A Seventies Halloween

Yes, the time has come again for my customary gripe about how children nowadays have a much better deal of it than I did but how ironically this means that their lives are actually impoverished. I could give it a miss and you could take it as read, but no I’m not going to. Cue the violins.

apple bobbingWe didn’t have sweets at Halloween. We didn’t have plastic skeletons and light-up witches and spend our evening going door to door begging in our supermarket dress-up costumes. Oh no. We had apple bobbing, homemade costumes which then got recycled for the guy a few days later, and baked potatoes on the bonfire.

We didn’t do pumpkins, we hollowed out swedes. These took hours as the flesh is so hard, but they were more substantial. We would put a candle inside and they smelled fabulous as they slowly cooked.

supermarket at halloweenI first heard of trick or treating when I was about nine, and it was introduced by the TV news as a form of neighbourhood annoyance. Apparently this awful behaviour had been introduced from America (the shock) and involved youths demanding money with menaces. If you didn’t pay them then they’d smash your windows or set fire to your bins. Needless to say I was horrified years later when I met people who encouraged their children to indulge in this criminality.

Watching ET when I was twelve was quite confusing, as I had no idea why there were children and adults dressing up and wandering around the town carrying sweets. I thought it must be some sort of street party.

It absolutely amazes me that in the age we live, some people still encourage their children to go knocking on strangers’ doors asking for treats. It also disgusts me that there is no space for childhood imagination and inventiveness in the racks of bought costumes and pumpkin buckets.

I suppose the main reason I get so hacked off by all of this is a similar reason that Christians are fed up with the commercialisation of Christmas. Samhain is my main religious festival and as such it is sacred to me. I can give a bit of leeway and I have a sense of humour but there’s only so far that I can be pushed.

Okay, rant over. Normal service will be resumed next week.

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


Zed Cars

Zed Cars logo from the opening of the programmeZ-Cars or Zed Cars (yes, definitely Zed and not Zee) was a police drama which ran through the Sixties and Seventies. It was based in the gritty North of England and was the first hard-hitting realistic drama, as opposed to fantasy land ‘it’s a fair cop guv’ sort of drama.

Z-car was also the police codename for a police car (see Panda Cars), the name of the drama being given for the car.

I wasn’t allowed to watch Zed Cars because it was on too late at night and it was considered ‘unsuitable’. Though seeing clips of it now, the violence and menace seem to be mild compared to what you see today, and the bad language laughable.

Although I never watched it, I knew all about it because there were some children in my school who talked about it and played Zed Cars in the playground. That mainly involved running around pretending to be driving a car, saying nee-nar or singing the theme tune. As well as the usual cops’n’robbers style of playground bullying.

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

Elkie Brooks

Elkie Brooks with band – look at that fabulous Seventies style!Elkie was a singer with a crooning husky voice, most famous or at least most remembered for Pearl’s A Singer from an album in 1977. Elkie sang Nights in White Satin in 1982. Originally recorded by The Moody Blues, another great band. I remember this as the Seventies, but have been corrected by Wikipedia.

I’m sure I remember the video for Nights in White Satin featuring a herd of white horses galloping in slow motion. Or that might have been something else. Anyway, I mistakenly believed this song to be about knights who wore white satin suits. I imagined these knights in shining armour on white horses galloping to the rescue of Elkie dressed as a princess in distress and letting down her long hair for them to climb up. I was only a child. And obviously very influenced by Disneyfied fairytales.

Years later, I saw the name of the song written down and realised she was singing about sleeping on satin sheets. Ooooh! Right. Now I get it.

Elkie is still doing the circuit as I found out last week when a colleague mentioned that her husband was going to a concert. Apparently she is still amazing.

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

Viva! – Vauxhall Viva

Kim P Moody revs things up a little

Viva Vauxhall Viva HA advertismentIt was my pride and joy in the late 70s. The 1972 silver, Vauxhall Viva HC Estate, was a sleek and modern car, just right for the family man.

The Viva was introduced in 1963. The HA was produced until 1966 then replaced with the HB. The last version was the HC, introduced in 1970. Production stopped in 1979 when it was replaced by the Astra. The HC was mechanically similar to the HB but the styling was changed from the sexy ‘Coke bottle’ curves to a sleeker, more modern shape. Interior space was improved, too.

Vauxhall Viva HC 1979One of the first things I did to my Viva was to change the styling. I parked it against a lamp post and put a huge dent in the passenger door. The estate version was great for shifting family stuff, including the dog.

I found that the handling was improved by placing a couple of breeze blocks in the back to aid traction. Cars were still made with the mechanical bits in the right place in the 70s – engine in the front driving the rear wheels – the way the gods intended (ask BMW).

Sporty versions, Magnum and Firenza, were successful in rallies and racing. The were fitted with a distinctive ‘droop snoot’ front that improved their aerodynamics. I have fond memories of the late Gerry Marshall throwing the Dealer Team Vauxhall Firenzas (named ‘Old Nail’ and ‘Baby Bertha’) through the chicane at Thruxton racing circuit – making more use of the grass than was appropriate. Nice style, Gerry! Nice car, Vauxhall!


Panda Cars

www.propsrcars.fsbusiness.co.uk websitePolicemen in the Seventies tended to chase criminals on foot. They patrolled on foot, by bike or in a small blue car. We called these the panda car. This was because they often had a black and white checked pattern on them to make them visible as police cars.

If a criminal hopped in a fast car and sped off then the police had lost them. This lack of a high-speed car might have been due to the police budget or it might be a symbol of a naïve time when criminals came quietly. Perhaps organised crimes were outside of the remit of the local bobby. High-speed police chases on a Starsky and Hutch level just didn’t happen.

When it became obvious that actually they did happen, the jam sandwich police car was introduced and we said goodbye to the light blue panda. Nowadays both the fast response cars and the ordinary patrol cars have the jam sandwich style (it’s called this because it’s a layer of bright orange between two layers of white so looks like a jam sandwich, us Brits being so literary).

According to Wikipedia, the change of model and pattern was due to budget but I remember at the time the newspapers and TV news going on about how the jam sandwiches were much faster and the police would be better able to do their jobs.

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

Are You Being Served?

Are You Being Served? castThis very British sit-com was one of my favourite programmes as a child. It ran from 1972 to 1985 but it was the mid-to-late Seventies where it peaked, in my opinion anyway. The programme was set in a fictional department store, Grace Brothers, and the main characters were the staff of this store.

Mrs Slocombe was my favourite character because she put on a posh air but you could see that she was really quite common. She also kept changing the colour of her hair which became ridiculous. She was played by Mollie Sugden who remains one of my all-time favourite actresses.

According to Wikipedia, the main basis of the humour was an attack on the class system, from the upper class management and the uppity Captain Peacock to the lowly Arthur English caretaker. Mrs Slocombe’s attempts at upward mobility, which included putting down Miss Brahms her busty assistant (played by Wendy Richard before she took on the role of the matron in Eastenders), are an example of this.

The humour also relied heavily on double-entendres and even as a child I caught on to a lot of these, though I’ve a feeling that many passed me by. Mrs Slocombe’s pussy was not one that I missed!

John InmanI also loved Mr Humphries ‘I’m free!’ played by the fabulous and unfortunately late John Inman. I believe that he was the first openly gay actor playing an openly gay character that I saw on TV, and recognised as such. However, according to Wikipedia, the character was not openly gay but was effeminate and never expressed his orientation. I disagree with this because it was obvious to everybody and the jokes were obvious. I don’t see why a person has to say I AM GAY for it to be expressed. After all, they don’t have to say I AM HETEROSEXUAL for that to be assumed.

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

Silver’s Mum’s Memories Part Two

Silver’s Mum’s (Judith Hubble) memories continued…

Harold Wilson, rarely seen without his pipeIn 1974 we also had a general election. Harold Wilson became PM – Labour – and the IRA bombed ‘Mainland’ Britain. London and Birmingham suffered the most. EEC membership was endorsed by referendum.

Sex Discrimination Act came in. Queen (the band) had their first number one – yay!! Equal Pay Act came in. Slight hic-up change of PM – James Callaghan (still Labour) aerospace and ship building industry nationalised – big mistake!

Again with the strikes, this caused ‘the winter of discontent‘. Margaret Thatcher became PM. The first ‘test tube’ baby was born. First commercial flights of the Anglo-French Concord. Lancaster House ended the illegal rule of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and in 1975 our second child arrived, Andrew.

Personal thoughts – still had bell bottoms, the average cost of a three-bed semi was £4,500, our first mortgage was £28.00 per month. Milk and bread were delivered to the door six days a week and supermarkets weren’t really the place to shop, he he he. Meat came from the butchers and you couldn’t take children out with you for a meal until the mid to late Seventies. If you had kids they stayed at home, with family or babysitters. Much better now.