Tag Archives: Blondie

The Last Seaside Resort

(This is the follow-up to “Oh Harpenden so much to answer for”, as it carries on from that period – early 1978 – to some point in 1980 when I leave junior school. Oh and it’s back to my parents’ record collection again)

On the 1st June 1978 the Morgan family left Harpenden for the final time and headed west to our new home in Penarth, a few miles west of Cardiff in South Wales. At the time I thought we were moving because my father’s job was going to Cardiff from St Albans, but that wasn’t the whole story – we were also moving to be closer to our family. We had looked at a few houses around the area before settling on Cherry Close – there was a big house in Whitchurch whose garden was flooded (not a good idea), a very modernist house in Dinas Powis which was all sharp angles and glass and concrete (too radical) and another house in Penarth – a dorma bungalow in Robinswood Close (not big enough for us really). If we’d bought the latter house I would have ended up opposite one of my best friends’ houses – my friend Adrian who would be with me on 30th April ’83 buying “Dazzle ships” and “Doot-doot”. But no, we settled on Cherry Close, a big four bedroom house which was oddly built – it had a garage at either end of the house and two driveways to get there, and a slopping roof which our cats would regularly jump up to and then sit outside my bedroom window miaowing at night. So now we were in Penarth…

Penarth was a sleepy little seaside resort on the South Wales coast with a pier and an esplanade and a beach covered in rocks and pebbles and no sand at all and some rather nice Italian gardens and a horrible 60s monstrosity of a car park and leisure centre at the end of the beach. I say “was” because it isn’t that now. Admittedly I’ve not visited there properly for the best part of 17 years but a few years ago I visited the high street on business and barely recognised it. The Cardiff barrage and the building of Penarth Marina, not to mention the radical transformation of Cardiff Bay a few miles up the coast, have turned Penarth from a sleepy town mainly known for the number of care homes and pensioners in residence into a busy town with all the trappings of wealth. Penarth used to be the retirement home of South Wales. Now it’s a thrusting town with connections. From time to time it will appear on television as well – an episode of the remake of “Upstairs Downstairs” was centred around an affair on Penarth seafront, only it was supposed to be somewhere in Kent. And there’s lots of “Doctor Who” filmed there – but they film that all over South Wales, I watched the first trailer for the comeback being filmed in the tunnel under Newport railway station years ago…. Penarth then is small and posh, geographically and emotionally halfway between Cardiff and Barry.

So we moved to Penarth in June 1978 and my brother and I started another school just over a year after starting at a new school in Harpenden. Evenlode school is still there, about three quarters of a mile from our house, a pleasant walk there and back, a school built in the sixties, all on one level with a large playing field around it. I only have happy memories of Evenlode – although I wasn’t treated like a genius like I had been in Harpenden, the teachers in Penarth recognised if I had a talent and let me run with it. At that time that talent was for story writing, and after I wrote a 19 page story called “The dream”, full of strange dream imagery and disconnections, some of it based on real dreams I had – well after that my teacher let me develop a series of stories based around a multi-national crime solving gang. Only I didn’t know what to call the individuals in the stories so used the exotic names of lower-rank Grand Prix drivers, like the Renault team of Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Rene Arnoux. “Nobody will know where I got those from” I thought to myself. A week later, Jabouille won the French GP with Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve famously battling wheel to wheel for second place. The game was up. Sigh. In my final year at Evenlode – 79 to 80 – we were encouraged to write ‘a novel’. Most people gave up, I wrote over three hundred pages – mostly complete nonsense but still in a structured way. I think it ended up with some kind of nuclear apocalypse. Those were the days. I always took these things too far.

Evenlode was a great school and I was happy there, and I still know some of the people I went to school with (hello Mike, if you’re reading this). OK, so there were mishaps and misunderstandings and I did have a fight with Paul Mumford but it was pretty limp wristed – he was the smallest boy in the class, I was one of the tallest, he was trying to assert some kind of authority by picking on a tall speccy kid (see picture at the bottom of the page) and nobody really got hurt and we laughed about it afterwards. We played British Bulldog on the field, I scored a goal at football by walking across the pitch and kicking a ball randomly as I passed by, everybody seemed really happy there. Oh and I learnt rude words from Paul – even if I didn’t know what they meant, they sounded cool. It’s peculiar, the more I think about Evenlode the more I can remember it…. One of our teachers drove a Fiat 126 which was a great novelty… There was a little ‘forest schools’ area with a pond where we nurtured tadpoles into frogs.. My pencil case – yellow plastic from WHSmiths, with two layers, it swung on a hinge at one end (damned if I can find a photo of it anywhere)… Playing board games during the last weeks of term… The first electronic games – Simon and Merlin…The novelty of shatterproof twelve inch rulers, and proving that they weren’t shatterproof at all….

And then there was the main hall
So many memories from there. Sitting in the back row of assembly playing Pocketeer games and hoping nobody would notice. Doing gym in there – climbing bars on the wall, attempting rolls on blue mats, falling and laughing. Singing odd old songs- “Pack up your troubles” and “My old man said follow the van” – in school assembly. Doing exams there, sat at little individual desks, not knowing why we were doing them. We would spend the second week of Wimbledon sat in the main hall watching the matches on TV – I wonder what the teachers were doing!

(As I am married to a primary school teacher, I look back on these years with wonder – I see the planning and assessments that she does, the stress of inspections, and think that the job of teaching has changed so much since then)

So we settled into life in Penarth. There were no shops nearby, except for Sully Terrace Stores about half a mile away. Actually no that’s wrong – there was a shop actually within someone’s house on Forrest Road until around 1980 – their front rooms were full of groceries with a counter and lots of sweets and I was gutted when they closed down. Sully Terrace Stores was a little further away from home and back in the late seventies it was known to us as Mr Teagal’s, as it was run by a lovely old gentleman of that name. We’d stop there on walks into town to get drinks or sweets or both. It was a quaint little place, dark and woody, jars of sweets behind the counter, a wide array of just about anything you could want – an Aladdin’s Cave for a ten year old. I would frequent Sully Terrace Stores for many years to come, and I wonder if it’s still there.

So it’s the late seventies and what music are we listening to? Unsurprisingly there was a lot of Abba to be heard. The C120 tape of Abba was a permanent fixture in the car. It had “Abba’s Greatest Hits” and “Arrival” on one side, then on the reverse “Abba – The Album” and “Voulez-vous”. All fine records with some wonderful songs and some dodgy moments too. I didn’t really think of them going disco with the latter album but something was lost along the way – no room for melancholy like “My love my life”. I suppose the real melancholy would come later for them. I still believe “Arrival” is one of the best pop albums of the seventies, but I wouldn’t say the same for the LPs that followed. By the time the “Super Trouper” LP came out in late 1980 we didn’t buy it, and the first time I heard it was at a Christmas party with all the family in Rhiwbina that year, and it didn’t stay playing long – it didn’t sound like a party record.

My father bought a few LPs during this time – ’78 to ’80 – and I’ll investigate a number of them in depth, but there were a few LPs which were bought but not played in full. “Repeat when necessary” by Dave Edmunds starts well but slowly grows more weary as it progresses – which is probably why only side one of the LP was played, with the occasional play of track one side two. But that one side of music is great. “Girls’ talk” is wonderful. I must admit that I don’t know Elvis Costello’s original version even now, but Edmunds’ cover is surely definitive. Sharp and chiming and a cool key change and those baying backing vocals. (It probably helped that I generated an alternate lyric interspersed with the names of contemporary Grand Prix drivers – “But I heard you mention my name, can’t you talk Niki Lauda?” etc). Side one grinds through swampy rock like “Creature from the black lagoon” and the speedy blast of “Crawling from the wreckage” and even Cliff Richard’s “Dynamite” kicks like a bull. But after “Queen of hearts” at the start of side two the album falters a lot. Of course retrospect would say take the best bits of this LP and the best bits of “Labour of lust” by Nick Lowe and you’d have a killer album. But then Lowe wrote all his material and Edmunds wrote none of his…

Another LP we only heard edited highlights from was “Discovery” by Electric Light Orchestra. There is a very fine review of this LP over at Then Play Long which is worth your time In the meantime we heard the singles from it. “Shine a little love” was a little bit disco, “Confusion” was rather nice, “The diary of Horace Wimp” would be a nice dream in a few years from this point, but best of all was “Don’t bring me down”. It thumped and rocked, it was primal and simple, I absolutely loved it. I also loved the little synth figure that appeared between “Don’t bring me down” and “Gruss”, because it reminded me of a similar sounding figure on “Equinoxe 6”.

There were two compilations of older material which opened a few doors for me. “Legend” by Buddy Holly helped to fill in the gap between Elvis and the Beatles – here was a man and a band writing their own songs and performing them in new and interesting (at the time) ways. Listening to Holly’s music now, it’s remarkably uncomplicated, synthesising its influences (country, western swing, Chuck Berry, pop) into plain speaking songs that still sound fresh and sparklingly clean. It was a forty song tape which was always in the car – until the tape chewed up, as is the way of things. But in the time it spent in the car, that tape wormed its way into my heart. Holly’s songs spoke simply – he avoided metaphor and simile and went straight for the heart. If he had something important to say then he would sing “Listen to me”. If he was overjoyed he would sing “Oh boy!”. I loved that simplicity of communication. My two favourite songs on the compilation were two of the oddest. I didn’t really understand “Midnight Shift” at the time – I probably thought Annie had been working at a bakery overnight – but there’s a minor key atmosphere which is cool. “Well…all right” is incredibly cool and forward looking, the song ebbs and flows beautifully and again is simply sung. I could hear the Beatles in that song. I liked that tape a lot and considered it an education.

The other compilation was “Semi-Detached Suburban”, a TV advertised LP by Manfred Mann. The advert is actually wonderful and I certainly didn’t understand it at the time but I do now – very clever. As for the album, I always preferred side two – the Mike D’abo era – to side one – the Paul Jones era. Nothing wrong with the early stuff, perfectly good R&B with a jazzy touch, but when D’Abo joins there’s a sense of discovery and joy and playfulness within songs like “My name is Jack” and “Fox on the run”. Of course they fell down the bubblegum route and weren’t taken seriously which lead to their splitting up eventually. And it’s worth mentioning that this LP was my introduction to the songs of Bob Dylan – “The mighty Quinn”, “If you gotta go, go now” and “Just like a woman” were intriguing songs, beamed in from another planet that seemed a lot cooler and stranger than Penarth.

So let’s look at three LPs which I associate most with this era.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

Before I go diving headlong into this LP, let’s clear up a few issues.

Firstly, regular readers with long memories may remember that I don’t like the title track to “Hotel California”. I wrote a paragraph or two here about an incident in school which put me off the song, and since then I’ve always avoided it – leaving pubs and workplaces when it has been played. Indeed I’m sure there have been times the song has been deliberately put on a jukebox to annoy me. So it’s about time I faced the fear and listened to the song, in the context of the whole LP.

Secondly, I was discussing this post with my parents a few days ago and which albums I would be looking at and my father – an avid reader of Goldfish – said he didn’t remember having this LP and preferred their earlier stuff. I do know we had “Their Greatest Hits ; 1971 – 1975” as a tape – bought from Cobs Records in Portmerion in 1976 – but I listened to that LP on Sunday night and didn’t recognise half the songs. Obviously I knew “Take it easy” and “One of these nights” from constant play on Radio Two, but songs like “Witchy woman” and “Peaceful easy feeling” I’d not heard before. Maybe he played the tape in the car when we weren’t around. And as a sidenote “Lyin’ eyes” goes on for about five hours. But I know we listened to “Hotel California” a lot because every note is known to me. Well I think so anyway.

Deep breath – I’m going in…

It’s quite an attractive opening chord sequence, you know. What’s with the swirling synth noise? So far so good. And now it’s gone limp reggae, very clipped. Trying not to think of legs in libraries. Concentrate, Rob. I can see men with beards and double neck guitars. People nodding out. This ain’t so bad. Lyrics are quite clever. I read how Don Henley argued with a journalist who said wine wasn’t a spirit, and completely missed the point. Still limp musically. Oh no, here’s the big reveal – “BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE!”. Guitar solo one. I’m back in that library again. Guitar solo two. Those tom rolls are doing my head in. Here comes the harmony bit. Air guitars out. Fade out sooner than I thought.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? No need to run away.

“New kid in town” is limp too. For some reason I keep thinking that little electric piano figure is going to turn into “Knock three times” by Dawn. I’d rather listen to that. This is just a bitter little song about transience in the music business. JD Souther was a bit of a miserable git. This sounds so wimpy though. “Life in the fast lane” is closer to rock. Did nobody use reverb in the seventies? Again clever lyrics if slightly harsh – and I wouldn’t have got half the lyrical references at the time – “There were lines on the mirror” would have bypassed me. Is this a fantasy or a reality for the Eagles? Is this glamorising sex and drugs? It’s ambivalent, I suppose. Oh maybe it’s not, getting to the last verse. But for such a classic rock song it doesn’t really rock that hard. “Wasted time” is a slow ballad, and I’ve not heard this for over 30 years but I know every word. If I thought of this song at all – which I might have done – I always thought it was a Bob Seger song. A big weepie, but they’re not sympathetic at all. This is a tiresome facsimile of passion. Pointless instrumental reprise too.

“Victim of love” is the band live in the studio (instrumentally at least) and at last it sounds like a group of people. But the lyrics are nasty. I really object to these words, they are horrible. Oh hang on – “Victim of love, we’re not so far apart” – is Henley showing sympathy? Not for long. Eurgh. I feel slightly contaminated listening to this – it all sounds like seedy sex and drug parties and bitching and hatred and posing. Very LA really. “Pretty maids all in a row” – that intro is nice. This sounds like Steely Dan. It is also drifting in one ear and out of the other. It doesn’t sound like the Eagles. I’m a sucker for string synths. Pleasant enough then. “Try and love again” is what I would expect of the Eagles – a 70s update of the Byrds. Again quite pleasant, and the words aren’t nasty for a change. Nice “Abbey Road” style arpeggios and descending chords. I really like this one. A hidden gem, I suppose. “The last resort” is a tribute to the Troubabour in LA (according to books I’ve read) and the big statement. It’s also a regular song to be played after “Popmaster”. It’s meant to be important but it drags dreadfully. So people came to California and it wasn’t as great as promised. Big deal. Some people don’t get there at all. What do you want? Sympathy?

For such a well known classic album “Hotel California” is a bit dull. I don’t really like the people they are writing about, there’s no emotional connection with them from me or the singers themselves. A distance which leaves a bad taste. To sum it up in three words – bitter and twisted. I won’t be listening again in a hurry.

“Parallel Lines” – Blondie

Now here’s an album that definitely was part of the family. I had been aware of the hit singles from their previous LP “Plastic Letters” – and remember someone bringing that LP into school. (Why did people bring LPs into school? To show how cool they were obviously. Because it’s not like there were record players there.). I’ll categorically state right here that I was too young to understand the sex appeal of Debbie Harry. I still had Abba posters on my walls of my bedroom but had no idea of what other boys saw in her. Call me a late developer, I suppose. For me it was about the music and I had liked “Denis” and “Presence dear”. I liked the singles from “Parallel lines” too, so was quite happy when my father bought the LP.

It’s another album with specific memories actually. There was a holiday in Guernsey in May 1979 that I may have mentioned already – notable for me getting lost on a military training ground, purchasing a massive 1;15 scale model of a Brabham BT44, buying a ton of the newly launched Lego Space sets and seeing Tubeway Army perform “Are ‘friends’ electric?” on Top of the Pops on my birthday and liking it. Watching it again it may have something to do with the uniform that Gary Numan was wearing looking like the uniform of the Lego Space men and the two intwined in my mind…

And in a record shop I saw my first twelve inch single. It was “Sunday girl” by Blondie. It was on a wall display and I pointed at it and asked my father “Is that a new Blondie album?”. Because in my head albums were twelve inches and singles were seven inches. “No, that’s a twelve inch single” he said and my little mind was blown. I wondered at how exotic a single on twelve inch vinyl would be – would it be different? Longer? Better? It would be another four years before I owned one but I saw a few along the way…

As for the album itself. Er.. The problem is I know it inside out and love it, even the slightly duffer tracks in the middle. Actually “I know but I don’t know” was one of my favourite songs on it when I was growing up. Those squelchy synths, the endless riff, loping drums, the unsureness of the lyrics. Damn it, I’ll have a go but really you should read what Marcello says about it at Then Play Long, a blog that is a thousand times better than mine (someone pay him – and Lena – to write a book please).

(Starts listening to the LP)

I can’t do this justice, you know it’s a great rock pop album, I don’t get how it’s punk. It’s honourable to the antecedents, even the Buddy Holly cover – which obviously made me happy as it was on “Legend”. It’s nice to hear “One way or another” without thinking of One Direction, and did they include the final verse which turns the song on its head? (Do I want to listen to their version and find out? No thanks, I don’t take research that seriously!). I’m amazed by Debbie Harry’s voice – the way she goes from purring to growling so easily. The grain in the voice. “Fade away and radiate” is nicely moody – that intro is pure Saint Etienne, Harry sounding totally like Sarah Cracknell – ok, vice versa. I’d forgotten how much I love this song. No, I’d forgotten how much I love this album. “11;59” is pretty apocalyptic, is that one minute to midnight or midday? Maybe she wants lunch? 😎 God, I don’t care if it’s not that good a song, the energy pushes it along as it does on “Will anything happen?” Great production by Mike Chapman on this LP – not too glossy but clean. I remember years later buying an old copy of “Trouser Press” from early ’78 where there’s a page long article previewing this LP while they’re making it, a report from the studio, how nobody in America knew who Chapman was, how they didn’t know how people would react to their disco song… “Heart of glass” of course. This is the song that really caught me at the time and it still sounds fresh. I could listen to this forever. I knew nothing about disco at the time – music was music, it was in the charts if it was good and then I’d know about it. Such innocence. (I should point out that the first synth I had – a Roland SH3a – was the one used to create the pulsing synthetic bass of this song, I wonder how they synced it to the drum machine). Even “Just go away” is a funny end, a kiss off with a p instead of a k.

One last memory for this LP. Exactly one year on from the day we moved into Cherry Close we held a charity bring and buy sale in our garden and I remember it well. There were tables all over the place, selling bric a brac and sweets and toothpaste and books. My brother and I had a stand selling a few things, one of which was “Parallel Lines” – I don’t think it was my parents’, it was donated to us. I kept telling anyone who looked at it that it was a perfect album and that they should buy it. Eventually someone did. I hope they got as much enjoyment out of the LP as I did.

“Rock’n’roll juvenile” – Cliff Richard

If you have read my remembrances of Harpenden then you’ll know that my parents had a fondness for the music of Cliff Richard. Maybe not the person himself, but the music. Somehow my parents had followed the rest of the world and ignored his “Green light” album, but this LP from autumn 79 was bought almost as soon as it came out and was a staple in our car. The album was a continuation of the “Every face tells a story” LP – mostly written by Terry Britten, produced by Britten, Bruce Welch and Richard himself. And it’s an odd LP.

“Monday thru’ Friday” is harder rocking than anything on “Hotel California”, the chorus is playing against the beat, the guitars are overdriven and rough and Cliff sings in a committed way about the working week, paying his union dues and looking forward to Saturday – as it is “Rock’n’roll time”. There’s even some shockingly high falsetto notes towards the end. A lovely outdated attitude to rock’n’roll already. Is that motorbikes rev-ing at the end? “Doing fine” is bright and breezy and bland, Richard is on a positivity tip – it’s not so much “I’m OK you’re OK” it’s “I’m OK who are you again?”. He doesn’t need politicians giving him blues. Best stick your head in the sand, matey. “Cities may fall” is the first of a number of songs co-written with BA Robertson and is…er..odd. It’s like someone’s listened to “Heroes” and “Are ‘friends’ electric?” and thought it would fit Richard. He sings through a flanger, there’s unearthly synths, drums through harmonisers like “Low”, Bowie style sax.. And the words are even odder. All “no more machinery” and “human zoos”. What the HELL? (Of course this was the song my brother always said I should like – “You like that weird Jean Michel Jarre synth music” – and I suppose I did like this song). Good ending too. “You know that I love you” is clipped, spare and sharp. He loves her, he wants to be with her, and she doesn’t care. Slightly funky, but more memorable for the peculiar drum noises in the chorus and the angular guitar solo. It passes pleasantly. “My luck won’t change” begins dreamily but soon kicks into traditional rock. More positivity (that Christian life’s got him in its sway) but it does nothing for me, except the bizarre atonal piano running through the song’s bridges. The LP’s title track – written by Richard alone – closes side one, rollicking along like pub rock. Richard starts professing to roll over Beethoven then goes Christian again – “I’m a rock’n’roll holy roller, I love to sing about Jesus ‘cos he saved my soul-yeah”. Oh give over. (And I’m a Christian but this sort of thing makes me sick). Then plays on the dream on the guitar making you a star. Shut up, only fools like the Gallaghers believe that crap.

Side two starts with “Sci-fi”, more synths and references to “Close encounters” and “Star wars”. But it’s nonsense – Richard can’t be into UFOs if he’s into Jesus too. These lyrics are hilarious actually. The musical backing is hilarious too, very new-wave nerdy proto-synth pop – I’m sure there’s a vocoder in there somewhere. “Fallin’ in luv'” is a through-back, all doo-wop vocal harmonies and more clipped guitars. “Carrie” is special though, it paces the room in circles and doesn’t spoil things by being too obvious. Is Richard a private eye, or looking for an old girlfriend? Is he a stalker? There’s enough gaps in the lyrics to keep the listener guessing. How does the narrator turn it into the third person on the second verse? Nothing is resolved, nothing is delivered – that cry of “Carrie!” before the sax solo is truly pained. Wonderful. “Hot shot” sounds like more hackwork – there’s a lot of library music which sounds like this – and is rubbish. “Language of love” is hilarious again – Richard trying it on with French and Italian girls and trying to impress them with his language skills, but ends up sounding like Del Trotter. “I’m getting ready for my new vocation – I’m gonna be the man who’ll unite the nations”! But the joie de vivre (sorry, couldn’t resist) in the playing and singing is obvious.

And then at the end, a glimpse of the future.

“We don’t talk any more” wasn’t the most futuristic single of 1979 but it was so different from the run of the mill Cliff Richard canon that it caught everyone’s attention. So many synths on it, hardly any guitar except the occasional guitar solo. And Richard sounds committed to the song, throwing in some high notes and making the words count. A relationship in freefall – always a good subject for me – and Richard really sings his heart out. A hugely deserved number one single, you know. Not bad as a song recorded in a day towards the end of the session – and don’t forget it’s the only song with any help from Alan Tarney, who will go on to far greater things.

This LP – well, tape actually – stayed in the car forever. In fact it transferred from our white Lancia Beta to our Datsun Violet about a month before the Lancia rust bucket story hit the news, so we were lucky to sell that car. The Violet may have been smaller than the Lancia but I loved it, I can still remember the number plate (AWO 300T) and everything…

————

So, you may ask, how about punk? Didn’t that have any influence on you during the time? Well…er…

First of all I should say that I was ten years old in 1979 so just about too young to really know what was going on, and certainly my father had stopped buying Melody Maker somewhere between Harpenden and Penarth so I wasn’t reading about these things. If it was on the radio or on Top Of The Pops then I knew about it. The Clash? “London Calling” and that’s about it. Buzzcocks? Always in the charts, so I knew them. The Sex Pistols completely passed me by until the very end – I can remember Sid Vicious doing Eddie Cochrane songs appearing on TOTP in early ’79. But one song of theirs did find its way into my life. I have a distinct memory of my friends and myself sitting in the hall with a bunch of year 6 boys a year above me and they passed around a seven inch single of “Something Else”, and them teaching us younger boys the words to the b-side “Friggin’ in the riggin'”. Until the teacher caught us singing “‘Cos there was f*** all else to do”. I also remember the seven inch of “Hit me with your rhythm stick” being handed around specifically for the b-side “There ain’t half been some clever bastards”. Rude words clearly were very funny.

And then there’s The Jam. I first noticed them doing “David Watts” on TOTP, and amazed my brother’s classmates by singing it in the lunch hall the next day. I didn’t know it was a Kinks song – it didn’t appear on “The Golden Hour Of The Kinks” which had been in my parents’ collection for years. The Jam seemed furious about something, there was an urgency in their performances which made them seem really important to pre-teen me. When “Going Underground” went straight into the charts at number one, it felt like a bomb had gone off – that never happened in those days. And even I recognised that the cover of their “Sound Affects” LP was made to look like the BBC Sound Effects LPs that my brother and I borrowed from Penarth library then used as material for our own crazed tapes – snippets of songs, radio broadcasts, records old and new. Some of these tapes are ingrained in my mind – a cross-over from a lick in Paul McCartney’s “Another Day” into a steam train tooting its horn into a Grumbleweeds sketch.

The final months at Evenlode were Spring into Summer 1980. We were the “big frogs” according to our teacher but we’d be “small frogs” when we moved to secondary school and we prepared for this transition by walking there one day, having an assembly and walking back. The first three weeks of May in 1980 were spent on a concentrated course of swimming lessons. Each morning our year 6 class would climb aboard a coach outside the school, drive down to the seafront to the swimming baths and have a morning of lessons there – with Radio One blaring in the background. So many songs from the chart in May 1980 remind me of those lessons – “Geno”, “Talk of the town”, “Coming up”. Don McLean singing “Crying”, “Suicide is painless”. Of course the baths were closed in the mid 80s and turned into a bar (“Inn at the deep end” – sigh). It’s probably flats now.

On our last day at Evenlode, Year 6 gave a presentation on what we wanted to be when we were older. We all stood in a line waiting to act out our dreams. I said “When I grow up I want to be a writer”, swung my scarf meaningfully like some Oxford undergraduate (as suggested by my teacher, it was her scarf) and wrote a few lines in my ‘novel’. Everyone clapped.

A writer! Me! Ha ha ha.

Thanks for indulging me, dear reader. Next time – what happened next, and another journey through the past.