The pain and humiliation of school swimming lessons. Diving for a brick in George Roper’s pyjamas (George and Mildred). Shivering in Speedos. Bitemarks in polystyrene floats. No Petting warning signs. Chlorine and the verruca pool chemical dip.
I’ve been writing and sharing a number of pieces about growing up in the 1980s over the years. Some are notes, some are poems. There’s even the occasional sketch or monologue.
I’ve shared plenty on YouTube but I’m now hoping to get a little bit more organised and group these notes and memoirs about swimming lessons, sports days, microwave food and mullets under the Fade to Gravy banner.
I don’t want these pieces to be purely nostalgia (‘do you remember?’ pieces). I hope they throw new light on things often forgotten or overlooked and recount stories and experiences that are relatable. I hope they also show how things change for the better too. It’ll be a bridge between fiction and memories recounted.
Not all the material on the site (and certainly on here) will be 80s memoirs. I’ll also continue to publish poems, notes, short stories, travel and random warblings too. I’ll be trying out a few of my shorter stories, particularly on themes such as grief, joy, escapism to see how they’re received. Please feel free to comment and share and thanks for your support and stopping by….
Oh for a voice and delivery like Dylan’s 😃
Tidying up I found a few of my old annuals. Victor and Dandy and even a Rupert Bear. It seems comics are still loved as they exchange hands for decent prices and charity shops find space for them. My local Oxfam has a good selection of Beezer, Topper and Whizzer and Chips among others.
It was a great feeling picking up a comic on a Saturday morning, perhaps with a mix-up bag of sweets and getting lost in those stories. Victor was always a favourite, but so was the Dandy and Beano and aforementioned Whizzer. I think we lose that feeling of immersion as we get older. We perhaps have so many distractions we are never completely lost in what we are doing again. If you can create it – whether it’s reading, golf, oil painting or karate – it’s a wonderful feeling.
Anyway, here are a few line on being lost in comics. Which comics were you lost in?
Four sides of the Scout hut were lined with trestle tables, which were spattered in gloss and emulsion and oxtail soup. A crowd had already begun to gather outside, snaking alongside the church, and cowering from black rainclouds under a line of saplings that never seemed to grow. Several of these trees were snapped by ‘nearly’ free-kicks from wet, thudding caseys.
Every minute or so the door handle would be tried, or a boot would thud into the frame checking if we’d opened. ‘Doors open at two o’ clock’ one of the leaders would shout. We took our posts behind the trestle tables, nervous but ready. We had an empty ice-cream tub to collect the greasy coins and taped-up fivers.
Notes in red felt tip were taped to the front of each table. ‘Everything ten p,’ and ‘Lucky dip.’ One of the scout leaders, fancying themselves a marketing whizz had written ‘LOOK’ and drawn eyeballs and eyelashes on each ‘O’ in a bid to excite trade.
Most tables, including ours, were a scrum down for old, unloved, or outdated clothes. It was still possible to find bell-bottom denims and Chelsea boots, the odd Hendrix hat. Most of it was rubbish though and elbows flew, and palms shoved, and hips and bellies jostled as the doors opened. Much like the scenes when all was sold in Steptoe’s yard to pay a debt to Frankie Barrow, the Godfather of Shepherd’s Bush.
The seasoned hunters, usually grannies with silver buns, towing tartan shopping carts, went for the unworn. In a pile of tatty, scabby sweaters, and baggy T-shirts there was an immaculate Marks and Sparks blouse or a Clock House sweater someone had bought in a sale, promised to lose ten pounds to fit into it and never been able to give up the eclairs. Fights broke out over these items. Sometimes people haggled over two pence. Sometimes they pulled at each sleeve of a sweater like the Lady and the Tramp.
Local ‘characters’ bought cap guns and cowboy hats, or long forgotten and inexplicable holiday gifts such as Alpine horns, painted conch shells and ornamental balalaikas.
An hour or so later the cry would go up, ‘Anything for two pence’ and hands would grab and tug and snatch. At least I didn’t have to suffer the shoe stall – the punishment post of the naughtiest, most disruptive Scout. Shoes with broken heels, scuffed soles and uppers, patches and glue dabs and stains and cracks; all paired with doubled elastic bands and thrown in a huge cardboard box for a fetid free-for-all. I’d glance at the shoes at five-to-two and again as the stragglers trickled out, their string bags and Presto carriers stuffed to bulging and tearing. I don’t think we sold a single pair beyond the box-fresh Hush Puppies snapped up by a man in a leather Trilby and donkey jacket.
When all was done the hut seemed to have been hit by a tsunami. It had been stripped of all but the most desperate clothes and ornaments. Coins were counted. Scratched LPs, scuffed brogues, cardigans missing buttons and an enormous green tuxedo were shoved into boxes beneath the stage. These poor tragic bits and bobs would be taken out again next year and the year after that. They never sold. Even nods and winks and whispered ‘just take thems’ couldn’t find these donations a home.
I write poems from time to time and also capture memories of growing up in my series Fade to Gravy.
I’ve written about the importance of keeping notebooks elsewhere on this blog. I have a shelf full of them going back to 2006/7. It’s interesting to see many of my ideas recur, perhaps giving them weight. I also collect memories and anecdotes such as this. You never know when they may be useful.
I’m planning to write longer fiction again, perhaps a novel. This is inspired by a recent change in direction and fresh desire after a difficult time.
I’ve been reading happier fiction and it’s helped my mindset – always PG Wodehouse, but writers such as David Nobbs, John Mortimer and Rachel Joyce too.
Keeping notes and ideas is vital. Writing a novel is very hard to sustain. Ideas and sparks of imagination give it life and direction. Then there is only the easy bit of managing story, structure, development.
I wrote a story some years ago that was published in the Cheshire Prize for Literature. It’s a brief memory/experience but one I’ve always remembered.
You can read it here – https://richlakin.wordpress.com/2011/10/15/death-is-not-the-end/
I’ve also recorded a few thoughts. Perhaps it’ll find a place somewhere……