The Times They Are A Changin Part 2

July 18, 2007 at 5:04 pm 7 comments



Things are changing so fast. My childhood took place before the onset of central heating. In winter (and the occasional poor summer) condensation would freeze on the inside of the bedroom window. You could not move under the weight of the many blankets in a winter before duvets. You would race downstairs in the morning, in slippered feet, to dress hurriedly in front of the lounge electric bar-heater. True you could have risked the bathroom with the old circular light and heater combined; the one with the pull down switch. But, these things buzzed like a disturbed beehive, threw out heat like a napalm incendiary bomb, and smelled of smouldering dust and the polystyrene tiles which adorned the bathroom ceiling. And, the combination of electricity, condensation dripping from flammable polystyrene tiles, and my little wet hands never struck me as the safest of combinations. I never did feel safe. It was always the lounge bar-heater for me.

Whenever I meet up with my mates’ young families or see my teenage nephews, I am always reminded of how different things were when I was a child. All the kids today have mobiles. In my day, only babies were lucky enough to have those – bright, colourful, musical things that would hang above the crib. We didn’t have mobiles.  We didn’t even have a phone at home. I was lucky if I even had change for a phone box. Phone boxes – tall, square, red, glazed and proud, smelling of urine and Friday night’s kebabs. You still see these phone boxes sometimes in posh hotels as trendy shower cubicles, or, in architectural salvage yards. Or as posh plant holders at garden centres. 

The home telephone didn’t arrive in our house until way into the 80s. It arrived at about the same time as the colour TV, Breakfast Television, the chest freezer, Vesta curries and the Pot Noodle. It arrived long before the central heating was installed and the front room wall was knocked down to create a through room.  In my day, while the toilets had all been brought inside and upstairs,  we still had front rooms. Visited only ever on special occasions. Funerals mostly. Indeed, my grandma’s generation still had parlours and outside loos.

My family were not exactly “early adopters”. We couldn’t afford to be.These were the years of strikes. Winters of discontent. Rubbish piled up in the street as wine lakes and butter mountains formed in Europe. Many a weekend viewing of the politically incorrect Black and White Minstrels, or Morecambe and Wise was interrupted by a power cut, with the family huddled around the emergency candles and a pack of sticky playing cards. Many a Saturday morning was spent queuing for bread or some other staple. My childhood was like modern-day Russia at times.

Today, my nephews’ bedrooms are like multi-media palaces. Mine was a place you slept in during the night, or where you were banished to as a punishment during the day. They have TVs, DVDs, CDs, PCs, videos, PS2s, GameBoys, IPOds, mobiles (WAP-enabled, of course), hamsters, a tropical fish tank, and even a rubber plant each!  In my day, I didn’t even have privacy. If you even attempted to seek solace in the refuge of your own room you would be hunted down. Shouts of “what are you doing up there?” would climb the stairs. The door would be knocked: “Are you feeling OK?”. No privacy. No time alone. I think they assumed that there was only one thing a teenage boy could be doing on his own in the waking hours. They were probably right!

After all, I did have pictures of the “Bionic Woman” (Wagner, sigh!), Raquel Welch in One Million years BC, and “Charlie’s’ Angels” on the wall of my bedroom – the originals with Farah Fawcett not Lucy Lui (but I could be persuaded).raquel

By about 14 I did get a top-loading cassette player. The kind that you recorded with by placing it next to the radio and turning the volume up. Later I progressed to a tape-to-tape, but seeing as I only had my mom and dad’s music to tape from the choice was somewhat limited. While Abba’s Greatest Hits have become a bit more retro-chic, I doubt that James Last’s Orchestra or Klaus Wunderlicht and his amazing bontempi will ever be considered cool.

Most kids today probably have access to free porn (being far more technically astute than their parents). I had to make do with a vivid imagination. I never could work out which out of the blonde and the brunette in “Abba” I would do first. I fancied most of the assistants on “the Generation Game” and “Dr Who”, especially Sarah Jane Smith who has recently played roles in the latest versions. Of course I never fancied Bonnie Langford. She is a two-bagger (you make her wear a bag to hide her face and you wear one yourself, just in case her’s falls off). Sarah Greene was on Blue Peter in those days performing the sexiest thing ever seen on TV – demonstrating how to pull on skin-tight jeans using a coat hanger. Not to be missed. Never to be forgotten. And this was before I heard about the pool table incident at Hull University!

sallyI also tended to like the female presenters on Saturday morning kids’ TV. I still do. Sally James off “Tiswas”, Sarah Greene from “the Saturday Morning Picture Show” on the other side, Emma Forbes who cooked. Emma was the Nigella Lawson of the 1980s but even sexier and of better parentage. Emma was number 64 in the FHM top 100 female poll of 1996. She is Nanette Newman’s daughter, which conjures up a whole new “mother and daughter” fantasy which we shall not go into. Not right now.

I was also very partial to most of the female cast of ”Dallas”, especially Victoria Principal (a truly well-put-together woman), and Charlene Tilton. These were the Cat Deeley, Anthea Turner, Carol Vordeman, Carole Smillie, and Kylie of my later years. My bed sheets must have fairly crackled, if only with the amount of static electricity I was generating. Polyester was a very dangerous invention. Sorry mom.
anthea smillie
Incidentally, Kylie Minogue is sex on a stick. I have a get-out clause in my marriage if I ever get it together with Kylie. C has a similar one involving Mr Tantric Sex, Sting. Our worst-case scenario is if Sting and Kylie ever get it together. Unlikely I know, but, unfortunately, more likely than Kylie and myself.
The lingerie section of mom’s Great Universal mail-order catalogue was about the most pornographic material in the house other than my dad’s H&E (Health and Education) magazines. He thought he had so carefully hidden these in the brown paper bag in the ottoman on the landing. In my experience it is always wise to take a peak into any brown paper bag that you may find. Unless you know that Bonnie Langford lies beneath. Oh, and the pictures of African tribal ladies grinding flour with their baps out in some of granddad’s old encyclopaedias. How times change…….h and e
Related posts:
Food memories
The Soundtrack to my Life
Sting in the Tale 

Entry filed under: childhood memories, middleman, TV. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

The Times They Are A Changin Part 1 The Times They Are A Changin Part 3

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. user007  |  July 19, 2007 at 7:23 am

    Great blog, keep up the good work. Glad to see sites like this. In bookmarks!
    Good luck!


  • 2. ginavivinetto  |  November 7, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Ah, nostalgia. Interesting to read about it from a Brit perspective. and how some of our adolescence experiences overlap. My friends and I were crazy about “The Young Ones” and later “Absolutely Fabulous.” Of course, every intelligent young American kid adored Brit music throughout the 1980s. We all wanted to be British so badly back then so much that a few of my friends would try to change their accent to suit those wishes. How embarrassing. Nice post.


  • 3. Paul Badger  |  February 10, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Yes, we never had a phone in our house until near the end of my teenage years. And to think now that a phone you can put in your pocket is standard kit… with maybe email and internet access on top…


  • 4. Ch-Ch-Changes! « Paul Badger’s Blog  |  February 10, 2009 at 3:25 am

    […] example, I’ve just been reading this post here on Middle Man’s Blog, and when I was a few sentences in I thought I was thirteen again and it was December, 1977: Things […]


  • 5. akinsankofa  |  February 17, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    oh yes the Great Universal catalogue lingerie section…. too many sticky pages! it’s funny that as you write about those times in brum in the 70’s; whilst i thought that it was tough for a family of six children living in handsworth wood and being the youngest , it was not that different for you lot from erdington. we had one those massive blaupunkt drinks machine stereos – the record player was clapped out – didn’t get tape recorder until 18 – had to borrow my sister’s.
    charlene tilton then…Halle berry now


  • 6. Middle Man  |  February 19, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Dear WW (whichever one you are),

    You were a catalogue man too – dirty boy!

    I am with you about Halle though.


  • 7. thecampofthesaints  |  January 4, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I apologize for not having acknowledged your comment over at my secondary site [] until now. I spent most of December working on converting and setting-up the location of my new main site [] and have not had time to work on the former at all.

    FYI: On my main site, I run regular Rule 5 postings of lovely ladies. [I don’t know if you know what ‘Rule 5’ is, but here is the explanation by the man who invented it: ].

    All the best…
    Bob Belvedere



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