So glad I grew up in…

With Mum 1

… the 1970s

Yeah, that’s not going to come as a surprise to anyone! This is the decade where I spent my teenage years and, although I wouldn’t return to being a teenager if you paid me, I am truly grateful that those are ‘my’ years because when I look back on them they were so much fun. Okay, so it was a period of political upheaval in the UK, with the Irish troubles constantly making headlines and trades union actions leading to regular power cuts and the introduction of the 3-day week which, as I recall, didn’t apply to schools so I didn’t benefit!

Yet, set against that, here are five things that I look back on with immense fondness.

The music

Oh, yes. From Glam Rock to Punk: T Rex singing “Ride A White Swan” in 1970 to Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” in 1979, I was there! Roy Wood of Wizzard was my pop pin-up and I had a big poster of him in the bedroom I shared with my sister. There will never be a Christmas song to top “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and I will brook no argument on that. I patiently waited until I was in my 50s to see Roy Wood live and also got to see another 1970s favourite – The Stylistics – around the same time. But the 70s were also the years of Don McLean, Bread, Alvin Stardust, more Don McLean, Neil Diamond, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and a host of others who provided the background music to my adolescence.

We had transistor radios and listened to Radio 1 and Radio Caroline. We had cassette recorders on which we could tape music off the radio (and make mix-tapes for our loved ones) or play our favourite albums bought legitimately on cassette (Andy’s Records was the big Norwich seller at the time). We still had record players and bought on Vinyl too. My oldest sister even had an 8-track player which provided my introduction to Leonard Cohen. Now the big thing is music streaming services and where is the romance in that?

The clothes

For a long while the 1970s were labelled as the decade that style forgot, and there were some hideous crimes against fashion in that decade – from Glam Rock to Punk! However, for me it was also a very classically fashionable decade and provided the bedrock of my wardrobe for ever more. What I remember best are the a-line skirts hitting between the bottom of the knee and the middle of the calf and the trousers actually reaching to your waist. There were Oxford Bags and a lot of other 1920s influences like Fairisle knitwear, and there was plaid, not to mention the ever-present Laura Ashley mini floral print. Wool coats for winter and cheesecloth for summer. Men in suits – what heaven for a heterosexual lady was the 1970s office full of men in suits and ties.

The photo at the top of this post shows me in one of my favourite outfits of the later 1970s – a soft pink tweedy skirt and lightweight cotton blouse which if I recall correctly had little pintucks and a line of embroidered flowers on the front. Accessorised with a big shoulder bag, heels, and the worst hair cut of all time! Love it.

The TV

You can all chant along with me as I go through this list! Alias Smith and Jones, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, Blake’s 7, Dr. Who (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker shared the decade). Yet there were also gems like A Horseman Riding By, The Day of the Triffids, Survivors, The Quest (American cowboy series with Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson), The High Chaperral (more cowboys), The Devil’s Crown (historical drama from the height of the BBC’s reign, about the Plantagenets), the start of the BBC’s epic task of televising all of Shakespeare’s plays.

It might well be that you will be sitting in the year 2059 still awstruck by how good Killing Eve was, but I am not entirely sure that will be the case. I think we got the best of the best in the 1970s.

The holidays

I had one foreign holiday in the 1970s – two weeks on Crete with my sister, brother-in-law, and a friend of theirs. It wouldn’t count as exotic or even, probably, enviable nowadays, but it was a great adventure for me. Other than that,  I happily pottered about the UK with my parents and had lovely, simple times that were just plain enjoyable. From the early 1970s in a camper van in Scotland to the later 1970s of the above photograph, visiting Canterbury; via the Isle of Wight where we stayed in an old house with no TV and where I bought a book which really boosted my newly-revived interest in knitting. I loved my holidays every bit as much as the trips to Thailand that are obligatory for teenagers now.

Swisskit

Will anything sum up the loved-and-lost nature of the 1970s as well as the Swisskit? I loved these fruit and chocolate and meusli bars for an intense period in the mid-70s and then they disappeared, never to be seen again.

sharps-con

It isn’t conceivable that they were as good as I remember them, but I often think now how good it would be to sink my teeth into a Swisskit again!

So, yes, this is my ode to the 1970s, decade of my youth, and the years that made me the decidedly odd person I am now (heaven only knows how it fared for the ones who took drugs!). Let’s raise a glass of Blue Nun to the memories.

A song list

15-02-19 Old New Tech
Old tech in the foreground, new tech in the background

As well as a quote this week, I’m going to share a song-list with you.  The quote is hand-written and shown in my photo. The song-list is playing along with it:-

‘Only The Lonely’ sung by Glen Campbell
‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ sung by Judy Collins
‘Crossroads’ written and sung by Don McLean
‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now’ sung by Harry Nilsson
‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’ sung by Glen Campbell
‘It’s Over’ sung by Glen Campbell

(For the record, ‘It’s Over’ isn’t the same song which Roy Orbison sang. I love both of them.)


Diary by Mark and Fold
Fountain pen inks by Lamy and Graf von Faber-Castell
Fountain pens:
Waterman Hemisphere (blue)
Lamy Safari (black)
12″ MacBook by Apple
Steel ruler made in Germany – just like me!


 

Fitting in

23-01-19 non-camo
Fabrics for those “not blending in” moments

When I finished writing last Friday about Edward Scissorhands, a fairly definitive movie when it comes to not fitting in, I got to thinking about the choices we make during our lives in order to fit in with certain people or groups, the camouflage we choose (or are encouraged) to adopt, and how that can result in us feeling less like ourselves than we should. However long and however hard we try to fit in, the truth is that the only person you can ever truly rely on is yourself, as these two lines in a song from the musical “Chess” (by Tim Rice/Beny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus) convey:-

No-one in your life is with you constantly,
No-one is completely on your side.

Although as I get older I am less inclined to make compromises in order to fit in, I think it’s pretty fair to say that there have been vast stretches of my life when I have curbed my own natural interests in order to fit better with the friends or colleagues that I have had at that time. For me, this has always started out as a creative endeavour, like trying on a different character for a while to see what it feels like, but I always end up feeling that my ‘real’ character has been submerged. This doesn’t only happen in the real world. For my generation, getting older has coincided with the rise of digital friendship and a whole new way of being influenced and of feeling a need to fit in. Quite simply, we are exposed to many more options right now than we have ever had in the past and that just increases the pressure to comply.

It seems a shame, but there are more interesting things in this world than any of us can experience in one lifetime and we have to make a choice about what we are going to pursue and what we are going to leave on the sidelines. For me, this has included accepting that I’m not going to sew garments for myself, even though I am confident that I could bring my skills up to speed and there’s a whole host of clothes I’d love to sew. It took me some years to understand that this is just not the road I’m going to walk. I would rather spend my time knitting, and there is enough of that to occupy me for at least one lifetime. I am aware, though, that every exposure to people who are happily sewing away and producing great-looking outfits, results in that twang of “I could do that” aspiration. And don’t even get me started on all the paper planners in the world at the moment! We must teach ourselves to deal with such influences, or we must act to avoid them entirely.

The big problem is that we can spend a lot of time and money on things that aren’t quite right for us, even though we know that isn’t the best use of our resources. When we invest in a particular interest and don’t pursue it, those items become part of the clutter in our lives that needs to be purged and, although it isn’t healthy, it is so much easier to simply accommodate the clutter than to actually sort it out. I think the modern trend for simplification and minimalism is not only about reducing physical things, but also a push to reduce the choices we have and the influences that we allow to work on us.

Fortunately, some things are relatively easy to ignore, the things you know you could never master if you practiced for a thousand years. For me, those are painting/drawing and driving; a number of people have this same reaction with swimming or cycling and I am sure there are countless others. Knitting, perhaps? In this case the knowledge is a combination of lack of interest in the activity, lack of desire and/or incentive to achieve the outcome, and lack of talent. Yes, sometimes people just don’t have the talent to pursue a particular skill, but you know what? They have loads and loads of other talents that make up for it.

So, what do we lose when we try to fit in and thereby sideline things that are important to ourselves in favour of things that are important to someone else? To understand that, we need to think about how we feel when we are doing the things that are important to us, that do interest us, that we are talented at. We feel our spirits lighten, we walk with a spring in our step, we think of the future – making plans, dreaming dreams – and we finish things because they engage our interest and make us happy. When we set aside the things we enjoy, life becomes a drudge, our brains may be engaged, but our hearts are locked away in a box, we envy others and, often, we delude ourselves.

It is, unfortunately, not simple to learn what interests you, which endeavours are worthwhile and which are simply interesting, even what the authentic you below all the camouflage really consists of. It takes time; I am sorry to say it probably takes a whole lifetime and maybe even more than that. Although none of us wants to face it when we are young, in this instance there really is no substitute for experience.


Related to this subject, here’s a couple of tunes which I never thought I would mention in the same breath!

“I know him so well” Elaine Page and Barbara Dickson
“Mis-Shapes” Pulp (interested in Pulp? This blog is doing a song-by-song analysis!)


 

Knits are progressing

21-01-19 gaudi
Gaudi cardigan by Martin Storey

Since finishing my socks, I have returned to my two works in progress, and things are moving along, albeit a little slowly,

First up, it’s Gaudi by Martin Storey. This is still the back and progress on the colourwork part is picking up again now. I set it aside completely when I was knitting the socks, so in total I’ve only finished up the first diamond pattern since the previous update. I’ve got another 30 rows to complete the back, but they are diminishing in length with the raglan shoulder shaping. Then I will have to decide whether or not I should make a major modification to the pattern and knit it as a jumper, or continue with the original cardigan design. I am really craving jumpers right now, but I know a cardigan would be very practical. I have a lot of cardigans and only two jumpers, but I know I would wear a cardigan through the warmer weather and I’m not so sure about a jumper. I am taking heart from the fact that whichever way I jump, it’s not going to be wrong!

21-01-19 old gold
Same old gold yarn; different project

Although as you know I am not at all a person to have more than one garment project on the go at once, I am breaking my rule and using the old, old-gold yarn to knit a jumper, and this one is definitely going to be a jumper, no chance it will turn into a cardigan. Of course, the yarn was going to be a cardigan, I still have the back and half the front sitting here to prove it, but the yearning for a jumper has conquered me. This is another pattern from the 1,000 Sweaters book I have written about before and I am holding the 4-ply yarn double resulting in a slightly heavy DK-weight. It’s a soothing knit with those simple textured furrows. I didn’t want anything too busy because the colour of the yarn is going to be the main highlight, but I did want something just a little more adventurous than a simple stocking-stitch. This pattern has a turned hem and no waist shaping, set-in sleeves and I’m going to do a crew-neck just because it’s warmer than a v-neck at this time of year.

Whilst knitting, I have been catching up with podcasts or listening to golden oldies – the latest addition to my collection being a Glen Campbell compilation album. By the time he gets to Phoenix I’ll have finished the back of my jumper!


 

Hi-fi it ain’t

Sharp Radio Cassette
1980s – Sharp QT50 radio/cassette player

My lovely daughter cleverly reminded me recently that I had one of these Sharp radio cassette players back in the ’80s (I had the off-white model) and that has got me thinking about music quality.

Warning – good old days alert!

When I had my little Sharp, I listened to a lot of music. It was back at the time when you could belong to a book club and get books sent to you through the post which you selected from a monthly catalogue. There was a similar thing going for music and I used to buy a couple of cassettes each month which was, to me, a really good way both of buying favourites and of trying out things I wouldn’t have thought of. There were some misses, but more hits. If you didn’t select something yourself prior to a certain date, they would send you their selection for the month. I thoroughly enjoyed that way of buying music and I still think there is a lot to be said for having a curated selection of items to choose from rather than simply being presented with everything in an enormous cavern of choice.

The Sharp radio-cassette player was very portable and it could sit by my bed where I would often listen to music through headphones in the mornings and evenings. The audio quality wasn’t high, but deep within the core of me I think that is how the music is meant to sound.

At the end of the Sharp portable era, I hit a phase of buying better quality audio equipment, or acquiring it second-hand free to a good home, and tried to embrace the idea that I would enjoy music more if the playback quality was higher. I had various elements of hi-fi kit and speakers, finally settling on a Ruark R4 all-in-one CD/DAB radio/speaker which suits my flat just perfectly. However, through all this period I actually listened to music less and less; over the past seven years I have hardly played music at all.

This summer has, therefore, been an extremely interesting one for me because my enthusiasm for music, mainly my old favourites, has suddenly reignited. This has been partly due to wanting to lose weight – if I’m going to spend half an hour doing exercise then I want to be entertained by something I enjoy whilst I’m doing it. I have also enjoyed revisiting some favourites whilst doing the less complicated bits of knitting, not to mention washing up and ironing. However, I think there is one big thing that has encouraged me to listen more and that is the way I am playing the music.

iPad Pro
2018 – Apple iPad Pro

Yes, the Apple iPad Pro has become my favourite music player. This is not because I stream music; I will be the last person to join a music streaming service. No, I import my CDs into iTunes and thence to the iPad Pro. Like the old Sharp player, the iPad is emminently portable and I can have it lying beside me and my headphones plugged in and be in my own little musical universe. Or it can be sitting nearby whilst I exercise, or do the ironing. Is it just a coincidence that it is white, like the Sharp player was? Perhaps not.

I would also say that there is something in the quality of the playback which subtly reminds me of the old cassette days. It seems to be more fun to listen to my music on this than it is to put it onto my much better quality CD player, which is decidedly odd. I am not even mentioning that I have had a series of iPhones which could serve exactly the same purpose, but on which I have felt no inclination at all to play music. Before the iPhones, when everyone had iPods I had no desire to follow the trend, which is telling in itself because now that the iPod is defunct and everyone has moved on to streaming services, I am ready to embrace the iPod way – perverse, I tell you.

Furthermore, the iPad Pro is not an inexpensive item to be using as a music player. More expensive than the Ruark, certainly. Lower quality playback? I think so. Yet in some strange way it is just right.

So, there you have it – the iPad Pro is the new Sharp QT50. Who would have thought?