Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Those Were The Days...

A few of us who went to the same High School have set up a page on Facebook. It's a secret group, of course, so we can reminisce in total freedom, confident that no one will sue us for defamation, libel or any other misdemeanour. 

But this is one instance I know I can share with you, because it's the subject of the thread which has seen the most activity of any since the page started (I think). The subject? You probably guessed from the title of this piece. Nostalgia. Most of us attended school in the mid to late Sixties- Seventies and, in essence, somebody said, 'remember gabardine macs and duffel bags?' - and it all took off from there. More than 100 posts later, it's still going strong - and it only started a day or two ago. AND there aren't all that many of us.
The dreaded liberty bodice

Since then various of us have mentioned anything from liberty bodices (horrid things!), slide rules, comptometers, log tables, pumps and tape recorders, through to Soir de Paris perfume, Take Your Pick and Double Your Money on TV.

I recalled an unfortunate accident involving a bottle of Vecchia Romagna and a pair of wide flared jeans (circa 1977). Those damn jeans were so wide it was easy to get yourself tangled up in them. I did. Fell over. Smashed the bottle. Didn't taste a drop of Vecchia Romagna from that day till my recent trip to southern Italy in May this year. Brought a bottle back, with some trepidation. Fortunately it survived, thanks to sensible bootcut jeans and trainers.

Then there were the infamous '70s platform shoes. Great gallumphing things they were. You could barely stand in them, let alone walk and when you did, it was with a lumbering elephantine gait. Accidents galore ranged from, miscalculating the extra height they added (where limited headroom was available, this could result in severe concussion) to falling off the wretched things and twisting, spraining or fracturing feet and ankles.

Then there were the smells of the '70s. I worked in a Chemist's shop on Saturdays in my last two years at school. To walk into our shop was to be greeted with the heady mixed aromas of Aqua Manda and Hai Karate, not to mention 'the great smell of Brut'. Ah, that Aqua Manda. Loads of teenage girls wore it. (I did myself, from time to time, when I wasn't indulging in the testers for Chanel No. 5 or Cuir de Russie!) As likely as not, the entire back cover of our favourite magazine - Honey or Petticoat  - would consist of a full page ad. for the stuff. Great if you wanted to smell like a Terry's Chocolate Orange. And we must have done. It sold by the bucket load in our shop alone.

Mary Quant make up was all the rage. Our mothers and grandmothers dabbed bright red spots on their cheeks, courtesy of Bourjois' little black and white boxes. They smoothed Pond's cold cream on their faces at night. And we thought they were archaic, as we smeared on chalk white lipstick and tried to do our eyes like Julie Driscoll.

I experimented (unsuccessfully) with Maybelline false eyelashes. The glue itched and every time I blinked, I felt as if I was lowering and raising a set of spidery Venetian blinds. They seemed strangely heavy as well.

As for music, Radio Luxembourg (or '208' as it was affectionately known, thanks to its position on the Medium Wave dial of your transistor radio) was only surpassed by pirate stations, Radio Caroline, or Atlantic. But the pirate stations could only be received in parts of the UK. Once I moved to Liverpool, Radio 208 was the permanent station on my dial for that blissful time when I sank beneath the sheets, with my earpiece wedged in my ear. It only broadcast after 7p.m. at night anyway. I cried when it went off the air for good. Radio One just didn't cut it for me.

But time trudges on. Actually, it seems more like a gallop these days. The Spice Girls are hurtling towards their 40s (three have already arrived). Robbie Williams is a nice, respectable family man in a three piece suit, writing and singing songs that offer advice to his baby daughter. Even Paul McCartney's famous 'baby' face is etched deep in wrinkles (and he really can't hit those high notes anymore, but nobody dares tell him I suppose).

Today's Generation Y is the first to be born during the computer age. They will never know the dubious joys of changing a typewriter ribbon, LPs you played on your record player, or (if you were posh) Hi Fi. Never will they have to untangle a cassette that has somehow wound itself like spaghetti around the inner workings of the player. Not for them, school satchels, pac-a-macs, thinking how great it was to have FOUR channels on your TV, kitchen geysers, antimacassars, candlewick bedspreads and smoke-filled cinemas where you could 'Look at Life' before the main feature - and get a second (usually naff) film as well.

Nostalgia is great, isn't it? As I've been writing this, another half dozen contributions have been made to that Facebook thread, each one conjuring up a new, and mostly cherished, memory. Yet these days we have so much more. Medical advances are helping rid us of once deadly disease, and conquering illnesses that would once have come packaged with an inevitable death sentence. Technology helps us to do more and to speed up previously time-consuming, labour intensive tasks. Yes, there are downsides - enough for volumes, let alone a blog post. But I, for one, wouldn't swap my computer for a typewriter, and I'm lost without my iPad and mobile phone. I'm even learning to love my iPod!

They say ''the past is a foreign country". Perhaps, after all, it's better it stays that way; a place I love to visit, safe in the knowledge I can return home whenever I want. 


  1. OMG.. What a post missus. Fab 208!!!! What a blast from the past. It was aye Donny Osmond. Honey. And the best....hell doll I still wear platform shoes... That is not the best. the best is Aqua Manda. man, I loved that stuff. I am so gonna send you a pic of my AQ bottle collection. Will do it this weekend. That is a promise ! Wonderful post. xxx

    1. Do you remember Meadowsong - also by Goya? It made you smell like a lawn. Don't remember it lasting too long. People used to try the tester in the Chemist where I worked, sniff, wrinkle their noses and then try and rub it off their wrists while I handed them tissues. The problem was it lingered. Aqua Manda lingered too, but I'd rather smell of chocolate and orange for a couple of hours than the contents of a lawnmower!

  2. Hee hee. No I don't remember that one. I remember Aqua Manda cos of the fancy bottles.

    1. That was probably the best thing about Aqua Manda, looking back. It looked classy - even though it wasn't!

  3. Well on the table, where I grew up....there was nowt fancy like that doll!