Dangerous Playgrounds

playing on the monkey barsWhen I was a kid in the seventies we went to the park on our own and played on the climbing frame, monkey bars and swings however we wanted to. There was a concrete floor and if you bashed your head on it then it was your own stupid fault. Under the big climbing frame in our park was a sandpit, to catch you in case you fell. Good thinking on the part of the park designers. Except that amongst the sand were large quantities of cat and dog crap, smashed glass, rubbish and bricks.

Our mothers didn’t write to the council and complain that the playground was dangerous, they just put stinging TCP onto our heads and told us to stop crying. Well, at least that was the case for some of us. Obviously some parents did write to the council to complain or we wouldn’t have the spongy floor and safety-conscious climbing experiences that are the playgrounds we get today.

When we were bored with the playground, we would go up to the building site, which wasn’t fenced off. I remember playing house in a half-built real house and nicking boxes of nails to nail into a tree so I could climb it. Ah, those were the days!

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

Milk bottle tops and carrier bags

too many carrier bagsEnvironmentalism became a big issue in the seventies, with 1970 marking the first Earth Day. It was something that started being taught in primary school, the idea being that if children were brought up to respect the earth then they would a) guilt-trip their parents into doing so and b) grow up to become responsible earth-respecting citizens.

I remember a song we used to sing in school that was about rubbish being thrown on the ground. I can only remember the first line and the chorus now. It went something like:

Milk bottle tops and carrier bags

Is this really <clap, clap, clap-clap clap>
What we want to see? <clap, clap, clap-clap clap>
No! No! No!

It didn’t stop children from throwing their rubbish on the floor, though, as the state of the playground attested. Obviously something a bit stronger than brainwashing was required.

There were also The Wombles, which was all about picking up litter rather than not dropping it or refraining from using the packaged products in the first place.

Milk bottle tops are not such an issue any more, since people don’t tend to buy glass bottles with metal tops. Carrier bags and plastic packaging have become a huge issue, so it’s interesting to see that they were already being seen as a problem in the seventies.

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

Seventies Bank Holiday

Me on my bike aged 7Apart from the staycation (which is when you stay at home on holiday, except that we didn’t know that this was what it was called then), on a seventies Bank Holiday it became traditional to go off somewhere to explore. Pack some sandwiches and a flask of squash, squeeze ourselves into wellies and raincoats, and off we would go on our bikes. Posh people had cars and could go further.

Inevitably we ended up wet and miserable, cursing the Bank Holiday weather and wishing we’d stayed at home after all, but occasionally there were fabulous sunny adventures and these are the ones that I try to cling to.

Dad would push me to ride the bike back home when all I wanted to do was collapse in a heap. Then we’d get home and Mum (who’d sensibly stayed there and had a lie-in) made us tea and we’d all watch the Bank Holiday film together.

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

Do You Wanna Touch Me? (No)

Garry Glitter in 1974Garry Glitter, though now a dirty old man, was marvellous on stage in the Seventies. He stomped around in giant high heeled boots, sparkly suit and a huge mop of curly hair. His permanently raised eyebrows gave him an air of being a little bit scary when he stared into the camera.

I thought he was fabulous, though, even if he was a bit scary. I used to stomp around like he did, copying the walk and the way he would stare downwards into the camera which made him look like a giant.

By the time the eighties came around, I realised how naff he was and decided I didn’t like him any more. He was so incredibly naff, especially the clothes, that one of his comebacks was due to students embracing his naff-ness with irony. Did the man have no pride?

According to Wikipedia, between 1972 and 1995 Glitter charted 26 hit singles which spent a total of 180 weeks in the UK Top 100. I liked Leader of the Gang best of all, for a fuller discography, check out Wikipedia.

Garry Glitter just before being sent downMost of these hits were in the Seventies, with a couple of comebacks in the eighties and nineties, and apparently he reckons he’s going to have another comeback now he’s been released from prison.

He does look a lot different now, and if he ever does make it with a comeback I hope it’s not the sparkly suit sort, but more of an ‘old rocker with a guitar’. Maybe along the lines of Keith Richards who is equally wrinkly and horrible.

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

Penelope Pitstop

Penelope Pitstop in her pussycat carPenelope Pitstop was so girly that I’m surprised I liked her, but it may well have been The Hooded Claaaw that drew me in. I thought that she was ridiculous when she ran with both legs in the air but was compelled to watch as she escaped his clutches one more time.

Oh Penny, why didn’t you fight back, why run? He was only a stupid man trying to scare you! Pull off that hood and you could guarantee that he would be a weedy little teenage banker.

She was one of the Wacky Racers but she had her own spin-off cartoon adventure series, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and that’s where I first saw her. It was only years later that I realised, due to her name, that she must have originally come from the Wacky Races series, along with ‘catch the pigeon’ Dastardly and Mutley and several other characters.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room (this post inspired by Susan’s comment last week and blog post that was inspired from it (convoluted things that you get on these incestuous blogs))


Spangles! At www.escape-to-the-seventies.comThe sweets formally known as Spangles don’t exist any more, sadly. They were phased out in the early eighties. They are such an icon of the era that they have their own Wikipedia page which makes reference to the mystery flavours. This is where JKR got her idea for the ‘every flavour beans’ from, I reckon. The flavours were always a bit odd, and I’m sure I got a mustard flavoured one once.

The shape of Spangles were as unusual as the flavours. They were a square tablet but with a circular dent in the middle of both sides. When you sucked them for long enough, the dent became a hole so you’d be eating a square peg with a round hole! They came in wrapped packs and individually wrapped within that.

Even the word ‘spangle’ makes me think of the Seventies, because of the connotations of sparkliness and it rhymes with bangle.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room (this post inspired by Laura McWhinney’s post last week).

Council Pop

tapwater was called council popIn the seventies, if you wanted a drink on an ordinary day then there was only one option: tap-water. This was referred to as ‘council pop’, meaning that it was pop for poor people, or that it was the only pop that we would get from our miserly council.
If I was ill or just recovering and needed building up, then I might persuade my mum to give me a glass of milk. (I envied the people in American films where milk and cookies got doled out willy-nilly to kids!) We had one bottle of squash per week for the whole family: lemon or orange. So I might get a glass of that once per day. Then there was the third-of-a-pint sour milk that I’d get at school in morning break. But for the rest of the time, whether at school or home, it would be council pop.
We would see adverts for Perrier on the TV and laugh. Who would buy a bottle of water when you could get it out of the tap for free!? It made us think that the French must be totally nutty. Then gradually, as sugar was demonised and sweeteners were discovered to be carcinogenic, water became the healthiest and hippest thing to drink. Water is now more expensive than pop, so long as it’s bottled of course, and stolen from an iceberg.
bottled water is not as friendly as we used to thinkNow, it’s starting to turn full circle and we are realising that bottled water may be very good for our bodies but is harmful to the environment (duh, plastic bottles? Transportation? Stealing from icebergs??) and we’re turning back to the tap. This is the UK of course: I’ve tasted American tap-water and, uh, no thank you, it is foul.
It is interesting that the substance which was considered povvy-drink when I was a kid has become the most on-the-button drink to be seen drinking. It still flows through the same pipes and from the same council, but it’s not free anymore, now we have water metres.
The only thing is when you’re out and about and you want a drink but haven’t brought a flask with you, or you’re in a restaurant and are expected to buy a drink, you have to get a bottle of something. Asking for tap-water is still frowned on by people who aren’t yet with the programme.

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