The beige years

What do you remember about the Seventies? I remember they were beige. The bank in which we used to queue for hours for example: beige carpets, beige wallpaper, beige uniforms – I swear, even the wood of the counters was beige. I could be misremembering this of course, not least because beige is contagious: once it gets into one of your memories it spreads until it contaminates them all.

So my school too was beige: the headmaster’s suit, his shoes, his hair. Actually, I lie: his shoes weren’t beige, they were tan (even worse!). And they squeaked. My main memory of the school, apart from the headmaster’s feet, was the odour of “posh” instant coffee. Does anyone remember when there was such a thing as posh instant? Douwe Egberts for instance, such a step above Nescafé – though even Nescafé was better than that stuff made of chicory which came in a bottle. What on earth was that called? The teachers drank posh coffee. Their staff room, that mysterious place strictly forbidden to us, stank of it when the door opened. But then they were middle class and that meant something then.

Looking back, the Seventies is all about school for me. When weren’t at school we were on holiday from school. The summer break (six weeks!) was heaven. In my memory every summer was hot and sunny. Health & Safety hadn’t yet been invented so we ran wild “down the meadows” and in “the woods”. We swam with our dog in a river full of whirlpools. We dared one another to walk along a high wall of crumbling brick – with concrete on either side. We played football. We got into fights.

Easter i’m a bit vague about but Christmas was “ace”: suddenly beige was no more! The ceiling would be covered with crêpe streamers: pink, orange, green, red and blue. There would be balloons, there would be cards, a real Christmas tree (always huge in my memories) which we’d cover with tinsel and shiny balls, and then top with a star. Of course there were presents, almost all of them from Woolworth’s and only a few of which i can recall: a blue bike, a Monopoly set, two Tell Me Why books. Food: brazil nuts and tangerines. Television: Morecambe and Wise.

All too soon though it was Twelfth Night and time to take the bright colours down. Back to beige and back to school.

— For “M” —

4 thoughts on “The beige years

  1. Do you know what I miss most of all from the 70s, Mr. Fishy, now that I’m an ancient cat-ridden spinster in our great anonymous metropolis? I miss watching the TV with my averagely disfunctional family. I have especially fond memories of Sunday night TV, though I may be seeing it through a pink mist of nostalgia. We’d sit in the lounge with our Sunday tea which consisted of boiled egg halves, ham slices, droopy iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cucumber with a big dollop of Heinz salad cream, followed by, best and most wonderful of treats saved for Sunday evening, a wedge of Bird’s trifle, so artificial it glowed in the dark. And we’d watch the TV series of Planet of the Apes all together.

  2. (Thanks for your comment, Ms Angel.)

    That’s weird – i have no memories at all of watching the telly on a Sunday evening when i was a kid. All i remember is roast chicken, pressure-cooker flattened brussel sprouts (delicious!) and roasters (even more so!). I honestly can’t think what we did afterwards.

    TV was a Saturday evening phenomenon in our house: Basil Brush, Jim’ll Fix It and Dr Who (not necessarily in that order).

    • What about that strange Sunday evening feeling of leaving the weekend behind and gearing yourself up for school the next day. I still have it but nowhere near as intense.

      • No, it’s all blank. All i can see on a Sunday afternoon is my dad laid out asleep on the sofa with our Tiddles asleep on top of him. We had to be very very quiet…

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