Tag Archives: 1970’s

Go Ask Your Mother… Or Even Better -Grill Your Granny

7 Sep

Do you know what an ‘inter-generational’ project is? Sounds riveting, eh?

But before you expire of boredom in anticipation of today’s little bloggy-offering, please let me reassure you that this whole ‘inter-generational project’ malarky truly IS something to write home about. That it genuinely IS something that should tickle all of our fancies.

You too - can find out about an older relatives smoking habits. (Although in this photo, our kid possesses a chocolate cigar.)

See below. You too – can find out about an older relatives smoking habits. (Although in this photo, our kid possesses a chocolate cigar.)

In the days of yore, we simply used to refer to such projects as ‘Hey – I have a grandparent. Aren’t they BRILLIANT!!!??!!!’ (Ref: ‘The Fast Show’. Go Google.)

But I don’t want to get too sarky about this side of things, because lots of us (for whatever reasons) have lacked older relatives in our lives. For instance, the folk whom we could rightly claim as our own grandparents and older aunties and uncles, could have passed away when we were just wee nippers. Or maybe family breakdown meant that through no fault of our own, we were estranged from our parent’s parents.

Or perhaps even, those so-called Elders n’ Betters actually turned out to be drunken old lushes who had buggered off with a toy boy named Gazza to the Costa Del Sol (and that was just your Grandad…)

Inter-generational learning about growing up to be a Fag Ash Lil...

Inter-generational learning about growing up to become ‘a Fag Ash Lil’…

Anyways. In recognition of this – and of the fact that so many kids and young people today lack older role models in their lives, I’ve always loved creating and getting involved with such inter-generational projects. The first one that I ever heard about was run by a local community group in Gorton, Manchester. Teens who were having a tough time in life were taught how to do ‘hand-massage’ and were partnered with elderly folk in the area. As yon teen massaged the hand of an older buddy, they both got to know one another better, they traded experiences of dwelling in a (sometimes tough-to-live-in and to-grow-up-in area) and yup… you can just imagine. The youth received some great pearls of wisdom in life, made new ‘mates’… and the older ones who had lent their hands (and their heads) said that the whole project made them feel ‘less lonely’ and ‘more useful to the young people in our area.’

One of my all-time favourite inter-generational projects took place a few years ago, when I lived and worked in the Kalahari in Namibia. Whilst out there,  I trained San Bushmen youth to interview and record the words and lives of their elders. Not only did the kids find out startling new information in relation to how their ancestors used to live – before these amazing indigenous folk were kicked off their homelands – but the project also led to much improved relationships between old and young, heralding a revival in bushmen culture (the youth learning the traditional dances, the methods of hunting and gathering, the history etc. of their elders.)

The book I produced as a result of the San inter-generational project.

A wee book I produced as a result of the San inter-generational project.

It was startling that the San bushmen youth and elders often lived in the same one-roomed shack, but still knew very little about the histories of the elders. And yet… isn’t this something that we’re all guilty of?

I consider myself to be fortunate. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that my family are an unusual blend of working-class white and Pakistani-British muslim origin. Over the last two decades – collectively – we have had to overcome plenty of prejudice and bigotry (and I’m not even referring to the poor, discriminated-against Brummie contingent.) So we talk a lot. More than most families, probably.

But even then, we haven’t spent enough ‘getting to know you’ time together. And there has been a huge element of taking the grandpees (as we call them) for granted. Just ask my own Ma about the fact that she and I rarely get time to have a proper natter – because when we do speak to each other, it’s all about the littlies – the dates, the change of dates (yeh-soz Mum), the music lessons, the allergies, the tantrums, the sleeping arrangements, the bargain buys at Boyes in Ilkley and the Panto-tickets. It seems that the generation above us – and us grown-up parents, never get round to simply passing the time of day, talking about the past, mulling over not-so small matters such as Life n’ Death.

Sure, if you’re into your history as I am, you can take all of this ‘missed info’ stuff rather seriously. Urged on by the best Professor of History in the world (Carl Chinn) back in my university days, I actually recorded an interview with my own Granny. I unearthed some fascinating stuff (Gran was once wooed by a certain young Mr Cadbury, whilst she happened to be on her hols in Llandudno…) but you don’t have to be as organised as I, weirdy, nerdy-teen,  clearly happened to be.

Granny in the beret on Llandudno pier. Legging it from multi-millionaire choco-magnate. Like you do.

My Granny (in the beret) on Llandudno pier. Legging it from the advances of a multi-millionaire choco-magnate. As you do.

Because this is where the informal inter-generational project perhaps needs to be considered a bit more by all of us. I was reminded of this the other day when my ten year old informed me of a startling new nugget of information;

GIRL: Mum, did you know how you came to be called ‘Christina’?

ME: Well – yeah. I think Grandma just liked the sound of it.

GIRL: Oh no. It wasn’t like that. You weren’t given your name straight away. Grandad told me.

ME: Well… I know that I wasn’t ‘Christina’ straight away. I know that my hospital tag only had my surname on it. And I do remember seeing a few ‘arrival of new baby’ cards that referred to me as ‘Baby Jennifer.’ So they obviously changed their minds about plumping for that one.

GIRL: Well I know why and how it all happened. About two days after they brought you home from the hospital and thought you would probably be called ‘Jennifer’, the phone rang and Grandad answered it. A drunken man asked for ‘Christina.’  Grandad told the bloke that no one called that name lived there.

ME: Oh.

GIRL: Yes – then – the next night, at exactly the same time – the drunken man rang again and asked for ‘Christina.’ Again. And Grandad said the same thing. No one here called that.  And then when he hung up he said to Grandma ‘Actually – that’s a nice name isn’t it?’ And so they decided finally on your name and registered you with that name – and all of that.

ME: Great. So I was named as the result of a drunken, telephone mis-dialling phenomenon?

GIRL: Yeah! Cool eh?

nana and us babies

My Nana nurses me. My brother was probably hankering after Nana’s pink turban. Ah…the days when hats really *were* hats eh?

But this daft ‘your namesake’ new little revelation of mine reminded me of another ‘inter-generational’ discovery. Sadly, my own Nana died as a result of suffering with terrible dementia. For the last year or so of her life, her conversation made very little sense to most people. But as her granddaughter – it was perhaps easier for me than for others – to listen to her words and to try and find the meaning behind them.

But for Nana’s own daughters it must have been terribly too painful and too frustrating for them to listen to. (And if you’ve ever been through this, you’ll know that nursing a relative or friend through dementia is one of the most heartbreaking experiences in the world. This is truly a case in point where a generation-removed is sometimes a ‘balm for the soul.’)

A year or so after Nana had died – thanks to my dad’s renewed interest in family history – my mother informed me that she had just discovered that her Grandad had died in the Great War. Mum hadn’t known about this at all (because Nana’s mother had remarried when she was only small, so my mother had grown up only hearing about the stepfather in the family.)

AND YET – GOBBY GIRL HERE – already knew about this.

Seriously.

“But I already knew this, Mum,” I said when she told me about the fact that my dad had even discovered Great-Grandad’s war grave.  “Nana told me a few months before she died. An entire tale about how she met him when she was tiny and he was just back home on leave from the war. Wearing his uniform.”

Samuel Hight's grave 1 sml

When she finally knew where her Grandad was buried, mum left a photo of his family next on top of his war grave in Flanders.

This this little case study of course, marked a far more emotional inter-generational revelation than my recent discovery of the drunken phone conversation. And it also culminated in my parents going to visit my Great Grandad’s war grave in Flanders. Serious, heart-rending and important stuff can be uncovered – if we just listen to each other a bit more, between the generations. If I had thought to have mentioned this to my own mum before Nana died… perhaps we could have mentioned it to her more in her last few weeks and…

But no point in dwelling on it.

And on a lighter note,  as well as being the recipients of previously unheard-of information, the younger generations can also inform their elders of stuff that they might not be aware of. Or ‘grass us parents up,’ if you like. My daughter told me last week; “Grandad had no idea that you once chucked a tin of baked beans at Uncle Steven’s head. And that you always tried to get *your own brother into trouble* all of the time –  by sneaking into his room and turning the dial up on his stereo and leaving empty crisp packets filled with water on his floor.”

kung fu fighting

Thanks to my kids, my own folks are more aware of the Kung Fu fighting that went on when *their* backs were turned.

And then the titbits that you feed your own kids about what the grandpees revealed to you about their childhoods, can come back and bite the grandparent’s bums… (“Mum – Grandad tried to tell me off for punching my brother but then I said that he had no right to, because back in the 1950s he once hit another kid over the head with a shovel-handle.”)

So the moral of the tale is to keep that dialogue flowing between the budding youth and the oldies. Between ALL of us really. Or you can do as my mother-in-law has done, write down your life story and self-publish it – ensuring that your nearest and dearest find out about the bits that you may never have gotten round to sharing (although a very elderly friend of mine has done the same but has a lot more scandal to share and has therefore neatly typed out her life story and it remains under lock and key until she shuffles off this mortal coil.)

Go on Grandpa. Dish the dirt on what a miserable little swine our Dad was...

Go on Grandpa. Dish the dirt on what a miserable little swine our Dad was…

Inter-generational questioning of one another however,  can cause a bit of embarrassment. It might be pertinent for example, to advise the younger generation that it ain’t clever to grill your grandparents about their sex life (as a slap round the chops can often offend.) So diplomacy should always rule the day when interviewing your elders, my dears…

But if anyone- ANYONE – out there happens to know of a chappy who used to be rather sozzled during the 1970’s and who had a lady-friend called ‘Christina’ – you will give me a tinkle, won’t you?

Because it could be the last piece of my own inter-generational puzzle…

Teddy Boy-Dad. Apparently he had 'come to bed eyes'. But these days Mum says its in order to test the new electric blanket he got from Aldi.

My Teddy Boy-Dad once told me that “the girls always said that I had ‘come to bed eyes.'” And I’m all for trading stories Pops, but let’s leave it at that. Eh?

Neanderthal Nativity

1 Dec

Back in the 70’s me and my big bro’ never participated in all of that nativity biblical re-enactment stuff.

This could explain a lot of things for me and mine.  Like the fact that as a small child I hated those new-fangled advent calendars that came with crappy choccies behind their little doors. The ones that didn’t possess the ‘Jesus in the stable’ theme. Nativity was a rare story for us – not something to be trotted out, year on year.

And this might explain the fact that last year I felt the need to buy my mother a book on the Gnostic Gospels for Xmas (she looked at me as if to say ‘the usual packet of American Tan tights would have suited me just fine, love…’) And manger-deprivation may even tell us why my brother converted to Islam over twenty years ago (hey- sorry Our Kid, but I put it to thee that this lack of nativity-ing year in and out at school could have played a key influence on you too. Just don’t tell the BNP about this, alright? Or they’ll be calling for the government to enforce nativity plays across the UK as a cunning new anti-terrorist measure designed to rid our country of pesky muslims like you and your own wee family…)

We lacked Nativity. It led us to wicked and depraved lifestyles in later life.

We lacked Nativity. It led us to wicked and depraved lifestyles in later life.

So no. East Manchester 1970s. We didn’t get to prance about with teatowels on our heads. Or shout ‘THERE’S NO ROOM HERE’ at the audience (although come to think of it – I do remember hearing about a rather snotty-nosed little lad, many years older than me who was born into shed loads of dosh and who attended public school…went by the name of Nigel Farage.  Apparently always insisted on playing that Innkeeper role…)

Nah. The Three Wise Persons and all of that, were not a year in year out feature of our fledgling children-led productions. But this wasn’t because of a deliberate policy on our part. We didn’t opt-out of the nativity-ritual because of any particular religious preferences. And it wasn’t because we were home schooled or anything like that (I can hear my Ma laughing like a drain at the thought of that one…) Neither was our lack of over-familiarity with shepherds and angel throngs because we lived anywhere particularly exotic, where other more foreign cultures predominated (I mean – hello? I’m born n’ bred East Manchester. Eating sausage rolls on a Friday tea time instead of fish n’ chips was tantamount to pledging allegiance to Kaiser Bill himself.)

Nope. The lack of a stable and a star was simply because we grew up in your 70’s poor, urban area where Labour authorities prevailed. This was a place where schools were encouraged to try and be a tad bit more creative and a bit more experimental.  So we had … a Festive Tarka The Otter production. The French Xmas with Naughty Rudolph Who Swindles the Elves Show. David and Goliath (straight up. No funny or homo-erotica business, mind.)  The Jungle Book.  Pinocchio.  Peter Pan. Oliver Twist.  Proper Dickens’ style, mind. Today’s Disney-overkill or Pixar-mainstream gubbins simply did not exist back then. And finally… I remember clearly some weird Icelandic saga where I had to play the part of a boy (again.)

I’m glad about this. The bit about the lack of nativitying I mean. (Although playing the part of a boy was something that I also appreciate. It has helped me understand my own testosterone surges a little bit better.) And I’m grateful that I spent the first couple of years with a firstborn in Namibia. Where come December time anyone who can rub a couple of Rand together, buggers off to the seaside in order to avoid the blistering heat. Where talking about a chubby guy with enormous white beard who dons a sweaty red suit in the midst of this ice-cold ‘snow’ thing which no one has ever seen … just seemed downright stupid. And where talk of the traditional nativity performance just never – in four years that we lived there – seemed to hold anything like the sway that it recently has cottoned onto in the  UK.

A few people. Call them cynics if you like – have identified this uniform need to ‘do a nativity’ in schools with the growing adoption of USA customs and traditions (such as Halloween Trick or Treating…themed kiddy parties….and hell – even Black Friday Sales!) Such people are rather terrified that we might soon be quaffing dead turkeys TWICE in the space of a few weeks and  thanking the Lord that we got shot of the Royal Family and all things lovely and UK-ish. (Not me! I’d never say that kind of thing!)

So I won’t be commenting on that in this post. All that I want to say is that … Quite frankly – I find the whole nativity thing to be Ultra Dull.

In 1973 my brother's school were very creative. NASA astronauts met Tarka the Otter.

In 1973 my brother’s school were very creative about Xmas. NASA astronauts met Tarka the Otter.

Not because of the kids. The kids always carry the shows don’t they? Regardless of content. But I’m bored with the story. With the traditional way that it’s told. I want a fast-forward version… where the plastic dolly-Jesus suddenly morphs into JC aged 33 and he starts chucking over tables and chairs and foaming at the mouth about the excesses of our evil western Christmas pressie-culture.

I want a bit of controversy.

Which is why I was glad when I heard that – at last – my own very funnylad has a part in HIS school nativity! Excellent. Here’s a real chance for some thrills n’ spills and irreverancies (hope to Gawd that his teacher isn’t reading this.)  And this latest development has also provided me yet again, with an interesting insight into the differences between the boy and the girl.  I recalled a conversation with my daughter when she was 6 years old (the same age as the lad is now).  It went like this:

DAUGHTER:  It’s so not fair! I never get to be Mary!

Miserable looking Angel Gabriel? Or perhaps feeling spiritually superior to the rest of us.

Miserable looking Angel Gabriel? Or perhaps feeling spiritually superior to the rest of us.

ME: Who cares? You’re the Angel Gabriel! This entire nativity that you’re doing with school … the way that the teachers have written it… it’s all about the Angel Gabriel.

D: But I’m never Mary. It’s always the same girl who is Mary. Because she looks like a Mary. Why don’t I look like a Mary? It’s not fair!

ME: But you have the big song – all on your own! They’re even putting you high up in the church pulpit so that you pop up and surprise everyone with your performance! With a massive golden star! And a host of other little angels behind you! You’re… the leader!

D: But if you’re Mary you get to wear a blue dress and everything. And to be the mother of God. And I’m just like… some servant. Oh. You don’t understand.

(SEE YOUTUBE LINK below – evidence of her lack of Mary-ness)

Now. Compare this with the conversation of the other day with my 6 yr old lad:

SON: Ha! This is soooo coo-wul! I can’t believe they’re letting me be the donkey! It’s soooo coo-wul!

ME: I know! Well done.

SON: It’s ’cause I’m so brill at my HEEE-HAAAW! Everyone laughs! I’ve been doing it all day! HEEE-HAAAW

ME: Yes – it is a good one. Good braying there.

SON: All the teachers keep laughing and then they have to say – ‘okay now, let’s stop it with the HEE-HAAAAWs for a bit!’

ME:  Yeah. I bet they do.

SON: Because the more I HEEE-HAAAW the more Mary might fall off me. An’ it’s even better’n what I thought actually! Being the donkey. ‘Cause one of the other boys – one of my best friends – plays a snowman!

ME: A snowman? In a nativity?

SON: Yeah! And it’s well funny, ’cause I have to bite his nose off.

ME: What?

SON: ‘Cause it’s a carrot an’ that.  An’ I was thinking that it might be even funnier if I put my leg up…to the side. Like a doggy  – you know like when they’re weeing? An’ pretend to wee all over the snowman!

ME: No. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

SON: (thinking) Yeah. Maybe not. Mary would fall off me again.

Studying for the part of Donkey. Even 3 years ago!

Boy studying hard for the part of Donkey. Even 2 years ago!

And there we have it. So much as I prefer a bit of a shake-up in terms of Christmas performance material for kids, the good old-fashioned nativity has reminded me of the differences between boy and girl. Or perhaps just this particular boy and girl.  Nothing other than the dizzy heights of headline billing (and birthing God Himself) will ever be good enough for my daughter.

Whereas my lad’s aspirations are to be the humblest of creatures. And to widdle over inanimate objects for a cheap laugh.

———————————-

You tube link below demonstrates my lad’s ambition. Over 3 years ago he was already employing Method Acting in order to prepare for his great moment. Note nappy and donkey costume. And tantrum, squealing and shoe being thrown at his sister. These artistic sorts always have a temper….

The Old Fashioned Shopping Addict (or All Shook Up In’th Shops part 2)

14 Nov

Yesterday’s blog was all about how giddy I got after visiting a certain department store named Harveys of Halifax. I promised to tell you how I managed to overcome the lustful consumerist excesses that I was tempted into whilst visiting their hallowed floors. So read on…

———–

I hopped back onto the road back home and located the equivalent of what (for many) would be a cold shower. Or a shot in rehab. What exactly am I referring to here?  Well. Some people call them ‘charity’ or ‘second hand’ stores … but my kids call them ‘treasure shops.’  And normally I utterly, one hundred per cent adore them. I would live in the damned things if the men in the white coats would let me. But this particular one happened to take the edge of my getting flash with the cash afternoon.

I entered the charity shop, based in a certain west Yorkshire village. I rooted about, poked and nosied around and then approached the till which was being manned by a woman who seemed to be in her late 70’s.  Here is how the conversation went:

WOMAN ON TILL:  Oooh you’ve got your arms full there, love.  Let’s tot that up for you. (Counts items out).  Oooh – have you got a budgie?

ME: Yes. (slightly defensively.) Why?

WOMAN: Because you’ve just bought ten little budgie toys here.

ME: Yes. I know.

WOMAN: And it’s funny isn’t it? Buying second hand budgie toys…

ME: I suppose some might think that… but – look (waving random tinkly ball thing at her) See? There’s no old budgie poo on it. I’ve checked all of them.

WOMAN: No, we always clean everything here. Doesn’t it bother you though? That it could have belonged to a dead budgie?

ME: Well, it must be dead.  Surely. I mean – what kind of a rotten sod of an owner would give its little toys away….like… “Oh Chirpy! You’ve been such a bad boy headbutting your mirror every 5 seconds! I’m taking all of your toys down to the charity shop!” Haha. That would be really mean. Mind you – I do that with my own children actually – take their toys to the charity shop when they’re really naffing me off. or headbutting things. Haha!

WOMAN: No. (not getting it). No-one would do that to a live budgie. I was thinking more of Bird Flu. Although like I said – we do wash everything here. Still. I don’t suppose your budgie will know that they used to belong to a dead budgie. They aren’t like dogs. They probably can’t tell through scent, or whatever.

ME: Exactly. And if you think about it. I mean – I imagine that a lot of the clothes in this shop belonged….to people who are no longer with us. You know.

WOMAN: I suppose. Not really thought about it before. Funny though. You having a budgie. Right old fashioned pet that, isn’t it?

Slightly soiled? But much loved...

Slightly soiled? But much loved…

ME: Yeah. Everyone says that. But they’re very loving and chattier even than…. a husband can be. And you throw a blanket over them when they’re really annoying. You can’t do that to a fella, can you? Haha!

WOMAN: (looking at the next items). Oooh – and …. did you realise that these are actually cassette tapes, love? They’re not CDs you know.

ME: Yes. I always look for casettes.  Was really chuffed when I spotted them.

WOMAN:  I didn’t even know we had any in the shop! So – how are you going to get them to work?

ME: A tape recorder… We have three at home. Not counting the Walkman.

WOMAN: Really? I don’t know anyone still using tapes.

ME: We’ve got hundreds of them. Audiobooks mainly. But lots of 80s heavy metal and stuff like that. Even older actually. Beatles. Elvis… Actually – that’s the name of our budgie. Elvis.

WOMAN: (chuckles) Elvis? Now that’s very old fashioned too!

ME: (getting edgy now) Well, you know…they don’t write songs like they used to!

WOMAN: Yes. My dad always used to say that. He died fifty years ago now and…And oh my Lord! You’ve got a Black Beauty audiobook! When’s the last time that was on the TV eh?  1978 at a guess! Oooh – and a Last of the Summer Wine audiobook here!

ME:  Well… we do live in Summer Wine territory. Nice to support out local economy and all of that.

WOMAN: (giggling) You know, I’m only laughing because I’ve never really found it to be very amusing. Last of the Summer Wine, I mean. Do you? I mean – does it make you laugh?

Does it make YOU laugh? If so - you are either 80-plus or 10 years old. So the lady in the shop reckons...

Does it make YOU laugh? If so – you are either 80-plus or 10 years old. So the lady in the shop reckons…

ME: I don’t … well. These tapes are for my daughter.

WOMAN: Your daughter? How old is she?

ME: She’s 10.

WOMAN: She’s 10? And she likes ‘Last of the Summer Wine?’ Next you’ll be telling me that she likes ‘Dad’s Army’ and ‘The Good Life’ …

ME: (frostily) She does.

WOMAN: Ha! Well, righteo-then. That’ll be £4.25. Thanks.

ME: Yeah, thanks. See you (heads for the door).

WOMAN: (calls out) Yes – have a lovely day! Enjoy playing with your budgie toys and listening to your old cassettes!

———

And so, dear chums – you will be relieved to hear that I was cured of my desire to SHOP. Whether in the brand spanking new classy sector, or in my usual comfort zone of the charidee shops.

Until later on, that is… when I found – in our bathroom rubbish bin – Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery When Wet’ (1986). Of course I knew who the culprit was. The 6 year old, who has developed a disturbing interest in the more soft-metal side of things (although I suspect he is rebelling against my own death metal tendencies.)  The cassette looked pitiful. Tape all chewed out and a-dangling all over the show. I waved it at him; “I’m really cross about this!  VERY cross! I’ve had this since I was a girl. I looked after it all these years and you’ve just ruined it and then chucked it in the bathroom bin without even telling me!”  He explained that his tape recorder had “just pulled it out all by itself. I didn’t poke a pencil in it and try and put it all back together. Or anything.” At which point I sighed and said, “Oh well. Maybe it’s time we got with the 21st Century. Maybe I should stop getting you things from charity shops. I know. I’ll show you how to use CDs. Or maybe even an MP3 player or….” But I was interrupted by a howl of “Noooo! I love my tapes! CDs are too shiny and get scratched! Please don’t ever stop me going in the charity shop with you, Mummy!”

So, like all too many recovering addicts I am forced to blame my family for my relapse.  Hampering my progress. So I’m off to smooth out the lovely pink satin bedspread I recently picked up at our local hospice charity shop and which my other half said “looks like something Joan Collins would have seen a bit of action on, back in the 70’s…”

But what would he know? The man has no taste.

(And he still hasn’t bonded with the budgie yet.)

Even Joan Collins wouldn't turn down her nose at some second-hand action on this lovely bedspread!

Even Joan Collins wouldn’t turn down her nose at some second-hand action on this lovely bedspread!