Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Young folk don't know what they're missing! Lucky blighters...

The other evening I visited the only local shop which sells the type of chewing gum I like. It's a dowdy, mid-sized mini-market with over-bright lighting and a glum, unwelcoming atmosphere...

...As I waited at the till, I noticed that the top shelf of the periodicals section was stuffed with dirty magazines. I found myself wondering who still buys them - and why? Isn't that what the internet's for? There can't be enough people around here who (a) fancy a J. Arthur, and (b) don't have access to the web to make it worthwhile selling (presumably) soft-core dead-tree porn. Or did the proprietor just want to add to his shop's charming atmosphere of seedy, dead-end desperation?

That nostalgia-inducing magazine display set me listing some of the other things from our pastime paradise that would probably strike younger folk as distinctly odd, if not completely barking:

Having the newspaper delivered (we do)
Having milk delivered (we do)
Not being able to buy stuff on Sundays
Having to stock up on a week's supplies for Christmas
Actually caring about the Christmas Day TV schedules
Doing your Christmas shopping "in town"
Having to get up to change the television channel
Having only two, three or four channels to choose from
Only being able to watch TV programmes when they're actually broadcast
Going to the bank every time you need money
Writing cheques
Knowing who your bank manager is
Using a paper map
Not having to remember a single password
Reading a newspaper to find out what's been happening
Reading a newspaper that you've actually had to buy
Remembering lots of telephone numbers
Using telephone directories
Being astonished to hear effing and blinding on television
Singers in dinner jackets and shirts with frilly fronts
Waiting two weeks for photographs to be developed
Paying a small fortune for an LP you've never heard a note of
Reading about old records and not being to hear and download them instantly
Looking stuff up in books
Having money in a savings accounts with interest rates above inflation
Not being able to return malfunctioning equipment or clothes that don't fit or items bought in error
Not knowing or caring what a celebrity thinks about anything whatsoever
The word "celebrity" meaning someone most people have heard of
An MP caught doing drugs and shagging male prostitutes having to actually resign
Having to order a new phone from a single, state-owned supplier
Having to meet people when and where you agreed to because mobile phones don't exist
Renting a TV set
Home visits by doctors
Not having to wait two weeks for a GP appointment
Christmas "boxes" for dustmen and postmen
Weekly visits by the football pools man
A pay packet with actual money in it
Standing for the National Anthem at the end of films
Buying something without first reading other purchasers' opinions
Fish paste, tinned salmon, currants in "curry" and truly disgusting "ready meals"
Party Seven cans, Babycham, wine boxes in the fridge, steak and kidney pie in tins, home-brewed beer, powdered orange juice
Buying a book in a bookshop
Wearing kipper ties, bell-bottoms, cravats and mini-skirts (not all at once, of course)
Being cold indoors because you don't have central heating
Boozy two-hour lunch-breaks
Cars seemingly designed to break down every bloody day
Smoking in hospitals, cinemas, airplanes, taxis, trains, restaurants, pubs... even lifts!
Public toilets everywhere
Real, live policemen on the beat!
Jumpers for goal-posts...

This is by no means a lament, by the way. I think young people are lucky not to have experienced most of these things, especially the food, drink, crap cars and the tyranny of state-run monopolies. Mind you, they'll probably get an opportunity to sample at least some of these delights if enough of them vote Labour at the next election.


  1. Travellors cheques.
    Space invaders-the game.
    Pints of mild-a Courage brew.
    Scenes of a baby in what looked like a barn or stable-used to be widely seen in model form and pictures about this time of year in shops, civic buildings, even churches.
    Can still be found in museums and art galleries.

    1. The baby in a stable you refer to - was it the infant Karl Marx?
      ...the disappearing dot on a TV screen
      ...a stack of 45s on a spindle
      ...speaking to a telephone operator
      ...not being able to buy drinks in cans

  2. Back in the days when listening to Radio 4 on the wireless (there's another one) wasn't like tuning in to Radio Pyongyang, I recall hearing a wonderful programme in which sounds you no longer hear were played and discussed. The sound of a milk float with jingling bottles... a typewriter...

    And, for the record, I still eat the occasional tinned steak and kidney pie. Somehow, I survive the experience.

    1. Damn! I meant to put in typewriters - specially the ding! at the end of a line. My mother bought me a second-hand one for £5 when I was 15. Weighed several tons. I remember the thrill of seeing an IBM Selectric in operation for the first time - and the secretary showing me how she could change the type "element" to get an entirely different font. Magic!

      I'm delighted to report that our bottled milk is delivered by a milkman who rides a clinking float (he's called Alan, and he's been delivering our milk for 28 years).

      Radio 4 has evidently been taken over by Momentum.

  3. Tinned cream - remembered with no affection.
    And a memory of the TV closing announcement - around midnight - when the announcer once asked us to "Sturn off your tets", which of course we did, and saw Scott's disappearing dot.

  4. String vests,Baby Cham,taking empty bottles of beer back to the off-license and being rewarded with a threepenny bit.

    1. String vests! Invented (I'm ashamed to report) by Henrik Brun, a commandant in the Norwegian Army, in 1933. Still popular in Jamaica, apparently.

      Nowadays, there's no reward for recycling old bottles - but you get fined if you put them in the wrong rubbish container.

  5. Sorry forgot to mention workman's caffs -the ubiquitous 'two slices' and a brown liquid known as Char already waiting on the counter.
    A veritable institution.

  6. You forgot the element of luxury: the single teaspoon on a chain or grubby bit of string, Southern Man!

    1. There used to have a classic example of the genre about ten minutes walk from our house - complete with a large, sticky, gunky, squeezy plastic tomato ketchup dispenser, clogged salt and pepper "cruets" (as we were taught never to call them), pre-chipped utility crockery and vast, cheap fry-ups (including black pudding, baked beans, mushrooms and fried bread) which were obscenely delicious and could really shift a hangover. And you could sit back afterwards and enjoy a cigarette without the slightest chance of anyone objecting, because everyone else was smoking as well! t's been engulfed by an expensive gastropub, I think.

  7. The pre-Foodie Great British Salad with the 48-hour greying sliced boiled egg and malodorous beetroot and dollop of Heinz Salad Cream.

    A small glass of tomato juice with Worcester Sauce on a saucer being offered as a "Starter".

    Standing in a pub with a revolting Pint of Watneys Red Label and puffing on a Panatella. Ladies had a Sweet Cinzano with a sliver of ice or a Gin and Orange if they were a bit racy. Player's Weights or No 10s in packs of five.

    50+ year old gents in wrinkled cavalry twills, scuffed chukka boots and weird moustaches who hung on to their military rank after demob and boomed out " A schooner of your finest sherry, Landlord." [ See Cecil Parker in various roles]. Oh Yes, the obligatory "British Warm".

    Rubber Goods Emporia. Never quite figured out what went on inside them apart from having connections to the White Slave Trade.

    1. Rubber Goods Emporia presumably sold golf balls, geek masks and something for the weekend. Or sordid items of clothing which a chap could slip into when he'd got home and shrugged off his British Warm.

      Red Label? You're betraying your preferences here - chug back a pint of (Johnnie Walker) Red Label and you'd wind up face-down on the carpet (well, most people would). Red Barrel was the name of the weasel piss Watney's foisted on us as beer back then. As for Panatellas - why was it assumed that ever man suddenly required a cheap cigar at Christmas? Or a packet of Wills Whiffs?

      Oh God - those salads! I know children don't much like salad anyway, but when I was first served the British variety at school after arriving here from Norway - where it was almost unknown at the time - I simply refused to believe I was seriously expected to eat it. When I went to France for the first time on a school exchange trip, I was astonished that all this raw green rubbish could taste so good. The arrival of the Hellmann's Mayonnaise in Britain helped enormously, of course.

      Forget about 50+ gents - I had a pair of cavalry twills at 17. And where did corduroy disappear to? (To be fair, Monty Don still wears corduroy trousers on Gardener's World.)

  8. How can one quantify a feeling...a slow dawning realization popular culture had sunk into an abyss sometime in the early sixties.The early pioneers of 'rock' had either been killed or gone into the army or otherwise had been completely emasculated.
    All we were left with was Bobby Rydell,no offence to him.
    And on television on a dreary Sunday was The London Palladium and Beat the Clock.
    I remember feeling distinctly short changed.

    1. Yes, indeed - not to mention The Billy Cotton Band Show, with jugglers and dancing dogs and acrobats and ventriloquists and singers like Dickie Valentine and Dennis Lotis, with "comedy" supplied by Arthur Askey, Ted Ray, Bob Monkhouse or even The Crazy Gang - Light Entertainment was utterly abysmal. The term "all-round entertainer" makes me shudder to this day.

    2. I have much the same reaction the word "variety" for the same reason.

    3. Especially if the "variety" show on offer was both "packed" and "fun-filled" and the words summer or roadshow appeared in the title.

  9. At a very early age I was faced with a quandary less than 20 yards away from where we lived. Either turn left for a pint of Grotney's Red Barrel-like making love on a punt-or right for a pint of Director's bitter from the Courage stable of beers.
    No contest really.
    Apologies for lowering the tone.

    1. On the basis of a return after 40 years at the insistence of one of my daughters, I think I am right in saying that the one to the right of the road where you used to live is no longer a pub, Southern Man. On the other hand, I spotted a couple of disreputable looking types in the pub over the road from the main school entrance and immediately started to wonder whether I had handed my essay in.

  10. Rotary dial telephones.
    Put 4d in the slot and press button A.
    Ronco lavatory paper.
    A manual choke in the car.
    Porters at mainline stations.
    National strikes.
    Len Murray, beer and sandwiches at No.10.
    Daily reports of people being blown to pieces in Northern Ireland.
    Daily reports of factories being shut and job losses.
    Exchange controls and the £150 annual limit on taking money overseas.
    The 900th birthday of the Battle of Hastings, not to mention the World Cup.
    Cowdrey and Barrington.
    Trolley buses and sparks.
    Suction tubes in the ceiling at Gamages.
    Snow and the winter of 1962-63.
    Round the Horne.
    Robert Maxwell, I'm Backing Britain and Carnaby St.
    Jeremy Thorpe and that poor dog.
    New Year's Eve and the White Heather Club.
    The Boys' Own Paper.
    Bertram Mills circus.
    The Royal Tournament.
    Polishing your shoes.
    The smell of Jeyes fluid.
    Onion sellers on a bicycle.
    Nylon shirts.
    Nylon sheets.
    The Kray twins.
    The Prices and Income Board.
    Brigitte Bardot's bottom in the sand.
    Franco and Tito and Nasser and Makarios.
    Look at Life.
    The Central Office of Information.
    Reginald Bosanquet.
    Juke Box Jury.
    WW2 bomb sites.
    Paraffin heaters for a real house fire.
    Exploding Ascot geysers.
    Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Essoldo on King's Rd.

    1. Rinka was the name of Norman Scott's dog. (Biting the pillow, Bunnies can and will go to France etc.)
      Thank Your Lucky Stars, Janice and "I'll give it five".
      Neddy and the white heat of the technological revolution.
      Floppy Private Eye discs
      Daily comic strips in newspapers
      Reginald Bosanquet's toupée
      Live television satellite link-ups that never worked
      Wearing black wellingtons with shorts (as a boy, I hasten to add)
      Not wearing seat-belts in cars
      Knowing the 12 times table because of shillings and pence
      Grown-ups taking their teeth out at night
      Contact lenses the size of frisbees
      National health specs with round frames
      Litter bins at railways stations (the IRA put a stop to all that)
      Kids being allowed to disappear off for hours on end with their friends
      Electric kettles that didn't switch off automatically
      Electric blankets
      No electric toothbrushes
      Riding on motorbikes without a helmet
      Oldsters gardening while wearing ties and old sports jackets
      Sports jackets
      Children's television programmes on the BBC and ITV
      Newspaper sellers shouting out the latest headlines
      Gossip columns full of aristocrats
      Riding in a black cab without having to take out a mortgage to pay the fare
      D-Notices and Sammy Lohan
      The Archers and Coronation Street - oh, hang on...

  11. David Moss. Really great list! Much enjoyed. The two great survivors are Marmite and these little Kraft triangular cheeses. How to open?

    1. Never easy, I agree. And once opened, should one eat it? Or use it to fill in the gaps in the putty round the window? Along with the slice of Sunblest ... which was more obviously adapted for sound-proofing our halls-adjoining Victorian workmen's cottages than eating.

      Writing things by hand. Using ink or chalk. E.g. lists. Or novels. Or warnings stuck to the bathroom wall by the landlady. Who writes anything by hand any more?

    2. Split down the middle with a knife, scoop out the nectar from the two resulting wedges, squish out the remnants by rubbing the upper and lower pieces of foil together, eat - and dig out that foil fragment that has become entangled with one of your fillings, and wash your hands. Throw away the remnants of the packet, get sticky, wash your hands again. Notice that a shard of foil has wound up on the kitchen floor. Put it away, and wash your hands again. Simple!

  12. It's hard to improve on Moss's list other than to suggest the addition of Individual Fruit Pies, Ready Steady Go and Kenneth Tynan using the F word on live TV. The Best, Law, Charlton, Herd forward line is probably from a slightly later era, although Laces in Footballs might qualify. Remember heading those things on a rain-soaked pitch?

    Round the Horne can be heard occasionally on Radio 4 Extra, formerly known as Radio 7 but re-badged a few years ago for reasons known only to BBC image consultants. It's lasted rather better than most sitcoms from the same era. Best not to mention the Black and White Minstrel Show.

    HP sauce is another great survivor, SDG, ideally placed on the table in preparation for one of the fry-ups previously mentioned by the Blogmeister.

  13. Ex-KCS. Thanks. I had forgotten about HP Sauce. I have put it on my shopping list.

    That slimy little Labour creep Harold Wilson [ "The Huddersfield Hoaxer"] used to extoll the virtues of this sauce to portray himself as a man of the people.
    Ditto his pipe which he jettisoned as soon as the door at No10 closed behind him and he stuffed his proletarian face with Monte Cristos and Partagas from his chum Castro.

    From HP Sauce to Havanas? Ah well,,,,

    1. Well SDG, it didn't seem much at the time, but ...

      LBJ: Listen up Harvold, when y'all gonna send summa yo goddamn limey troops into this motherf***in' hellhole like I done told you last week or are y'all deaf? Even the gosh darn Ozzies are answering the call, so say affirmative if you value yo' nuts, boy.

      Wilson: Well, as I said at the Brighton conference, the pound in your pocket remains the same. And as we enter this brave new era and embrace the white heat of technology...

      LBJ: Now lissen up good, boy. Don't think y'all about pissin' in a pile o' pecan pie with all a yo' bullshit an' fool me? When yo' British boys gonna join us to save Nam from the commies, fer fek's sek, Henrold?

      Wilson: Well as God said to Moses while he was bringing down the 10 commandments from Mount Sinai, and you know on the whole I tend to agree with him...

      LBJ: Answer the Goddam' question, boy.

      Wilson: Hello...you're breaking up...I think there must be a fault on the line.

      LBJ: Ever since 1954 when those fat frog eatin' surrender jockeys dumped us in it in Dien Bien Phu, you European fu...

      Wilson: Well, on that point, and thanks for asking, Mary's latest volume is selling nicely, she's sent a copy to Lady Bird and Huddersfield are at home next week in an exciting relegation battle with....oh sorry LBJ. I think I hear Len Murray at the door for the usual beer and sandwiches pay talks in a smoke filled room. Got to dash.....

      LBJ: Hello..are you there Herbert...operator.. hello...well, f*** my old Texan boots. he's only done gone and did it agin.

  14. Wimpy Bars and Christine Keeler

    1. By my calculations, Riley, you would have been not much more than 10 years old when the Profumo business hit the news. It must have been some years later when, as you imply, you tried to win her heart with a two for one Wimpy special, no doubt with a side order of limp chips.

      Is there anything you would like to tell us?

    2. Mars Bars and Marianne Faithfull?

    3. ... and Mick Jagger
      (and James Fox of Murray Rd SW19).

    4. Were they fond of Mars Bars as well?

    5. Terribly fond of them and, according to the film Performance, in those days you could get the milkman to deliver your Mars Bars.

  15. Actually,to be picky, I was eleven and a half when the Profumo scandal hit the papers in March 1963 and was tantalised by the salacious reports in the Daily Express. I embarked upon a pilgrimage by public transport to Cliveden; tried as I might to break into that glamorous coterie I was thwarted by the Russian heavies at the gatehouse who didn't see me, a callow, pre-pubescent youth, as worthy of the attentions of Stephen Ward or any of his special patients.
    I trudged back to the high street and drowned my sorrows with a glass of flat coca cola in a Wimpy Bar. A lone desolate figure, hunched over a cracked plate of indeterminate
    grilled offal and those limp chips you describe, gazing wistfully at the red, bulbous, ketchup-dispensing tomato. Running my slight, young hands over its smooth, sensual curves I thought of how it might have been to share a carnal moment with that siren of the headlines and athlete of the bedchamber.
    Those thoughts have never left me.

    1. I once took my wife for a birthday lunch at Cliveden. Does that count? Not a Russian spy or a cabinet minister or a call girl in sight (unless they were all cavorting in another part of the house).

      My greatest treat in my early teens was a double wimpy and chips, half a pint of watery ketchup and a cola drink which managed to taste both anaemic and corrosively acidic. It would probably make me throw up now, but back then it was utterly delicious. When visiting the cinema, it was two hot dogs with lashings of pungent tomato-style ketchup and one of those Kia-Ora orange things with a foil lid. And now I really fancy a hot-dog.

  16. You are reminding me that a male colleague of mine, who had been looking for a furnished flat to rent, found one which suited him very well, and he invited us round to see it. It had been Valerie Hobson's before she married Profumo, and she evidently kept it and rented it out. It was all pink velvet, and he was very happy with it.

  17. Fried bread with jam on it.

    1. Arrid Extra Dry (trust the Americans to have a spray, we had the cream)
      Styptic & "safety" razors
      Unzip a banana

  18. Tabac and Hai Karate.

    When I was at school in the early '60s there was a chap called Grinstead who cooked up a batch of his own deodorant in the school lab, collected our used Hai Karate containers over a period and bottled his own product and sold it to us at a fraction of the price. Many of us ended up in the San with burns to the arm-pits and crotch areas.

    Grinstead received the traditional shoe-polish with a scrubbing brush treatment in the boot-room when we had recovered. O tempora O mores!

    1. SDG, this obviously caused me to check the Wandsworth Prison records.

      For the benefit of younger readers: "In 1951, Wandsworth was the holding prison for a national stock of the birch and the cat o' nine tails ... a flogging with the 'cat' carried out in Wandsworth Prison itself was reported in July 1954 ... Wandsworth was the site of 135 executions, between 1878 and 1961 ... The final executions at Wandsworth were those of Francis Forsyth on 10 November 1960, Victor John Terry on 25 May 1961 and Henryk Niemasz on 8 September 1961 ... The gallows were kept in full working order until 1993 and tested every six months. In 1994, they were dismantled and the condemned suite is now used as a tea room for the prison officers ...".