Saturday, 23 October 2010

Keith - what day is it?

39 years today!  That's how long we've been married.  It's not really a Big day in the celebration stakes except to us.  I dunno!  Not five minutes ago it was 1971, the Swinging 60's was past and the future looked rosy.  Well, it always does on your wedding day doesn't it?  Where has the time gone?

Crikey, I regularly see 1970's stuff turning up on Antiques Roadshow .  They're not antiques, strictly speaking, but the 1970's turned out to be a bit of an iconic decade.  I used to have a lot of those things.  Why didn't someone tell me?  I might have been rich now!  In fact I would have been but those were the days we were busting to get past at the time!

The old bungalow which was our first home was a veritable shrine to the 70's.  We had an orange carpet in the living room and one of the long walls in there was purple.  The spare bedroom had a black carpet and purple walls - we must have got a job lot of purple paint or something!  Good thing really because we also had 'original features' fireplaces in each room and that one had a soot fall one day.  What a mess but at least it matched the decor!

Our kitchen - I loved it.  It had high gloss cupboard doors, formica in a kind of brown wood grain pattern, white counter tops (groan...)  and the most beautiful sunny golden yellow ceramic wall tiles.  There was a freezing cold, dark green Terrazzo floor - and I do mean freezing cold.  There was no central heating in the house and that floor...well it was great in summer, let's say!

Those colours that we had.  Purple, orange, yellow, brown - absolutely 70's. For a start we heated the kitchen by turning on the oven with the door open,  then Keith came home with an old  paraffin heater that he rescued from his dad's shed.  I recall the smell now!   Can't have been good for us.

The house itself was 60 years old when we bought it (for £2,800), which sounded very old then but now it's nothing is it?  We've already been married over half that long.  You couldn't imagine it though, not then.  You just could not think yourself even ten years down the line.  A couple of years ago it was for sale (same people we sold it to) for £185,000 - and that was after the housing boom was over.  Goodness me, we couldn't even have afforded to buy it back!  They made about £175K profit!!!

My abiding memories of the 70's in England have to be the Three Day Week, the winter of discontent, the miners' strike, the explosion of the chemical plant at Flixborough.  The coal miners brought the country to its knees, quite literally.  With no coal there could be no electric, with no electric there could be no, well, anything much really.  Everyone's central heating relied on an electric pump.  You might think we'd be one up there, having no heating.  Not so. We had a coal fire in the living room and, though a coal yard ran beyond the fence at the bottom of our garden, there was no coal.  One of the saddest sights, that, a coalyard with no coal.  What electric there was was rationed out and your power was cut off early in the evening if it was your area's turn.  Even if it wasn't your turn to either get wrapped up in your coats and blankets or have an early night, you couldn't watch TV beyond about 10pm because that was part of the energy saving measures - it all went off.  In theory the 70's ought to have produced a nation of very well-read citizens but what we actually got was a bit of a baby boom - well!  It's hard to read without a light and candles were scarce because everyone was buying them.  You had to be sparing with the candles because no-one knew how long this might go on for. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have left over from the 70's - a box of white tallow candles!  They're not so white now but there they sit to this very day, under the kitchen sink, just waiting for a national emergency.  I hope they never get used.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

My Perfect Day

Aren't there some people who are just so special, so iconic, that you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when their passing was announced?

President JFK, for example.  I was only a young girl when he was assassinated in 1963.  I didn't know him, never met him and never would have.  He wasn't even a politician from my country and yet I can remember so well the TV news programme being interrupted to bring us the news that "President Kennedy has been shot", not realising the can of worms that was about to be opened up.   I'll never forget a second of it.

Princess Diana - a princess of our own who died in a foreign country.  I was quite a bit older then and,being an early riser, I remember the newscaster on that Sunday morning saying her car had been in an accident in Paris and it was thought she had broken her arm.  Another can of worms was about to be opened, one that carries on even now.

Just last night it was announced that Sir Norman Wisdom had died   I never met him either but he was, in fact, a major contributor to My Perfect Day.  It was in the 1980's and I had taken a week's holiday from work, thinking I would do some spring cleaning.  This particular day - it was a Tuesday - it was pouring with rain when I got up and looked set for the day so I decided to bake bread instead.  By 9 o'clock we were full steam ahead bashing away at an enormous lump of dough.  TV was on for the News, followed by A FILM - you guessed, a Norman Wisdom film.  Picture the scene:  Keith at work, pouring rain, dog sleeping under the stairs, the smell of bread and an old Norman Wisdom film.  It truly was the most perfect day I ever had.

And now NormanWisdom is gone.  Please God, let there be no can of worms.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


Today I want to have a word with you about the English Breakfast and what it means to a self-respecting Englishwoman.

The term "English Breakfast" has a multitude of meanings, depending who and where you are.  I mean, if you were a 250-lb footballer camping in the wilds of England you would want something a bit different to a little old lady, wouldn't you?  Tea or coffee?  Toast or fried bread?  Or both?  And how do you like your eggs?

Hotels here generally serve absolutely everything you can think of:  bacon, fried eggs, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans (oh yes!), fried potatoes, fried bread.  They also offer various breakfast cereals, fruit and fruit juices to start off with and, just in case you still feel peckish, a couple of slices of toast with a selection of jams, marmalades and honey.  AND copious quantities of tea or coffee to wash it down with.

If you ask for a "Full English, please"  you'll get the lot, and you will, by the time they bring the bacon and whatnot to you,have helped yourself to fruit juice and cereals and whatever else you can get your hands on.  With any luck you will have been asked "Coffee or tea, love?" and been accordingly served a big pot.

You can ask for specific items such as "Only bacon and eggs, please" but you should only expect to receive, say, 2 bits of bacon and 1 fried egg - i.e. whatver normally comes on the plate with everything else.  "It's portion control love,".  As to what they did with your "portion controlled" sausage, I shouldn't bother asking!

We once went in a superb B&B (bed and breakfast) in Whitby, North Yorkshire.  We were asked "What would you like for breakfast?" and handed a menu which listed what we could choose from INCLUDING smoked Salmon with scrambled eggs and fresh poached Whitby kippers. Eggs could be cooked any way at all without having to give 2 weeks notice!  That's my kind of place.  Go on then, I'm a snob I suppose.