Twenty-two, seventy-six and a ninety-nine

Cobden Bridge

We Brits are famous for talking about the weather. It’s true, we do. There’s a good reason for this obsession. Although our little island rarely experiences the extreme weather other places have to contend with, ours is far from consistent. There are no guaranteed warm, dry summers, winter doesn’t necessarily mean snow, rain is always around the corner and it’s quite normal to get all four seasons in one day. When extremes do happen, we’re really not geared up for it. Our houses don’t have air conditioning and there are no snow ploughs or chains for car tyres. The last week has been a tad on the warm side. In fact, the Met Office recorded a record UK temperature of 40.3°C on 19 July. The media gleefully catastrophised. There were headlines like ‘How the heatwave broke Britain,’ and ‘Gates of Hell are opening.’ If it hadn’t been so warm, the men with sandwich boards would surely have been walking up and down, proclaiming that the end of the word was nigh. When people began saying it was far worse than the famous summer of 1976, eye-rolling in our house reached danger levels.

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Urban footpaths and a limbo summer

I have always been a sucker for a footpath. Something about seeing those signs gets me all excited. This odd obsession has led me on quite a few wild goose chases in my time. It has led me astray, miles from where I wanted to be. Sometimes, it has caused me many miles of backtracking, or unnecessary detours. But, still, I cannot resist the lure of the footpath. Maybe it’s because there are no cars, and, generally, no people? Or it could simply be the anticipation of stumbling upon something strange or beautiful at the other end. Whatever it is, I’m hooked and on 15 April, with blue sky overhead, I needed a fix. Unfortunately, time, a lack of available transport and the need to knuckle down and do some work on my next book, meant I was going to have to keep it local.

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Memories of the early seventies – Arguments and a giant chair

It was December 1972 and Pappy was ill. He’d caught a cold from me, a cold I’d brought home from school and, as always, it had gone to his chest. He only had one lung after all. For days he’d been coughing and wheezing. My own cold had turned into a chest infection and I was off school myself which was almost unheard of. Mother made me go to school no matter how sick I was but they’d promptly packed me off home when they saw my feverish face and I’d been sent to the doctor for some penicillin. The little capsules proved impossible to swallow  so Pappy opened them up and I had to take the bitter tasting powder on a teaspoon. Continue reading Memories of the early seventies – Arguments and a giant chair

Memories of the 1970’s School’s Out

September 1972

From the moment I got my first record player, along with a big box of singles, I loved listening to music. Often I would sit at the piano in the front room, where all the silver cups Dad had won at bird shows were displayed, and pick out a tune or two, rather badly by ear. We listened to the radio a lot when I was small too and the songs of the sixties evoke many memories. Mother and I would waltz around the bedroom singing along to Englebert Humperdink’s Last Waltz and Mother would often make me sing Those Were The Days or Sing a Rainbow to her. In the summer of 1972, though, a pop song captured a moment in time for me like no other had before.  Continue reading Memories of the 1970’s School’s Out

Memories of the early 1970’s – strikes power cuts and bombs

January to August 1972

1972 began with a coal miners’ strike. As our coal fire was long gone, replaced by a far less attractive but much more practical gas fire, this didn’t seem to be a big concern for us, at least at first. Even so, I had a sneaking sympathy for the miners’ demands for more money. Spending all day in the dark at the bottom of a dirty mine seemed a horrible and dangerous job, deserving of a rich reward, especially when the Prime Minister earned so very much and seemed to spend most of his time sailing about on a yacht. Continue reading Memories of the early 1970’s – strikes power cuts and bombs

Memories of the early 70’s – change, fear and injustice


As 1970 drew to a close the year ahead really did seem filled with promise. Alex was expecting another baby, although I was still very vague about where it was coming from. She had also moved into a terraced house in Weston. As Mother didn’t drive and Dad’s Hillman car had been sold, being so much nearer made it far easier to visit her. Although there were limited buses this was exactly what we did on Boxing Day. For some reason Pappy didn’t come with us but he and Alex never did see eye to eye. Continue reading Memories of the early 70’s – change, fear and injustice

Memories of the early 70’s – a dismal kind of year


When 1970 dawned, it marked the beginning of the second decade of my life. If the 1960’s had seemed filled with possibilities, music, flowers and love, this new decade seemed filled with sadness, at least in our house. My lovely Dad was dead and life would never be the same for us. Money, which had never been of any concern to me, suddenly became a big issue, mostly because we didn’t have enough of it. Mother got something called a Widow’s Pension, but it wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage and feed and clothe us. She still had to go to work and, when I wasn’t at school, I was left in the care of Pappy, who was desolate at the loss of his eldest son.  Continue reading Memories of the early 70’s – a dismal kind of year