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


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

The Two-and-a-half Pence Piece

Sixpence, which is also known as the two-and-a-half-pence peiceIt seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? I mean what can you get for 2.5p today?! But I do remember clutching my two-and-a-half pence piece in my tiny hand and going into the Co-op near the infant school to buy a pack of sherbet which was exactly 2.5p. The coin was usually referred to as a sixpence in our family (my Mum being the kind of person who resisted going decimal right through the Seventies and still works in feet and inches, pounds and ounces now). But although I called it a sixpence at home, I knew it was worth 2.5p and called it a two-and-a-half pence at school. Way to confuse a child!

The reason for this idiocy of course was the decimal change in 1971, at which time I was very small and wouldn’t have remembered the Old Money being used at all except that many of the coins were still in circulation. Originally a shilling had 12 pennies in it, and then there were twenty shillings to a pound. The idea of decimalisation was to make everything work in tens and hundreds so that the British could fit happily into Europe (and we all know that the British just *love* fitting happily into Europe). In order for this to work, if one hundred pennies were in a pound then a shilling was five pence. (I’ll go into weight and distance some other time because I’m starting to get a headache now).

Rather than minting a whole load of new coins, the original coins were ‘re-denominated’, so shillings became five pence. For me growing up, this mean that what I called the money was something different to what my Mum and Gran called it. A five pence piece had the word ‘shilling’ written on it, and a ten pence had ‘two shillings’. And the old phrases were still in circulation as well, so people would refer to 50p as ‘ten bob’ which meant ten shillings. We also used to sometimes find old pennies and ha’pennies under the floorboards but these were copper and not used so we were allowed to keep them as play money. I loved the thruppeny bit which was slightly gold and had 12 straight sides, we couldn’t spend it but if we had then the value would have been half a two-and-a-half pence, so one-and-a-quarter pence. All the Old Money was chunky compared to the new but the thruppeny was thicker.

The sixpence wasn’t taken out of circulation straight away, as with the shilling and florin (two-shilling) coins, it was re-denominated, but was the first to be phased out. I was nine when the two-and-a-half pence piece was demonitised in June 1980. The shilling was demonitised in 1990 and the florin in 1993 except that by that time new 5p and 10p coins had been introduced so it didn’t seem to matter. But there were never any new 2.5p coins made. I missed the sixpence and I think a lot of others did as well. The only reason it stayed in legal tender for so long was because of the ‘save our sixpence’ campaign launched by the newspapers (no surprise there) to drum up some public angst about the loss of their familiar money, with a bit of anti-Euro in there too, no doubt.

We did have our own half-pence in new money, but this is possibly the denomination that has the shortest circulation in British history, being legal for only 13 years from 1971-1984. By the time the shilling and florin disappeared, there were more worrying things for the anti-Euros to think about.

Chocie sixpences at littlekeepsake.co.ukSixpences are traditional in weddings and are still available to buy but not for 2.5p and not to be used as legal tender. You can get sixpence chocolate coins, too! Isn’t google marvellous!! I learn something new every day when I’m writing popandcrisps posts.


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

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

Sunday Lunches

Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, roast chicken and stuffing, roast pork and apple sauce, roast lamb and mint. This was Sunday lunch without fail in the Seventies. Anyone not eating one of these meals on a Sunday lunchtime would be considered mentally ill and/or foreign. If you were exceptionally bohemian then you might have Sunday lunch in the evening due to having got out of bed too late to cook it. If you admitted to not eating a proper Sunday lunch then the reaction would be one of horror as if you’d said you were vegetarian or ate Pot Noodle for breakfast.

Sunday dinner with beef and YorkshireI’m sure that plenty of Sunday lunches are still cooked in homes today, especially by people’s grans, but far, far fewer than when I was a child. In fact, according to the Daily Mail, half as many Sunday Lunches are cooked now than the Sixties. These days if someone wants a Sunday lunch then they’ll go out to a pub-restaurant and have one cooked for them. Back then there was hardly any demand for restaurants to open on a Sunday and pubs served pop and crisps in the beer garden.

My favourite Sunday lunch was pork, lots of crackling with warm apple sauce (Mum used to make it at the same time as the dinner and I can’t stand the apple jam you get in jars now). We had proper gravy made with the fat, not out of a packet, roast potatoes and one or two types of veg, usually cabbage and carrot. Some people would have bread to dip in their gravy but we weren’t allowed to do that because Mum thought it was Common. I used to save the roast potatoes until the end because they were my favourite.

Spotted Dick in the newsSunday lunch was always followed by a pudding, either rice pudding or crumble and custard. Or on special occasions we might have a steamed pudding like Spotted Dick. It was accompanied by Corona lemonade, which would be a new bottle opened especially.

When we went to my Gran’s house, the plates were piled much higher than at home. We would have every type of vegetable you could imagine, roast and mashed potato, Yorkshire pud with every meat, even chicken and my little sister was allowed to have tomato sauce on hers. Once I cried because I couldn’t eat my last potato, I was just too full. Still managed the pudding though.

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