A friend posted on my Facebook timeline the other day, “First you believe in Father Christmas; then you are Father Christmas; then you look like Father Christmas.” I am currently entering that third phase, even if I’m not as hirsute as the big man himself. But I am certainly getting older. I know this because people keep reminding me that this is the case – and because I tend to reminisce more than I used to do.
In the United Kingdom, we are able to ascertain each other’s age through reminiscence about childhood, rather than asking directly. Each mini-generation has its own unique shared memories that place it pretty much precisely.
Here are mine – and just thinking about them have transported me back to the 1970s…
- Watch with Mother. Andy Pandy (first in black and white, then in colour); The Herbs; Trumpton. Moving on to Blue Peter – specifically with John, Peter and Val. Moving on to John Pertwee playing The Doctor. Moving on to Starsky and Hutch.
- Brian Cant. Johnny Ball. John Craven.
- The dying days of Saturday morning cinema.
- Sherbet lemons; Pear drops; Kola cubes.
- Curly Wurlies.
- The three day week. Power cuts during lessons.
- Mastermind. (The board game, not the TV show)
- My school cap; the itchiness of long socks held up by elastic garters; the ubiquitous gabardine raincoat, later replaced by a ‘parka’ with a rabbit fur trim to the hood that got wet and rather smelly; chapped knees in the winter.
- T-bar sandals; Clarks Commando lace up shoes; Black elasticated daps. (Not pumps or plimsolls, note…)
- Gloopers. (They were collectible anthropomorphic plastic vegetables and fruits that sat on the top of your pencil)
- Balsa wood gliders in the summer; Airfix models in the winter – to be painted using those tiny, tiny pots of paint.
- Peter Powell stunt kites.
- Chopper bikes.
- The Beano; Whizzer and Chips; The Dandy.
- The tiger who came to tea; Paddington Bear; The Secret Seven; Jennings and Darbyshire; The 101 Dalmatians; Smith; Emil and the Detectives; The Silver Sword; Stig of the Dump; The Cricket in Times Square; Watership Down.
- Commando war comics.
- My first Scout uniform – crimplene long trousers, green shirt, maroon scarf, beret. Not a good look, but I was very proud of it – and the badges I earned. (Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as I never said when I was eleven.)
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Captain Nemo and the underwater city; The Railway Children; Herbie rides again; Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Swallows and Amazons; Escape to Witch Mountain.
- The Christmas lights in London’s Regent Street and Oxford Street – and later, Cheltenham.
- Waiting (and hoping) to be chosen to sing the first verse solo of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’… It happened once.
- My mum’s cooking: Drop scones with Golden Syrup. Spaghetti Bolognese; Curry served with bits of fruit and desiccated coconut; Cottage pie; Lamb chops, mashed potato and frozen peas.
- Angel Delight. Butterscotch, chocolate, but never strawberry.
- The Sodastream.
- A bedroom with no central heating, but a cozy hot water bottle with which to go to bed.