You Know You're Over 40 When…

Archive for the category “1970s”

You Can Help Your Twentysomething Teammates In A Music Quiz

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It was enough to strike fear in the heart of any fortysomething.

It was a work night out.

But this time, I was game. Because this work night out was a pub quiz.

Like any normal person, I enjoy pub quizzes. And like any normal person, I never organise myself or others enough to actually go to any pub quizzes. So while enforced fun – a work night out – is, in some ways, this fortysomething British person’s idea of hell, I don’t mind it if the fun being enforced is something which I am too lazy to enforce upon myself.

So there we were: my colleagues and I, about 35 of us in total, in a basement bar off Oxford Street hired for our exclusive use that night. There we sat, with our free drinks and free sharing plates – two things designed to make us talk and mingle with That Person Who Works In That Other Department Doing That Job Which You Don’t Fully Understand (which they did – I found myself reaching for cheesy nachos at the same time as That Nice Chap Who Does Design Stuff) – while the quiz masters quizzed us. Masterfully.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing better than a pub quiz is the music round of a pub quiz – so imagine my delight when it turned out that this pub quiz was devoted entirely to music. Every round was a case of Name That Tune, if Name That Tune involved playing a song long enough for you to hear the chorus (and therefore usually the title), and didn’t involve people buzzing in when they could, in fact, name that tune.

Which probably makes it sound easier than it was.

I didn’t find the Noughties or the Nineties rounds that easy. But fortunately, four out of my five teammates were in their twenties, so they did. When it comes to Noughties music especially, I realise that it’s simply a case of me either not being familiar with the song in question, or being vaguely familiar with it, in the sense that I heard it once when I was walking around Primark but couldn’t tell you the title or the artist. (Similarly, I know the names of plenty of current pop stars and bands, but couldn’t name or sing a single tune by them – but I suspect that’s a subject for another You Know You’re Over 40 When… post).

But I knew I would come into my own. And that it would be during the Seventies and Eighties music rounds.

And sure enough, when those came along, my fellow fortysomething teammate David/Dave and I metaphorically rolled up our sleeves, took the pen and answer sheets, and prepared to do our worst. And by worst, I do of course mean best. Because a) we didn’t want to let our teammates down and b) as two of the oldest people in the room (my colleagues are, to a – young – man, in their 20s and 30s), I’m sure that we subconsciously wanted to show The Kids that old people do have a use, even if that use is only Seventies and Eighties music rounds in pub quizzes. Of course, I say ‘we’ but I can’t speak for David/Dave. Hell, I don’t even know what to call him. We’re pretty pally and he’s a nice bloke in his forties, so both of these things would indicate that he’s a ‘Dave’. And yet we’re not friends, as such, and he uses David in his work email address – both things which would make one err towards calling him ‘David’. As a result, I am permanently slightly terrified that if I call him ‘Dave’ I have overstepped a line of over-familiarity; but if I use ‘David’ I am being overly formal. Naturally, being British, I am most terrified of the former. I would rather David/Dave thought ‘Why doesn’t Andrea called me Dave?’ than ‘I wish Andrea would stop calling me Dave’.

But back to the pub quiz. Where, having played our joker on the Nineties music round, our team are comfortably, nay, smugly ahead; and where the Seventies and Eighties – aka the Fortysomething’s Specialist Music Rounds – are about to take place, and thus music-lovers David/Dave and I are about to be carried aloft on the shoulders of our younger colleagues.

The Seventies round included tracks by Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and other people not called Bob, such as Buggles. The Eighties one saw the likes of A-ha, The Human League and Bon Jovi – and the fact that the quiz masters played each song for so long was an utter delight, as our table sang and half-danced along to every track, easily the loudest and seemingly most joyous team, partly because we were comfortably in the lead, and partly because we were drunk. The fact that David/Dave is slightly older than me, and thus has older/darker/maler music tastes than me, meant that we complimented each other perfectly – him leaping on The Jam, me leaping up on hearing Flashdance.

But while the beers and questions flowed, the night was to hold two unfortunate surprises.

One: we didn’t win. Despite having been ahead – and despite David/Dave and I being utterly confident in our answers – somewhere in between the second gin and tonic and fourth beer, somewhere in between the sharing plate of pitta with hummous and the sharing plate of nachos with cheese, something went wrong. We have no idea what. It would unfortunately appear that despite being over 40, I can still be guilty of an over-confidence one would associate with the young. That said, being over 40, I managed to console myself pretty quickly because I no longer sweat the small stuff in quite the way that I used to. Plus I’d had free nachos.

Two: the quiz masters named the Fifties/Sixties round the ‘Grandma and Grandpa’s Music round’. Yes, any pop music quiz which has rounds devoted to decades is bound to make any fortysomething with almost universally twenty- and thirty-something colleagues acutely aware of their age (and not necessarily in a bad way – we’d had a blast and our knowledge was definitely appreciated). But the assumption that the music of the Fifties and Sixties is what your grandparents listened to makes you acutely aware not just of your age but that you are living in a world where, rather like the one in The Truman Show, everything may look just as it always has, but occasionally you’ll notice that things have slightly shifted; that things aren’t quite as you feel they should be – because they’ve changed, despite you feeling unchanged.

Or to put it another way: you know you’re over 40 when the pub quiz masters are clearly much, much younger than you.

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Operation Yewtree Is Tarnishing Your Childhood Memories

Robin Williams once said that if you remember the Sixties, you probably weren’t there.

I don’t remember the Sixties because I wasn’t there. I do remember the Seventies, however – not only because I was there, but also because I was a young child and thus hadn’t yet taken any substances liable to induce memory loss (although I suspect Space Dust came close).

I was born in 1971: the year of decimalisation, the year that Britain voted to join the EEC and the year that Jim Morrison died (clearly Britain joining the EEC was too much for him). I am the same age as Winona Ryder, Ewan McGregor and Disney World Orlando. Sadly I’ve never met Winona or Ewan, but if I did, I’m sure we’d have a lovely time, especially if we all went to Disney World Orlando together.

My childhood holidays in the 1970s were more likely to centre around static caravan parks than exotic sun-drenched resorts, but they were no less happy for that. I grew up in a safe, middle-class home where my siblings and I were loved – even if that love extended to taking us not to Disney World Orlando but to Butlin’s Minehead, instead. So, you know, we at least felt liked. In short, I was lucky enough to have a happy childhood.

Unlike some in the 1970s.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which I really wouldn’t recommend, unless you’re doing some sort of Bear Grylls-style endurance feat, in which case: hats off to you!) or living abroad (again, I really wouldn’t recommend this), you will have seen the almost daily headlines as a result of Operation Yewtree. And if you’re in your 40s, it’s likely that each of these headlines will have hammered a small but perceptible, unexpected nail into the coffin of your happy childhood memories of the 1970s.

Operation Yewtree was launched to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by Jimmy Savile, of course – a man whose life as a DJ, TV presenter, charity worker and marathon-runner had always seemed, until the abuse came to light, glittering. Literally, given those gold jackets of his. After the initial shock of the news wore off, many of us moved into “Actually… Jimmy Savile? That makes sense…” territory. But the initial shock was exactly that. Shock.

Because Savile had been the nation’s uncle. The creepy uncle, sure. But our uncle nevertheless. To those of us born in the early Seventies, our memories of him aren’t dominated by his Radio 1 work or even Top of the Pops, but by Jim’ll Fix It, quite possibly because it was a show which centered around us: children. Jim’ll Fix It made kids’ dreams come true and thus, as kids watching it every week, we were all touched by its magic. We giggled at the Boy Scouts eating their lunch on a rollercoaster. We gasped at the slow motion demolishing of cooling towers. We were, in short, green with envy at every kid who was lucky enough to get on the show. Everyone had a Jim’ll Fix It wish, even if they never wrote in. Mine was to perform the kid’s speaking part on The Land Of Make Believe with Bucks Fizz. Sadly, it never happened. Mainly because I never wrote in.

(Of course, we now know that Savile was displaying behaviour typical of an abuser. He actively sought positions where he was around young people; and he deliberately made himself appear exemplary – and thus, in theory, unquestionable – through his charity work. I highly recommend reading this fascinating New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell about an American sports coach who behaved in a not dissimilar fashion.)

As Operation Yewtree’s investigations have widened, what we’ve seen is nothing short of an unraveling. An unraveling of behaviour that at the time, if it was seen, was either swept under the carpet or considered acceptable; or if it remained unseen, was kept that way until now in part due to (understandable) fear. It’s also been an unraveling of names – a “who’s next?!” roll call of male celebrities who were at their height of fame in the Seventies and Eighties. Celebrities who mean a lot to you if you grew up in those decades – although some more than others, of course.

The naming of Freddie Star, Jim Davidson, Jimmy Tarbuck, Gary Glitter and Dave Lee Travis – and I hasten to add that it’s only accusations against these men at the time of writing, and that they deny them – hasn’t affected me greatly because I don’t have fond childhood memories of any of them. As a kid, each of those men either gave me the creeps (Glitter), had a career aimed more at adults than children (Tarbuck) or both (Freddie Starr). That said, my first memory of observational comedy was Jim Davidson on The Comedians remarking that you always want to have a wee when you first step into a bath. I’m not sure my remembering this means that I was destined to work in comedy or simply that I did always want to have a wee when I stepped into a bath. Either way, I don’t think Davidson’s career ever improved on that high.

Rolf Harris – who has also been arrested, and who also denies the allegations against him – was something of a horrible shock, even for a nice middle-class girl who was more from the Tony Hart school of art. Rolf Harris, who delighted generations with his drawings of half-men, half-kangaroos. Rolf Harris, who pretty much single-handedly introduced the didgeridoo to the northern hemisphere. Rolf Harris, who seemed like the long-lost relative from Australia that we never fully ‘got’ and always vaguely baffled us. And by ‘us’, I do of course mean ‘me’.

But my biggest “Oh no! Not HIM!” moment came – as I’m sure it did for many others – with the arrest of Stuart Hall. Jimmy Savile might have been our creepy uncle, but Stuart Hall? Stuart Hall was our fun uncle. We all delighted in his irrepressible laugh at the shenanigans of It’s A Knockout – a family show that we did all sit round to watch as a family, and all enjoyed equally. And who could blame us? What’s not to love about grown men and women dressed in enormous Frenchmen/ogre/penguin outfits carrying buckets of blue or red water, falling over and spilling most of it? It’s A Knockout gave us lessons for life. Sometimes you will slip up. Sometimes you will do your best, but still spill most of the metaphorical blue water. Sometimes you’ll get beaten by a Belgian.

But the sheen has been taken off these memories by what we know now about these men, and it’s impossible not to feel betrayed somehow; or at least to think that we were naïve or impossibly innocent. And while we were those things, of course – we were only children, after all – our parents were innocent to it, too. Not only did we trust these men, our parents trusted them to ‘look after’ us through the medium of the television. And television – especially in the pre-satellite, three-channel era – was the source of so many shared experiences, not just with our own families but with our fellow Brits. As such, it was a hugely important and formative part of our growing up, of learning how to navigate the world and the people in it.

Of course, the tarnishing of our memories is nothing, nothing at all, compared to what the victims of these men actually went through – people who truly had their childhoods robbed and their lives ruined. Unlike some, I don’t regard Operation Yewtree as any sort of witch- hunt and I am, above everything, gratified to see arrogant, monstrous abusers being exposed and punished for the crimes they committed.

And I also don’t want to allow these revelations to affect my memories of what was a happy decade. For me, the Seventies were days spent watching Take Hart and reading (la la la la la) Look-In magazine; days spent roller-skating up and down – mainly down, to be honest – our little cul-de-sac; days spent recording the Top 40 by putting a cassette player in front of the radio and trying to cut out Tony Blackburn’s voice. Sunny days (quite literally – remember ’76?) and sunny memories.

Partly to remind myself – and my fellow fortysomethings – of this, I compiled a gallery this week for Huffington Post: 30 Great Things About Growing Up In 1970s Britain. I’ve included a few choice examples below (just click on each image to read its full caption). Yes, there might have been bad things about the Seventies – clogs, for example – but sometimes I thank my lucky stars that it was the decade of my early childhood. And given the recent revelations, I thank my lucky stars that I was safe.

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