Thursday, 27 September 2007


I used to listen to Radio Luxembourg on head phones in my school dormitary - with Kid Jenson - in the 70s I loved T rex, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Lindisfarne, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Elton John, I didn't get to many concerts prior to 1979 as I was either at boarding school, or under strict control in Berwick, although I did see Van der Graf generator in Edinburgh when I was about 15. Later on I went to see lots of bands when I was at university. I didn't really understand punk and was always more of a hippy - but I had quite a few friends that were punks. I still enjoy a lot of music now - and also enjoy a lot of my daughters' music - Athlete, Jack Penate, the Long View etc - which is probably very different from my parents' view of our music which was generally along the lines of: "What's this? Sounds like a load of rubbish to me. Can they not actually make something that has a tune? Can you turn that racket down!

today50 technology

I can't believe how much technology has changed our lives, but for those of us born in 1957 I think it's probably been quite an effort to keep up (or maybe I'm just speaking for myself).

Not having learnt about computers, word processing or even typing (typing is just for typists, dearie) at school, after a long stint trying to get myself a job when I lived in rural Northumberland with 2 small children, I decided that being able to type would help me find work. I took myself off to Northumberland College in Ashington and enrolled on a course to enable me to type and "word process" . It did the trick as I got a job with the Design Council in Newcastle and then a job in TV with a TV production company in Newcastle in 1994. From then on, because I was working - I just became swept along with technology as it was introduced.

I got my first mobile phone in 1995 - am very proud that I still have the same number (apart from the 077 which was introduced later) - It took me ages to work out how to use it. It still takes me a long time to work out how technical things work - but once I get going I'm fine. I had technology overload last year because I had to master an eye pod, a digital camera, a DAB radio, an attachement for my Ipod to connect to my car radio and last but not least lenses. What a stress it all was - however I'm more or less up and running on them all, although the contact lenses still cause a little trouble now and again. Some of my friends are up and running technically too - but surprisingly many are not - some of them don't even text and don't know how the internet works. I think it's all to do with feeling safe with what you know.

I happen to know a very comfortably off lady who still uses a twin tub washing machine (this is what I've always used - so why would I want anything else?)

My mother (now aged 77) has a computer and emails people - she also has a mobile phone.

It's difficult for people who aren't used to new technology - I think the longer you leave it, the worse it becomes, and the less confident you become about it.

today50 holidays

My first holiday abroad was when I was 11. I was so excited and kept a "holiday book" with ice cream wrappers and drawings of the scenery, which I still have. My mother bought a brand new outfit for the flight - very smart black trousers, a grey and white shirt and a big red cardy. She looked lovely. We went to Austria - to a tiny village called Alpbach - which I think is a large ski resort now. My parents and younger brother wanted to walk and we girls wanted to party. My elder sister Alison took a fancy to a German guy called Wolfgang but didn't dare tell my father as he had been at D Day and lots of his friends had been killed in the war by Germans. Alison escaped out of the bedroom window one night for a secret rendez vous with Wolfgang. She was 15 - I was full of admiration.

As I wasn't allowed out to sample the local nightlife I had to be content with life around the hotel so I took a fancy to the swimming pool attendant/cleaner outer - he was called Helmut - had very black hair and wore a green overall - I didn't ever manage to speak to him but loved him from afar.


My family home was a beautiful old Georgian house with 9 bedrooms and a huge garden. My father had bought it in 1960 for the princely sum of £7,000. By today's standards, it was quite scruffy internally, but we didn't notice at the time. It was absolutely freezing - although again we didn't notice until we were older. There was no central heating at all and the only warmth we had came from 2 small coal fires - although only one of them was used and only lit after 4 pm (the other was in the vast "drawing room" and was only used on special occasions).

If we ever happened to complain about the cold, my father used say jovially "well you haven't got enough clothes on - go and put another jumper on!" The result was that every year from October to March we all used to resemble small Michelin men with layers and layers of vests, T shirts, polo necks, and then a couple of chunky home knits on top. Our parents must have eventually felt the cold though, because in about 1973, they acquired 2 "night storage" heaters - one for the dining room - and one for the playroom. My elder sister Alison used to spend her days draped across it listening to Radio Luxembourg and developed a heat rash all over her body.

The best game I had inside the house was when my other sister, Tinny, used to drape a rug right over me, including my head, then spin me round and lead me by the hand all over the house, up the front stairs, into the attic, down the back stairs - into the back kitchen - and then at any given moment I would have to tell her what room we were in. I often just used to be able to tell by the smell of each room - not that it was dirty at all - but each room had a particular scent. I can still remember the particular way each door handle would open every door in that house. The drawing room door handle had a pretty porcelain handle with a painting of pink flowers on it and it would wobble and growl when it was opened.

I didn't like my bedroom - because although it was the first room you came to at the top of the stairs and had a huge window - it had yellow squiggly wallpaper, a rust brown carpet, turquoise curtains, and loads of old fashioned furniture. Although the furniture was probably very good and probably antique - I hated it and wanted a nice girly bedroom with pink curtains. I was very messy. In fact I used to collect frogspawn every year with my brother Robbie and used to keep them in a bowl on my window sill. We loved watching them change into tadpoles and later on in the summer I often would have tiny frogs hopping around my room. My mother just used to shut the bedroom door.

We had a massive walk in larder where inevitably there was the odd hare or pheasant hanging up that my father had shot. I would creep in to stroke them and talk to them because I thought they were very sad. We would eat them for Sunday lunch. Pigeon, pheasant, partridge and jugged hare was staple Sunday fare.

We also kept hens - in deep litter - which was fairly disgusting. My brother Robbie and I had the job (for 10p pocket money a week - or 2 shillings before we went decimal) of feeding them and collecting the eggs. We used to get a new "batch" of hens every 2 years - my father used to wring the necks of the old ones. Inevitably for every batch, there was always one very aggressive one that used to fly at us - this one was always called Johnny - for some reason. Deep litter is revolting as it's basically peat which the hens live in and it simply rises and rises up with the hen poo - by the time we were on to our 6th batch of hens, they were practically hitting the roof.

It was fun collecting the eggs until you had to shoo an agressive hen off the perch. Then they started eating their own eggs and leaving a terrible mess. Robbie hit on a cunning plan to empty an egg - then fill the shell with hot mustard - he thought that would put them off the eggs for life. Not a bit of it! They simply ate the lot! After that we used to go in to the henhouse with a big stick. one time when we were away at boarding school my mother went in to feed them with her "Dr Scholes" on and she got stuck in the gate trying to get out (because the deep litter was getting so high) and the hens pecked her toes for around 15 minutes before she could escape. Robbie and I did a good joint party piece which involved being hens - I can still do hen noises quite well.

My parents sold the house while I was at University and moved to a smaller house in a small village. I went back to a wedding to our old house in the early 80s. The house was transformed and unbelievably smart. In the old "washhouse" there was a gym and a sauna, jacuzzi and spa room and there was a big thick carpet that was laid throughout the house - even into the attic. Our old (very small) kitchen had been knocked through into the playroom and back hallway. I was so pleased that someone was looking after the old place - it would have been far worse if it had lain neglected.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

This is me in 1980 - dreadful! See below for an explanation..........

My first job after university (I studied English, French, Italian and Art History) at the age of 21 was as a trainee sub editor on a teenage magazine. As I loved magazines, this was fantastic for me. I wrote and answered the problem page, (although quite how well qualified to do that at the age of 21 is debatable) I wrote the beauty features, and wrote the little incidental features, as well as supplying 2 photo story ideas every week to our freelance writers and doing lots of proof reading. Because I was one of the youngest there, I was often asked to "be" the characters in the stories. I have posted some terrible chubby photos here from this inauspicious episode of my life. Obviously been eating far too many chips and sweets.

This is me in 1977 in Zambia.
I got engaged while I was at university to a man called Steve who was a mining geologist and got a job in Zambia after graduating. I spent 3 months out there in 1977. We didn't ever make it to the altar.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Having been at boarding school from 11 until I was 16 - I was ready to cut loose when I continued my A levels at the local grammar school. My mother tried to imposed a "bedtime" of 9 pm with lights out at 10 pm. I was totally horrified and protested loudly. At this stage, my sisters were off studying elsewhere and my brother was at school in Edinburgh so I didn't feel I had any allies. It was strange being back home permanently and I rebelled against the home-imposed discipline with a vengeance - I had a few boyfriends, much to my parents' consternation and then fell madly in love. By this stage, I was totally flouting the bedtime and often not returning from a night out on a weekend until 3 am or later. Relations between my parents and I were frosty.

School work was fine and despite my extra curricular activities I enjoyed my studying - the only problem was I had been used in my previous school to having very vocal, opinionated fellow pupils, whereas in Berwick, you were considered a "creep" if you answered anything a teacher asked in a class discussion - even if you were challenging their views - which I was usually doing. It was considered seriously uncool amongst my peers even to engage to that depth in a lesson.

I had always been one of those infuriating people who could get away with doing very little during the term time, and then could madly swot up and learn enough to pass exams very quickly. The down side of all this was that within a fortnight of an exam, I'd usually forgotten everything again - but it did get me good exam results and into university. My French teacher suggested I tried for Oxbridge but that sounded like serious hard work to me so I politely declined. I worked reasonably hard for my A Levels, but my mind was on other things - I ended up with 2 As (English and French) and a D (German). Looking back if I'd pulled out the stops I could probably have managed an A in German too - but I didn't really work very hard at it, and our teacher had suffered some type of breakdown half way through the course and had been absent for a lot of the time. I wasn't really bothered though. Looking back (which is always far too easy) I had quite a destructive attitude to life. My own daughters (22 and 20 - elder at Leeds studying medicine, younger at Oxford studying Spanish) are lively, stroppy and feisty but somehow don't seem to have that totally rebellious, arrogant attitude that I think I probably had.

I had a Saturday job in a cafe - I loved it - zooming about with plates and dishes and pouring coffee and chatting and seeing friends. Because I was doing French A level - I was trying desperately to get to France in the summer when I was 17. The previous year, I'd been to Germany with a youth exchange (when I was 16). My father had tried to organise an exchange to France with a French client but it all fell through at the last minute - so I organised an ill-fated trip myself. It was to stay with a french girl called Marie Noelle (christoned Merry Christmas by my family). I travelled down to London by train - and then got another train to Dover where I boarded a hovercraft to Calais, a train to Paris, and then another train to Blois where I arrived at 1 am in the morning. There was no one to meet me there, so I wandered around the town until around 3 am on my own (I can't remember what I was wearing but it was probably provocative). I was enjoying meeting people and trying out my speaking French skills, until to my total surprise, I was picked up by the Gendarmerie and taken to the police station for my own safety. They were very kind and let me help them sort out lots of car registrations for them. They contacted the family I was supposed to be staying with and they eventually collected me at around 5.30 am. As a mother of two daughters, the thought of them doing something similar at 17 makes me shivver. Marie Noelle was very very grumpy, aggressive and smelly. I had to share a double bed with her and her equally grumpy sister slept in the same room. They would bicker and shout at each other all night (arrete ronfler!) and refused to open the window to let a little air in because of the "moustiques" . Worse was to come because Marie Noelle then expected to come home with me and stay for 2 weeks - but I had a summer job looking after some children so unfortunately it fell to my mother and brother to entertain her - without success.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Managed to find a few early pictures - from the top left is my sister Tinny, myself as the baby, and my other sister Alison. In the shot of us in the garden (not a kilt to be seen sadly, as it's the summer) is Robbie, Alison, Tinny, me - and our very important and much loved Jason, badly behaved but very affectionate springer spaniel. In the school Christmas party shot we're all in our very very best clothes - I can remember most of the names of the children in this picture. I'm third from the left on the bottom row in a checky dress (one of my favourites).
Forgot to mention earlier the other, hilarious holidays we used to have. My father bought a wooden "hut" in the Cheviot Hils for £100 with his best friend Jimmy Mitchell. It didn't have any electricity or running water and was about 5 metres square divided into three "rooms" - all the children there slept on wooden bunks (8) built into the walls. Robbie who was a baby, slept in a bunk with a cage door so he couldn't fall out. We carved our names into the walls surrounding our bunks. We had baths in the "burn" and used candlelight at night. Water came from a handpump which connected directly to a nearby boggy stream. We had to put a strainer over the water spout to catch the water beetles and other creepie crawlies but we didn't mind. We would spend weeks up running wild - fishing for trout and minnows in the burn, racing up hills, using eye-spy books to chart birds and wild flowers and playing at the farm nearby where there was always a selection of collie puppies and kittens. I don't want to paint a totally idyllic picture - I can remember longing for some shops at some point - or somewhere to buy sweets - I still have a diary which I wrote when I was 10, which tells of a day which we spent there when "everybody was in a bad mood apart from Robbie and Jason" but on the whole it was really good fun. The place is still owned by the family now, but we're not nearly as hardy as our parents and have installed electricity and running water - although we still don't have a telephone there (and there's no signal for mobiles) and we don't have a tv there either.