Blast From the Past: Childhood Ice Lollies

Old-time rocket-shaped lolly named Zoom

Juice-filled frozen fruit flavours go boom

In your mouth layers sweet

Melt to mush as you eat

Wooden lolly stick sucked till exhumed

Although Fab was my favourite vice

With its hundreds and thousands on ice

Adding crumbly feel

And exciting appeal

To a fun lolly sure to entice

A blast-from-the-past limerick twofer for Esther Chilton’s word prompt of ‘Zoom’ for this week, helpfully illustrated by a retro metal sign hanging in my kitchen 🙂

A Stitch in Time

While I was visiting my parents yesterday I looked out my old toy sewing machine to take home with me, purely for sentimental reasons – it’s a dinky little diecast alloy Vulcan Minor hand operated machine, which really worked! It only stitched a kind of simple chain stitch with only one thread not two, but it was such fun to use when I was small.

Sadly over the last 50 years parts of it have become broken and missing, and the hand-cranked wheel is slightly buckled now, but I still love it. The plastic tension guide on the top broke and disappeared a long time ago, and the needle has long since snapped. Size wise it measures about six inches long by just short of six inches high and not quite three inches wide.

The point is, this childhood toy was my first introduction to using a sewing machine, and over the years sewing has remained an ongoing part of my creative life, although with a full-sized adult sewing machine – making soft toys, patchwork quilts, clothing alterations – although making clothes completely from scratch is prohibitively expensive these days!

These manually-operated mechanical toys were originally made for little girls to help them learn to become good homemakers when they grew up, as was expected at the time. Gender stereotyping aside, I truly loved my own little sewing machine, and I can’t help but think it would be great to be able to get it fully working again, just for fun 🙂

On the Hunt for Joy: Rediscover your Childhood Joys

Coffee, Tea, or Milk of Magnesia?

I thought I was going to be totally stumped today by Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt of Coffee, Tea, or Me – flirty phrases are just not me, especially not embarrassingly dated stuff like that.

Then I read John Holton’s SOCS post mentioning about air stewardesses back in the day writing a book of that name and suddenly it all became clear. Yup, in the context of the sexist world of the original ‘trolley dollies’ (such a ghastly, demeaning name) I can see how that phrase might come about.

But to be honest the thing that struck me most about John’s post is the 1970s ad he’s included at the bottom for Milk of Magnesia – because oooh, there’s something I can post about, family medicine cabinet staples from my childhood! I suppose it’s a kind of Stream of Consciousness post once removed – related to Linda’s topic, but indirectly, through reading John’s post.

I so clearly remember the blue bottle of Milk of Magnesia, we were usually given a spoon of that white milky liquid for the solid kind of bellyache caused by constipation – I can even remember the odd taste of it. It was joined in its choice of eye-catching blue glass bottle by a little jar of Vicks Vaporub – its powerfully strong menthol heating sensation when rubbed on your chest and back was used to relieve congestion due to a cold.

My dad used to be bothered with indigestion a lot so there was always a tin of Andrew’s Liver Salts to be had – a spoon of that dissolved in water would fizz up into salty bubbles to be drunk down straight away, usually followed immediately by a huge belch, to settle any stomach discomfort. And I remember dad also carried little white square Rennies tablets in his pocket at all times for his heartburn.

Another duo of products that spring to mind is a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly and a tin – a proper round tin, not a tube – of thick, pink Germolene antiseptic ointment. Now there’s a smell to stick in your nostrils. In my mind’s eye I link the strong smell of Germolene to the memory of fabric sticking plaster strips, because scrapes and grazes were cleaned with the sting of diluted Dettol, Germolene antiseptic ointment was applied, then a plaster cut to size was stuck over the top and you were sent on your way.

The painkiller I remember most from childhood is Disprin, a dissolvable asprin. If there was such a thing as ibuprofen available way back in the 1960s and 1970s they definitely didn’t make it as far as our medicine cabinet. These were the main generic products I remember, but I was ill a lot as a child so had my prescribed medicines to take too – Phenergan Syrup for my allergies tasted absolutely vile… yuk!

OK, that memory has put me off now, so I’ll just stop there while the going’s still good 🙂

Cherry Coloured Twist

Sometimes my brain comes up with the strangest memories when prompted by just one word, however different the context. Fandango’s One Word prompt today is ‘twist’ and straight away a voice in my head muttered ‘cherry coloured twist’ and there I am, back in early childhood being read Beatrix Potter’s ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ by my mum.

We read all of Beatrix Potter’s little hardback books over and over again – I think they’re probably still there somewhere at my mum and dad’s house, actually – but my two favourites were always ‘The Tailor of Gloucester’ and ‘The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies’. I think I liked the illustrations as much as the stories, they were so beautifully done.

Landmarks on a Childhood Journey

When I was young, we lived in the countryside about 10 miles outside of Inverness, and both sets of grandparents lived within a mile of each other about 10 miles or so outside of Aberdeen, giving a road distance of just over 100 miles between our family and my grandparents. We spent much of our holidays visiting said grandparents, driving there and back in our family car, along the A96 main road between Inverness and Aberdeen.

In those days the main road was neither a straight nor simple smooth line travelling directly from A to B. Instead it was more of a jerky, disjointed join-the-dots journey linking one town to the next always necessitating driving into whatever town, pootling slowly through the main streets then out the other side before speeding on to the next leg of the trip. Unless of course we then got stuck crawling along behind a lorry, or a tractor, or a caravan on the frequently treacherous unovertakable sections of the one-size-fits-all road, which inevitably happened more often than not. One way or another it was never a straightforward steady-speed run through for any of us.

One benefit for us as kids, though, was that this piecemeal place-to-place passage created a bit of interest on the way. Whereas our parents obviously knew the road well and could easily recite the order of the towns and villages we drove through, for my younger brother and I we liked to look out for the specific landmarks we passed and the fond names we gave them. I remember ‘Witches Hat’ being a cone-shaped stone building high on top of a hill – it always sat starkly in the distance, visibly silhoutted on the horizon, and I have absolutely no idea what it was originally, or even of it’s still there to be seen today.

And ‘Pickled Egg’ was a lay-by just outside Keith, about half-way through our journey, where we regularly stopped to eat fish and chips out of paper. Oh, that fish and chip shop in the square in the centre of Keith made such lovely fat fluffy chips, and the memory of the smell of those hot and steaming salt-and-vinegar-soaked paper pakages makes me salivate today even thinking about it. The particular name of ‘Pickled Egg’ came from one trip where my little brother had slept through our usual food stop, only waking up after we’d all eaten and dad was starting up the car engine ready to continue on our way.

Mum unwrapped my brother’s chips for him to eat on the move, but he had been promised a pickled egg with his chips and this was nowhere to be found – and so the tears began. Dad realised he’d probably bundled it up inside the rest of our used paper wrappings without thinking, and had dumped it in the waste bin in the lay-by. So dad promptly reversed back, stopped the car again and walked back over to the waste bin, fishing out our screwed-up chip papers and retrieving my brother’s well-wrapped, none-the-worse-for-wear pickled egg!

Off the top of my head I can’t immediately think of any more landmarks for now, although I know we certainly had plenty of visual milestones along the way to guide us. I haven’t made this journey for many years, but even the last time I drove between Inverness and Aberdeen I found it sadly overly sanitised. With the ‘old’ road substantially unkinked and upgraded to create large swathes of high-speed dual carriageway and with so many familiar towns now by-passed, effectively erased from sight for today’s traveller, the narrow road I remember winding almost nonchalantly through the Scottish countryside had already altered beyond all recognition.

Nowadays it is undoubtedly a shorter, quicker trip, and probably far safer for all concerned but the road trip also feels far less of an exciting adventure than it was in my childhood. And although when I started to write this post I thought it would be easy to recall those visual landmarks of a childhood journey I completed so many times, I find I’m remembering the smells far more readily. The well-worn dark red leather car seats that gave off a particular perfume all of their own when warmed by sweaty little bodies sitting on them, petrol fumes that permeated the back seat, and the aforementioned steamy aroma of mouthwateringly tempting hot food…

Yeah, it’s probably the memory of the fish and chips that did it… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Landmark

Crochet Blankets and Me

I first learned to crochet as a child, ill a lot and looking for something interesting to do while I was waiting to get better. And oh, there seemed to be such a lot of waiting. My mum and my Grandmother both knitted a lot, but for me two needles and multiple stitches to drop created far more frustration than fun, and instead I found wielding a single crochet hook (thankfully only ever holding one stitch at a time) gave me the practical creative outlet I needed. It used up all their leftover yarn, too, so it was a win-win all round for all of us.

So fast forward several decades and I find there’s still nothing better for me as a winter warmer than sitting on the sofa with a growing blanket hanging off a hook, all draped cosily over my lap. As a result I always have several crochet blankets kicking around the house, all multicoloured, all slightly different, and all made by me over the years. Some are bigger, some are smaller, some are rectangular, some are square, but all are exceedingly simple in design. Nothing fancy, just warm and practical blankets we use all the time.

But sometimes I wonder if I could maybe try to make something else other than blankets, experiment with new pretty (usually meaning fiddly for me) stitches more, try following more complicated multiple row patterns that build up slowly, or maybe even try creating some delicate crochet lace? The older I get, the more I’m finally learning to have some patience with things that take time, so maybe now is the right time for me to explore developing my crochet skills further… Hmmm… 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Home Crafts

Art Class in School

Fandango’s One Word Challenge prompt word of ‘silkscreen’ today immediately takes me straight back to high school art class, nearly 40 years ago. As well as focusing on understanding (and practising) the basics of drawing and painting we also experimented with lots of other techniques for creating art, some of which I haven’t thought about for years.

I remember early on we were introduced to lino block printing, where we each carved out (with various-sized special little tools) our favoured design on our little rectangle of lino block – carved in reverse, of course. I chose a capital letter ‘R’, decorated with patterns all around like the grand initial letters in old manuscripts. Once all our carving was done we carefully rolled coloured ink onto the surface of the block before up-ending it onto paper and printing countless versions of our chosen design.

Then once we’d taken the block printing as far as we could (with one block there are only so many options to experiment with) we used plasticine to build a little sealed wall around the edge of our lino blocks, and filled them with plaster of paris and left them to set to create an image in relief, which we then painted to keep along with our many prints. Such a lot from one little rectangle of lino block though… 🙂

And then of course later on there was the screen-printing and memories of the taut silkscreen frame used – I can still hear the strident sound of the squeegee pulling the ink purposefully across the surface of the screen, a bit like a muffled zip-wire sound cut short – vvvvt. There was a knack to getting it just right – not too fast, not too slow, not too much pressure, not too little – and then the moment of anticipation as you lift the screen off and remove whatever ink-blocking template used undereath to reveal the final result.

And for me, the result was always a little bit disappointing. I mean, effectively it did exactly what it was supposed to do – sharp lines, strong colour, vibrant solid shapes – but personally I found it all too formulaic. I do appreciate we were schoolkids so our designs were inevitably simple, and that more complex designs could be created by using multiple templates and different colours of ink to build up clearly differentiated layers.

But still… for such a laborious process where the purpose was to create easily replicated sharp-edged identical images, I found that promise a little lacklustre. We screen-printed both onto paper and onto cloth, so I could definitely see how using this process for printing multiple T shirts with exactly the same design would make sense, or multiple identical paper posters, but somehow it just didn’t catch my creative imagination at the time…

But batik – now that lit a creative spark in me! Batik basically uses hot wax painted free-hand onto cotton fabric with a tjanting tool and being left to set hard before dying the cloth in a cold water dye bath. Once this is done, the wax is removed and the cloth is boil-washed to remove all remaining traces of wax. It’s a little like tie-dying but using wax instead of string to create areas of dyed and undyed cloth. You can then repeat the process as many times as you like, building up layers of colour and shape.

Each individual piece of batik is unique, and because the chosen design is painted on free-hand you can change your mind creatively in the middle of applying the wax so there’s always an element of uncertainty in outcome of the process, which is probably the thing that really appeals to me – I like not knowing exactly what I’m going to end up with. Aaahhh… the memories… what fun I had… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Rhymes with Rosy

I was born along the North East coast of Scotland, in a world where the Doric dialect was spoken. My mum went to a posh school in Aberdeen so always spoke ‘proper’ English, but my dad went to an ordinary secondary school and spoke mainly Doric – in fact, at 83, he still speaks Doric with family and fellow Aberdonians, but has since tempered his everyday accent to be better understood in the Inverness area he has lived in for the last 50 years or so.

Anyway, the point of the little family history lesson is that I mainly associate hearing an abundance of beautifully descriptive Doric with my early childhood memories, and oh, the wonderful words I miss these days! Because as well as the accent affecting how many easily distinguishable English words are spoken, at times Doric seems to have a completely different vocabulary all of its own. For example, I remember very rounded old ladies always wanting to give you a ‘bosie’ – the kind of cuddle that hugs you tight to their bosom (which presumably is where the word originated).

Other great Doric words I remember from childhood include ‘oxters’ for armpits, and all the Doric men I knew would be wearing a ‘sark’ and a ‘semmit’ – a shirt and a vest – and of course their work trousers would all be held up with ‘galluses’ – braces (suspenders). To be ‘drookit’ is to be soaked through and ‘clarty’ is dirty (I was a real tomboy, and if there was water or mud nearby I’d inevitably fall in, so remember hearing those particular words with regularity).

To ‘birl’ (rhymes with girl) is to spin around really fast (usually until you get dizzy) and to ‘dirl’ is to vibrate – like when you get a ‘skelp’ across the ‘lug’ (a smack on the ear) it gives you a ‘right dirl’. Not to be confused with the love-it-or-hate-it ‘skirl’ of the bagpipes though! If you’re ‘scunnered’ you’re fed up, and if you ‘canna thole’ something you can’t tolerate it, and to be ‘fair tricket’ is to be delighted. Hmmm… Probably best to stop there before I get myself into a right ‘bourach’ (or mess!).

So there we are, that was my random, rambling Stream of Consciousness Saturday post brought to you today by ‘bosie’, my slightly off-the-wall word that rhymes beautifully with rosy 🙂

Weekly Smile: Retro Mother’s Day Card

Retro Mother’s Day card

I learned to read in the late 1960s with the iconic Ladybird books, always set out in the same format of text (written in varying levels of difficulty depending on age and reading ability) on the left hand page and an artist’s illustration on the right. Some of our original reading books are still at my mum’s, so my kids also grew up clearly recognising Ladybird books.

I’ve recently acquired a few tongue-in-cheek adult versions too, probably created specifically for my age group – The Ladybird Book of the Shed, The Ladybird Book of Dating, The Ladybird Book of the Hangover, and How it Works: The Grandparent. The format is exactly the same, various original illustrations have been used, and the wording is in the same idiosyncratic 1960s tone but nevertheless discussing the new adult topic.

Anyway, when my 36-year old son Simon thoughtfully sent me this very retro-style personalised card for Mother’s Day last Sunday in the same style as the books, I simply couldn’t stop smiling… and I pointed out to him he was not only a special edition but my First Edition too! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Retro

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Idiosyncrasy

Trent’s Weekly Smile

Adventure Stories from Childhood

My love of adventure stories was kindled in childhood by Enid Blyton with her Five Find Outers and Dog mysteries – oh, the fun I had alongside Larry, Daisy, Pip and Bets, and of course Fatty and Buster the dog as they ran rings around local policeman Mr Goon. The books captured the homely everyday English village life of the mid-1940s, where children were safe to explore and adults didn’t really interfere in their esapades too much.

And then I moved on to reading the adventures of the Famous Five – Julian, Dick, Anne and George and Timmy the dog. I was always intrigued by George – a short-haired girl named Georgina who always dressed like a boy – and the fact that they all went to different boarding schools so only met up together in the holidays at George’s house where they pretty much ran free around the countryside, solving mysteries here there and everywhere as they went. Again written in the 1940s, this series also left a long-lasting impression on me.

But when it came to mystery-solving the adventures of Jupiter Jones, leader of the Three Investigators took me across the cultural divide between Britain and America, to the alien world of boy’s fiction. Jupe Jones was an orphan who lived with his uncle and aunt who ran a junk yard in which the Three Investigators created their headquarters in an old hidden trailer accessed via constructed tunnels within various parts of the junk yard. Along with Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews, Jupiter Jones brought 1960s California to life for me, and I soooo… yearned for a proper bona-fide den hidden so well away from adults like these boys enjoyed so much. Freedom again…

But probably the series of books that took me furthest away from my everyday reality was The Chronicles of Narnia written in the 1950s –  truly a different world of English children’s post-war adventure stories, a world accessible variously at the back of a wardrobe, in a painting, on an underground platform, through a door, with magic rings, and finally, as a result of a train crash…

All of these beloved book series day after day took me and my voracious appetite and creative imagination many miles away from my quiet family and school life in the very rural Highlands of Scotland in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and even now my love of reading about myriad fabulous fictional characters, catapulting me into multiple alternative realities, has never really disappeared… ❤

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Adventure