Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Good Old Days

20:47:00 Posted by Steve Rowland , , , 2 comments
The 1960s. My teenage years. These were definitely my good old days. I was hurtling towards womanhood, I was fit, I was healthy, I had the world at my feet. I could do anything I wanted, be anyone I wished. Summers were hot and lasted years, Christmases were for eating Quality Street, drinking snowballs and opening token gifts. I remember the year I got a transistor radio - now that was the height of technology. No amount of excitement for tablets, laptops, games consoles or phones could hope to beat the thrill I felt on first listening to Radio Luxembourg (underneath the covers) on my new transistor radio.  Speaking to my brothers recently (they had received the same present) we agreed it was the best, most exciting gift ever.

The Beatles were emerging - what was this group of four young lads, who sung beautiful, original songs, spoke with a strange accent and caused hysterical screaming wherever they went? 'George' was scribbled on my pencil case in biro. Every lesson I gazed at his name, drifting off into a dream, where I bump into him in London and discover I am actually the girl of his dreams too....

My best friend and I giggle away a couple of hours applying make-up, modelling outfits, backcombing our hair, and finally totter out in heels far too high, skirts skimming our backsides. Off to Tottenham Royal, the Cambridge or Manor House (where we laugh at our parents worrying about the two murders committed there the previous week and plan our excuses for getting home late).

The world was full of flowers, marijuana and free love. Woodstock was the place I longed to be; Twiggy was the stick thin model I (ridiculously) aspired to be; and Mary Quant was my fashion icon.  The contraceptive pill was the answer to many a young woman's (and probably a young man's) prayer. Women began getting together and fighting for liberation. We had arrived!

Art School was everything I'd hoped it would be - and more. Rod Stewart played Maggie May live at the May Ball while I felt a million dollars, full of cheap lager and dancing in the dress I'd designed and made that day out of a red checked curtain. I relished the freedom, the first taste of independence, those creative minds, the smell of plaster, clay, paint, turps - I loved every technicolor moment of it.

But just a minute.

Didn't I suffer agonies of indecision and lack of confidence? Why are my diaries full of anguish and despair ('I'm so fat/spotty/hairy; no boy's ever going to look at me; I blush, get tongue tied, cry over dates who don't turn up; my art isn't up to everyone else's, they all know what they're doing but I don't; I'm rubbish, I'm a fraud.')

The Vietnam War is in full swing. People are getting killed or their lives changed forever. We haven't learned any lessons. Children are starving in Africa. In 1960s Britain there are still people with outside toilets and no electricity. Men who love men and women who love women are mercilessly criminalised. Equal pay for women is still only being paid lip service, and in South Africa apartheid is literally dividing a nation. Signs declaring 'No Irish, no gypsies, no coloureds' go unchallenged as viewers laugh at TV programmes mocking all those who unfortunately fall into the above categories. Only a few years before it had been 'No Jews.'

Maybe there are no good old days, only rose coloured specs? Each generation takes a step forward, a step back and another step forward. Do we really move on?

'Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.'

Girl with attitude, circa 1966
To lighten the mood, here is a poem I wrote about twenty years ago, dedicated to my mother and my daughter: 

Oh Mother, Oh Daughter
That dress
Pink stretch towelling
Plunging neck and a keyhole
To reveal
A heaving teenage cleavage
The length was
Just this side of decency
Red patent shoes, platforms
High heels, crossed straps
- I can see them now –
Click clack click clack
They killed but I felt fab
Just fab 

Mum watched me from the window
Brow furrowed
As I tottered, wiggled
Waggled, giggled
To the bus stop
She was never one of those
You’re-not-going-out-in-that Mothers
But I knew, I just knew
That she wasn’t
Entirely happy
I didn’t care
I looked great
I felt great.
“Those white lips, black eyes
Like a clown”
She whispered it to dad in the kitchen
He sighed and nodded.
I’d heard, but I didn’t care.
I knew I looked great.
The hooting, the wolf whistles
As I giggled and wiggled
Confirmed it.
I was immortal, invincible,
I got away with murder.
I’d never be old like my mum. 

Thirty years
Gone by like three
Stretch lycra
(We only had nylon)
Plunging neckline
Bare midriff
Platform high-heeled boots
To the knee.
Skirt just, only just,
This side of decency
Black eyes
Lips silver this time around
She totters and wiggles, waggles and giggles.

I watch from the window
Biting my lip
“What does she look like?”
Sighs her dad
“She’ll freeze.”
“She looks great,” I say
“They all go out like that.”
I like her best with pink lipstick
And I wish she’d take a cardigan.
She doesn’t care
She knows she looks fantastic
She’ll never be middle-aged like her mum.
 
Thanks for reading…….. Jill
Reactions:

2 comments:

Adele said...

You are a class act Jill Reidy.

Jill Reidy said...

Why thank you :-) xx