Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Those Were(n't) The Days, My Friend...

What is better than a trip down Memory Lane, when one is overcome with misery or just feeling nostalgic? Well, you could get hammered on cheap lager and even cheaper vodka, but by flicking through your mind's bulging photo album, and by reaching back into the deepest corners of your memory, you can smile and laugh about how life was once, before you got older, and childhood finally abandoned you.

Growing up in Kent, in the seventies, life to me seemed just fine, and nothing, I imagined, could have been better. Of course, that was forty years ago, and thinking back to that period of my life, I can't help but chuckle when I recall how everything seemed so easy.

And so I've decided, in no particular order, to list a few things which epitomise the seventies for me.

So come on - all aboard, for a trip down Memory Lane...

This is as good as fast food got.

...when fast food was a trip to Wimpy in Dover High Street. Appetising it wasn't, nor colourful or exciting, but in a time when double cheeseburgers and bacon wraps were nowhere to be found, what else could one expect?
 


The BBC back then was churning out good programmes at a reasonable rate. Home-grown productions ruled the airwaves, and Strictly Come Dancing and other such dire examples of modern-day television programmes weren't to be found. Sadly, whilst fast food has improved in this country, the BBC has gone rapidly downhill.


And now I'm thinking about that wonderful institution - mocked by so many but secretly loved by so many more - and its warm and soggy sandwiches. Of course, I'm talking about British Rail and its buffet cars, where scalding tea could be bought and overpriced sandwiches could be ordered. How I loved walking to the back of the train, as we headed to London for our annual day-trip, to marvel at all of the goodies available in the buffet car. Now it's all waiter service and trains travelling too fast for one to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Before package holidays became affordable, school holidays would be spent visiting local towns, or in the garden - if the weather permitted. One trip which was a must was a train ride to Margate, to enjoy the sandy beach, stuff ice-cream down one's throat, eat chips out of a paper cone and take a ride on the rollercoaster in Dreamland - which was then one of the first amusement parks in Britain.


In the seventies, parks such as Dreamland held a special kind of magic for a young boy like me, but thinking about it now, this amusement park was about as amusing as a day-trip to Baghdad. The chips were great, the ice-cream was fantastic, but that f*cking rollercoaster...

But I didn't have to go to Margate to get my dose of the seaside, because in Deal - where I spent all of my childhood - there was a stony beach and a raging, cold sea within walking distance. Okay, I loved the train ride out of town, but in Deal there was everything one ever needed to spend a happy school holiday.
 
Walk to end of the pier and you could almost touch France. Sit back and watch the fishermen try their hardest to get a decent bite, as they poured tea from their flasks, and turned their backs to the severe, summer wind which seemed to permanently roll in from the Channel. Cross the road and get an ice-cream from the parlour (it's still there to this very day) and then take a trip down the High Street (which was much better then than it is today). Then there was the cricket match in the park and the rolling down the sides of the bunkers on the local golf course. Then there was a bike ride on a bicycle which had seen better days and a trip to the sweet shop, to buy Spangles and those flying saucer-shaped things which tasted of carton and were filled with sherbet.
 
 
My grand-parents lived in Norwich, and so every summer, for one week, a fun time was spent in their home, during which time my brother and me were treated to trips to the city (Norwich no longer has the allure which it once had) and the regular trips to Great Yarmouth. I was always excited about my trips to Margate and Broadstairs, but Great Yarmouth, with its long, sandy beach and its noisy amusement arcades was something else. Here, if you closed your eyes, and you had a really good imagination, you could have believed that you were in paradise on earth. Sadly, like so many seaside towns, Great Yarmouth has now become a dumping ground for refugees, and paradise on earth it certainly isn't.
 
Dad was never a heavy drinker, but a trip to our local pub was an occasional Sunday treat.
To get to the pub, a walk through the country lanes linking Deal and Sholden would have been necessary, and once at the pub, father would have taken his place inside, whilst my brother and me amused ourselves in the pub's delightful garden, with the rest of the abandoned children. If we wanted a drink, which was always the case, the landlady would serve us from a window which overlooked the garden, because back then - and it's a shame that the law has since changed -children weren't allowed in pubs. So after shouting out our order, a few minutes later we would be served, through the back window, with our bottles of Coke and packets of crisps.
Of course, life in the seventies seemed great because I was a small boy growing up in a world of trips to the seaside, bicycle rides and packets of crisps. Everything was seen with a child's mind, and so everything appeared to be less grim than what is actually was. After all, in England, the seventies was a period of strikes and disharmony, and a time of uncertainty.
 
But when you're not even ten, and a trip to Wimpy is on the cards, do you really care that the government is in the process of destroying the country? Not really, but as the next decade came into view, most people were hoping that a change was on the way.
 
Coming next: The Eighties.
Luke Ryman is an author of ebooks about all sorts of people doing all sorts of things - some good and some bad.


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