Our spirits were so lifted, after we’d discussed entertainment, past and present, in the Zoom break-out rooms. Nury, originally from Iran, explained how much he appreciates British humour, especially the old situation comedies he’s been watching on TV, such as Porridge and Only Fools and Horses. It was lovely to hear his chuckles. Thank goodness for television, social media and online arts, helping us now through the challenges of social isolation: a sentiment we all shared!
Family and friends featured strongly in our memories from our younger days, with or without television, playing games both outdoors and in. Read on for our recollections of those simpler, more carefree times.
The Holme Moss transmission station high on the Pennine moorlands brought television to the Holme Valley in 1951. It is a huge landmark, visible for miles around. I used to enjoy seeing the red lights from my bedroom window at night that warned aircraft of the transmitter. But it would be two years later when I watched my first programme. I will never forget the excitement of crowding into my Auntie Mildred’s living room to watch the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, along with family and neighbours. We watched in awe at the wonderful pageantry on a 9 inch screen that was part of a floor-standing cabinet. I marvel now how far we have come since then, that I can now watch television programmes on my Smart Phone, watch catch up programmes and so much more. The progress in technology has been amazing.
Our family bought a television when the second Independent television channel, Granada was launched in 1956. Prior to that we had listened to the radio for entertainment. Or I would go to Auntie Mildred’s to enjoy Watch with Mother programmes such as Andy Pandy, The Wooden Tops and Muffin the Mule. My cousin Sandra had a toy Muffin which was passed on to me and my brothers.
I remember making a Blue Peter puppet theatre out of cardboard box for my brothers one Christmas in secret at my Auntie Florence and Uncle Irving’s house. I also remember winning a small Rag Tag and Bobtail jigsaw in my infant class, and being amazed at the colour of the picture, as I had only ever seen the children’s programme in black and white.
Our new television took pride of place on a shelf in an alcove at the side of the chimney breast in our small living room. My parents sat in two fireside chairs with we three children on seagrass stools between them as we watched the news and light entertainment programmes. My father and brothers enjoyed the sports coverage. Mum and I liked plays.
When I left the Holme Valley in 1963 to come to college in Manchester, Holmfirth had become very run down town, as most of the woollen mills had closed. In 1973 a very long running television series called Last of the Summer Wine started to be filmed in the area, and Holmfirth was put on the map. Tourism lifted the area as a result of people coming to see the locations of the elderly rascals’ escapades. So television had a huge impact on my upbringing and the area in which I lived.
The thing that surprisingly came up for me first was Roobarb and Custard. I used to love watching this every Saturday, I can remember particularly liking the theme tune! I was always the only one up as I think it started at 7.30am on Saturdays and I really enjoyed this solitary start to the day. I would watch telly for as long as I could get away with until Mum and Dad told me to get outside and play! I rode my bike, played on my swing and made up games and secret clubs with the girls next door but one.
We also used to go down to the river Severn, which was only 5 minutes’ walk from my house. I totally took it for granted back then – in my tiny world I thought that everyone lived in a medieval town with a castle and a lovely river!
Considering it was one of my favourite things to do when I was younger, I’ve been surprised by how little TV I have been watching recently, an impressive feat as I am almost always at home. I’ve really got into watching Countdown with my lunch, I feel this is doing me good as I am getting longer words the more I watch it! I watch a little drama and comedy in the evening too, it is a nice way to wind down, but no longer the be all and end all!
The thing that’s really starting to hit home now is missing live music, I half-heartedly use dating websites – I am sometimes asked which gigs I go to. The answer to which is “my own”! I miss singing with the choir, we had a great year last year performing lots and we were involved in some really exciting projects! We are still continuing online and still have some exciting projects recorded remotely, but it’s not the same as meeting up to rehearse weekly and feeling the collective buzz during gigs! I really hope that we can meet up soon to perform the Big Sing we have been working towards!
Entertainment was the subject for the day, and entertaining it certainly was!
Jolene asked us to focus on entertainment past and present and what it meant for us. At first, my head was skipping about all over the place, then suddenly when thinking of entertainment of past times, one particular occasion came to mind, quite unbidden.
When I was about 6 or 7, my eldest brother, who was 9 years older than me, was looking after me. We were playing marbles in the hall and a friend of mine called and asked if I could go and play at her house. I was delighted and left my brother and ran off. Afterwards, and this was what I remembered most, I felt guilty that I had left my brother to play marbles on his own. Of course, obviously he would have been very relieved that he no longer had to look after and entertain his little sister!
In the break-out room with Joe and Nury, this memory inevitably led to a discussion of childhood means of entertainment.
As a child, like most people we knew, we did not have a television and the only external entertainment was via the radio. Children were sent out “to play” and unless you got into trouble no-one asked how you had spent the day, or even where. If it was too wet or cold to play outside, you were expected to entertain yourself indoors with games or toys or a book. It was a real treat if one or both parents sat down with you and played cards or another game. It seems very different now for the youngest members of my family when their parents expect and are expected to play a much more active part in their entertainment.
Having reminisced about the “good old days” of childhood, putting nostalgia aside, I must stress that I enjoy and appreciate all the forms of entertainment I am able to access now, especially recently when technology has enabled me to still enjoy films, theatre, concerts and of course old TV favourites.
I remember the shrieks of laughter when we played Mousie Mousie. Whether you were holding tightly on to a mouse’s tail, or being the catcher, with your hand holding the cup above the mice as you threw the dice, the tension and excitement were tremendous! If a red or blue was thrown, the mice had to be pulled away as quickly as possible or else the catcher would get them and you had to forfeit a counter.
The number of us playing games round the dining room table increased when my cousins came to stay. Sadly, my Mum’s eldest sister died when I was nine, and from then onwards, her husband and two daughters usually came to stay with us at Christmas, Easter and during the school holidays. They lived in St Helens, next door to my Mum’s brother, his wife and their six children, and I have strong memories of meeting up with that family as well, in our gardens, or for picnics on Ainsdale beach or in the Pendle countryside, and playing French cricket or Rounders. I don’t remember it raining, but it must have done sometimes!
One dark evening, just before Christmas, I remember going to Blackburn in the car with my Dad to collect a mystery present for us all, from a house which was tricky to find. It turned out to be a second-hand set of Pelham string puppets, complete with a curtained stage! It provided hours of entertainment: we’d write plays, rehearse and then do puppet shows for all the adults. Invariably the puppets strings became tangled, but my parents were very patient at sorting them out. One summer, my Dad brought home the reel-to-reel tape recorder from his school, and we added sound effects for the puppet show (creaking doors, horses’ hooves), and then went on to record a radio play we’d written. Maybe my parents were more pleased that we’d occupied ourselves, rather than entertained by our performances, but we were proud of ourselves!
Perhaps that puppet theatre led to my life-long love of live theatre. Since the lockdown, I’m grateful for the filmed and online performances made available, but I hope so much that theatres will recover and reopen fully again soon.
“Entertainment.” I very nearly had to look the word up in the dictionary in advance of our session, as everything that I once associated with entertainment seems to have been banished to the evermore distant past! Trips to the cinema or the theatre, days out browsing the shops, sleepovers at friends’ houses… Although our introductory brainstorm brought up numerous fun activities to do at home or in the garden (or in the park, socially distanced of course!), “entertainment” for me still has a strong association with grabbing my house keys and racing out the door, all the while fumbling with my phone: “Will b 5 mins late, sorry!! X”
Timekeeping has never been my strong suit, but I do occasionally manage to be on time when the activity is a recreational one. In fact, one of my favourite things to do, and the one which Kevin and I spoke about this week, requires no small amount of time management: music festivals.
Music festivals have been my go-to summer holiday since I was sixteen years old, when I first went to Glastonbury Festival with my best friend from school and her family. I can still conjure the feeling of awe that hit me when we arrived. There were so many brightly coloured tents covering the hills as far as I could see, and everywhere the sounds of music and laughter. My excitement only increased upon discovering the many, many food and merch stalls, and that was before any of the bands had started performing! We made a beeline for the nearest programme seller and set about circling which acts we wanted to see and trying to figure out the quickest route between stages.
Of course, then there were the toilets to discover, the rain, the mud, and the struggle to locate our (very cheap children’s pop-up) tents in the dead of night without tripping over any guy ropes or ending up in a stranger’s lap, but somehow none of that stopped me joining the mad rush to buy tickets the following year!
Another mind-blowing topic for me this session. It really got me thinking, especially about the simplicity of life when I was a child and how I’ve almost come full circle to the simplicity of my life during Covid 19.
I was transported back to the games I played as a child, remembering I was a Jacks champion, I possibly wasn’t but it’s true in my memory anyway! I loved marbles, we called them Allies and would spend hours pushing them to hit the giant one, which I want to call the “dobber” but not too sure if that’s correct. Mud pies were made daily on the croft where we gathered. Using bits of slate and flat stones as plates! As children we entertained ourselves a lot and played out from dawn to dusk, a stark contrast to today’s children who sadly do not have the freedom we had.
Bonfire night was a huge fire on the croft, for which people collected wood, for weeks in advance. There were hot potatoes and treacle toffee and a few fireworks. The bangers were always really scary and, with no thought for health and safety, were thrown about without a care. Old sofas and chairs were sat on during the evening, then thrown on the fire at the end of the night. I don’t recall any accidents from these un-monitored fires but that could be me and my rose-coloured spectacles!
Going to “the pictures”, as we called it in those days, was the highlight of the week. On a Saturday afternoon, hordes of kids would gather for the matinee. It cost 6d, that’s just 2 and a half pence! We don’t even have half pence pieces any more. You could stay and watch the film over and over again too. But maybe my friend and I did this by hiding in the toilet. Very daring!
As time went by, “the pictures” became the cinema and has remained one of my favourite entertainments still, along with Musical Theatre. I have been fortunate enough to go to many concerts over the years and have thoroughly enjoyed these. The absolute highlight of all of them being Tina Turner, to me she is “Simply the best!” It was an electrical performance: no other artist has ever come close to her. However, as I’ve gotten older and less mobile, I seem to have lost interest in them. I think it’s the crowds that bother me now.
Meals out became very fashionable and I jumped on this band wagon. Meals with family, with friends, with my Love and even with myself, have seen me through many years and have been a great source of entertainment.
I’ve played board games, cards, coloured in, read books, wrote poems and lately began Junk Journaling. I’ve also hosted and been to many Birthday Parties, summer gatherings, winter gatherings dinner parties, and on and on and on ….. These all come under the entertainment umbrella for me. Not forgetting my best friends, my laptop, my iPad and smart phone!
Strangely enough, I recently observed that a trip to Longford Park cafe for a cappuccino and date ball has almost left me as excited as my Tina Turner experience. How times have changed.
Thank you Covid for alerting me once again to the simple pleasures in life.