THEY seem like simple times now, but were actually far from it.
I look back on a childhood of summer holidays, playing football and cricket over the school field, watching Grange Hill, Coronation Street and Emmerdale Farm on TV, getting through the school week with an eye on a decent weekend — a bit like now — and not thinking too much about the future. The moment I started to do that is when things started to go wrong, internally at least.
The holidays were mostly to Bridlington and Blackpool. Not many people went abroad back then and there was an obvious reason for that — they couldn’t afford to. That’s not something you appreciate as a kid and those brief breaks on the coast must have involved months of agony for my parents, saving up, explaining to us that we could only afford a cheap B&B and no, we weren’t going to any of the places I’d bent the pages back as possibles in the 27 holiday brochures I’d brought home from the travel agent.
My father, who worked in textiles, must have been constantly in fear of losing his job as the mills collapsed like dominoes in the 70s and 80s, my mum running the house and working as a school dinner lady and cleaner, plus dealing with my brother and I constantly fighting. Always worst on a Friday, she still tells us.
As young kids we often wore identical home-made clothes, we had a black and white TV — my first memory of watching anything in colour is the 1975 FA Cup Final between Fulham and West Ham at Mr and Mrs Lynch’s across the road (the game wasn’t played there, but they had the colour TV!).
My dad spent the evenings in the workers’ and played his sport on a weekend, reluctantly taking me along to watch to give my mum a bit of a breather.
I said earlier he must have lived in fear of losing his job, but actually it was my mum that did that for him, my father never really worrying too much about anything — mostly just getting annoyed when the routine was disrupted by Sunday afternoons out, trips away and holidays. Family stuff, really.
My dad was happy with the simple life and I admire him for that; a few pints, sport and anything terrible he could find to watch on television, which was turned up to full volume due to his hearing going after decades in the mill.
Cowboy films were discovered when they weren’t on, guns blazing, prompting one of his small range of impressions — “Get off yer ‘orse and drink yer milk” — which included Frank Bruno, the inevitable “Know what I mean ‘Arry” delivered in his normal voice, no irony intended, just getting the words right enough to make him the village Mike Yarwood.
Silent films were another as was Sgt Bilko — always on even though they weren’t listed in the paper and there were only three channels.
Those three channels themselves were a symbol of the simple life that wasn’t then and certainly isn’t now.
Know what I mean, ‘Arry?