Saturday, February 25, 2006

Only Women Bleed

She's on her own here people! Jade

Coming to terms with the Bleeding would probably be fine except it hits you at such a vulnerable age…

In the Top Class at primary school (10 yr olds) everybody knew if there was a girl who had Started. In secondary school by the end of the second year (13 yr olds) there were whispers about who hadn’t. (Much the same as the ones about who had Done It really, more of that later).

Tampons were a great idea for us active types, but they do have a habit of leaping about. I went to stay with Crystal in Longbenton for the night and one made a bid for freedom from my schoolbag. Her 6 year old brother was onto it immediately.
“What’s that?” he asked very nicely.
“It’s mine!” I growled snatching it back.
There’s nothing quite like waking up to the sound of a cat worrying one around your bedroom. Then they brought out ‘discreet’ tampon holders in bright pink or turquoise plastic, decorated with flowers. Try sneaking one of them into your pocket when you suddenly realise you need to leave the classroom.

At home we always had Supplies in the toilet, and my aunts did the same, so imagine my surprise when I went to stay in a house where there were none - and I was an irregular type. It was Marianne’s birthday party on a Saturday night and about 6 of us were staying over. It had taken me long enough to sort out my outfit (not spoilt for choice, just worried it was totally untrendy), never mind plan for all eventualities. So on Sunday morning I woke up in bleedin’ agony. Went to the bathroom – no supplies, no nothing. I asked Marianne, but she didn’t have any, nor did any of the others (embarrassment rating of telling All Your Friends: aaarrgh). Well Marianne’s mam, like mine, was a nurse, so I plucked up the courage and asked her.

That’s how I came to be walking a mile to (compulsory) church and back with nothing between me and terminal embarrassment but a tiny facecloth. Moral of the story: always keep spares around the house.

All I can say is it gets worse. When you’re a teacher of A Certain Age there can be times when a nightime pad and a superplus lilet will not cope with a 1 hr lesson. You stand up and just know that there is a bloodbath waiting to be dealt with. Though on a school trip to Barcelona I did manage to wash my knickers and use them to wash me in a restaurant toilet (no handy machine though). Fortified with almost a whole loo roll down my trousers, I got to a shop. Lucky the trousers were big and brown. Ugh.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Older Men

It wasn’t a deliberate strategy but looking back, we spent time in bars practising our technique. One night in the Collingwood, Tina was demonstrating how to eat crisps lasciviously. This went on for some time, with the rest of us giving her useful pointers (like don’t wipe the crumbs from round your mouth. Lick them). We certainly caught some interested glances from Older Men. Then one of them sidled up with a conspiratorial wink and passed me a slip of paper. There was a message:
“I am a famous Hollywood film producer. Meet me under the Tyne bridge at midnight. Tell no-one”. I winked right back at him and tucked it into my imagined cleavage. I had that note pinned to my bedroom wall for months.

One night at the University theatre we were reduced to helpless hysteria by Ellen who had attracted an Older Man to our table. The conversation was pretty trivial and when she went to the ladies he moved away, but beckoned her over to sit with him. She certainly charmed him as we tittered in our corner. Phone numbers were exchanged (at least one genuine) and she returned to us glowing. We were agog to know what he’d said:
“You’re so much more mature than your friends”

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Autograph Hunters 2 - the Who

Around a month after Spencer Davis, the Who were playing. Now that we had friends at the ‘Gogo in Newcastle (Paul and Judy, I think) we decided to ask them to get us the their autographs for us. Naturally we planned our visit for the afternoon of the show.

The Club a’Gogo was the top floor of a building on Percy Street which was also the frontage of Handysides Arcade. The second floor was used by Newcastle transport in the daytime, so as we skipped lightly up the stairs (one of us was to become Games Captain later), we met a lot of bus drivers and conductors who clearly appreciated our attempts at customising the school uniform for maximum modness (basically ties off, unbuttoning shirts to near bra-flash point and turning over the skirt at the top without quite showing your Calvados stocking tops – though that wasn’t the case from behind as we climbed the stairs…).

Calvados stockings? Whatever happened to them? Remember standing waiting for buses at Marlborough Crescent in those pleated skirts on windy days, trying not to show me stocking tops ... still make the mistake of wearing pleated skirts on such days ... sight not so appealing now tho! Jade

The ‘Gogo was also Forbidden. I’d been allowed to see the Beatles (big treat second performance 8pm), but the Police Officer who was my dad Knew About The ‘Gogo. At the time we were 12 and some girls in our class did go there unlikely as it seems. In those days a lot of impenetrable make-up was worn – big black rimmed eyes and pale lips. We walked in boldly. They were trying out the lights and there was a big poster sized copy of a Who cartoon from that week’s NME, but there was no soundcheck. (Note of realism: was it likely? No).

There was a wee cubby hole to the left as you went into the club with "Eric Burden slept here" written on the wall. Blimey - it was a dive! Those stairs were a scary fire risk (young as I was I clocked that!). It did burn down didn't it cuz? Jade

The next day was a bit of an odd school day: Founder’s day. Our school and the corresponding Boys’ school would all go to Newcastle Cathedral for a service in celebration of the school’s foundation in 1705. Then at around noon we’d all be released to go home. So we came out, adjusting the uniform and trekked up from the cathedral, debating whether to go to the ‘gogo then or sit around the station looking winsome and hoping to attract admiring glances from Lads (preferably with red socks, but that’s another story). Outside the Station Hotel, there was a taxi with the doors and bootlid open and two massive gladstone bags blocking the pavement. Not that unusual except that one of the bags had a shotgun sticking out of it. A shortish guy came out of the hotel and stood there - just being Roger Daltrey. (Note of realism: was it likely? No, but it happened, honest).

And that is how we came to meet the Who (well, not Mr Moon). More legendary timing from the Girls. We had learned it’s quite a good plan to find out where they’re staying.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Peace and Love, Gosforth

We were women of the world. We knew what was going on in San Francisco. We read Derek Taylor in Disc and Music Echo. Naturally we wanted to get into that Peace and Love thing with the flowers in your hair and the bells. I found a bell on a cord in a shop in Gosforth high street and we were off. Me and my cousin, arms full of flowers, handing them out to bemused passers by. Until some cow came over and pulled the bell off me neck (probably needed it to rejoin her herd in the tyrol)

I suppose, Gosforth wasn’t ready for the hippy revolution quite yet.

Autograph Hunters - Spencer Davis Group

We didn’t set out to make autograph collections. I think it was an excuse to get near to our musical heroes without being mistaken for groupies (no fear of that really at 11 yrs old – this was pre Gary Glitter).

Jade here. Actually, I never did collect autographs but cuz has some great ones. She gave Frank Zappa a newspaper (only paper available) and asked for a sign of The Times. Don't think he got it ......

It all started when the Spencer Davis Group were playing at the Club A’ Gogo in Newcastle. ‘Keep on Running’ had just hit number one and Stevie Winwood was The Man (only 17, not that much older than us). A girl in the sixth form was rumoured to have gone for a drink with him when they played the Majestic a couple of months earlier. We had a plan. We’d go to the Gogo in the afternoon and catch them at their sound check (as women of the world we read NME and knew what went on). The day before the gig we bundled onto the yellow trolley bus in Fenham and headed to town for a recce. As we reached our stop at Eldon Square, Linda suddenly yelled out. She’d seen Stevie Winwood walking along the street. ( I didn’t believe her, it was a day too early). Scattering innocent bystanders we barged out and were in pursuit.

‘scuse me’ Linda was pretty bold ‘are you Stevie Winwood outta the Spencer Davis Group’. I think he realised it was a fair cop. We had the numbers. The next day at the Gogo we met the rest of the band and some nice people who worked there.
That’s how we became autograph hunters. Not groupies

Cuz - I wasn't with you and Linda (but remember you are Molesworth II to my Moleswoth I, hem hem OK, older then!) but I remember walking up the stairs at the 'gogo behind Stevie and he had that dead ginger cat coat on and orange panstick stuff on his face. A while later you heard him on (pirate?) radio (or was it Luxembourg?) talking about young girls in Newcastle and how they weren't interested in the music. I was outraged! I had listened to The Yardbirds and John Mayall on Saturday Club when I was 11 after all!!! However, I remain a fan to this day Stevie, so you were forgiven! Jade

Take the Highway

Ossie, a friend of my dad’s taught me to drive. His day job was teaching police drivers so it was pretty interesting. I still have his voice in my head as I bowl along.
‘mind that daft dog’
‘look for the legs’ (under parked cars)
‘whose ball’s that?’ (look out for following child)
‘accelerate out of danger’
‘let the madman pass then you can see where he is’
‘why are the brakelights going on ahead?’
‘I’ll be in the men’s ward at the RVI and I’ll shout over to you on the women’s ward - It’s OK liz, you had right of way’

The best bits though were when he sang the theme from Rawhide at the top of his voice to make sure I could handle distractions. He also took me driving fast because he reckoned there wasn’t much point in learning at 30 mph then passing your test and making straight for the motorway.

I passed my test first time and mam sent me to buy pies. I was driving my dad’s Rover 2000 (lovely big car) and as I left the pie shop realised I didn’t know how to get it in reverse. So I drove along and took the first right turn, then right again. Now if it hadn’t been a cul de sac I could then have got back to the main road with just one more right. So there I was trying to get into reverse gear and edging ever closer to a brick wall. Fortunately one of my audience (I had attracted quite a crowd) took pity on me and showed me how to lift the collar thing then select reverse. I’m sure it was a very sensible safety precaution to stop people from going backwards inadvertently.

That evening I took Tina out on manoeuvres in my mam’s NSU Prinz. The engine was in the back so we kept a sack of spuds in the front to help the steering. Off we went past the Wheatsheaf and on towards New York. As it got dark I would have put the lights on if I knew how. In the end I had to park under a street lamp while Tina got the manual out and read the instructions.

Those cars certainly saw a lot of the North East. Tina and I would drop my parents off at the Golf Club on a Saturday night then pick them up later - 3 hrs with wheels. The first time, I took the wrong turning off a roundabout and ended up Northbound on the A1. We did about 5 miles before we could get turned round. At least we were mobile.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Misheard Lyrics

I am the Queen of the Misheard Lyric.

The first one I remember was singing 'buffalo foals stand by the shore' instead of 'baffled, our foes stand by the shore' in Speed Bonny Boat.

There's a new trailer on BBC tv which helpfully prints the lyrics to Wonderful World. So Im know know it isn't 'The brightness of day, the dark say goodnight' after all.

The address of this blog is misheard from Drive in Saturday. It should, of course, be 'it's a crash course for the ravers' but I thought my mishearing more appropriate. There is no crash course.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Faded Elegance

Aspiring to look like Proper Hippies, we knew that we had to get some velvet and floaty stuff with psychedelic type patterns to wear. There were some pretty cool shops in the Toon, but they were expensive. Well, there was Elle where they would make you a velvet coat for £25. Some rich mates had them.

We also had to do something about the School Uniform. Young Men from Dabs, St Custards and the Argees tended to favour RAF greatcoats to offset the album under their arms as they strolled between bus stops. At least we just had to find a suitable navy or black alternative – girls at Grand Central and SSSh had to wear brown or green. Duffel coats had been banned, probably because we were making such a good stab at looking like wee tramps in them. I found the shoe solution though: round toed clark’s sandals with tee bar and a flower design for summer and clunky lace-up crepe soled, round toed shoes for winter. As listed on the lower school uniform list – ha!

My mam had a job where she had to wear certain colours, and she got a clothing allowance of £2 a month. (2 quid, the cost of an album). So me and my brother managed to get her to agree to the same deal for us. Basically the plan was to buy albums. Mam’s sister, Auntie Nelly, worked as a cleaner at the university and she heard there were some really good jumble sales going on, especially in Gosforth and Jesmond. She bought me some proper ski pants with straps under the feet and lots of useful fabric for making proggy mats. (she made me a mat for my room when I went to uni too).

The late 60s must have been the time when many of the mature ladies of Newcastle decided that the finery they’d worn before the war may never come back into fashion and it was time to embrace the polyester revolution. We certainly found some amazing clothes and accessories. I still have some of them.

There were some tricks to learn of course. We learned to spot silk by feel under piles of tat, know our cashmere from our mohair and wool from acrylic. There’s a knack to using your elbows so it doesn’t look as if you’re barging people out of the way. When you see something nice, cover it up quickly and work it out from under the pile before anyone notices. Ask for the price and look pathetic. If it’s expensive, collect a few things together and ask for a bulk deal, or hide it and ask again at the end when they’re keen to clear everything before the rag men come in. Parents don’t like the idea of infestation. Wash everything as soon as you get it home. If it isn’t washable it probably is more trouble that it’s worth, but if you really must keep it, get a hot iron and press all the seams hard (pop pop). One of the aunties really didn’t like jumble. She’d throw good stuff onto a garden fire and shout about lice. We just hid stuff and the cousin got dressed away from home – simple. Quite a lot of the clothes were shared between us anyway.

Some favourites:
Utility crepe frocks in real 40’s sexy styles.
A black and rainbow print crepe de chine tea dress with flared hem and low neck
A devore velvet + satin number in black with a brown background and silver lurex threads.
Victorian Nightdresses (laying –out shrouds the aunties said. It was the custom to have a really nice one ready for your demise)
A high waisted coat with blue velvet skirt and wine red crushed velvet bodice.
Two silk kimonos. One in black with a multicoloured splodgy print and the other pink satin with a red dragon embroidered down the back.
An embroidered cream silk shirt
A Navy (school!) barrathea full skirted coat with huge shawl collar and Pinched waist
A wide brimmed green nun-style hat.
A collection of silk scarves I still have and wear regularly
Flowers made from felt and feathers
Hand knitted fairisle jumpers
Beads in all shapes and sizes.

We also bought anything embroidered, like bedspreads to use as shawls or make skirts. More often we just draped them around our rooms to absorb the joss stick smoke.

Sometimes we did a bit of sewing. We had to to make things fit, change the length or patch them up. Tina and I made coats from curtain fabric (Farnon’s Sale). Hers was beautiful, rust coloured brocade. Later I made another from a pair of printed chenille curtains. I carried a bag made of 2 prayer mats and some tape for years.

It wasn’t just us either. We met a guy who’d moved into a new flat.
“The landlord said like it’s all yours, so I made these trousers out of the curtains, man” (picture Neil in The Young Ones)

I once came home late in my Zig-zag wanderer coat, which was a kind of plasticine green barathea with the buttons on the points of a zigzag down the front. My father opened the door and said “you look a right clip”. No, I don’t know either, but it was even more fetching from behind where I’d strung felt flowers on a cord tied between the belt loops to take in some of its vast bulk. The epitome of cool I'd've said.

The legacy of all this is I still have a hankering for decent fabric. When I see it in a sale I buy it, along with lots of patterns. I now have a fabric Mountain, starting with some viyella bought in Bury market in 1975, Oh and the sari lengths from a Newcastle jumble sale around 1968. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Maybe we should have a moral on every blog.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Finding our Way

Living in the top right hand corner of England seemed a bit of a handicap when most of our musical heroes were based in Los Angeles or That London. So what did we do? We concentrated on being the epitomes of cool - in between going to school and living with relatively normal families.
There were some simple rules that we Just Knew including:
never walk down a street in your school uniform without a cool LP (oops, I meant album) prominently displayed under your arm;
See every visiting band at the City Hall using Northern Arts vouchers (great scheme);
dress the part - modify that uniform; and
listen to John Peel - keep up.
I'm sure my co-bloggers will add more.