennessee Williams’ play, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’
Her character has a famous monologue, “He was a boy, just a boy. when I was a very young girl…” which I thought I had down pat. Despite an authentic Southern Belle accent, I had the distinction of being turned down by them all. Not before though, witnessing some spectacular feats of self-promotion from other hopefuls – including one guy who auditioned as Hamlet, wearing a gorilla suit.
He got in.
I gave up in London.
As my dad once said to me, “Honey – I’m proud of you. If you’re going to fail – really fail!”
Closer to home, in March 1979, I received an invitation to audition at a drama school in the midlands.
Living up to my ‘dizzy’ moniker, I turned up exactly one calendar month late for my audition and let myself into the office of a Miss Meade, who had been principal of the acting school in the year dot.
Her dark, cramped office in the basement was piled floor to ceiling with dusty old play scripts and seemingly hundreds of cats which peered down at me from a great height. Naturally Miss Meade was not expecting me.
I stared at old black and white photos of great Thespians which lined the high walls and suddenly felt very small – the bravado gone. Should I cough to announce I was here? Suddenly the door swung open and in bustled Miss Meade – an elderly lady with grey hair tied back in a bun, carrying a walking stick. We scared each other.
“Good gracious Ducky! Who are you?”
“I’m Andrea Scarboro. I’ve come to audition.” (I felt like saying, “I’m Dorothy Gale, from Kansas.”)
Miss Meade pored over her diary on her large, cluttered, desk with a lot of tutting.
“Well, well Ducky, wait here and I’ll see what I can do.”
Miss Meade disappeared through a door, leaving me nervously stroking my Blanche Dubois. She finally reappeared with an elderly gentleman in an elegant, faded suit, marvelous set of whiskers and an old fashioned ear trumpet.
“This young lady has turned up for an AUDITION, one month LATE! Heh! Shall we SEE her?”
“WHAT? AUDITION? MOST IRREGULAR! I suppose so – why NOT?” shouted the bewhiskered gentleman.
I was led into a small rehearsal room where a rostrum was hastily arranged in a far corner. Miss Meade pulled up two chairs, where she and the elderly gentleman sat side by side. She tapped her cane on the floor to command my attention.
“What are you going to perform for us Ducky?”
“Ahh, Tennessee Williams. Bold choice Ducky. When you’re ready…”
I got through the piece as Miss Meade and the suited gentleman nodded and whispered to one another.
“I’d like to look at your deportment, Ducky,” signalling to me to mount the rostrum with her cane. She gave me a book to balance on my head.
“Walk around the stage, Ducky, let’s have a good look at you.” She nodded at the old gentleman, who clamped the trumpet tightly of his ear.
“Shall we see her WALK WITH A LIMP?”
“A LIMP? Why NOT?” Miss Meade handed me her cane and told me to walk around the rostrum with it,.
“…as if you’ve broken your left leg Ducky.”
I took the cane from her, trying to remember my left from my right. Propped up on the stick, I began to ‘limp’ around the stage.
“That’s it Ducky – clockwise.”Miss Meade and the old gentleman exchanged approving looks.
Concentrating on limping on the correct foot, I failed to notice the edge of the rostrum and launched off the stage, landing spread-eagle on the floor at Miss Meade’s feet. Trying to maintain some semblance of dignity, I gathered myself up to my full height, dusted down my ruffled hem, picked up the cane and book and hopped back up onto the little stage with the intention of ‘carrying on’. Instead, I got the giggles and turned to Miss Meade and the gentleman.
“Well, that’s torn it! Now, where was I?”
I resumed my limp around the rostrum, on the wrong foot now, but with head held high and book perfectly balanced. (“If you’re going to fail, really fail.”). Miss Meade leaned towards the bewhiskered elderly gent and shouted:
“I like the SPIRIT of the GEL – shall we TAKE her?”
“Take WHAT?” shouted the old chap, leaning into his ear trumpet.
“Take the GEL!” Miss Meade banged her cane emphatically on the floor.
“Do you KNOW – I think we SHALL!” shouted the bewhiskered one, allowing himself a wry smile.
I bowed, jumped off the little platform and shook their hands. Miss Meade offered me a place at her drama school to commence the following September. How thrilling!
However, a place at drama school didn’t cut any ice as far as the Education Authority was concerned; I would have to audition for a grant and they only gave two discretionary grants per year. Over the next three years I auditioned for a little grey man in a grey suit in a stuffy office; we were almost on first name terms. Each year I pulled out my Blanche De Bois and the following conversation ensued
“Thank you Miss Scarboro; an interesting interpretation but you don’t have Maths ‘O’ Level, do you? So you can never teach drama, can you?”
“Oh I’m never going to teach; I’m going to act, so it doesn’t matter, does it?”
“Well, I’m afraid that you can’t have a grant because you live at home, so you won’t need any living expenses.”
You get the gist.
After this third rejection, my mother – now divorced from my dad – took matters into her own hands and arranged an extraordinary meeting with the man in the grey suit, accompanying me to his office.
In a scene reminiscent of ‘Gone With The Wind’ – when Scarlett visits Rhett in jail all dressed up in Miss Ellen’s green velvet drapes, to try and wheedle three hundred dollars out of him to pay the taxes on Tara – Mother looked stunning in a large brimmed, black straw hat with black lace veil, long black gloves and black dress. She leaned seductively across the large desk between her and the little grey man; picking at the fingertips of her gloves with head bowed as she simpered in her languid Southern drawl:
“Oh kind Sir, have pity! I am but a poor divorcée;” (fluttering her eyelashes with the back of her hand across her furrowed brow.) “I cannot support my daughter, livin’ on my own as I do. I beg you to give her this chayance – she is so talented.”
The man in the suit remained unmoved, so with huge regret I had to give up my place at the drama school.
Undeterred, I whipped out Blanche Dubois for a final time – along with my two ‘A’ Level Certificates – when I auditioned at Polytechnic; where I was taught the following invaluable life lesson:
“Men lead from the crotch, women lead from the tits.” (Remember, this was the sexist 1970s)
I also managed to get a full grant and gained a BA Honours Degree in Performing Arts.
Mom purred, “You see honey? There’s more than one way to skin a cat!”
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.
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.
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…
The Godfather 2
Monty Pythons The Life of Brian
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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….
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – February 2021)
… well, not exactly. Let me explain:
I’m no trend setter, I think it’s safe to say. I mean, I don’t see many other blokes my age roaming the not so mean streets of Houston, following my lead by rocking a similar hairstyle.
Neither am I one to blindly fall into the wake of whatever’s considered the current ‘new wave.’
However, the young me, the very young me, was a bit more impressionable.
I’d have been aged eight or nine when these babies made their appearance in the mid-Sixties. I doubt I’d even reached the dizzy responsibilities of Seconder in the Cub Scouts when I first noticed some of the other boys proudly sporting them during Inspection. Actually, I wouldn’t have noticed them at all if it wasn’t for the continuous bragging of those little smart a****!
You see, the uppers bore no real difference to any other run of the mill shoe. It was what lay beneath that made these shoes ‘to die for.’ (Sorry – that sounds just a tad too ‘cub scout camp.’)
Yes, the magic all happened below. Out of sight. On, and wait for it, IN the sole of the shoe. How radical was that?
True, some of the magic was dependent on certain geographical and meteorological conditions being met. It may have proved different for kids living in the more arid regions of southern England, but here in West of Scotland, we didn’t generally have to worry about a dearth of puddles, claggy mud and even snow.
However, the main attraction of these shoes was the small compass, secreted in a special compartment of the right foot’s heel. Genius!
Actually, the real genius here was not so much the design or designer, but the dude who by tapping into the sheer gullibility of eight year old lads, successfully marketed these inherently pointless yet novelty shoes to reluctant parents.
Wait, thinking of it, with thirty-two points on a compass, Wayfinders were anything but ‘pointless,’ but you get my drift.
I mean, seriously, what use was a compass to an eight year old? Unless your mother, in addition to your name, had sewn in the DMS (degrees, minutes and seconds) coordinates of your home address into the collar of your jumper, you’d be stuffed if you became lost.
What could you do? Even had you been awarded the Navigator Activity badge, without your home coordinates, you had only a one in thirty-two chance of stumbling back into your street. And the danger for those who hadn’t paid proper attention during the Pioneering Badge session, was they’d only retain two words: magnetic and north.
I count myself here as one of the stupid ones who would have ended up in Inverness or somewhere cold and bleak that was not really my intention.
But worse! What self-respecting young lad does not carry a bar magnet in their pocket? And that’s not a euphemism. You’d end up in Portsmouth, in a very confused state for goodness sake.
Another thing – what’s the point of animal tracks moulded onto the sole of your shoe? Should Bear Grylls come across an unfamiliar track when out in the wilds, I’m reasonably confident in suggesting he’d use a pocket manual or something to help him identify it – not take off his shoe to compare the muddy imprint.
I did, and still do, enjoy the thought however, of a trail of these prints being left in a snow covered country lane – and the befuddled look on a hungry fox’s little face when he finally realises he hasn’t actually won the lottery and chanced upon a whole winter larder’s supply of food.
Anyway, the concept of individuality was alien to me at such a young age, and like a sheep, I followed the trend. I did actually manage to badger my folks into buying me a pair of these stoaters, even though they were quite dear at the time.
(Sorry – my hands made me type that last paragraph.)
Over the next few years, my head was too full of football and nonsense to bother about fashion of any sorts. In 1971, though through my first winter at secondary school, leather, zipped ankle boots became de rigeur.
Surprisingly, considering the expense, my parents offered negligible resistance to my request for a pair. I was now part of the cool set at school. Deep puddles and wet snow – I laugh in your face.
If puddles and wet snow did indeed have a face, and they could laugh out loud, they would have been in stitches a few days later when they had exacted retribution for my callous disregard of their existence.
Somehow soaked through to my socks when I arrived home from school, my Mum placed the boots in front of the two-bar electric fire. Within minutes there was an acrid, burning smell. And it wasn’t the usual overcooked burning cauliflower scent I had become so used to. (Sorry, Mum.)
I rushed to the rescue of my beloved leather boots and was aghast to see a lava-like rivulet spread down the front of the left one.
Yup! These ‘leather’ boots were made of plastic. These Boots Were Made For Melting.
With a renewed respect for puddles and wet snow, I returned to school the following morning, ready to be slaughtered for unfashionable, fashionable boots. I wasn’t disappointed. Kids can be so cruel, you know.
My final foray into the world of fashion came a year or so later. Inspired by Glam Rock in general, the band, Sweet, in particular, and a distinct lack of personal height, platform shoes were my next ‘got to have.’ Purple ones. Or ox blood, I think was the delightful, correct description. Two toned ox blood ones, in fact.
Now I totally loved these. I looked well sharp and felt five feet tall.
But what is it with shoes, winter and me? Having worn these through the months of autumn, it had escaped my attention that the soles and more so, the heels had worn thin as the first snows began to fall. In fact, the heel rubber was non-existent. Well, what would I know … I hadn’t looked at the soles of my shoes since my last pair of Wayfinders.
Sat in double History, I was conscious of some surreptitious whispers and giggling from those sat behind me. To my horror, I noticed a puddle of water under my seat, just where I’d crossed my ankles for comfort.
The more I frantically pleaded that this was not the result of excitement at the prospect of reading about the French Revolution for the next hour, the more the mirth intensified. Even the teacher cast me some alarmed glances.
It was only at the end of class when I slipped and staggered out the room, leaving behind what remained of two, three inch, heel shaped blocks of compacted ice and snow, that my innocence was proved, and incontinence debunked.
Looking back then, perhaps I should have learned how to make better use the Wayfiinders compass. At least I would have determined at an early stage that my attempt at becoming a style icon would head in one direction only – and that was south.