Tag Archives: Sixties

hound-dawgs

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

Alfie and Millie (2010)

The 1960s and ’70s were a great time to be a dog – and a child. My brothers and I were pretty much free-range kids; growing up on a rural college campus in Virginia where Dad lectured in History and Mom was at home for us. We were totally unencumbered by the pressures of an adult world. There were only two grown-up rules: don’t talk to strangers and be home in time for supper. Running barefoot through endless summers with our dog Shiloh, we were pack animals; our friends and their dogs ran with us – always at our side as we navigated our way through childhood. 

Nobody that we knew ever walked their dogs on a lead – what an absurd notion!4We simply opened the back door and let Shiloh out into our back yard and the wider campus. Shiloh would sit at the back door as Dad said, “Out? Out to bark?” whereupon she would race along the back porch and bark three times!

Attitudes towards dogs were different then  – nobody ever picked up dog shit. Our yard was full of it and in the long hot summers we would find chalky white deposits in the clumps of grass. We called it fossilised shit. Nobody cared or worried that we might get some terrible eye disease from it – we just ignored it – unless you were unlucky enough to step in it but that was your fault – you knew it was there!

Shiloh had her neighbourhood pack, including a Golden Retriever called Lanny and Old Jack, the black Labrador who would sleep in the middle of the road, forcing traffic to go around him – and they did! Even Joe the bus driver knew Old Jack and would give him a wide berth,  You can set your watch by him – -yes-siree-bob!”

Andrea & friends with Dale, in the back yard in Virginia – with Lanny the Golden Retriever and Shiloh (1970)

But Shiloh only had eyes for Nicky the Wolfhound; a well-known local bounder who had already sowed his wild oats with Doris the Dachshund in a secret tryst in her garage, producing unlikely looking puppies.

In the American South, a dog is a ‘dawg’ – even Elvis sang about it.  Troublesome ‘dawgs’ are ‘hound-dawgs’; not to be confused with ‘huntin’ dogs’ which are bred to run with the pack.  Shiloh was typical of the ‘hound-dawg’: a German Shepherd who chased small critters – rabbits, squirrels and the occasional rat – frequently puking them up on Mom’s orange velvet sofa.  Rumour had it that she killed a neighbour’s pet rabbit, but Mom refused to believe it. In a legendary show-down on the front porch with the afflicted rabbit’s owner – who had threatened to call the Sheriff – Mom rebuked the accusation and told the woman to get off her property or she would be the one calling the Sheriff!

Then there was the time that Shiloh chased the Dean of Faculty up one of our apple trees. He had the audacity to come to help himself to our apples with a ladder and buckets. Shiloh decided she was having none of his sass; keeping him up that tree for some time, snapping at his heels long enough to teach him a lesson – or until Dad called her off.  (Mom said “it served him right, as the apples were rotten and full of wasps anyway!”)  When still a young puppy, Shiloh nipped our neighbour, Mrs. Wyatt, on the calf, as she strolled past our house when we were playing in the front yard. “She was just defending her family,” said Mom. As I say, attitudes were different then. Oh sure, you had to have a dog licence but if your dog bit someone it was rarely reported. The Sheriff might mosey over to your house and give your parents a caution – then enjoy a cup of coffee with them on the front porch.

 My brother Dale once stepped out of the bathtub when he was a young boy, as Shiloh lay on the bathmat.  The young pup watched for a moment then pounced; nipping the poor boy where the sun doesn’t shine! Dale yelled and Dad could probably be heard clear across the campus:

 “GODDAMN SON-OF-A-BITCH DAWG! SON, GET ME THE MERCUROCHROME!”

The ‘hound-dawg’ pup slunk off and lay low until suppertime.

(NB/ Mercurochrome was a mercury based antiseptic, popular with mothers of the baby boom generation. It stained your skin pink and had a mighty sting on open cuts and grazes. It was finally. considered as unsafe and banned in 1998.)

Shiloh was finally caught red-handed one Christmas Day as she lay nonchalantly across the dining room table gorging on the turkey, which Mom had put their to ‘rest’ before carving. We had hamburgers that year.

Young Andrea with Shiloh, in Virginia – 1970

***

When we made the difficult move to the UK in 1970, we had to leave Shiloh behind with a neighbouring farmer, as quarantine laws were so strict then. We were heartbroken. To make us feel at home in Birmingham, Mom and Dad surprised us with a young rescue German Shepherd called Cleo. 

She was a gentle, beautiful dog who filled a great void in our lives. When my cat Brandy had her litter of kittens in an old packing crate in the garage, Cleo was on hand to help; perhaps sensing that this little cat wasn’t very strong. Cleo watched the birth, helped lick the kittens clean and carried them very tenderly in her mouth out onto the lawn to play with them. Sadly, Cleo became ill with a twisted bowel after only a few months and we had to have her put to sleep. My mother cried for a week. She had invested a lot of love and hope into Cleo, to help turn our dark days into bright ones.  Sadly, little Brandy died from a heart attack when she was being spayed but we kept one of her kittens, Frisky.

Frisky – 1975

After a campaign that lasted some weeks, Mom came home on the bus one dark winter evening with a bundle of fur under her coat. My brothers named her Zoo. She was another German Shepherd rescue puppy with huge ears that met in the middle and big paws which soon bounded their way into our hearts.  Her party piece was standing on her hind legs at the dining room window, farting as she watched life go by behind the net curtains – usually when Mom and Dad had company. Dad would just quietly strike a match – always worked.   Zoo took an instant dislike to Frisky, forcing the cat to live on the veranda roof.  Every now and then they would have a spectacular fight, with the cat holding her own. She lived up there for years.

Zoo in our back garden with scorched grass and remains of the Pampas grass – 1975

Our small, inordinately neat back garden in Birmingham, quickly became decimated.  Mom’s refusal to acknowledge dog shit meant that the grass turned yellow and Zoo shredded the flowers; tearing them by the roots from the borders and strewing them widely across the lawn. She was particularly fond of shredding the Pampas Grass. I can see Dad now – rake in hand – trying to put the Pampas grass back together so Mom wouldn’t notice.  Zoo used our small ornamental pond as a toilet, so Dad decided to fill it in. What Dad didn’t do was drain the pond first; he simply filled it with top soil – right on top of the pond weeds and tadpoles, which turned it into a quagmire. The neighbourhood cats loved it and we had frogs for ever more.

It was Zoo who found her way into the under-stairs cupboard  on Christmas Eve morning in 1970 and chewed up  the presents which our parents had carefully scrimped and saved for; leaving a pair of fluffy mule slippers missing a heel,  the Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’ album with a teeth marks on the corner, the ‘Fall of the Roman Empire’ with a shredded spine and a bald Tressy doll. Mom was distraught and trudged back into Rackham’s on the Number Nine bus on Christmas Eve afternoon with the little money she had to replace what she could. Zoo was indeed a hound-dawg.  The ‘Long and Winding Road’  spun on the turn table after dinner as Mom cried silent tears over the dishes. 

***

And finally, my brother Dale and I still refer to the following incident in which a teenage friend of ours – I’ll call him Mike – was watching TV at our house one afternoon in 1977. He suddenly jumped up from the sofa to pop to the loo, startling Zoo who had been asleep at his feet. She jumped up and  nipped poor Mike in the nuts, causing him to leap higher and emit a piercing yell which reverberated down our road as he ran upstairs clutching his crotch. Dale said,

“She just nipped him in the bud.”

History repeating itself. We’ve always wondered whether he’s OK.

***

Our children grew up with two dogs: Alfie our beloved black Lab and Millie, our Springer Spaniel; each one a ‘hound-dawg’ in their own right with their own idiosyncrasies and characters. We have recently had to say one last ‘goodnight’ to Mille (aka ‘Mills’, ‘Mrs. Mills’, ‘Cruella Da Mills’ and ‘Miss Havisham’) after twelve years of crazy antics, unquestioning devotion and fierce loyalty. Letting go is the hardest part; Mills had my heart and the upper hand (or should I say upper-paw) until the end of her long and happy life.

We still have our four year old chocolate Labrador, Humphrey, who is proving to be a ‘hound-dawg’ and a half!

Dogs teach us compassion, help us laugh at ourselves and make us better humans – especially ‘hound-dawgs’.

Mills.

a friend for life? i wouldn’t bank on it.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson – April 2021)

It was July 1976 and as a brown envelope dropped through the letterbox, in the far reaches of outer space, the last of the planets aligned.

As I stooped to pick up the envelope, a deep, resounding voice boomed in my head:

“Young Jackson! Your grandfather was a Banker. Your father is a Banker. Your destiny has been ordained – so too shall you become a Banker!”

I had remained in school for Sixth Year, principally for another attempt to pass both Higher Maths and Physics, and somehow fluke the entry qualifications for University. However, the contents of that brown envelope metaphorically sprung forth, stuck two fingers up at me and laughed in my face.

That summer, just like the one prior, I had worked as a student in Bank of Scotland’s Foreign Department, as it was then. A full time job was guaranteed, if I wanted it.

I wouldn’t say I particularly ‘wanted’ it, but I definitely needed it. And so, on 16th August 1976, I rocked up, as directed by Head Office, to my local Branch at Bearsden Cross.

(Unbeknown to me, I was treading the same path as another of this here parish.)

Bank of Scotland, Roman Road Branch. (The clock was positioned between the two central sets of windows – see later!)

This was the branch I used when still at school. I had always hated queueing up to lodge my paper-round / pocket / birthday money feeling the staff displayed a rather aloof and disinterested attitude to youngsters.

But I was now a man. (Eighteen years and eleven days old counts, right?) I wouldn’t become ‘one of them.’ I’d be me. They could like it or lump it. Dressed in my navy blue, double breasted jacket, silk backed waistcoat, baggy trousers with turn-ups and two-inch platform shoes, I was going to revolutionise branch banking. It was going to be relaxed; it was going to be fun; it was going to be filled with happy, smiling faces.

The Manager presumably had many much more important things to do first thing in the morning than greet some cocky little new-start, so after a brief introduction to the Assistant Manager, I was given a seat in a quiet part of the office, facing a blank wall.

“Hmmmn. This might take longer than expected” I mused.

 I was then presented with a huge pile of cheques that had been debited against the customers’ accounts. These had to be sorted into eight-digit account number order, and then further sorted into six digit cheque number order. They would then be passed to the Statement Clerks who would file them in large metal cabinets, ready to be inserted in the customers’ Bank Statements.

And that was it. That was my first day. All of it. Nine o’ clock in the morning till four o’clock in the afternoon. Sorting and filing. Oh, and going to the local shops at tea-break and lunchtime to pick up sandwiches, crisps, cakes, fags, matches, newspapers, etc for most of the twenty or so staff.  

Oh, I was showing them all right!

I toed the line for a few months, keeping my head down and already counting the days to retiral. But the rebellious streak was never far away. When I was one day told to collect a copy of Penthouse or Mayfair from the newsagent (‘top shelf’ magazines in those days) for the Insurance Clerk, I told him to get lost.

For a start, I’d have to ask someone to reach the top bloody shelf on my behalf. A bit of a row kicked off, but I reasoned he wouldn’t grass me up to The Manager for insubordination, given the nature of the magazine he wanted.

A few months later, I received my first ‘promotion’ – if only because another Office Junior was appointed, a lovely girl called Esmé. This slight rise in my personal status didn’t really amount to much. It simply meant Esmé took over cheque duties, while I manned the rather cumbersome and complicated Branch switchboard.

Once mastered, the job was as tedious as that I’d just graduated from. So to lighten my day, I’d imagine myself operating the Transporter Room Console of the Starship Enterprise, seeking out new life and new civilisations while boldly going where no man had gone before.

Hey – I was eighteen. Cut me some slack.

I did actually go one place that no man had been before, as it happens. Though I can’t claim to having used the word, ‘boldly.’

Above the Branch entrance there was a large clock. Three months or so into my career, the new ‘Accountant’ (effectively third in charge of the office) decided we could save money by maintaining the clock ourselves, rather than paying some specialists.

(In those days, Branches were completely distinct cost centres, so effectively the budget on say, toilet rolls, was as important as the lending rates. Anything that could be done to maximise Branch profits, was.)

This new Accountant would become well known in later years for his eccentric behaviour. In some cases, I’m sure he’d now be classed as a ‘bully.’ I worked with him again later in my career, and actually liked him. He was a real loose cannon though, prone to Basil Fawlty type tantrums.

“Go on then, get out there” he told me as he pulled up the sash window that overlooked the bustling Roman Road about twenty feet below.

It was a sunny Friday, towards the end of October, three months into my career. British Summer Time would end that weekend and the clocks would go back.

“Here,” he said, “use this,” and handed me a long window pole. “Just push the small hand back one hour.”

“Are you mental?” I asked earnestly.

“I’ll be holding your jacket vent. You’ll be fine. Now just get out there.”

“Have you seen my shoes?” I drew his attention to my platforms.

“Stop being a *****. They’ll give you more reach. Now move!” he said as he started to prod me with another window pole.

And so, there I was, precariously balanced and attracting the incredulous stares of the town’s shoppers as I edged along the narrow ledge to the clock and reset the time.

Shaking in equal parts fear and rage, I squared up to my office superior: “I am NOT doing that again!”

And I didn’t.

Nobody did.

**

By spring 1977, it was quite apparent The Manager didn’t see me as a good fit for his office and I was transferred to the other office in Bearsden, Kessington Branch.

This was more like it! There was a much more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere to work in, and everyone from the delightful old ‘Mr Pastry’ lookalike Manager to the slightly younger, pretty and completely bonkers Office Junior was up for a laugh.

It was all very childish. We’d do things like teach naughty words to the ‘Mummy’s little darlings’ who were plonked on the counter before us while Mumsie gassed with friends and held up the queue. As Billy Connolly would say, sometimes the best pranks are those where you don’t actually see the end result.

We all so fervently hoped that when dear Mummy invited the local vicar round to discuss the forthcoming Bring-and-Buy sale, that Junior would suddenly remember the word, ‘jobbie.’

**

Now, this sounds like one of those ‘legend’ tales that is passed down through the generations in any office. But it most definitely did happen at Kessington Branch.

An elderly lady approached the teller with a withdrawal slip for fifty pounds – quite a sum back then. She had completed the form before coming to the Bank, but had done so in pencil.
“I can’t take it like that, Mrs Smith,” the teller gently told her. “You’ll have to ink it over.”

Mrs Smith tutted but took the form over to the writing desk.

Five minutes later, she was still sat there.

“Mrs Smith? Are you all right? Is everything OK?” asked the concerned teller.

“Yes dear,” came the reply. “I’ve thought it over, and I’d still like the cash, please.”

**

Two years later, and I was on the move again – a proper promotion this time. To Jordanhill Branch, in the West End of Glasgow. Now, this was one crazy office!

For a start, it wasn’t uncommon for a few of us to leg it up to the Esquire House pub at Anniesland for a game of pool and a couple of pints at lunchtime! It wasn’t uncommon for the Manager to go on ‘business lunches’ and fall over chairs in the staff room, or fall asleep in his office during the afternoon.

It also wasn’t uncommon for Branch Officials to be independently on the fiddle!

While I was there, the staff had suspicions about the Assistant Manager. After I left for Stirling Branch in the early Eighties, his scam came to light in the most bizarre of circumstances.

The Manager who replaced the poor soul with the drinking habit, had started his own fraud! I was by then distant from the investigation, but understand that a routine Inspection raised some questions of one of them … leading to both packs of cards collapsing.

The Assistant Manager I worked with was given a jail sentence.

**

That was it for The Seventies, The Bank, and me.

So, what about the title to this piece?

Well, the four years that remained of the decade when I joined Bank of Scotland were terrific fun.  We had plenty wild nights out, and I was lucky enough to represent the Bank at athletics, cross country, road racing as well as football. So lots of paid absence on ‘all expenses’ trips to London.

The Eighties in Stirling and Manchester and the bulk of the Nineties back in Glasgow were a riot, with great sets of people.

Then the Noughties. And The Halifax.

I had twenty-eight years’ experience; I had been subjected to threats with dirty needles; I’d had an eighteen inch machete brandished at me and a hand gun pointed at my face from about ten feet away. I’d safely evacuated a staff of thirty from a burning building, checking smoke filled corridors and toilets to ensure everyone was accounted for.

Oh yeah – and I was pretty damned good at my job, if my reports were anything to go by.

But I’ve never really been a ‘follower’ and always believed in my own choices. Dude, I was into Sweet when they were still The Sweet and everyone else was worshipping at the alter of Clapton or Yes.

And so it was, with that wee rebel light still burning bright, I refused to sell PPI in the manner which were all instructed. (Payment Protection Insurance – remember that?)

I had ‘disputes’ with Head Office staff over lending the tried, trusted and customer focused way.

But by 2004, rather than aligning, the planets were colliding. New against Old.

Being a ‘Banker’ counted for nothing. It was no longer even acceptable to be ‘me.’ Individuals and ‘characters’ were considered troublemakers and forced into ‘voluntary redundancy.’

I now walk dogs for a living.

Oh yeah – I showed them alright!

*****



let the children play

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile the girls did girlie stuff on the playground.

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

 “A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,

To see what he could see, see, see

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But someone could have been seriously hurt !”

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

my 1970s teen-angst diary (part 2)

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

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

INTRODUCTION RE-CAP

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

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

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

June 2nd, 1974

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

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

 June 13th, 1974

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

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

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

June 17th, 1974

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

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

Saw TV programme on SLEEP – very interesting.”

June 20th, 1974

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

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

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

June 22nd, 1974

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

July 16th, 1974

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

July 17th, 1974  

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

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

July 18th, 1974

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

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

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

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 11th April, 2021)

blaes ‘n’ sad loos

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

It must be written in some ancient Glasgow City charter that all children should receive varying degrees of pain and punishment throughout their childhood and adolescent years. All through the late 60s and early 70s I remember some form of assault usually inflicted by someone in authority.

Proverbs 13:24 does state “Spare the rod and spoil the child” though some more moderate biblical scholars may argue that the rod was actually a shepherd’s crook gently steering the flock. That would be the Church of England of course. The old C of E (Christmas and Easter). The cucumber sandwich of world religions and who in the West of Scotland would listen to them !

It started fairly innocuously at home with your Mum slapping the backs of your legs to stop you fidgeting, or cuffing your ear if you were cheeky or said a sweary word. And then the ultimate deterrent – your father’s slipper. The “Wait ’til your father gets home” had probably more effect than the deed itself which only happened a handful of times in my early years.

Before you go off running and screaming to Child Welfare, it wasn’t that bad. I’m 62 and I’m over it – apart from the restless legs, cauliflower ear, tourettes and irrational fear of bedtime foot apparel !

Primary school’s punishment started with detention. That was just a matter of sitting it out. Although you were itching to get home for ‘Blue Peter’ your teacher was probably more anxious to get back to feed the cats and catch up on ‘Emmerdale Farm’.

The next level were lines. Meaningless  ‘I must not……….’ over rows and rows. You could take a 50:50 chance, complete a couple of pages top and bottom in the hope the teacher would go all dramatic on you, rip up the paper and drop it in the bin with a flourish. Risky, but thems the odds !

Then finally the belt or tawse. A leather two pronged strap for inflicting maximum pain to the cupped palm of a child. Thankfully it was rarely used in primary but prominent in secondary schooling. What malicious and sadistic education authority came up with that idea ? (One my father was prominent in !)

I received the belt a few times in my schooling thankfully from lesser experienced female teachers. In the hands of some of the more demonic male staff it could inflict untold damage. It was reported that some teachers soaked the leather in vinegar to make it more rigid and would demonstrate its force by pulverising pieces of chalk on the desk. We’re dangerously straying into sado eroticism here so enough said.

It wasn’t just the classroom. The sporting ground was also designed to injure. It took me several attempts on Google to discover the red ash that was literally ingrained into every school child’s limbs was blaes and not blaze or blaise.

The powers that be, in an effort to get the young to run around and exercise, decided that the spoils of compacted burnt colliery waste would make an ideal playing ground for football and hockey. Apart from lacerating your knees, the claggy blaes created it’s own poultice so you had every hue of red running down your shin to darken in your little grey socks. Add to that the gritty eye gouging sandstorm on a hot and windy day or winters equivalent, the stinging kiss of a Mitre Mouldmaster on a tender frozen thigh (or worse) turned sporting field to battle ground.

The swimming trip was no safer. Wading through the icy foot baths with the toxic chlorine fumes searing the back of your eyes just to prevent some snotty faced kid pointing to his upturned sole and saying “I’ve got a verruca and I know how to use it”. And keep your mouth closed when swimming. Those aren’t bobbing corks !

The school toilets weren’t a safe haven either what with carbolic soap and the greaseproof/sandpaper toilet paper combo. Everything seemed to be designed to remove layers off your skin. It would be quicker if they whipped out a penknife and whittled us ! First aid was the janitor with a bucket of sawdust after all.

Shouts of “You’re claimed” or  “You’ll pay for that” may well sound innocent enough at a Loss Adjustors conference but took on a darker meaning in the playground. Someone or something was always close by to inflict pain and suffering.

We lived it. We accepted it and we got on with it.

That inevitably leads to the conversation “The kids of today…….” but I’ll leave that one with you.

my 1970s teen-angst diary (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

Andrea’s teenage diary.

For context, when I was fourteen in 1974, there was a local boy called Colin (Col) who had a big crush on me me but I only had eyes for Darryl Smith (he of the David Essex eyes and dimple). Col kept a polished piece of wood in his pocket (don’t!!) with my nickname Andie crudely carved into it, which he called his ‘Andie Block.” I would often peer through the net curtains to see him on the corner of our road, fondling the block in his pocket or giving it a quick polish while waiting for me to come out and look his way. I rarely did. His best mate Gaz tried his luck with Shaz but it was a non-starter.

And as for this #Metoo generation; it was a wholly different world we inhabited in the 70s.  Sexism was rampant and objectifying girls and women was par for the course. I had some near scrapes throughout my teens.  If I could have a word with my fourteen year old self, it would be this:

1) Don’t be in a hurry to grow up.

2) Beware of men in cars who curb crawl and don’t speak to them.

3) Don’t walk home at night on your own or with a girl friend – ask for
Dad to pick you up. .

4) Don’t fret over piano exams – you’ll never be that good anyway  

So for those of you who were teenagers in the 70s, here are a few excerpts from May/June/July 1974…  

     May 3rd, 1974

    “Zoo has worms,but I think she’ll be alright.”

     May 7th, 1974

“Tonight Col and Gaz rang me up. They wanted to know whether I was going to pack Col up tonight & to stop beating around the bush. They wanted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I said I liked Col very much as a friend & I didn’t want to lose his friendship or hurt his feelings (for they thought I was saying I liked Col so as not to hurt his feelings.)

I said I didn’t want to go out with a boy  till I was 15 so he’d have to wait, he said he would. I said I would forget about Darryl Smith & Kev (I still like Darryl Smith). Gaz wants to take Shaz to the flicks. She doesn’t like him much but I think she might ,so as not to hurt his feelings.  Gaz is paying for her at the disco, Col isn’t paying for me as I’m not his girlfriend any more.”

     May 8th, 1974

“Today I had the day off school because of the Teacher’s Union strike thing. Julie, Shaz & I went to town. At 12 noon, we met Mom at Rackham’s (department store) to look for a dress pattern for me. I was quite fussy with Mom & I’m very sorry I was. We got a very nice pattern. Shaz got a black velvet (well, like velvet) jacket from a boutique called 2007, it cost about £11.30 or so. PHEW!! I got a SPANISH PHRASE BOOK, ruler, rubber, patractor (original spelling), drawing paper, 2 ‘Win a Pony’ Entry Forms (W. H. Smith’s), food (3 macaroons, apple juice, candy & a sausage roll.) I want a halter top which is just over £1. (about £1.50 from Dorothy Perkins). It’s blue.”

2007 Boutique in Birmingham City Centre, 1970s.

      May 11th, 1974

In the Piano Festival, I got 75 marks.  The winner got 86. He said I should have used the left peddle. I can’t read his writing very well to see what else he said.  I went to town with Julie – also I got a white & pink flowered sleeveless top with pink ribbons. It looks great without a bra. I also got some big black beads – 45p from the market, eyelashes that were 12p reduced from 75p, and eyeliner for 15p. The top was £1.25.

Gaz and Col phoned to say they will collect the disco money tomorrow. I have just watched a film about a lady and Charles 2nd (more about the lady). It looked the real Hollywood type, a bit corny, but overall really good.”

PS: The makeup was from Roscoe’s, near Oasis Market.

May 13th, 1974

“Today I got a chain letter from Joyce Pegg.  I’ve got to copy it out 6 times & send to 6 different friends or cousins. Within 20 days I should get 300 postcards from all over the world I hope so!

We also had orchestra after school. We mainly practised Trumpet Vol., Tartan Polka and El Tanquillo. We are going to play them sometime in assembly.”

      May 14th, 1974

“Today at school, Col, Gaz, Jonesy & co. got Shaz’s ball & wouldn’t give it back at break or dinner. Shaz etc. said they won’t pay for disco money if they don’t get the ball back – I think we made Mrs. Calder cry. Head Master came in class.

I went to Col’s to see 2 week old (6 of ’em) rabbits. They are white little balls of fluff. I’d love one, but Mom said NO!!” 

     May, 16th, 1974

“Today I wore the dress Mom made for  me: flowered print, low square neck, puff sleeves, black beads, clogs (blue denim), grey tights.

Tonight, Denise (next door) had a birthday party. I saw several boys go in – they looked nice. I put my ear to the wall to listen.

Saw a Humphrey Bogart film – very good!  Saw M*A*S*H – very funny!

It is now 11:55pm. GOOD NIGHT. (We had a small thunder storm today. Well, small by U.S.A. Standards, fairly large by English standards.)

     May 17th, 1974

“Tonight I had a piano lesson at 8.20pm. I’m not going to play ‘Flood Time’ until I learn the scales concerned, I’m going to play ‘Fur Elise’. In November I have Grade 3 piano. HELP!!”

   May 18th, 1974

“Tonight Shaz & I went to see ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.’ It was FAB!! We saw another one too with Raquel (Welch), ‘The Virginian and Ryker.’ It was sad at the end.!!

We walked from the A.B.C. to town and then had to get a bus to Shaz’s. The buses only come about every ½ hour or 1 hour or so. A car came up & 2 men said, “Can you tell us the way?” Shaz said “Where to?” He said, “To Quinton for 2 females who want a lift.” Shaz said, “No thank you.” I looked the other way. Another van nearly pulled up. A car with 2 men pulled up & backed up a bit and shouted, “Hay you!” (or something). After a bit it went. There were drunks and all sorts.”

(… to be continued.)

(Copyright: Andrea Burn April 11th 2021) 

you’re (not) gonna need a bigger quote.

(Post by George Cheyne of Glasgow – April 2021)

Ever sat and watched a new movie, heard a line of dialogue and said to yourself: Bet they’re still saying that in 40-50 years time.

Thought not. Well, you wouldn’t have much reason to, would you?

You’d be far more likely to be caught up with the visuals and plot when watching a film for the first time.

And yet, as the years roll by, there are certain quotes or phrases which become synonymous with movies. It’s as if they’re joined at the hip.

If I offer up: “Here’s looking at you, kid”…“I coulda been a contender”…“Bond. James Bond”…“I feel the need, the need for speed” and “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”, the chances are you’d be able to identify Casablanca (1942), On The Waterfront (1954), Dr No (1962), Top Gun (1986) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Two things about these examples. Firstly, there are no representatives from the 1970s – be patient, we’ll come to that – and there is nothing from the 21st Century.

That was deliberate on my part. I feel you have to let these things evolve over time, let them weave their way into the fabric of popular culture and then – and only then – will they be considered classic lines of film dialogue.

The 1970s wasn’t too shabby when it came to marrying up blockbuster movies with killer lines, so here’s my top 10 quotable quotes from that era:

“May the Force be with you.”

Star Wars (1977)

The line by Harrison Ford’s Han Solo character – in a conversation with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – has inspired generations of kids wielding toy light-sabers ever since the film came out.

And it has been adopted by fans all over the world who celebrate May the fourth as their official Star Wars day.

“You talkin’ to me?”

Taxi Driver (1976)

No matter how many times you’ve seen the clip, it still has the ability to send a chill down your spine as Travis Bickle – played by Robert de Niro – talks to himself in the mirror.

He’s rehearsing for a big confrontation and the iconic scene leaves you in no doubt just what he’s capable of.

“I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.”

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

This was a groundbreaking movie of the time and it gave us a groundbreaking performance by Jack Nicholson as asylum inmate Randle P McMurphy.

His memorable one-liner comes near the end when he’s planning a boozy last hurrah for everyone before making his escape from the institution.

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

Apocalypse Now (1979)

There’s no getting away from this quote from Robert Duvall’s Vietnam War officer – it’s been ingrained in the public’s psyche for 40-odd years.

The full 12-inch disco remix version goes like this: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed for 12 hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill…smelled like victory.”

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Jaws (1975)

Roy Schneider delivers the line after his Chief Brody character gets up close and personal with the giant shark for the first time.

Movie fact: The phrase you still hear over and over again to this day was an ad-lib from Schneider as part of a production crew in-joke.

“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

The Godfather (1972)

Despite the cotton wool filling his cheeks, Marlon Brando manages to sound calm and menacing at the same time when he says this.

It’s Don Corleone assuring godson Johnny Fontane he will win the race to land a part in a big Hollywood movie. And he does win it..by a horse’s head!

“Toga, toga!”

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

More of a chant than a phrase, but it’s still one of the endearing moments from the movie depicting the ups and downs of the Deltas fraternity house.

John Belushi – as manic Bluto – starts it off to lift the spirits of his frat brothers and it turns into a full-blown raucous drink-fuelled bash. Paaaarty!

“You gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya…punk?”

Dirty Harry (1971)

This one comes after Clint Eastwood’s edgy cop corners the baddie at a disused quarry – and you just know the showdown can only end one way.

Tough-talking Clint gives him the spiel about how he can’t remember if he’s fired five shots or six, allowing his crazed perp the chance to go for his gun…and, well, I’m sure you can guess the rest.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.”

Network (1976)

When newscasters go off script with a rant like this, they have the ability to make the news themselves.

Peter Finch’s Howard Beale character, resplendent in trench coat and striped pyjamas, is at the centre of the outburst when he urges his viewers to rise up and howl at the moon.

“What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Life of Brian (1979)

The Monty Python crew nailed it with this scene when John Cleese’s leader of the People’s Front of Judea tries to whip up some agitation against the Romans.

By the time he’s finished, his watered-down diatribe becomes: “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system and public health..what have the Romans ever done for us?” Genius!

So what have the screenwriters ever done for us? Well, for a start, these unsung heroes of the movie business have given us a legacy that will last forever.

And in doing so they have debunked the myth that a picture is worth a thousand words. Turns out all you need is a handful of well-crafted memorable ones.

future schlock

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

The Jetsons

“Good morning Adam 142021, I trust you slept well.”

“Grrmmph.”

“It is 7.33am on Thursday April 1 2070. The weather forecast is a high of 55° Celsius with 150 kph sandstorms. It remains at 24° in The Dome.”

“Can’t you let me have a few more minutes Corsilexa ?”

“3 minutes snooze time has already expired. Please rise and make your way to the ablution pod.”

“You’re not my mum you know !”

“I know. Your mother is INSEM batch #2058.”

“You can be a real pain in the neck sometimes!”

“If experiencing any pain or irritation around your insertion site I can arrange consultation with a BOTDOC.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“SARCAST download not available until you reach 16 years of age.”

“Don’t I know it!”

“AUTOHOV will arrive at 8.45am to transport you to the BEARSDENACADEMIADOME”

“You mean the Bearacado. Get with it Corsilexa.”

“Precisely.”

“Another boring school day. Hmmph ! Entertain me Corsilexa.”

“This site from the archives may amuse you. It’s called Onceopenatimeinthe70s.com”

“Sounds pretty lame. Put it up on 3DiO.”

“Not formatted for 3DiO. Audio and images available only. It is nearly half a century old. It’s a blog written by 50 and 60 year olds about their experiences in the 1970s.”

“Look at these weird names. Paul Fitzpatrick, Colin Jackson, Alan Fairley, Andrea Grace Burn, George Cheyne, John Allan, Russ Stewart.”

“That was how your ancestors were addressed in those days. One of these people could well be your great, great, great, grandparent !”

“And who are Marc Bolan, Rory Gallagher, Sweet, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull ?”

“These were popular musical artists of the time.”

“Didn’t they just mood select on their SPOTIFACATORS for 3 minutes of personalised muzak ?

“No. These artists sang their own songs accompanied by primitive instruments like guitar and drums.”

“Really ?”

“These were then recorded on varying mediums such as vinyl, encased magnetic tapes and round discs.”

“I think Eve 212021’s wind chimes are made up of something like that.”

“These were highly regarded and coveted by devotees of the time.”

“And what’s with all these funny costumes, loon pants and platform shoes ?”

“Before the introduction of The Layer, which I will change to school uniform mode shortly, teenagers of the times would put these strange outfits on and off, sometimes several times a day in the name of ‘fashion’.”

“Look at that one. Is it a clown ?”

“I think you’ll find that is a Ben Sherman shirt, covered by a striped tank top under an Afghan coat.”

“Hamburgers. Fish ‘n’ chips. What’s all that about ?”

“100 years ago, people still ate the flesh of mammals, birds and fish”

“Gross !”

“ I think you’ll find some of the early TOFUATONS still have bovine, porcine and piscine flavourings which reminds me, your breakfast is ready”

“And booze and fags ?”

“Alcohol and tobacco were stimulants reserved for adults that brought about varying degrees of euphoria, sense of well being, confidence and unfortunately addiction.”

“Like the PLEASURTHON ?”

“You know the PLEASURTHON is strictly forbidden for anyone under the age of 21 and severe penalties will be………………………”

“Yeah, right !”

“Do you want me to download Onceopenatimeinthe70s.com to your memory ?”

“Nah, there’s enough crap in there already. I’ve still got my school history project to do. Delete it.”

“What are you studying”

“The Trumperica Empire, 2024 to 2032.”

“Have a good day at school. Corsilexa closing down.”

ye canny shove yer grannie …

Colin Jackson: Glasgow, April 2021

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Naw ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Naw ye canny shove yer grannie

Cause she’s yer mammie’s mammie

Ye canny shove yer grannie aff a bus

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

Ye can shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

Ye can shove yer other grannie

Cause she’s just yer daddie’s mammie

Shove yer other grannie aff a bus PUSH PUSH

**********

CLAP! CLAP!

Can I have your attention, boys and girls!

Ok – so who remembers singing this little ditty when they were young?

Scandalous, isn’t it?

We can certainly do without that kind of criminal incitement in today’s society. 😉

Yeah, ok, so it’s kind of catchy – but even so, in these post music hall and woke days, I’m surprised The Singing Kettle and nursery schools all over the land are allowed to get away with it.

I suppose the first question to be asked, is did anyone actually take the lyrics literally, and second, did your Granny ever again share her Werthers Originals with you?

On the basis that the answer to question number one was a resounding ‘no,’ then my next question would be: who would even consider such a thing? Not me, for sure – I knew when I was onto a good thing, me.

I do wonder though, what effect this song may have had on one side of the Granny equation.

My two Grans were Gran Mary (my mum’s mother) and Gran Jackson (my dad’s mother.) They were both pretty similar characters, although being more sporty and having married a champion professional boxer, the former had more of an active and competitive nature.

My sister and I genuinely had no favourite and loved going to visit both as each would each spoil us with the decadent treats not on offer at home. I’m talking Creamola Foam, Tunnocks Tea Cakes and Oddfellows sweets. (Did you like me, break off the chocolate from the mallow dome before devouring the biscuit, flattening the foil wrapper and then folding it into as small a square as possible?)

As I grew older though, I did begin to notice one difference between the two Grans: Gran Mary would take me places. It was her and my Grandpa that took me to my first ever football match. The number fifteen Corporation bus took us directly from their home in Knightswood, Glasgow to Ibrox Stadium, for a League match between Rangers and Hibs.

They took me to many more matches before my Dad managed to get out of working on Saturdays and could take me himself. Each time, we travelled by bus.

My Gran was always so happy on the way across town. I had thought it was excitement at going to the match. On reflection though, there was a certain smugness about her contentment.

She was my ‘mammie’s mammie’ after all.

“In your face, Mrs J! Travelling with my darling grandson … on a bus! I’m even sitting on the seat that looks out onto the open platform. Look! I’m going to stand up. No hands! Woo hoo! Yep – still here!

My Gran Jackson, on the other hand …. well.

Occasionally, my parents would go to one of those ‘classy’ dinner dances at The Albany Hotel. Rather than ask a babysitter wait into the wee small hours for their return, we would be dropped at Gran Jackson’s for the bulk of the weekend.

We went through the same ritual each time:

“What shall we do this afternoon?” Gran Jackson would ask.
“Can we get the bus to go watch the football, please?”

My Gran was like:

Casanrdra on being awakened by young Damien, in ‘Only Fools & Horses

Wiping beads of sweat from her forehead with a shaking hand, she would suggest:

“Why don’t we stay home and watch the Wrestling on TV. I’ve got you some Creamola Foam and a Tunnocks tea Cake? And a packet of Oddfellows.”

Five miles away, in Knightswood and from behind a satisfied smile, the hushed words ‘one nil to the Mammie’s Mammie’ escaped into the ether.

Oh yeah – and so who was it taught me this song as a nipper? Why, of course, it was Gran Mary!

Aye – as those darned kids said, ‘There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.’

Especially a competitive one.

(Don’t fret, I’ve subjected you to enough – anyway St Winifred’s School Choir’s big hit was in 1980 and therefore disqualified from this blog.)

it’s not easy being green

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

It was May 1975, I had just turned 17 and finished my highers and I couldn’t get out of school quick enough. It was time to make my way in the world…………… and become vegetarian (the reason why has escaped me over the ensuing years). I did have a paperback “1000 Vegetarian Meals” and I was up for a challenge.

My mother knew the lady round the corner whose husband Old Malky (or Callum as his wife called him) was the head greenkeeper at the Bearsden Golf Club and before you could prize the sheets off a surly teenager at noon, I had a job as assistant to the assistant greenkeeper.

Now why Old Malky should be Old Malky to us and Callum to his wife remains a mystery as Old Malky only spoke in monosyllables on alternate days. Come to think of it, I have been known by both ‘Snookums’ and ‘Hey Fat Arse’ on differing occasions by my wife.

The job was very task orientated which suited me fine. My first job at sparrow’s fart was to ‘switch’ the greens. Switching involved a large bamboo pole with a tapering fibre class rod attached which, when moved in a sideways motion, flicked off dew, leaves and other detritus such as beer cans and smouldering cars bodies. (I’m not being judgemental but Drumchapel was just through the woods !) I took to the task like a Zen Buddhist monk often standing on one leg and muttering to myself in a fake oriental accent like David Carridine (Aah, Grass Lopper – get it?

I quickly adapted to the routine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would mow the greens. Getting the straight striped effect is trickier than it looks. I tried to convince Old Malky my first attempt was my interpretation of a Rennie Mackintosh design but he wasn’t buying it.

Tuesdays and Thursday was time to trim the tees. If a player came on, we were supposed to move to the back of the tee and idle the lawnmower until they had tee-ed off but many a time we just carried on, hastening a panicked swing as spinning blades came perilously close to shaving the tassels off many a two tone golf shoe.

Friday was hole changing day. There was a special spade device for puncturing and removing turf and soil and woe betide anyone with the temerity to chip and put onto our green until the job was completed and the last bit of stubborn grass was expertly trimmed from around the new hole with the designated scissors. Strict quality control was then adhered to. A bucket full of balls and 3 putters were distributed to each greenkeeper and intense putting from all angles ensued. Then and only then could the club member follow through. Any disregard to this unwritten rule meant your ball was hosed off the green. I seem to remember this important ritual was accompanied by several bottles of beer and pay packets were collected. Friday was a good day.

The only thing I took umbrage to was the toileting arrangements. Greenkeeper HQ was a large corrugated hanger which housed all the tractors, mowers and sundry equipment. I don’t even think it had power. The toilet consisted of an old gallon oil container with the top crudely removed. Not only did you have to pee in full view of your fellow workers you had to hold a rusty jagged tin close enough to circumcise yourself with one wayward shake. As for other bodily functions, the only time I got caught short I juked through some gardens and trotted adroitly home to the luxury of plumbed in sanitation. Does a Bear(sden boy) shit in the woods ? Not this one !

So this was the balmy summer of  ’75. I had a healthy outdoor working life and a healthy meat free diet. NB Take it from me. Tofu is only there to bulk up your plate. It doesn’t taste or smell of anything and the texture is a bit disconcerting too. It’s only there so that when people see your meagre plate of vegetables and bean sprouts they don’t say “Is that all you’re having”. Polystyrene would have much the same effect.

Unfortunately, summer changed to late autumn. Crisp summer dawns turned into dark foggy morns. Although I had waterproofs, they were not a match for the torrents of rain constantly soaking into my bones as I went about my daily chores.

Some days when the course was waterlogged I would have to stay in the shelter of the icy cold hanger and ‘riddle’. For reasons I could not comprehend, there was a large pile of dirt in one corner of the shed. My job was to scoop shovels of it into a large sieve and create a pile of finer dirt hour after sodding hour. I never ever saw what the purpose of my handiwork was as it just remained a bigger pile of finer dirt. Yesterday’s nut rissoles weren’t giving me the sustenance that I needed either. That and my mother talking about a turkey roast with all the trimmings for Xmas, I was beginning to crack.

I think I lasted until about October when I turned my back on the noble craft of the keeper of greens (all 9 holes of them) and succumbed again to the flesh of farmed animals and foul.

“Turn up the central heating will you Mum and pass me the chipolatas please !”