As September starts and the next oldest of my children leaves home and goes off to university to start his own life adventure it got me thinking about myself at that age and how much the world has changed in what is really quite a short space of time.
Having grown up from being a kid in the seventies to an adult in the late eighties it occurred to me how many memories I have that my own children and other kids of their generation will never have as a result of the way the world has changed, I thought I’d share a few of those memories with my kids and with you…
My kids will never remember a day when you had to actually get of your ass to turn the TV channel over. There were no remote controls and switching channel meant getting up and going to the tele to push a button to switch between the 3 (yes only 3) channels we had. If you were lucky enough to have a portable tele in your bedroom it had a knob you had to turn to tune between the different channels that you would turn with slow micro precision to get the best possible picture, they were usually just black and white, colour TV’s were much more expensive and they had an aerial that you were constantly waving around to get a good picture.
There was no TV in the mornings when we got up for school until 1983 and then TVAM came along bringing music and colour into the house every day, up until that time we got up for school and the house was either quiet or you’d put on your mixed tape of that weeks top 40 to listen to while you got ready.
In 1982 Channel 4 started, it was daring cutting edge tele back then and it was amazing that we had an extra TV channel. I remember being in the house on my own and seeing a documentary about prostitution on Channel 4 that I should not have been watching, this lady of the night from Bradford was inviting men to attach crocodile clips to her nipples and she loved it! I know crocodile clips on the nipples are in abundance online these days (so I am told) but in 1982 I’d never seen anything like tit.. err.. I mean it.
On nights when you could sneakily leave the portable tele on in your bedroom the programs would end at midnight with God Save The Queen playing on BBC1 and there would be nothing to watch other than the test card until breakfast tele came back on in the morning.
Public Information Films scared me half to death as a kid. These were short films of a few minutes that warned against going off with strangers, climbing in discarded fridges and running out near ice cream vans. There was that strange talking cat called Charlie and the boy that translated for him, ‘Charlie Says‘… had nightmares about him for years.
The video recorder changed our lives. Suddenly you could record films and programs to watch that you would otherwise have missed but the great anxiety was setting the bloody thing just right so you didn’t cut off the beginning or end of the program you wanted to watch and then of course the great dilemma of having to record over something you might want to keep because you didn’t have another tape to use. I remember the adverts with the dancing skeleton singing ‘re-record not fade away‘ advertising the life time guarantee of some make of video tape. We still have a few knocking about.
I remember when making a phone call meant a walk to the phone box down the street and putting either a 2p or a 5p in the slot and pushing it in as the phone answered at the other end, a lot of houses had phones back then but a few did not and we were one of them so it meant a walk to the phone box if you had to make a call.
I was at school when the 20p coin first came out and I recall all my class mates examining one in wonder.
We still had £1 notes when I was a kid and to earn one or get one as a gift made you feel rich beyond words. They replaced the £1 note with the £1 coin in 1983 and it was the first time I had seen a gold coloured coin, it felt like pirate treasure when you had two or three in your hand.
My first pay packet after leaving school was a brown paper hand written wages envelope, there was no payment of wages straight into the bank back then. On a really good week if you had worked overtime or a bank holiday the pay packet envelope would feel thicker and heavier and much more of a reward for the extra work you had done, then at Christmas or when you were going on holiday when you got two weeks pay in one envelope it really felt like you were rich, if only for a few days.
We actually had to leave the house and go into town to buy music back then, there were no downloads. There was something deeply pleasurable about taking a vinyl LP out of the sleeve for the first time. On it’s first outing it would be scratch free, dust free and shiny. Dropping the needle of your record player onto the start of the LP was a careful process for which you held your breath for a second in case you moved suddenly and scratched the record.
You would spend your money in town on a Saturday on singles (a ‘single’ in those days was a two sided vinyl disk with one song on each side and not an unattached potential partner) and then on Sunday you would listen to the Top 40 on Radio 1 with your tape recorder buttons on ‘record and pause’ ready to record your favorite songs while saying a silent prayer that the DJ would not talk over the start or end of the song, the DJ’s chatter was always guaranteed to ruin a good mixed tape.
Watching Top Of The Pops on a Thursday night was an absolute must if you wanted to be part of the in crowd at school on Friday, it was a sad day when TOTP ended for good!
The girls wore ‘Franky Says Relax‘ tops, had big hair and leg warmers like the Kids From Fame and they looked damn hot and all the boys that didn’t have flat tops had blonde highlights and looked like Pat Sharpe. The girls all fancied George Michael and Simon Le Bon and the boys all fancied Chaka Khan, Kylie and Wendy James (or maybe that was just me). Some of the more daring kids dressed up like Boy George and there were a fare few ‘head bangers‘ that were into ACDC, Motorhead and Meat Loaf.
If you didn’t have a copy of ‘Smash Hits’ in your school bag there was no point going to school! And then there was the walkman, the boogie box and a bit later the discman. (look them up kids, quite ancient by modern standards now). I remember buying the first Band Aid single and Watching the first ever Live Aid and Comic Relief on TV.
Health and Safety
There was a time when if it snowed and the bus did not turn up we just walked to school through the snow, it didn’t matter that it was 4 miles away, we just set off and walked. When we got there we would just put our soaking socks on the radiator in the class room and by break time our damp warm socks would go back on so that we could go outside to skid all over the playground and throw snow balls at each other.
We played british bull dog, conkers and tag without a risk assessment in site. Stood up on the school bus, played out on our BMX bikes and skateboards and rode our motorbikes at 16 with the only lesson being a load of piss taking from your older brother and his mates because you were riding a 50cc and they all had 125’s by then.
We played out at break time without sun hats and sun cream. We still did PE outside in the ice and rain, the weather never got us off and on sports day we actually really competed against each other and there were actual winners and actual losers and the term ‘none competitive sports’ had never been heard of.
God knows how we survived before Health and Safety came along.
Curly Wurly’s were longer. Cadburys Cream Egg’s were bigger. Halloween was not a big deal. Easter Cards did not exist. Mobile phones had car batteries attached to them. You had to go to a shop to rent a movie. Gaming meant playing outside. Texting did not exist and friends were real people that you got along with in person and occasionally fell out with in person and not just a bunch of numbers on a screen.
We sang songs like Ba Ba Black Sheep at nursery and no one ever got offended because it was just a song about some sheep and some wool. We had school assembly in the mornings and sang hymns like ‘Sing Hosanna’ and ‘The Lords Dance’ again without offending anyone because we didn’t care about religion when we were little, we were just singing songs. We didn’t see the color of people’s skin when we were kids because we were just all kids playing together.
Police men were taller. Postmen did not wear shorts and the post was always delivered in the morning. The Milk Float could often be heard at the crack of dawn rattling down the street, quite a comforting sound to wake up to, it sounded the start of a new day and meant the world was still in order.
Summers were always sunny and it always snowed at Christmas. Actually that is probably bollocks but it felt like it was always like that.
My kids and the other kids of their generation will all be making their own good memories now and I dare say in 20 to 30 years time they will also look back and wonder at how much the world has changed for them… let’s hope it’s for the better.
There now follows a public information broadcast:
And that’s why he stayed alive so long!
And remember kids, don’t climb into discarded fridges!
Written by Blogger Jamie Penn – September 15th 2015