Today I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic; over on Facebook all of my old school friends seem to be talking about “the good old days”, when Duckula was on TV, Blind Date was still cool and meal times were a family event with everybody sat around a table that was rich with conversation and togetherness. My generation was the last to grow up the old-fashioned way and the first to experience technology.
When I was very young I used to ride my bicycle around the street I lived in, and I had to come in when called home. My parents are from a generation in which you reserved one room for Sundays and special events only, so that’s what we did. Sunday was all about Dad carving the turkey followed by reading or TV for us kids and washing up for Mum, and then later Dad would open up the “lounge” (now his main living room) to tune the radio so that we could have our usual dancing and board games and wait for the Top Twenty. For two very young children, those times were magical and the house seemed filled with love.
We didn’t have a telephone for years, so when we could finally afford one I was very excited. I always used to race Mum to answer the phone in case it was my Grampy. Our first microwave was also a big event in our house and Mum and I used to love watching as a chicken was slowly rotissiered on a Sunday. Mum was over the moon when she bought her pressure cooker (which she still has!) and used it at every opportunity.
Back then Vesta meals were a treat and not an everyday convenience food. The Pot Noodle had yet to be invented and my favourite toys were my climbing tree and my swing – also the paddling pool in the summer months. On my sister’s birthday all of our school friends would invade the garden and we’d play pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey.
My birthday is in the winter months and so my parties had to be somewhat smaller. However, we would somehow cram twenty or so children into the lounge for games, gift unwrapping and my uncle’s performance as a magician. Our usual living room would turn into the buffet – with our dining table groaning under the weight of enough food to feed several armies. Mum still does this for family get-togethers!
Things changed when my parents divorced and my sister and I went to live with our grandmother, but they were happy times. I lived closer to a lot of my friends, so if we weren’t all out cycling in the neighbourhood my friends were seeking me out at the local playing field so that they could join me on the swings and play with my dog.
Every summer we would spend two weeks in Croyde, North Devon, in a bungalow that was leased out to my Dad’s stepfather. I remember combing my long hair dry, sat out on the veranda whilst watching the sun setting over the sea. We were high on a hill and could see the beach and most of the town from where we were situated. Croyde is merely Surfer Central these days, but back then it was a lovely place to be. Very “Olde Worlde” and quiet, quite unlike the tourist trap it has now become.
Back at home, my Nan and I had developed a routine which was never deviated from. Dad’s stepfather rented an allotment and was constantly bringing produce home. Nan and I would bake cakes and then shell peas, string runner beans or prepare cauliflower and sprouts for cooking later while the cakes were in the oven. Once a month we would sit opposite each other in the kitchen/diner, chatting and polishing the brass or the silver and, when Nan was doing the ironing I would sit at the breakfast bar doing any left-over homework or petting the dog, listening and asking questions as she talked about her wartime childhood.
Sundays always began with swimming after breakfast, and then a good walk on the local hill after Sunday lunch. I used to help prune and weed the garden plants and borders, learning as I went along and loving every moment. Quite often I’d wander into one of the front rooms to play my organ or watch my Dad on his Commodore 64, or go into the room opposite to challenge somebody at table tennis. The closest I came to actual computer gaming was Attack Of The Mutant Camels on the Commodore, or Space Invaders and Night Driver on the Atari that Dad had bought second hand from a friend.
There were no push-button or cordless telephones and only the very well off (“Yuppies”) could afford the giant bricks that were mobile phones in the late eighties.
As a disabled person I am glad that technology evolved so that it can keep me in touch with friends and the outside world. It also means that I can occasionally risk going out alone, knowing that help is a quick phone call away.
All the same, I am glad to have had an outdoorsy, innocent and fun childhood. I climbed trees, fell off swings and pushbikes and was introduced to the beautiful flora and fauna which is all around us. I experienced all elements of weather, enjoyed long walks and loved my private time with my Nan. By the time I was fifteen we had already reached the “hang around the town centre because there’s nothing else to do and watch TV in your room or listen to music” stage. Those were lonely times because my generation didn’t really know what to do with them, and so I cherish the memories of the very real childhood I had – getting muddy, suffering nettle stings and having almost permanent bruises from various accidents.