Monday, February 13, 2012
1975: The perfume that they wear
From as far back as I can remember up until about 1980, Saturday mornings were always the same.
We'd drop mum off in town, then dad would take us to our grandmother's house. She'd have our comics waiting for us on her hall chair (Whizzer & Chips for me, something football related for my brother), crack open the Corona Cherryade and the Chipsticks and then shoo us away to watch Saturday morning telly so she could talk at my dad for a few hours. He'd sit tensely chainsmoking on a kitchen stool while being talked at by his mother about how ghastly his sister was being to her.
That was the norm. Sometimes, however, he'd dump us and go off to town too, and mum didn't really ever come as there was always friction, going right back to the days when she wasn't considered good enough for my father because a) she was a Catholic; and b) she'd been engaged before. The horror! The tension never really left us.
So more often than not it was the three of us. When the Banana Splits finished it was time to go and collect mum. She'd always be found in the same place: her friend Pam's boutique.
Well, she didn't own it, but she worked there. Tucked away down a concrete corridor behind Tyrell & Green (a branch of the John Lewis partnership and no longer there) was Location. A groovy name for a groovy store, tiny, rather dark, highly-fragranced, choc-full of stock and run by a curly-haired Starsky look-a-like called Paul, who wore tight beige flares and open necked-shirts and flirted with all the ladies who came in. Mum was no exception. But on Saturdays it was Pam who ruled the roost.
Slim, perma-tanned, shoehorned into salmon flares and silk blouses, with lots of gold jewellery and a Purdey haircut, Pam would bring a succession of garish outfits for mum to try on, and usually buy. This process took forever. Not being of an age where we had any money to go and spend, we just had to be patient. We'd be there for what seemed like hours, while Pam puffed away interjecting with encouraging noises re: the garments as Moments & Whatnauts or the Stylistics belted out a funk-soul number in the background.
I loved Pam though. She and her car dealer husband Peter, equally tanned but with a head of distinguished grey hair, were old friends of my parents. They'd all known each other since they were teenagers. She was a major part of the school run, and she'd offer fags to us over her shoulder, knowing we wouldn't take them. She was also really kind to me when mum and dad moved abroad, and for that I'll never forget her.
I'm glad to say they're still friends now, and Pam's still smoking for Britian on their poker nights, is steeped in gin and is darker than a chesnut which contrasts jarringly with her prawn-pink lipstick choice.
In my mind, they're the ultimate Seventies couple. They always had the latest in home furnishings, moved house a lot just to get a load of new stuff and holidayed glamorously at beach clubs in the south of France long before anyone else had even thought of it. And naturally, they always had really smart cars too. When it was Pam's turn to the do the school run she'd have to phone the school to say what car she'd be in. It was something different every day, and there was nothing like roaring home in a maroon Jag.