Hinge and Bracket

Dear Ladies DVD setThe Dear Ladies were Dr Evadne Hinge and Dame Hilda Bracket. They were two elderly, intellectual, musical women who sang light-hearted comedy songs and motored around the English countryside visiting fetes and eating cucumber sandwiches. They played croquet and talked about the vicar and were generally very genteel Englishwomen. Sometimes they argued and that was funny too. I loved them.

I planned that when I was an old lady, I would find another old lady, and we’d live together like Hinge and Bracket did and I’d suddenly develop this very upper class accent and learn to play croquet and eat cucumber sandwiches. This was my childhood vision of lesbianism. There were no other ‘strong women living together openly’ celebrities/characters on which to base my dream. I would be Hilda because she was the more tomboy-like one. And I would let someone like Evadne boss me around.

Gala Evenings with Hinge and BracketUnfortunately it was not to be. I discovered in the eighties, when watching Hinge and Bracket on TV with my mother (not the first choice of TV-watching companion as she tends to talk all the way through the best bits), she announced that you could tell because of his ankles. I asked what on earth she meant. She pointed to Hilda, who was bending to roll a bowling ball on the green, and said that his ankles were a man’s ankles so you could tell. The other one would pass, she reckoned, but Hilda was too obvious.

Aghast, I asked her to repeat and explain, please. She incredulously asked if I really hadn’t noticed after all this time that they were a couple of blokes in drag. Mortified and heartbroken at seeing my lesbian dream shattered, I refused to watch them any more. I felt deceived as I’d never seen them dressed as men, unlike other drag artists such as Kenny Everett and Dick Emery. I think the worst part of it was losing my lesbian icons as I’ve got no problem with men in dresses. Anyone who reads my novel will realise that actually I’ve got a bit of a ‘thing’ for men in dresses. Which might all have stemmed from my childhood penchant for Hinge and Bracket.

I’ve come back to them now, especially since some new DVDs have been released. I think they’re fabulous, and even though they are blokes, they remain the perfect image of elderly upper class lesbianism.

George Logan (Hinge) and Patrick Fyffe (Bracket) may you forever be Dear Ladies to me. www.hingeandbracket-official.co.uk

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

It’s Friday, it’s Five to Five and it’s Crackerjack!

 Michael Aspel in CrackerjackCrackerjack ran from 1955 to 1984, but it will be the years with Michael Aspel and Ed Stewart which will remain immortalised in my Seventies brain. Once we got Stu ‘Ooh I could crush a grape’ Francis and The Krankies, it became rather naff, or maybe that was me growing up.

Crackerjack was a game show for kids, at a time when game shows for adults were big. The Generation Game, Family Fortunes and Sale of the Century were huge but they all had nothing on Crackerjack because they lacked the one important thing for kids – and that’s kids! It’s all very well watching adults making complete arses of themselves, but get kids involved, being superior and winning prizes, and you’re on a winner.

Double or Drop was my favourite game. I’m not sure of the exact rules, but remember vaguely how it went. All the contestants had to stand each on a podium and hold a cabbage, then they’d be loaded with toys and games and stuff that you wanted. For every question you got right, you had a prize but you got a cabbage if you got it wrong, or something. If you dropped the cabbage you were out, and the winner was the one at the end with all the stuff still in their hands. What did they win? Well, the stuff of course! But the Crackerjack pencil was the real prize and everyone got one of those.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Soft Furnishings of the Seventies

Silver Jones (AKA EponaValkyrie)’s SIMS designs are Seventies influenced

EponaValkyrie designed bedroomAt 33, Silver is barely able to remember the Seventies, though she tells me that she loved to sit on her stuffed horse and watch Wonder Woman. However, not remembering the time has in no way diminished the flower-power capabilities of this fabulous artist, as can be seen by the designs she has kindly lent to me for popandcrispies’ perusal.

These are classic of the late-Sixties-early-Seventies era when flowers were big and bright colours compulsory. I do pity those poor SIMS though, as if they’re anything like my mother then they’ll be suffering their hippy home brew hangovers in front of that spaced-out bedroom wall.

Epona Groovy Flowers Set

Silver’s retro designs notched up thousands of downloads within the first week of being made available, so perhaps the Seventies have come back with a vengeance. These popular wallpaper sets are available to download at the EponaValkyrie SIMS Resource site. Just look for the word ‘groovy’.

EponaValkyrie Groovy Soft Furnishings set

EponaValkyrie SIMS Resource site.

Watch out, watch out, there’s a Humphrey about!

Humphrey on StuffWeLove.co.uk

Back when milk was delivered to your doorstep, Unigate started up an advertising campaign which may well be one of the first successful branding exercises of the modern age. Red and white stripes, or the phrase ‘watch out, watch out’ still engenders a response from the over thirties.

The advertisements generally featured a celebrity (such as Frank Muir or Arthur Mullard) enjoying a glass of milk. The glass was put to one side as there was something else going on. Then there would be a shout of ‘Watch out, watch out, there’s a Humphrey about!’ A red and white striped straw would appear from outside of the camera shot and the milk would be sucked up. Then when the drinker went back to the glass, it was empty. Shock! The milk was stolen! The precious milk which cannot be replaced!

There was much speculation on who or what the Humphrey was and whether in future adverts we would see him. We didn’t. He remains a mystery and is only identified by his name and the red and white straw.

Humphrey Mug on StuffWeLove.co.ukThere was an excess of merchandising for this red and white straw which perhaps made more money than the milk itself, who knows? I had a mug like this one (don’t you just love google?) and it was my favourite mug until I broke it by trying to boil some milk in it. This was before microwaves and I put the cold milk in the mug and put that onto the electric hob. Come on, I was only nine!

There were ties, hats, stickers and all sorts. Many of these are now collectable. I found out while researching this post that Humphrey watches were awarded to milkmen as incentives to sell more milk.

The downside of this successful campaign was that it coincided with me gaining a reputation for eating other people’s food. Certain members of my family and school started to say, ‘Watch out, watch out, there’s a Josie about’ and collapse in hilarity as if they were the funniest people in the world. Humph!

Photos linked from www.stuffwelove.co.uk/humphrey.htm

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

In the Navy

Andy Laker joined the Navy, here are his thoughts on that experience

Andy Laker looking dashing in the NavyIn April 1974 as a sixteen year old boy I joined the Royal Navy at HMS Ganges in Ipswich. I was woken that morning by my mother who walked with me to the bus stop. When it arrived she went off to work crying and unable to look back while I went into town to catch my train. That was it. I’d left home with no pomp and ceremony and no idea what I was letting myself in for. I’d woken up in Kent as a long haired spotty youth with curly brown hair that reached below my shoulders and by that evening I was in Suffolk with my head shaved being screamed at by a Chief Petty Officer for being a horrible little boy.

It was right in the middle of the glam rock era and I thought I looked good in my purple loons, stack heels and tank top, but the Chief wasn’t so impressed. Things were less politically correct in those days and he told me exactly what he thought of my clothes and exactly what he thought of me.

More than eighty of us had joined up that day and after we’d signed on the dotted line the Chief marched us off to the showers leaving all our clothes on our allotted bunks. When we returned our civvies had been taken away and replaced with a blue tee shirt and overalls. Over the next few days I was issued with numerous pieces of uniform and I didn’t see my civilian clothes again for several months.

By January 1975 I was a fully trained radio operator serving on board HMS Minerva inside the Arctic Circle during the Cod War. My Royal Navy training was a life changing shock, but looking back I enjoyed every second of it and I wouldn’t change it for anything, (well I might reconsider the tank top).

Bank Holiday Films

Before there were videos, DVDs, multi-start TV and whatever else we have now, Bank Holidays were TV heaven. For the whole of one day, starting when the Testcard stopped showing at nine o’clock, there would be films to watch. Classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Jason and the Argonauts and Ben Hur during the family viewing daytime. Action adventure with Errol Flynn and new James Bond films in the evenings.

It was marvellous. If you were ever off school randomly, like if you were ill or the school flooded or froze, then you knew that the daytime TV generally sucked. I mean even more so than today when at least you have more options. For weeks leading up to a Bank Holiday, you might look forward to the time off school so that you could get to watch TV all day long and be happy. Unless your parents decided that you should be doing something healthy outdoors, that is.

These days, Bank Holidays aren’t as exciting. There is still time off school and work, but the TV doesn’t tend to be any different to the usual fare. Those old classic films haven’t lost their magic, but it seems that making them constantly accessible has watered down the excitement somewhat. Or am I just being jaded and cynical?

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Seventies Work and Life

The later Seventies explored by Kim P Moody

As fashion changed I tried the ultra-tight hipster style flared trousers, with tank tops and Budgie jacket. Adam Faith had made these trendy in the TV series, Budgie, with Faith as Budgie Bird, recently released from prison. The jackets were very short bomber style, tight sleeves and lots of zips.

Green Post Office vanThe decade skipped along and in 73 I got married; well we all make mistakes. By then I had completed my apprenticeship – a real one, before the modern era. I was a fully fledged Telecommunications Technician with Post Office Telephones. It was the time when it changed from the General Post Office (GPO) to The Post Office. The vans were dark green but were replaced by bright yellow ones – mostly Morris Minors, but all made by the British Motor Corporation (BMC, later BLMC, later still Austin-Rover or Leyland-DAF, now gone).

Green Austin Mini on WikipediaTalking of cars, my first was a green Austin Mini, a gift from my absent father. I soon changed it for a Morris Traveller, the one with the wooden framework. It took me miles up and down the country, I remember a particularly hair raising drive through Hardknott Pass in the Lake district. The pass is an old Roman road with winding gradients of 1:3 and rises to 1290 feet above sea level – brakes would have been useful! After the Traveller came a Hillman Minx, a bit of a mover this one, she was one of the first with the big 1725cc engine. Married life brought along the grown up and sober Vauxhall Viva HC Estate.

Like all sensible young men, I thought I could do better and in 74 I left the Post Office and started working on the production line in the local Ford Motor Company factory. I had never seen industrial sabotage in action until then, but boredom and ceaseless repetition have a strange effect on men. If someone felt they were working too hard a large bolt in the works brought things to a halt for about half an hour. It was there I met my first Buddhist, I worked with a member of a UFO cult and saw trade unionism at its worst.

James Callaghan UK Prime Minister 1976-1979These were dark times for British manufacturing. James Callaghan, Sunny Jim, was Prime Minister and took us into the Winter of Discontent, 1978 -1979. This period was marked by Callaghan’s Labour government restricting pay awards to below 5%, strikes ensued followed by food shortages, and power cuts. During the latter part of 78 I spent nine weeks on strike with 57,000 other Ford employees, with no pay, and no other financial assistance. Tight times, but the father-in-law and I rebuilt his Bedford Dormoblie during our idle weeks. The government had become so unpopular that in March 79 there was a vote of no confidence, and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives won the ensuing election. I wonder if history is repeating itself?

After four years painting Ford Transit vans, each one was allotted four minutes as it travelled along the endless chain, I was overwhelmed by a need to do something useful. In January 79 I joined Hampshire Constabulary. I was whisked away from home and a pregnant wife to the Police Training College where, for 13 weeks I was educated in the ways of the British Bobby. This was the beginning of a new era, not only for me but for Great Britain with its new Prime Minister. Roll on the 80s!

Corporal Punishment

In the Seventies it was just starting to become unacceptable for children to be hit as punishment. Corporal punishment was the term used for the sanctioned and premeditated physical punishment meted out by teachers. It does not include the teachers who threw chalk or blackboard rubbers at children because of chatting in class or getting the answer wrong, being rapped on the knuckles with a ruler for fidgeting or poor handwriting (like that’s going to work!) or any of the other spontaneous abuses that were performed. It does include caning, ‘the slipper’, and various other inhuman acts. Although this was perfectly common and acceptable back then, it seems barbaric in retrospect. How the world can turn in one generation!

I was smacked across the head by Mrs Smith when I was five. She had asked ‘does anyone know the colours of the rainbow?’ I’d shouted out ‘yes, it’s red and yellow and pink and green’ because of the song. She slapped my head and said ‘don’t be stupid, pink isn’t in the rainbow’. This is an example of teacher-pupil attack that was not sanctioned corporal punishment but still happened regularly. If it happened today the teacher would be arrested, possibly imprisoned and would never be allowed to work with children again. It doesn’t matter if I was an irritating little oik, slapping children is just not done.

Though I was bullied, slapped, shaken and generally knocked around throughout my childhood, I didn’t have any official corporal punishment until I was nine. This was in the special school for hyperactive children that I attended during my junior years. I had the slipper for locking the taxi-diver’s keys in her car. This was actually an accident as I was trying to be helpful by locking the car and hadn’t noticed the keys there. I was too proud to admit to making a mistake so it was treated as a deliberate act of malevolence.

Plimsolls on Shoeboxers.comI was cornered by three teachers. They bent me over and smacked my backside with a black shoe, of the kind we used to call ‘pumps’ or ‘plimsolls’. The embarrassment was worse than the pain. Although I hated myself for doing so, I cried from frustration at the injustice. Afterwards I could have kicked myself for making such a fuss over being hit once with a slipper, which was quite comedic when you thought about it. It was hardly comparable to the types of beatings that children would get at home. I think that the humiliation was the worse part.

I never had the cane in school, although I got so close I could have spat on it. In another junior school I’d got into an argument with a stupid boy who was making snide remarks about me, and I’d pushed him over. I got called into the Headmaster’s office and I think the Deputy Head was there as well. He spoke to me seriously about this offence and about how I was very close to having the cane. He pointed to the cane in the corner of his office, which was quite a thin bamboo one.

In fact, he said, if I were a boy then I’d be getting the cane right now, but as I was a girl they were going to let me off with a last warning. This made me indignant as I could see that it was sexist and implied that they were treating me differently simply because of my sex rather than my behaviour. I almost said to them that they should give me the cane in that case, but didn’t. I realised that if I opened my mouth, anything I said would be taken as backtalk and would get me into more trouble. Besides which, however much it might improve my kudos amongst the boys, I really didn’t want to have the cane.

Corporal punishment was finally outlawed in 1987 in the UK, but by then the majority of schools had stopped using it. In the high school they didn’t use the cane, but they had plenty of other ways to humiliate me. 

The problem with hitting children as punishment, apart from the fact that it could result in lasting injury and (at least now) imprisonment for the perpetrator, is that it just doesn’t work. It may work as a deterrent to other children who witness the abuse, but the child who is hit becomes gradually resistant to the pain and requires a more excessive punishment each time to quell the rebellious spirit. You finally reach a point where you realise that it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to be hit anyway, and if the worst has already happened to you then you’ve got nothing to lose. At that point you become a menace to society because you just don’t care any more. Then you either go off the rails completely or you have to find a reason to care.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Postal Strike in the Seventies

Dorothy Davies’ memories of the longest postal strike in UK history

Post was sorted by hand in 1971On the 20th January 1971 negotiations broke down between the postal workers union, headed by Tom Jackson and the Royal Mail. On that day the longest strike in postal history began. Officially it lasted seven weeks, in reality it lasted up to three months, all told, as the mountains of mail had to be shifted and many items were delayed that long.

The strike was devastating for many reasons, not least for the ‘average’ person waiting for birthday cards, giro cheques, all the minutiae of everyday life.

It was critical to me at that time. Late in 1970 I answered an advertisement for two young solicitors requiring a secretary. When I met up with them, I found they planned to set up offices in Temple, the very heart of the legal profession. Solicitors depend on getting deeds, contracts, searches, you name it they need it, to deal with conveyancing and all of the other aspects of legal life.

The first thing that happened was the Law Society swung into action and introduced an internal postal method that has carried on, in much the same form, to today. We were able to go to the Law Society and collect our mail. We used many other methods of getting mail to people, including hailing a London cab and asking the driver to deliver a letter for the same fee as a passenger, that worked very well within London’s limits. Outside London, we used couriers and, for addresses in Essex where we lived at the time, I delivered the mail at weekends, with the help of my new husband.

A few enterprising people set themselves up in ‘business,’ taking letters across on the ferry and posting them in France. That was a help, no matter the cost, I was able to send letters to my parents who lived in Spain at that time. (Life without emails!) It’s surprising what can be done when people are faced with such a dire emergency. For the profession as a whole, it was a dire emergency: summons remained unserved, court cases were disrupted and telephones were a lifeline!

The strike collapsed because the Union ran out of funds to pay hardship money to its members. They were forced into a settlement that was highly unpopular with the members but in the circumstances, was the only way out. People could not be allowed to starve.

The irony of all this is: four years later my husband later went on to join the Royal Mail as a postman …

Dorothy Davies’ website is www.oneinspecyal.com

Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks

Big Daddy (real name Shirley Crabtree)I was an aggressive child, I think that’s fair to say. I had learned that this was the way to deal with the world. One of my favourite things to watch on the TV was the wrestling, and my two favourite wrestlers were Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. I had a secret ambition to be a professional fighter when I grew up, even though you never saw women wrestling or boxing on TV. So my heroes were all men in this sphere.

Giant Haystacks had the same birthday as meI was sometimes called Giant Haystacks for my messy blonde hair as well as being fat and I quite liked that one. Giant Haystacks could have been a compliment, although it really depends on the tone it’s said in. I was constantly in trouble for fighting, in school and out, and made to feel guilty for having a need to make a battle out of everything. No-one ever thought back then to advise me that I should take up karate or a similar sport to relieve and control the pent-up aggression. I abandoned the idea of being a fighter as a silly, childish thing and turned the anger in on myself.

The combination of a battling instinct and a solid frame is probably a bad one, though I think now that it has got me further than if I’d been meek and mild. The first time I realised that being fat was a bad thing was when I went to a slimming club with my Mum. Being four stone at age four was quite good, I thought. A bit like height, I thought that the more you weighed the more people would be proud of you, like ‘hasn’t she grown?’ Also it seemed like a nice balance to be the same weight as my age. So I went around telling everybody very loudly that I was four stone. This didn’t go down too well with the other slimmers in the class.

For the first time in my life people judged me negatively by my weight. I learned that evening not just that I was fat, but that this was something to be ashamed of, and that I should do my best to get thin. This, they advised me would be done by eating all the foods that I didn’t like and none of the foods that I did. I thought pah to that, I’ll just be fat! Big Daddy was fat and nobody tried to make him feel bad about it, and anyway if they did he’d just sit on them, haha. But even though I took this attitude, the culture of continual weight-loss till you’re too weak to walk still soaked in. I spent most of my life feeling like I should want to lose weight and there was something wrong with me because I didn’t.

Really I think the world turned for me when I took up kickboxing at age thirty-five. I need to be fit, but I don’t want to lose weight. I don’t want to lose weight, for the first time in my life since I was four years old. I’m in the heavyweight class. If I dropped a weight class then I’d be fighting the teenagers and that’s not what I want to do, thank-you very much. Those girls are fast. I have found an environment where being built like a brick sh*t-house (as my mother would put it) is an advantage. I am perfectly happy being fat and fit and I don’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about that. And as it turns out, I am Giant Haystacks after all, haha.

And you know the interesting thing is, when I look back at those photos of myself as a child, and photos of other people like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks who were considered fat, they actually don’t look that fat compared to the people we see today. And none of us can have been that unfit.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room